Becca Stevens is a preacher and speaker who loudly and boldly proclaims love as the most powerful force for social change. She walks the walk as an Episcopal priest, thought leader and founder of Magdalene, residential communities of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. This asylum program, founded in 1997, developed into a unique social enterprise called Thistle Farms in 2001, which employs nearly 50 residents and graduates and houses a natural body care line, a sewing studio, and the Thistle Stop Cafe. She hopes to reach $10 million in annual revenue from sales of the body care line in the next five years and then channel those funds back into opening 100 sister communities in the United States with 100 partners.
Stevens also is an accomplished writer who has been featured in The New York Times and on ABC World News, NPR, PBS, CNN and The Huffington Post. Her newest book attempting to change lives is called “The Way of Tea and Justice: Rescuing the World’s Favorite Beverage from Its Violent History.”
In 2011, the White House named Stevens one of 15 Champions of Change for violence against women. Other honors followed. She recently was named 2014 Humanitarian of the Year by the Small Business Council of America, has been inducted into the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame and was conferred an honorary doctorate by Sewanee: The University of the South.
Stevens thinks the biggest shift we will see at events in the next five years is how spending will change as people dream up new social marketing campaigns. “I also think people are starting to feel like everything has to be a movement. That word should be reserved for the long-term commitment of time, energy and resources to causes with huge and lofty goals,” she says.
“I believe that long-term commitment and community-based change are far more effective than issue-based work.”
In the fall of 2013, Stevens launched the first Thistle Farms National Conference welcoming attendees from more than 30 states. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Grammy-winning songwriter Marcus Hummon, and their three sons.
Photo credit: Kristin Sweeting