Tolu Olubunmi may not have been born in the United States, but she is definitely working to achieve her American dream, as well as the dreams of millions of other immigrants. Her unlikely journey from an unemployed, undocumented chemical engineer to a respected immigrants’ rights activist and an internationally recognized social entrepreneur began because she believed the U.S. could and should do better by all people that call this great nation home.
An innovative thinker and determined change-maker, Tolu has established and led several organizations and campaigns focused on immigrant integration, employment, access to technology, and education. She is also the founder and CEO of Lions Write, a social venture that builds and manages initiatives committed to giving voice and value to the voiceless and strengthening collaborations between corporations, governments and civil society organizations.
In 2015, she was recognized by the World Economic Forum as one of 15 Women Changing the World. She sits on the Board of Directors of USA for IOM, the United States based non-profit partner of IOM (the UN Migration Agency), and serves as an Advisor to the social impact investment platform, BRAVA Investments. She is also a founding board member of the United We Dream Network and co-founder of Immigrant Heritage Month.
Tolu serves on the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Migration and co-chairs Mobile Minds - an innovative initiative advancing cross-border remote working as a 21st century alternative to physical migration. She made the World Economic Forum’s list of outstanding women entrepreneurs, focusing her attention on international migration issues and access to opportunity for all people.
She has been a featured speaker at the United Nations, White House, World Bank, Barnard College at Columbia University, New York University, and US Congress. And her story and work have been profiled by several media outlets, including NBC, TIME, BBC, BET, and MSNBC. The Anti-Defamation League named her a 2017 ADL In Concert Against Hate honoree, stating that her “story is a testimony to the resilience within us all, and will give courage and hope to others who confront inhumanity and injustice.”
Tolu is an inaugural Leadership Institute Fellow at the Center for American Progress and holds a Chemistry-Engineering degree from Washington and Lee University.
When you ask Tolu why she does what she does, she responds with a quote by John Wesley - “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” She believes that each of us, in our own way, should all aspire to live out these words. Tolu says it took her own setbacks to open her eyes to this truth.