Behind the Scenes: T LAB Week 1


Meet Sophia, Catalina, Mansi, Noemi, Maggie, Ben, Johnna, Lily + Jen.

This month, we welcomed nine Problem-Solvers to T Lab at Tipping Point Community. Here’s a peek at what they did — and what they thought — their first week on the job.



“I know this feeling well. It is within the familiar landscape of leap-of-faith opportunities. To join T Lab, I left behind my job, my house, my car, my dog, (don’t worry — only temporarily), and moved to San Francisco.” – Noemi Castro

“This first week and a half at T Lab, I’ve felt a little like the main character in one of the books on our bookshelf back home on 99th Street in Manhattan — a lost little hatchling who, upon breaking out of his shell for the first time to an empty nest, leaves in search of family, asking the other animals he meets the title question, ‘Are You My Mother?’” – Lily Mandlin

“Before starting my T Lab journey, I had a chance to talk with several of last year’s Problem-Solvers. It was valuable to hear about their experiences, and to prepare myself for the emotionally draining work of digging into the stories of people who ‘the system’ has failed.” – Ben Peterson


“On our first day, the Tipping Point staff and the T Lab Problem-Solvers shared personal objects as a way to describe why we work on poverty issues. People shared photos of family, recited poems and quotes from people they admire, and read letters from people they have met through this work. In listening to all this, the values — we are one community, we serve, we are always learning — felt not like something to strive for but something deeply embodied by each person.” – Maggie Ollove

A note from Sophia Kokores’ former student.

“Lunch with the full staff on our first day gave each of us a chance to share a personal anecdote about why we are passionate and dedicated to fighting poverty. There are so many problems in our backyard that remain untouched because there is little business incentive or political will to address them, and I am excited to work with an organization whose mission is to tackle this issue at a local level.” – Ben Peterson

DAY 2 + 3


“On Tuesday, we split up into teams of three and had less than 48 hours to find a solution to reduce food waste in San Francisco restaurants. We started the challenge with the knowledge that one in four SF residents go hungry everyday. Interestingly enough, restaurants in the city seem to do pretty well handling their food waste…Some amazing organizations, like Food Runners, already existed here and had done an impressive job reducing food waste, feeding the hungry and building community. What we could do as design strategists was find a way to make them even more efficient. Our solution: connect the tech companies who feel socially responsible for the food waste created by their cafeterias, with Uber who was already driving to and from these locations, and with Food Runners who run this service.” – Sophia Kokores



Sophia, Catalina, Noemi + Mansi at KIPP

“I was so inspired to learn KIPP’s story and see these incredibly articulate, passionate and well-behaved students thriving. They reminded me not to be afraid to try something that most believe will never work.” Catalina Garcia


“I grew up in Canada where a good education was available to all. Since my own children started school here in the US, I’ve thought a lot about the education system in California where government funding is only $6,000 per student (as compared to other states, New Jersey for example, that invests $16,000 per student). We are eager to use our different perspectives and past experiences to dive right in to try and solve a piece of this complex problem.” – Jen Hamilton, Pre-K Team

Time for team assignments!

“I am excited and humbled to be working on Prisoner Reentry at T Lab, and grateful to be working with such great teammates.” – Noemi Castro, Prisoner Reentry Team

“For the next six months, my team and I will focus on designing a solution to make affordable, quality child care more accessible for low-income parents in the Bay Area. As a mother of a three-year old, this challenge is personal. I feel a bit nervous as I foresee some child care needs of my own arising during my months in T Lab. I’m hoping this unique situation will work in our favor and force me and my team to come up with some viable solutions.” – Catalina Garcia, Child Care Team



The whole team at frog studios in San Francisco

“A visit to frog’s studio taught us to just dive in and make, but also to love what you make.” – Mansi Kakkar


Celebrating the end to a long first week at the beach in Marin County

“It all culminated with a beautiful hills-to-ocean hike in Marin County. The time we Problem-Solvers have been together feels like months instead of a week.” – Johnna Flood


“Imagine that you just finished riding your bike up to the peak of Mt. Tamalpais, after running across the Golden Gate Bridge with your bike on your back. That is about how I felt after week one of T Lab: invigorated, empowered and exhausted… As we peel off our Post-it® notes, draw pictures, fill the rooms with thoughts, ideas and infrastructure maps, I feel a sense of urgency to harness our community’s resources and the entrepreneurial spirit and to make waves.” – Johnna Flood

“This first week as a T Lab Problem-Solver has been many things, but most of all it has been that moment of realization that I have found ‘my people’. This comes more from the values, stories, and reasons that drive Tipping Point employees and my colleagues at T Lab than just the amazing depth and impact of their work and the work expected from us. Poverty is daunting, discouraging, and difficult to deal with. That said, I am extremely hopeful about the future, because wherever we have communities like this one, we are bound to reach the Tipping Point.” – Mansi Kakkar

“This ambiguity is a gift — so many people live their lives without the opportunity to venture into unknown territory or dive into a challenge and process without certainty about the end result. But gift or not, it can feel scary — ambiguity can feel like wide open spaces or like chaos.” – Lily Mandlin

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