2018 Week 4: Nonprofit Management

picture of Emma Maxwell CIIPEMMA MAXWELL | BALTIMORE CORPS

This week went from 0 to 60 real quick. Headed into Monday, my workload was dwindling a bit and I had started to get a little apprehensive about stretching my projects for the remaining four weeks. After this week, though, my fears have definitely been assuaged.

My supervisor is going to be on vacation for the next 2.5 weeks and while she’s gone she’s tasked me with taking over all her responsibilities. So I’m independently overseeing the hiring process for three new positions with Baltimore Corps, leading all-staff meetings, coordinating with our HR and financial representatives at Strong City, attending all of her regular meetings in her place, etc etc. She gave me plenty of instructions so I feel more or less prepared (like a diagonal thumbsup on the thumbsup scale).

But we also have two team members who left Baltimore Corps this week because they got jobs elsewhere, and turns out I get to take over their responsibilities too! Feel free to call me a professional shapeshifter because I am now a Director of Operations, Executive Assistant, AND IT Project Manager. Talk about diverse experiences am I right??

Don’t get me wrong, I am super excited to have more responsibility and to learn more about these different roles. But I’ve also noticed a transition since the beginning of my internship to this week in which I’ve gone from working on one or two specifically-designated projects at a time (classic intern work) to juggling a ton of different obligations, responsibilities, communication, and meetings. And with that shift I’ve realized that the latter state of working is much more representative of real professional experiences. There’s a lot of sensory overload and I have at least three different to-do lists at any given time, but it’s a great experience to have to adapt to and navigate within a role where I need to be more flexible as well as more tuned into what’s happening with all of my colleagues and in every part of the organization.

So check back in in a couple weeks to see how I’ve survived my new role(s), but in the meantime I’m considering getting some nice fancy business cards printed: Emma Maxwell, Intern Extraordinaire.

Also, fun anecdote for the week is that I went out to happy hour with a dozen other people from my office on Thursday and the waitress carded literally the entire group (which included some people in their 40s) except for me. So clearly the maturity I’m exuding is working wonders.

 

picture of Irene Bantigue CIIPIRENE BANTIGUE | IMPACT HUB BALTIMORE

On Monday morning, I arrived at Impact Hub to the sound of loud hammering and my usual working spot being occupied by large presentation boards. It turns out that the Undesigning the Redline exhibition was being reinstalled in our space after moving from the Motor House, located just down the street. I coerced John to see the exhibition with me just the week before, but our hour-long lunch break did not give nearly enough justice to the breadth and depth of important information it displayed.

I saw the timely move of the exhibition as a sign that I needed to give it the attention that I couldn’t the week earlier. It also reminded me of my favorite books, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, which is centered on the importance of omens as guiding forces that help us realize our “personal legends,” or our purpose in life. I saw the privilege to now absorb the exhibition every day as a gentle nudge to revisit past ruminations on pursuing a career in city planning and/or urban design — A career that has always fascinated me given my firsthand experiences growing up on three different continents, and witnessing how the quality of our built environment reflect in the resources we are able to gain.

The rest of my week was filled with other pleasant coincidences, but the one that stuck with me the most was meeting Von Vargas at an information session hosted by Baltimore Corps. Now I usually avoid talking about the weather when meeting someone new, but this dry conversation starter helped me learn that Von Vargas is also a big player in the Ceasefire movement. I told him how despite it feeling 42 degrees Celsius inside our midpoint event’s venue (according to my phone’s weather app, and yes, I’m still shamelessly using the metric system), Erickka Bridgeford exceeded my expectations and remained a captivating speaker.

We ended up speaking about a lot of things, but when I spoke with him about potential post-graduation plans, he reminded me that whatever I chose to do, “we are all artists.” Von himself is a lifelong musician who is part of the Ceasefire music video Erricka encouraged us to watch, looking to music to process his lived experiences and maximize his advocacy. I’ve found that this approach to life is very common amongst the individuals I’ve been fortunate to meet through Impact Hub.

Anyway, I can only hope to emulate this as I also process my experiences and figure out what my “personal legend” in life will be!

 

picture of Awoe Mauna-Woanya CIIPAWOE MAUNA-WOANYA | MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION

Week 5: “Where are we going?”

This end of this week marked the halfway point of CIIP 2018 and I am once again reminded how quickly how time flies. With Independence Day falling on a Wednesday this year, most of my office took the majority of the week off, leaving pretty much just me and Teddy with very few work to be done. While this has the makings of an incredibly boring week, it actually wasn’t thanks to three reasons: Erricka Bridgeford’s talk, informal discussions with Teddy, and time spent with other CIIP Interns.

Starting with the last reason, I have come to really appreciate and enjoy how proactive everyone in the cohort is about spending time with each other and checking-in on one another. It makes me proud to hear the interns compliment on the space we, the peer mentors, have helped create. Looking back to our own peer mentor orientation (like forever ago), this was one of the biggest goals we wanted to achieve. In fact, we included this as part of our mission statement as peer mentors (now I don’t remember the actual statement, but it definitely had to do with creating this encouraging space). With August looming right around the corner, it feels like there are way more events than we have the time for, however I am excited for this time.

I suppose I’ll keep going backwards on the list I presented. I spent a good chunk of time this week reading articles about design and transit in cities (primarily Baltimore) and discussing them with Teddy and another intern in the office. The whole idea of automated vehicles has always sounded really cool to me and when I think about the future, I really believe(d) that it is the logical “next-step” in our development as a society. Well that was until I thought about all the hard-working operators who could potentially lose their job. Also losing that human aspect of the job could be detrimental in other ways. So many times I see operators wait the extra 30 seconds for people running towards the bus and that wouldn’t happen if the service was automated. Again, I have plenty of thoughts on this so if you have any interested in automated vehicles (AV), perhaps like AV ride-sharing services (like Uber) or stuff that Elon Musk and Google are doing, hit me up and let’s discuss.

I believe that the primary reason my week wasn’t a snooze-fest was because of Erricka talk during our midpoint event. One idea that really stuck with me was the sense of urgency Erricka felt to start the Ceasefire Movement. When we want change especially in the case of trying to reduce the murder rate in a city, it is important to act in a timely manner or risk hours of great discussion with little result. Discussion is great however, the ideas presented in these discussions should be acted upon. While that can be difficult to do working for one organization for only 8 weeks during the summertime, I think we should spend more time asking those in our activity spaces what can and should be done so that when the opportunity comes to voice the various ideas, we are ready to.

Again, if you want to discuss anything (for example, maybe you’re still unsure how my title relates to what I wrote), come find me!

 

picture of Morgan Ome CIIPMORGAN OME | CENTRAL BALTIMORE PARTNERSHIP

For the last three years, my primary way of learning about Baltimore has been through reporting for the independent student newspaper, The Johns Hopkins News-Letter. I’ve reported on everything from protests to Baltimore City Public School Board meetings, administrative decisions to the legacy of the Baltimore Uprising, and have loved having the opportunity to speak with students and community members alike. There is no place I feel more at home than with my recorder in one hand and an interesting person willing to answer my questions across from me. So when my supervisor told me that she was interested in using my skills to do a storytelling project highlighting community-led efforts and initiatives, I was ecstatic.

On Friday afternoon, I walked to the Sisson Street Park in Remington to interview Bill Cunningham, a member of the Greater Remington Improvement Association. Bill has worked extensively on transforming a trash-filled, weed-ridden lot into a beautiful green space with a lush lawn, garden plots, and picnic tables.

Bill, who lives across the street from the park, told me that he wanted to create a place for children to play, especially since Remington doesn’t have many green spaces. Over the course of many years, he and other community members have succeeded in building a space where kids can run around and play, where people can walk their dogs, and where the community can come together and gather for picnics and popsicle nights. Remington is an interesting neighborhood because there is a mix of legacy and new residents and sometimes those two groups have different ideas about how the area should be developed. The park serves as a reminder that people of different backgrounds can have common goals and that most want their neighborhood to be a welcoming place where everyone can thrive.

After leaving the interview, I thought about how privileged I’ve been to do reporting in the community, and how much I’ve learned from listening to people of different backgrounds. I’ve learned to be curious and ask questions – lots of them. I’ve learned that it’s okay to admit to not knowing something, but I should always do my research beforehand so I can be as informed as possible. Most importantly, I’ve learned to listen carefully and make the interview an engaging conversation; giving the other person my full attention is more important than taking copious notes.

Speaking with Bill also made me think about how the national media does a disservice to Baltimore by focusing so heavily on crime. Now that local outlets like The City Paper and the The Baltimore Beat are gone, there are fewer opportunities to share community stories, not to mention stories focused on people doing positive work. I know that it’s important to report the facts and recognize areas in which the city can improve. But it’s also important to celebrate success and build from strength.

Erricka Bridgeford, the co-founder of Baltimore Ceasefire, touched on this theme during our midpoint speaker event last Monday. She explained that Ceasefire’s goal is to have quarterly weekends without murder in the city, but that the organization also encourages Baltimore citizens to celebrate life and celebrate what makes the city great during that time. I loved that idea of using affirmation and positivity to strengthen the community.

Sometimes, those types of efforts may seem small and insignificant. But I’m seeing more and more now – within myself and within the community – how one conversation, one park, and one person can make change. Perhaps that’s what I find most rewarding about reporting: the ability to uplift stories and give them the platform they deserve.

 

picture of Rollin Hu CIIPROLLIN HU | FUSION PARTNERSHIPS

Before one staff meeting, we all went around and said one nice heartfelt thing about everyone else in the group. For people who have worked with me, I rarely express anything of that sort and I began reevaluating all the decisions that had led me to this point in my life.

I had never been in a work environment that dedicated time to talking about feelings. Meetings always consisted of the agendas, delegating duties, work updates etc. — nothing about how we feel about one another.

The meeting that we were about to begin was going to be particularly stressful because we were discussing how the entire organization will be restructured after two senior employees retired at the end of the year. People were anxious about the future of the organization and expected a tough conversation ahead. But then one staff member suggested that we go around and say nice things about each other to start.

I’d much rather have a tough discussion about organizational structure and duties distribution than feelings. But one by one, people went around the circle and said wonderful and kind things to one another. To my horror, everyone said nice things about me even though I had just been around for a bit over a month.

This entire ordeal was so affirming and positive. It validated everyone’s feelings and ensured that we all entered the meeting with the understanding that everyone’s work was essential and appreciated.

I was the last person in the circle to speak. Though I blacked out a majority of it from my memory, I recall saying that their office was the most welcoming workplace I had ever been in and they were all a model for the people I would want to work with in the future.

I don’t like outbursts of affirmation and support. I had never liked them but this meeting gave me a warm-gross-fuzzy-feeling on the inside which was actually kind of nice. The rest of the meeting went by smoothly and I think the entire exercise at the start of it had something to do with that.

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