Spreading Your Wings

If you ask those who know me to describe me in 5 words or less, chances are that “aggregation” “efficiency” and “social impact” will top the list…and these days, it’s a given that “Detroit” is in that mix too. In the spirit of living up to this reputation, I’ve put together a list of fellowships, workshops, conferences, meetings of the minds, etc. that I’ve learned about and in some cases, had the privilege to participate in, over the last few years. They take place in settings and environments that I know not only stir up motivations and inspire creativity, but also expand perspectives and social/professional circles, and ultimately lead those involved to raise the bar they set for themselves and those around them. I’d love to see the representation of Detroit community, civic, and business leaders, social entrepreneurs, and philanthropists at these events increase in the months and years to come. With the incredible work that’s happening across the city in every city, it’s critical that we continue share our successes as well as our challenges with others, and also build on what others have experienced outside the city, and country. With time, I expect this list to grow as well as make it easy for those interested in participating to evaluate which one may be right for them. But for now, check out their sites, and hopefully we’ll run into each other at one of them someday!

Ashoka Fellows + Aspen Institute + Columbia Social Enterprise Conference + DreamItHarvard Social Enterprise ConferenceMillennial Trains ProjectNYU Stern Annual Conference of Social EntrepreneursOpportunity CollaborationSkoll World Forum on Social EntrepreneurshipSocial Enterprise Alliance SummitStanford Social Innovation SummitThe Feast NYC ConferenceUnreasonable Institute: Global Fellowship

**If you have a favorite conference or workshop, please share it in the comments section, and I’ll be sure to add it to the list!


Dress For The Job You Want

“You can do whatever you want here. This city’s a free for all.”

“No one will tell you NO. No one’s going to stop you.”

These are just a few of the comments I heard about Detroit while I considered moving here, and continue to hear now that I’m living here, both from outsiders and those from the city.

And on the one hand, that’s not really a bad thing. In fact, the lack of rules, boundaries, or enforcement can be a good thing, allowing people to try, fail, learn, and move forward without the fear of being (unfairly?) punished. So many successful projects wouldn’t have gotten off the ground in Detroit if people asked for permission, tried to go through the proper channels

But as I spend more time here, I see more and more of the detrimental side of this mentality. With this mindset comes a lack of respect for the city, the institutions that are trying to get back up on their feet, the people who are struggling every day to improve quality of life here.

Running a red light (at night OR worse, in broad daylight) because you know there isn’t a police officer to stop you, insuring your car in the suburbs to get a lower rate, despite the fact that you live in Detroit, or cutting corners during the inspection process because it takes too long … I say that though the short term benefits of such actions are obvious and hard to ignore, the long-term lasting impact and perceptions that such actions bring about are detrimental to the rebuilding of the city, to the ability of residents, visitors, investors to take the city seriously. Registering and insuring your car outside the city, for example has much broader, detrimental effects on the city. “Because of that ‘little white lie’ [you] don’t pay city income tax. How many millions of tax dollars are lost to the city because people keep suburban addresses to avoid exaggerated insurance costs? And for a city in “financial emergency,” paying taxes is a big deal.”

I say that it’s especially detrimental when those of us living in this city are the ones doing such things. Not that it isn’t frustrating seeing someone from outside the city pop in for a few hours, make a mess and talk some trash about Detroit, and turn right back around to head home. It absolutely is. But I think it’s so much more disappointing and destructive when those of us who live here do that instead. How can we expect those from outside Detroit to respect it when those of us who’ve committed to the city can’t even do it ourselves?

I don’t mean to sit here and preach … I’ve definitely been guilty of (a few of?) such missteps in the past (and may even commit a few more in the future), but now that this is on my mind, I can’t but pause and think about the message I will be sending with my actions if I follow through. More often than not, I stop myself.

So … I urge you to do the same, in only just to pause and think. Because just like you should dress for the job you want and not the job you have, we should treat Detroit as the city we want it to be, the city it could be, and not the city it is!

Dress for the Job You Want

Re-posted from my Challenge Detroit blog.

Deja Vu

When I left Southern California Edison two years ago to pursue my masters, I practically swore off the utility sector. I spent six years at SCE, doing financial and strategic planning, developing long-term resource plans, and helping set up the company’s Electric Vehicle Readiness group. But by the time 2011/2012 came around, I was ready to embark on a new life venture, one that was more aligned with my personal passion: to grow and maximize the impact of the social sector.

And so, I spent two fabulous years in New York, learning about cross-sector partnerships, social impact evaluation, and scalability. A year into the program, I had a good idea of what I wanted to accomplish, but didn’t have a clear idea of where I wanted to be or who I wanted to work with.

And then, Detroit went bankrupt.

This wasn’t the first time that Detroit had popped up on my radar (subsequent blog post to follow on that!), but the bankruptcy really shed light on the challenges the city was facing, the significant role that foundations and nonprofits play in the provision of social services, and, in my opinion, the need for scalability of successful neighborhood models across the city.

After several months of research and a few trips to Detroit, I was ready to make the move, commit to the growth of this city, and put my newly amassed knowledge to good use. The only thing left was finding a job…

In trying to meet all of the criteria I’d set for the job search, but very much contrary to the promise I’d made to myself two years ago, I found myself interviewing for a position with DTE. And despite the fact that it would bring me back to a utility, the potential for rebuilding a neighborhood, making an impact in Detroit, and building personal connections in the city that I aspire to call my home, won out and I started with DTE.

I’m really excited about delving into how a private company can derive value from programs that also have a positive impact on the community. The lack of a clear connection between social impact and profitability has been a deterrent for many private organizations, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And that’s what I’m here to do.

Re-post from my Challenge Detroit blog.