2017 Week Three: Nonprofit Management

picture of Victoria Li CIIPVICTORIA LI | BALTIMORE CORPS – WEEK 3

This week was mostly centered on the inaugural Elevation Awards Celebration & Showcase, which happened on the night of Wednesday, June 28th. This is the celebration of the work done by seven incredible social entrepreneurs with creative solutions to help their communities and the Baltimore community. Leading up to the day of the event the office was buzzing with excitement. For me, it was incredible to be able to meet with and connect with the seven awardees personally throughout the week and during the event. For example, one of the awardees invited me to visit her restaurant later next week. Kim founded Chewmanity, which is a project that seeks to foster and emphasize the humanity and power of bringing a family together to share a meal and provides a space to disseminate healthy nutritious information. Otherwise this week I continue to work on different research projects that will hopefully help Baltimore Corps build upon the best foundation moving forward as it scales and expands. I also greatly enjoyed getting to know and talk to the staff of Baltimore Corps. From casual conversations, to being in meetings with them, to working on projects with individuals to having meals together, I recognize and appreciate that every person at Baltimore Corps that I’ve talked to truly connects with the mission statement of the organization, its values and they are motivated by a common vision, which is a very powerful thing to witness for me.

picture of Simone Robbennolt CIIPSIMONE ROBBENNOLT | INVESTED IMPACT

I started out the week working on my weekly posts, and I received a new task of researching a CRM for the organization. I’ve never really heard of a CRM, so I spent most of the week watching videos and testing out a bunch of different databases. I’m excited to be trusted with this task because hopefully I will be able to find a database that can streamline Invested Impact’s communications experience, and ultimately benefit the organization. The first week or so I felt like I almost didn’t have enough to do. As the summer goes on I receive more tasks, and 5 pm comes around so fast I don’t even realize it.

Another fun experience that I had this week was as an office we moved from the Impact Hub (our normal office space) to Touchpoint in the Mondawmin mall for a day. The office space holds Baltimore Corp and Thread so it’s pretty lively. It was nice to spend the day with Tena and Angad my fellow CIIP interns! I’ve realized from working in the two different places that I personally like the quiet more laid back nature at the Impact Hub.

This week was full of great experiences including attending Baltimore Corps Elevation Awards. This event culminated a 9 month long process in which Baltimore Corps helped various entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. A few of the recipients of the award are people that have been highlighted on Invested Impact’s blog in a section entitled “Innovator insights. It was great to put a face to the names that I have been hearing about in the various meetings that I attend. Overall, it’s been a pretty great week!

picture of Celine Shanosky CIIPCELINE SHANOSKY | CENTRAL BALTIMORE PARTNERSHIP

I’m getting into the rhythm at CBP, and learning a lot about community redevelopment: how to write a neighborhood plan, how to do quarterly grant reporting, how to tackle an enormous grant application. I’ve also learning some life lessons: the scanner works better if you pray first, cardigans are good armor against air conditioning, and the best coffee beans are in the freezer.

On Thursday, my supervisor asked me to stop by the Crown after work for a Ynot Lot Information Session. I hardly walked half a block, but it was quite a scenery change. I stepped out of the glassy CBP office, walked down 20th St in the shadow of J. Van Story, and ducked into a dimly lit, blue-toned bar.

For the next half hour, Bomin, the Ynot Lot programmer at Station North Arts and Entertainment District, taught an intimate audience how to organize an event at the Ynot Lot. It was one of those moments where you zoom out and ask: how did we get here? It’s 6 pm, this room has no windows, and someone brought a PowerPoint to the bar. A group of ten attendees seated at mismatched tables and chairs, no one too close to the presenter, furiously scribbled notes. The PowerPoint displayed past Ynot Lot events: a Soul to Soul festival, a concert by TT the Artist, and Thursday yoga classes.

What I love about my internship at CBP is that it’s opened my eyes to the variety of nonprofit work. Community development in Central Baltimore happens in the office, but also in the Crown, and at the Ynot Lot, and in community centers and community gardens and universities and the state government and a million other places. To see such a diverse group of people and organizations working towards the single goal of revitalizing Central Baltimore inspires me. I hope that by the end of the summer, I will have a better idea of where I fit into it all.

picture of Della Xu CIIPDELLA XU | IMPACT HUB

“How long have you lived in Baltimore?”

“What is your favorite place/activity here and why?”

“What would success look like for you or your organization?”

“What are you looking for from the Impact Hub Community?”

“Does your work impact racial equity and economic development? How so? (If not, would you like to receive support in addressing these issues?)”

“How do your operations support self-sufficiency, community leadership, and open dialogue?”

Membership transition is in full swing, and these are just some of the questions I have drafted to include in our questions to ask our current and incoming members. Everything that we have done so far is to provide our members with best support, maintain our creative collaborative community, and ensure that both our work and our members’ work are truly serving the community and addressing important social justice issues. These questions are just an example of how we get to know the entrepreneurs with their stories and dig into a startup or nonprofit’s operations, as we do in our everyday conversations and meetings with them.

As our Undesign the Redline exhibit wrapped up, the creator held special tours to the public, in which more than a dozen people attended each session. While I was working at my desk in the common area, a man and a woman behind me were admiring the exhibit while having an in-depth discussion on the effects of gentrification and modern segregation of races in Baltimore. As they wrapped up their visit, they talked about personal experiences, and the woman remarked: “I love Cuba. I would love to live there after I retire. Everyone and everything just seems so much simpler there.” The man nodded in agreement and said: “Yeah I definitely understand. When I was in Nicaragua a while back, I asked myself why can’t we live more like them? They have and live with so little but they are so happy with what little they have.”

Anger quickly fired up inside me. How can these people who seemingly care so much about learning and understanding racial and social issues here be so oblivious about relations in other parts of the world? How can they be dressed in snazzy outfits and give out business cards about their community nonprofits but succumb to the same ignorant narrative of “poor but happy”? Poverty does not equate to discontent, but rather a lack of choice. Resorting to grouping and reducing unfamiliar people and communities to a single narrative, especially one that you envy, is dangerous and toxic. However, I also took a step back in my thoughts. What if they just meant that they admire their strength and other qualities despite their conditions? What if they are doing great things in our local community, and their opinions about things farther away does not take away any of their efforts and accomplishments of change here? What are my own world views on things that I am not familiar with? Have I ever idealized or painted a picturesque narrative of places I don’t understand?

Maybe all the thoughts I had above point to one of the best things about being at Impact Hub—the people who are drawn in come from all walks of life, all occupying a different space on a continuum or grid or spectrum of thoughts on different things. Just as I am educated on some I am ignorant about others, and what I need are these interactions and critical thinking moments that stir up emotions—whether anger, curiosity, or inspiration.

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