Fifteen-year-old Binsen Gonzalez sat mesmerized in front of the TV screen in his family’s Miami home. His eyes burned as scenes of people digging through garbage in La Chureca, one of the largest dumps in the capital city of Nicaragua, flashed before him. Having relocated from Nicaragua at the age of three, Binsen was overwhelmed with a feeling of powerlessness, knowing he could not rewrite the story of poverty in the community he left behind.
Although he could not single-handedly end suffering in Nicaragua, Binsen vowed to positively change his new community. Which is why, after spending two years at Miami Dade Honors College, he took a year off to join City Year Miami’s founding team in 2008. His family and friends were not exactly supportive of his decision - he was a great student and they wanted him to finish school - but he felt in his gut that he was making the right choice.
“Since I was in an honors college, the goal was to graduate and transfer to a great school. People who are successful go to Ivy Leagues. When I told them I was going to defer, the dean said, ‘You’re already a nontraditional student. Do you want to be more nontraditional?’ I said yes. I was a little bit impulsive,” Binsen recalled.
Binsen’s experience working at a startup site proved to be both personally and professionally formative. After his year of service, he finished a communications degree at Emerson College in Boston before joining City Year’s marketing team. It was during this time that Binsen began to get an itch to be more directly involved in the community of Miami.
So a year later, in 2012, he founded his own consulting company (CMCP Group) and nonprofit (Our City Thoughts). Both have deep roots in storytelling, which Binsen has been passionate about since his childhood.
Creative Media & Creative Productions (CMCP) specializes in digital storytelling with a focus on social innovation, education and community engagement. Binsen’s creative consulting work has reached the World Economic Forum, the World Bank, successful published authors, hospitals in Miami, and many colleges and universities.
“I love storytelling. It’s one of the most beautiful traditions that humanity has. Only through an array of diverse perspectives can we come up with solutions that really work.”
Our City Thoughts is a two-fold organization. One branch consists of youtube videos featuring thought leaders and entrepreneurs in the city, while the other provides students at Miami Dade College with digital skills necessary to tell their own story in the context of their community.
“We teach students how to understand their own narrative - analysis of self and place. Who they are, how they have become who they are, how their community has impacted them, and how they can impact their community,” Binsen explained.
He credits the realization of Our City Thoughts to the training he received at City Year, comparing his experience with “business school for nonprofits.”
Although he is humble, Binsen’s achievements have not gone unnoticed. Last fall Radio Caracol named him one of the Top 20 Millennials Ready to Change the World. This month he is being honored in Toronto as one of 25 K880 Emerging City Champions. Even with all of this excitement, Binsen is finding time for self-reflection. Upon returning from Toronto, he will be participating in a weeklong spiritual fast inspired by Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
“If you don’t give young people the tools to heal the world, we are going to keep going down a path of self-destruction. Education is truly the greatest equalizer we have right now. Only through education can you really change the present and the future.”