2017 Week One: Nonprofit Management


“It’ll be perfect, we just have to figure it out as we go” is a statement I heard during my first staff meeting at Fusion Partnerships. This phrase arose out of a discussion surrounding office renovations, but I feel it may end up being the overarching theme of my internship. This week has been a whirlwind-not only due to the legion of fans whisking air all over the workplace while decisions are being made on the new air conditioning system, but also because I have been given the opportunity to dive right into some projects. I have been exploring cyber-security measures, a sea of Google apps, and the magic combinations of buttons I need to push to get the office microwave to evenly cook my lunch. My most memorable experience this week, however, was sitting in on a meeting with a leader of one of our partner programs. This community member was meeting with Fusion to finalize some summer programming details, but was kind enough to explain the origin of her project to me. The second-hand, short blog post version of this wonderful story is that the streets in her neighborhood needing cleaning and there were local youth looking for a productive way to spend their time, so she helped her community establish a team of young people who work together to keep their neighborhood tidy and gain experience while earning money for their hard work. The program has expanded to provide healthy lunches for the team members while they are out of school for the summer and to include a junior team (an addition that was requested by the original participants’ younger siblings who wanted to join.) It is exciting to already be meeting some of the dedicated individuals who are working towards a better Baltimore, and I am hoping this summer will help me find the best way I can contribute to the brighter future they envision. Do I have many details on how I will do this? Not as of week one. But I’m sure it’ll be perfect, we just have to figure it out as we go.


This week I focused on opening my eyes and ears and learning everything that I can about Baltimore Corps and absorbing that information. One of the most striking experience of this week was probably a 2-hour all-staff meeting on Tuesday. At this meeting, each and every staff member had a seat at the table, bringing their own expertise, opinion and thoughts to the topic at hand. For me, this was an invaluable insight into a growing non-profit and its internal structure. It is incredible to be a part of an imaginative, critical and energetic group of people working towards the same goals of increasing equity and investing in the future of Baltimore. My main tasks for this week have been a few detail-oriented tasks such as filing invoices to help organize the relationship between Baltimore Corps and its fiscal sponsor, Strong City, as well as learning how to use a new software called Demand Tools to help de-duplicate contacts and accounts in Baltimore Corps’ data system. Looking ahead, next week I will be working on helping to design a one-week program for high schoolers to learn more about Baltimore Corps, our mission and the social impact sector in general. In addition, I will also be helping in the organization of some of the events in store for 2016 – 2017 Baltimore Corps Fellows as they approach the end of their year as Baltimore Corps Fellows.

I feel welcomed, trusted and respected by the Baltimore Corps staff and I am getting into the rhythm of work – looking forward to the next seven weeks of the summer!


I am extremely inspired with what Strong City has done for the city of Baltimore and its people. With this in mind, I came into the week with a very open mind and ready to learn, and it did not take long before I had a collection of information about the neighborhoods of Central Baltimore.

One of the things that stuck out to me during my first week was the story of Barclay. A once run-down neighborhood full of boarded up houses and gang activity, has now become an eye-catching transitional neighborhood for many with the help of Strong City and Telesis Corporation, a non-profit developer. Some community members were wary of the fact that their neighborhood was going to be torn down and rebuilt, so they got together and made a list of things they wanted to see in the new properties, such as keeping the same architectural design in the row homes that were going to be rebuilt to provided green spaces where neighbors could use to catch up to making sure housing in the area stayed affordable to long time residents would not be driven out. Strong City, alongside other community organizations and leaders, organized these demand and very carefully chose Telesis as the company that would have the honor of working to develop Barclay. The residents are very content with what Telesis has planned and delivered. To this day, 198 affordable rental units have been created, 35 row homes have been rebuilt, and a community garden laid ground, and this is just the start! Not only did these developments help mitigate crime in the area, many people are now looking to start their futures in Barclay, as it has options for all types of home-buyers/renters. I cannot wait to see the final result of the master plan.


I was really excited when I received my placement in CIIP this summer for many reasons, but especially because I would get to spend the summer in Baltimore. Even though I just finished my second year at Hopkins I feel like I only spend time in a handful of neighborhoods. I challenged myself this summer to become more immersed in the community and to become more of a Baltimore citizen, not just a Homewood campus citizen.

I think that I am slowly starting to accomplish that goal in my first two weeks as a CIIP intern. Invested Impact is located in the Impact Hub which is in the Station North area, and I am beginning to learn more about the dynamics of the neighborhood. There is this weird mix of very new buildings like The Parkway Theater and then lots of people just hanging out at the local bus stop all day trying to sell water bottles to make enough money to get by. Just working in this neighborhood for a week I can feel the tension between the locals and the people that commute to the neighborhood for work.

This week I spent most of my time just reading about what exactly impact investing is and why it is beneficial to both communities and investors. Even though I am just starting out I have the feeling that within the organization my input matters. When we are having meetings about content for the upcoming weeks I feel comfortable not only asking questions but providing my own input in the discussion. I am looking forward to seeing all the material that I will produce this summer through Invested Impact.


I’m standing in a hallway at Open Works, smearing hummus and tapenade onto a piece of baguette. It’s the Central Partnership’s Annual Steering Committee Meeting, and nearly twenty-five board members are gathering to approve the Partnership’s Front and Center Equitable Development Plan. As I sit down in the meeting room, my mother’s best business clothing crinkling under me, I get a little nostalgic. I’m thinking of the hummus I made with Youth Workers in the community center last summer, with chickpeas from a can and garlic from Boone Street Farm.

After a year at the Nate Tatum Community Center, I decided I wanted to explore community development. I was curious about the organizations and developers who had built the community center and so many homes in Barclay. My first week at Central Baltimore Partnership has been a fascinating perspective shift. The meetings I attend bring together community organizers, residents, business owners, developers and city officials. This Wednesday, I sat in on the North Avenue Public Safety Meeting and listened to Baltimore City Police, local businesses, and community members discuss an uptick in crime. At the Nate Tatum Center, it had often felt like there were only two perspectives: inside the community looking out, and outside the community looking in. But during the North Avenue Public Safety Meeting, I began to see how every single person in the room had their own lens and unique perspective. One worker-owner at Red Emma’s asked, “Who is the community?” It was a powerful question that I hope to keep in mind over the next seven weeks.

I miss the community center, but I’m also so excited to explore working with Central Baltimore Partnership. I hope that this perspective change will push me to grow this summer.

picture of Della Xu CIIPDELLA XU | IMPACT HUB

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” –Jane Jacobs. (Undesign the Redline)

Undesign the Redline is an interactive exhibit in Impact Hub that covers most of the main areas’ walls. The exhibit connects historical policies and events around racial segregation to current political and social issues using powerful narratives of people and communities. The red and white design reflects and enhances its powerful historical context and aptly echoes the red logo of Impact Hub. The Hub has a sleek industrial design, with pops and dashes of color—red, yellow, and blue.

Impact Hub is only wrapping up its second year of operations, and while they have achieved great progress, there is still more to adjust and improve. I am joining the team at a critical juncture in their management as they are completely changing and transitioning their business model to focus on a purpose- and support- rather than access-based membership. This comes with many complex changes, from transitioning the technical platforms and economic models, to critical discussions on mission, purpose, and operations. All of the four staff members juggle multiple projects—coordinating community-led and social justice driven events, collaborating with Impact Hub coordinators around the world and community leaders throughout the city, advising and providing support to its over 150 members, connecting people to service providers, while maintaining the Hub’s daily finances and operations (and dealing with my questions). The number of sticky notes with all the different tasks and projects on their wall overwhelms me, but upon closer inspection, is organized with intent and shows their dedication to their members and to this community.

My face brightens up as I walk into my internship every day, seeing the creative and collaborative working spaces, down to each intentionally and carefully designed detail. Entrepreneurs, non-profits starters, community program leaders, and community members shuffle in each day, each carrying their own story, motivation, and purpose into this small ecosystem network of exchange and support. All of their work inside this community carries out into the greater community, whether it’s helping youth, supporting nonprofit ventures, or rebuilding the local manufacturing sector. The Hub provides something for all the members because it is created by everyone in it, who in turn bring their influences into the greater community. I am inspired by this physical space, but even more so by the amount of creativity, drive, and intent that fills it.

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