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Maria Shriver’s Conversation Series ‘Architects of Change’ to Be Sponsored by Ford

Variety logo Variety 2/15/2017 Ted Johnson
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Maria Shriver’s conversation series “Architects of Change,” the inspirational online project that she launched online in 2015, is partnering with Ford Motor Company for sponsorship.

The series is a counter to much of cable TV and online discourse, and is set up to feature more uplifting interviews with guests such as Deepak Chopra, T. D. Jakes, Shonda Rhimes, Ann Romney, Cindy Crawford, Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller.

“I have always said this is a ‘safe space,'” Shriver said. “This is a place here that is positive, that [features] people who want to move us forward in a positive, elegant, educated, empowered way.”

Shriver holds the conversations before a live audience and on Facebook Live, a platform she says can greatly expand the audience, some of the conversations have drawn as many as 500,000 live viewers — bigger than a number of cable talk shows.

“Everybody says what you are doing on Facebook is a modern talk show really, because I can talk to people for as long as I want,” Shriver said. “There is no two-minute, three-minute interview like there is if you are doing a morning show. You don’t have to do somebody who is pushing a film or pushing something to sell it. You can talk to people who are really trying to move humanity forward, and there is a huge appetite I have discovered for that, to talk to people who are inspirational, who are informative, who are trying to make a difference in the world.”

Alessandro Uzielli, the head of Ford Global Brand Entertainment, said that the Architects of Change series was a way to connect to the message of “inspiring people to think about mobility” as the company pursues initiatives such as autonomous vehicles and connectivity.

“Architects of Change,” produced through Shriver Media, is an extension of programming that Shriver brought to the annual Women’s Conference, held while she was the first lady of California. She used the term to remind people that the “capability lies in all of us.”

This year’s guests on “Architects of Change” include Krista Tippett and Byron Katie, Brian Grazer, Frank Gehry, Jamie Lee Curtis, XPrize founder Peter Diamandis, and Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe.

She said that they seek out guests who are “doing something that is actually impacting the world — Is this person actually moving humanity forward?”

Shriver said that she got into journalism originally “because I thought it had the ability to make a bigger difference than in politics.” She has written about being on the campaign plane with her father, Sargent Shriver, when he ran for vice president in 1972, and being intrigued by the role of the reporters riding along at the back of the aircraft.

“It is different now because there are so many outlets,” she said. “I think journalism now has to reimagine how it communicates because now there is so much communication. Someone on YouTube has way bigger audience than the ‘Today’ show. Morning shows, evening news shows have to think about how they can stay relevant. My kids are not watching the evening news. But it is a complicated time because people are struggling with, ‘Is this real? Is this not?’ I hear really smart people say, ‘I am confused, I am really confused as to what is going on.’ So I think where there is confusion there is also opportunity.”

For her, that has meant staying focused on “Architects of Change” and avoiding getting mired in the politics of the moment. She’s also been an advocate for the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, and a portion of the “Architects of Change” proceeds go toward Alzheimer’s research.

“I tweet and I share, but I really try to take a breath before I do it,” she said.

She did attend the Los Angeles Women’s March on Jan. 21, which drew at least 500,000 people, according to estimates. She said that she had hoped to talk to a cross section of people there, but the crowds were so great that it was difficult to even move.

“I thought it was an incredible global show of support, and I was thrilled that there were so many men there,” she said. “I think there was no singular message, meaning that people came for a whole host of reasons. People wanted to be a part of something positive — for something for women and their families.”

She added, “This is a unique moment in our country. I think people are very motivated to have their voices heard. I think people are looking for a way to be positive. People are tired of the divisiveness, they are tired of the anger, and I don’t think you need anger and rage to create change.”

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