Joshua Kissi for TIME

Sara Menker has spent her whole life thinking about disaster. She was raised in Ethiopia during a famine that killed more than a million people. Uniquely prepared for the worst, Menker left Wall Street to help prevent it, starting Gro Intelligence to leverage the latest advances in technology to tackle big challenges, including hunger and climate change. As CEO, she helps clients use artificial intelligence and machine learning to convert data on the global agricultural ecosystem into actionable knowledge.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have given her plenty to work on as they have revealed how vulnerable people are to crises. By arming people with knowledge, Menker believes humanity can solve its most vexing challenges. But first, she told me in a conversation in 2018, we must find a “common language.” If anyone can find that common language in time to end hunger, prevent a climate catastrophe and avert other disasters—it’s Menker.

Shah is the president of the Rockefeller Foundation

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