Brilliance Inside

Our Mission & Purpose

Brilliance Inside transforms prison from being strictly a container of violence to a creator of rehabilitation and peace, empowering residents to be agents of positive change in their community.  We believe that sustainable positive human change starts by connecting to the brilliance we each have inside, building the resilience and emotional intelligence tools to shine that brilliance independent of outside circumstances, and, as we do so, shifting the culture of our homes and communities.

Our Vision

Recognizing that hurt people hurt people, the US prison system provides (1) a safe community by separating those who do harm until they have found healing and rehabilitation and (2) a safe rehabilitative space for the prison residents to heal the pains that led to their criminal activity.  Prison residents reintegrate society with the tools to contribute to society with respect, integrity, contribution and connection.

 Theory of Change

To break society’s cycle of violence, it is those who perpetrated the cycle who are in the best position to break it.  First, they understand the dynamics of violence better than we ever will. Second, once they’ve connected to their brilliance inside, people become unstoppable in their desire to spread this light to others, starting with their children and families, other residents on the yard and the correctional officers.  This also extends to at-risk youth - having walked so intimately in their shoes - gangs and the greater community.

We have uncovered 5 key ingredients to this transformation of self and of community:

  1. Listen – All programs are developed based on deep listening of the target audience.  We strive to understand their reality instead of our perception of their reality.  We also co-develop programs and solutions with the residents

  2. Liberate – The spaces created by Brilliance Inside are safe non judgemental spaces of exploration, expression, connection, communication, resolution and creation.  These are rare in our society and, in them, people are able to free their minds and spirits

  3. Empower – People are empowered into the leaders, decision-makers, visionaries and implementers that they never knew they could be.  As our human tendency is to rise to a challenge, every person – no matter his/her circumstance – is held to the highest expectations

  4. Create – We know best what serves us; we can lack the resources to achieve.  Brilliance Inside taps into the natural human tendency to create, to improve, to change.  With proper tools and resources as well as high autonomy, people turn their energy, passion and dedication to create real sustainable programs and products, for themselves and those around them

  5. Connect – Rather than dehumanizing people which leads to further alienation and increased violence, authentic and deep connection builds our value, our worth and our humanity.  From this discovery of the other comes dialogue, then relationship, understanding and finally connection

These ingredients are held together through the continuous presence we provide, which reinforces (1) residents’ sense of worth and (2) the values of connection, contribution, empathy, healing, etc.

History

The Brilliance Inside journey started with a calling and then was confirmed by a group hug.

In the summer of 2015, with no instigation or reason, Mariette heard a little voice in her head calling her to “go to prison.”  The more she rejected this idea as ludicrous, the more it pulled her in. Having no idea where to start, she googled “prisons in San Diego” and, five months later, on December 5, 2015, the gates of San Diego’s Donovan State Prison opened and she stepped into this dark violent environment for the first time.  That first week, she went to prison three times. And that rhythm has yet to wane.

In this place in which we lock up people we consider to be inhumane, Mariette discovered an unimaginable richness in humanity.  Wishing to invite others to experience this unexpected and unseen beauty, Mariette created the first TEDxDonovanCorrectional. The first event - ideated and orchestrated entirely by a Core Team of 10 residents over five short months, with the support of Mariette and her team of dedicated volunteers - took place on May 21, 2017.

As you’ll read below, the success of TEDxDonovanCorrectional stunned everyone, from the attendees, to the incarcerated “people in blue”, to the Donovan Administration…to Mariette herself!  She was so transformed by the incredible human transformation and culture change created in five short months that she decided to dedicate her life to expanding this work.

This event, that brought together 100 Donovan “men in blue” with 100 outside attendees for a day of talks, conversation and connection, culminated with Closing Circle of sharing.  When Mariette called the Core Team into the circle to be recognized for their incredible work, the team fell into a spontaneous, counterculture, interracial, radical group hug! A testament to the incredible change in XX that transformed every person present as well as the prison yard.

Mariette founded Brilliance Inside in October 2017 with the mission of breaking our society’s cycle of violence and transforming prison from being strictly a container of violence to a creator of peace.  Donovan administration asked her for more TEDx programming.

It was this group hug that told Mariette that there was more dignity, respect and love to bring into this degrading and dehumanizing environment.  And six months later, she founded Brilliance Inside with the mission of breaking society’s cycle of violence, by first transforming prison from a container of violence to a creator of peace.

About Mariette

After the wild success of TEDxDonovanCorrectional held at San Diego’s Donovan state prison, Mariette Fourmeaux du Sartel has transferred her passion for building resilient high-performing teams and authentic human-centered leadership – honed through two decades in corporate and start-ups – into the unlikely environment that is prison.  She founded Brilliance Inside, a nonprofit program to transform prison from being strictly a container of violence to a creator of rehabilitation and peace.

Prior to this, Mariette spent 17 years in business, developing cutting-edge technologies for world-scale problems, such as a cancer-detecting medical device in Paris, d.light’s solar lanterns for the rural poor without electricity in India and a new augmented reality technology at HP, Inc.  She also grew up intertwined in the creation and expansion of her family wine businesses, starting at the ripe age of 6.  Mariette is a true global citizen:  born in France, she’s lived on four continents and has explored some of the most remote corners of our world.  Finally, Mariette holds a double materials engineering and economics degree from Brown University and a Berkeley MBA.