Flynn Coleman-international human rights attorney, author, teacher, and social entrepreneur

I connected with Flynn after learning about her work through The Girl’s Guide To Law School.  Flynn is an international human rights lawyer, a social innovator, an author, a teacher and the founder of Malena LLC.  I hope that you will be inspired by her story.

Can you please provide a brief summary of your professional background?

Hi! I am an international human rights attorney, a mindfulness and creativity teacher, an author, a Huffington Post writer, a TEDx speaker, a social entrepreneur and innovator, a former competitive athlete, and a founder and CEO.

My background is in innovative approaches to economic empowerment, economic development, international trade law, war crimes and genocide, behavioral economics, political reconciliation, internal investigations, refugee law, and improving access to justice through innovation.

I created and taught a curriculum on Redefining Success in the Law at King’s College London Dickson Poon School of Law, and I have clerked for the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the Chief Judge of the United States Court for International Trade. I practiced anti-bribery FCPA litigation at an international law firm, where I also worked on immigration and asylum cases. I was a legal research deputy on war crimes, water law, resource governance, and human rights issues in Dakar, Senegal. I have worked on human rights issues in Asia as a Luce Scholar and as a pro bono attorney for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti as well.

I have a BSFS from Georgetown University, a JD from UC Berkeley School of Law, and an LLM from the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

You are an international human rights attorney.  Can you please tell me about your work?

My core value is that everyone is equally and intrinsically valuable. I am passionate about shifting the paradigm regarding how we view economic development and human rights protections. My work focuses on innovative approaches to education and empowerment, and providing opportunities for people to tell their own stories and have their voices heard. My background as a human rights lawyer, and my personal experiences, have formed my understanding that we can most effectively and positively impact people’s lives by taking a localized approach and supporting people’s agency in making their own decisions about their lives and futures. International laws and development policies must be accompanied by local solutions, with the ultimate aim of empowering people on their own terms.

You are also a mindfulness and creativity teacher.  Please tell me how you became involved and also about your work in mindfulness.

I am passionate about mindfulness, innovation, and creativity, and I initially began to practice mindfulness and yoga as a corollary to my athletic career, and from that I saw the power and community inherent in the principles of mindfulness, and so I set out on a lifelong journey to become a teacher (and lifelong student) of these principles.

I recently learned of Malena and I love the premise of this company. Please tell me about Malena, how it came about, and the company’s work. 

While living and studying in Chile, researching for my thesis on post-conflict justice, I worked with a women’s cooperative, helping to create an international market for their “arpilleras,” tapestries that depicted the era of dictatorship and allowed a group of women to come together to heal as a community, create beautiful goods rooted in cultural traditions, and learn business and leadership skills. When I brought these arpilleras to the US, and shared the story of the women behind them, they were immediately embraced by people enthusiastic about the designs and a way to support these artists through commerce.

These experiences, along with having conversations with people around the world, have showed me that we can have a huge impact on people’s wellbeing by supporting their economic agency, so that they can make their own choices about their lives. That may mean advocating for trade policy changes, breaking down barriers for entrepreneurs in the developing world, innovating more transparent supply chains, utilizing technology to empower people, upholding an artistic tradition passed down from generations, or bringing local goods to new markets so that community members can better afford healthcare and education for their children, so those children can go on to choose among yet more opportunities.

We all want the same things – health, something to believe in, to belong, and a better future for ourselves and for our children. And everyone has a story to tell. The most effective way to solve the root causes of poverty and inequality, and to support everyone’s right to dignity and agency, is to provide opportunity. This is how Malena began. We are a global community that shares these stories, connecting you with people around the world through the goods they create, the stories of how they came to create them, and ideas about how our partners’ work gives them a chance for a brighter future.

We partner with groups of people who have come together, often overcoming enormous odds. Malena supports these groups and individuals through growing their commercial enterprises, giving them a global market for their goods, and sharing their skills, their craft, and their stories with the world.

The key to providing opportunity is to support others in their self-directed initiatives that are sustainable and rooted in local communities. This is Malena’s mission, to support agency, human rights, and to uplift communities worldwide. Investing in people and their creative and entrepreneurial endeavors, in their dreams, is thus the foundation for Malena.

What is a quote that you live by?

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” ~Vivian Greene

Do you have final advice for newly minted female lawyers/JDs who are embarking upon their careers?

No one has your voice and your unique perspective. You have a story to tell and a voice that deserves to be heard.  Find out what matters to you, find your community, find your purpose and your passions, and live your life in accordance with your deepest values and the causes that make you feel alive. 

Flynn Coleman is an international human rights attorney, a mindfulness and creativity teacher, an author, a TEDx speaker, a Huffington Post writer, a former competitive athlete, a social entrepreneur and innovator, and a founder and CEO. She has a background in innovative approaches to economic empowerment and economic development, behavioral economics, international trade, war crimes, political reconciliation, humanitarian law, and improving access to justice through innovation. She holds a BSFS from Georgetown University, a JD from UC Berkeley School of Law, and an LLM from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Learn more about Flynn 

Twitter: @flynncoleman

Instagram: @flynncoleman

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