Ep 12: Turning Tragedy Into Legacy – with Guest Caroline Samponaro

by Joan Garry

This is the story of a community organizing itself in the wake of a tragedy in order to make positive change. With guest Caroline Samponaro.


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This episode is a little different.

While there are lessons and takeaways for sure, at heart, this episode tells an important story. It’s the story of community organizing in the wake of a tragedy in order to make positive change.

My conversation with Caroline Samponaro is filled with passion: where you find it, how you harness it, and how you balance it with the work that needs to get done.

Caroline Samponaro is the Deputy Director at Transportation Alternatives, an organization whose mission it is to claim the New York City streets for people. She spearheaded the creation of Families for Safe Streets and is a sought after speaker on issues of reckless driving prevention.

Caroline has been with Transportation Alternatives for 10 years – an eternity in the nonprofit world. I talked with Caroline about what has kept her at Transportation Alternatives for a decade as well as her wildly successful community initiatives and her advice on how to make change happen.

As Caroline says, change so often takes too long but if we work together and stick it out, we can make it happen.


  • Social justice and community organizing … on a bike
  • Building a culture that fosters entrepreneurship, leadership, and retention
  • The “perfect storm” of activism – how and why laws get changed
  • How to simplify your message and why that’s critical
  • Is it important to staff a caused-based organization with people who have directly lived the issue?
  • How to handle the responsibility for people’s personal missions
  • Managing emotions while trying to effect change
  • Setting achievable goals