Koch Associate Program

My experience: Franklin Lee

We sit with Koch Associate Program alumnus Franklin Lee to learn more about his experience in KAP and his passion for housing innovations.

March 3, 2021

In 2021 we’re collecting stories from social entrepreneurs of all “ages and stages” — those who have already built successful ventures, and those who are just starting their journey.

Today’s story comes from Franklin Lee. Franklin graduated from the Koch Associate Program in 2020 and is still working at CKI partner organization R Street Institute. His journey thus far includes a degree from Harvard with a concentration in East Asian Studies, a master’s degree from Georgetown, an internship with American Legislative Exchange Council, and a bevy of experimentation as he seeks to identify and develop his personal passion.

CKI sat with Lee to learn more about his experience in KAP and his passion for housing innovations.   

Lee: I learned about KAP while I was interning at the American Legislative Exchange Council. I was a Koch Fellow at the time. Prior to the fellowship, I didn’t really know anything about CKI or Market-Based Management. I came in with a blank slate. I just happened to be at a career fair and dropped by the table.  

CKI has a long-term approach to people. I needed a program that was focused on my self development; it was perfect timing for me personally.  

My initial reason for applying was to get a job that aligned with my life goals. I knew that KAP would help me find a good match; I was looking for an opportunity at an organization that supported free markets, individual freedom, and liberty. But once I started the program, a more important goal emerged. The KAP team encouraged me to identify my own dreams and aspirations — to find my personal passion.  

For me, this started with understanding my van life. I had started living in my van before the program started — literally, I drove in two days prior from New York City, and started my job at R Street Institute that Monday. I started off with very little as a young adult, and I had to get creative. I was lucky enough to get a car loan, and the right network of people helped me renovate the van. The luckiest thing that happened to me was finding a space to park at Riverside Park on the Upper West Side. It’s very rare to find a place where you can park in your city.  

I always knew that I wanted to write a memoir about my van life, but the team at KAP encouraged me to pursue this passion project, to make it a reality. I think that people need a lot of experimentation throughout their life. They need to constantly evolve and adapt. But it’s becoming harder and harder to experiment. There are financial limitationsgeographical limitations. And so this book is the story of how I did it in relation to my housing challenge. It starts with my experience as a Harvard student, and then follows going to Georgetown for my master’s degree. It relates how I accumulated student debt and tried to enter the workforce. And it shows how I navigated my struggles. I think that solutions should be shared so everyone can benefit.  

I’m working on a lot of things now. I’ve been thinking about alternative housing options from a social entrepreneurship angle. My partner and I have been talking about taking college courses or a vocationaltraining class to learn how to start a business. We dream about converting vehicles into homes, and changing policy so that it’s easier for people to live in their vehicles if they so choose. There’s also a lot of opportunity to partner with people who can loan their spaces for parking. I’ve already done research on spaces like this for my book.   

There were so many things about KAP that surprised meOne was the investment in people. That’s something lacking in this world. The approach was always to focus on the people. It changed the way I thought, and how I approach problems. It was eye-opening. I realized that social entrepreneurship is becoming more and more important among younger generations.  

CKI’s educational programs equip innovators to discover their personal passions and make an immediate impact — to create new ventures, improve existing institutions, and contribute right away. Whether you are just beginning your venture or further along, we want to hear from youApply for KAP.