Name Dafna Michaelson, 37
Occupation Nonprofit founder, storyteller
Work ethic “If I want to find out what’s great about the country, I have to go out and look for it.”

Tired of listening to laments about the Great Recession, Dafna Michaelson set out with an ambitious goal last January: a 52-week tour of all 50 states to find motivated problem-solvers helping their troubled communities. She founded a nonprofit, 50 in 52 Journey, as the vehicle for her mission—one that ends this month in Colorado—and regularly blogs and conducts video interviews on her website ( to show how people across the country are “taking their ideas off the couch and putting them into action in their communities.”

So far, she’s documented projects that range from a youth gang intervention in Miami to a soup kitchen in Indianapolis to a maritime distress support group in Rhode Island. “Ordinary citizens,” she says, “doing extraordinary things.” Her goal is for visitors to her site—she’s reached 35,000 page views per month through extensive social networking—to realize that they, too, can engage their communities rather than fretting about the future.

Michaelson is in negotiations to write a book about her journey; she hopes to use the advance to support her newly formed Journey Institute, which will host quarterly four-day seminars in Denver to link likeminded community problem-solvers from multiple states in a networking forum. “People need to understand that they can take control of the situation,” Michaelson says. “All of these people I’m meeting really embody that pioneering spirit.”