Meet Daniel Polk: Creating Change Through Social Philanthropy

"For me giving back is a daily practice, like mindfulness or meditation. "

Daniel Polk is the Director of Global Citizenship at the Hamlin School in San Francisco where he focuses on addressing civic issues and supporting social impact missions every day. I've personally seen him leverage the power of social media to create change here in our community. Originally from Arlington, VA, civic responsibility was a core part of his upbringing and education. It shows as he's a true Social Philanthropist, working through people to raise awareness and funds for issues like homelessness and social justice. Learn more about Daniel below, and what one thing he's committing to in making a difference in 2016.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day, we're highlighting people who do so much for others in the community. Learn more here and tell us, what is the one thing you are doing to create change this year?

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I'm originally from Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC.  I grew up surrounded by the notion of civic responsibility in my upbringing and through my public school education.  I consider myself a Social Philanthropist, meaning that I leverage people to help raise awareness and funds for issues like homelessness and social justice. 

What inspires you to give back?

For me giving back is a daily practice, like mindfulness or meditation.  In every moment of our day we have the opportunity to give back, to be thoughtful.  Occasionally I get a larger idea in my mind for how I can give back.  Many months ago I met a man named Edward Smith who was selling the Street Sheet (a newspaper written by homeless individuals) in San Francisco.  It occurred to me that I could do more than simply give him a dollar.  I took to social media and shed a greater light on Smith, which led him to connecting with HandUp and Project Homeless Connect.  I try to look at the world and ask myself; how can I take the extra step? how can I be more of service? how can I connect people to each other?

What are some of your favorite things to do that make a difference in the community? 

I love to volunteer with my family, we do cleanup days in San Francisco's panhandle, volunteer with the Ronald McDonald house, and check in on Smith in person and via HandUp.  I have been involved with supporting Amigos de las Americas, a fantastic youth leadership organization that works in Latin America.  I also support the Reset Foundation, an organization that is creating an alternative to traditional prison, where youth offenders can focus on academics, career, and healthy living.  I have also worked closely with ABC News Anchor and Author, Dan Harris, and his mission to spread the word about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  And of course I love my daily engagement with Hamlin students their family members.

Who inspires you the most in the community?

I'm deeply inspired by educators.  In particular I work with incredible leaders at the Hamlin School.  Our Head of School, Wanda Holland Greene, and Assistant Head, Marisa Felt-Bellingrath demonstrate tremendous vision and thoughtful intelligence in engaging in crucial conversations focused on educating young people, while also addressing social justice issues in our community and in the world at large.  I'm also very inspired by technology companies like Twitter and Google that actively support wonderful non-profits like the Hamilton Family Center of San Francisco. 

What is your one thing you’re committing to in making a difference in 2016?

Aside from my steadfast commitment to supporting the incredible work that HandUp does, I'm focusing time this spring on addressing conscious consumption in terms of the environment and the textile industry.  Hamlin is partnering with a dynamic young activist named Erin Schrode (co-founder of the non-profit, Turning Green), and is engaging in some profound action-oriented work raising awareness of where our clothes come from and exploring the environmental impact of their production.


We are so grateful to have Daniel share his story with us. Tell us, what are you doing in the service of others? Tweet @HandUp and tell us what your one thing is with #myonething and we'll share your story!