2018 Week 5: Nonprofit Management

picture of Emma Maxwell CIIPEMMA MAXWELL | BALTIMORE CORPS

I have never felt as ready for the weekend as I did at the end of this week.

Turns out juggling the responsibilities of three other people plus your own internship projects is not as easy as I expected. As any Hopkins student (or really any human person) can relate, I’m no stranger to stress. But my internship this summer is my first exposure to professional, work-based stressors, and it’s definitely been a learning experience.

One of the roles I’m now playing at Baltimore Corps is Chief of Staff to our VP. So on Monday I met with Dawn, our VP, for 45 minutes and she gave me what I think was intended as a quick crash course on all of my new responsibilities, but what really amounted to a list of a million things I am now in charge of. To give you an example of how this list played out, though– and given, this example was a small blip on the extensive to-do list I constructed– she asked me to order food and arrange all the catering details for breakfast and lunch for an all-staff race & equity retreat we have in a couple weeks. When I asked for follow-up information (where should I order it to, where does she want it ordered from, how much should I order, etc.), she just responded, “I have no idea; just take care of it” (but in a less rude way than that sounds typed out). And that’s really how the whole role has been playing out. Just me trying to figure things out for myself and not let anything fall through the cracks.

On top of that role, I’m also consulting with the Programs department on ongoing projects, working on a complete implementation and training curriculum for a new CRM software, managing (what is now) four hiring processes, and overseeing all the official Baltimore Corps communication channels. It’s an adventure.

What’s been most difficult for me in juggling all these different responsibilities is that I’m forced to be dependent on other people. Normally I’m a very organized, schedule-based person, so I feel most comfortable when I can plan things out on a fairly detailed level and then feel assured that I’m going to be able to get everything finished on the timeline I set. Now, though, not only do I find myself constantly interrupted by new requests and tasks, but the timing of my work is also often reliant on other people finishing their contributions or responding to emails or whatever else. And while this adjustment to my preferred up-tight lifestyle is challenging and frustrating, I also think it’s good for me. Because this is how the real world operates. And pretty soon (don’t ask how soon; I don’t want to talk about it) I’m going to have to be a part of that real world.

A bright spot this week, though, was one of my coworkers. Billy’s probably the person I’m closest to in the office, and we work in the same space so he’s been witness to a lot of my running around (literally and metaphorically) this week trying to stay on top of things. On Friday we were at Data Day, which was very cool, but also meant that it was virtually impossible for me to do anything work-related all day. Of course, that doesn’t mean the emails didn’t keep coming in with questions and requests and things I had to address. I spent the day tackling issues as they came up– shooting off emails during the introductions of panels and checking voicemails between sessions, but by 3:30 I still had to sit out of the last Q&A discussion to make a few calls and scramble to finish up a few important things that had come up during the day.

While I was doing this, Billy and I were sitting at a table and I guess I must have just looked really distressed (I was also starving) because he just put his hand on my shoulder and asked, “Are you okay? I know you’ve got a ton on your plate.” And in that moment it just hit me that I actually was feeling pretty stressed, which made his concern all the more meaningful. I told him I was doing all right, and that once I finished making all my to-do lists for next week (I break them down by day and sometimes AM/PM) and had a weekend to recoup, I’d be back and better than ever, which I really did mean. Not only did he hear me out and let me know I could always let him know if I was trying to juggle too much, though, but he even sent me a follow-up email later that evening to just reiterate that he (and the rest of the team) wanted me to have an enjoyable experience and not be stretched too thin, and to make sure I knew that if I’m ever feeling overwhelmed I can let them know and they’ll shift some of my responsibilities.

So while yes, it’s been a stressful week, and I’m navigating situations that are not necessarily familiar or comfortable, I’ve also come to recognize and greatly appreciate the support and care that can come from a work family. And that’s why not only do I love Baltimore Corps, but I’m certain I’ll continue to love it… even if they give me ten other jobs to do.

 

picture of Jessica Zhang CIIPJESSICA ZHANG | OUT FOR JUSTICE

“You have to see these letters he has written, they are breaking my heart. Please help us.” I’m sitting in a Mt. Vernon coffee shop sifting through a stack of documents. The pages are worn at the edges. I squint to read documents that were copied and re-copied until the text became a faded light gray.

The letter I’m reading was written by a woman who called our office in a panic on Tuesday. “Just calm down miss, take a deep breath,” I heard Nicole say. “Can you come in today?” A couple hours later the woman shows up at our office, a thick 3-ring binder in hand. She talks a mile a minute, tears in her eyes, about her 29-year-old son. Four years ago, an incompetent attorney had convinced him to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit. He got fifteen years.

Her binder is overflowing with letters her son writes to her from behind the walls. Last fall, he started to write about abuse from his correctional officers. They serve him two cold meals a day at 3:00pm and 3:00am. They put him in solitary without even an hour of rec. They make him wait weeks to make a phone call. In February, a random shakedown of her son’s cell revealed a bag of crack that wasn’t his. Every time he tries to file a grievance it gets worse. The correctional officers give him ticket after ticket and the number of days he needs to spend in solitary keeps going up.

It’s obvious that we are this woman’s last resort. When she meets with me in the office, she frantically hands me stacks of documents from her binder. The next day, as I’m sitting in the coffee shop transcribing months worth of her son’s grievances against his correctional officers, I’m struck by a letter she wrote to Congressman Elijah Cummings in April.

She writes to him as a heartbroken mother. She talks about how helpless she feels reading her son’s letters from the outside and being unable to do anything to comfort and protect him. She expresses how she’s contacted anyone who will listen about her son and hasn’t ever heard anything back. As I prepare to help this woman contact civil rights attorneys and write letters of appeal for her son, I realize how truly isolating incarceration is. Prison’s impenetrable walls and barbed wire don’t just keep inmates in; they also keep their loved ones out.

 

picture of Irene Bantigue CIIPIRENE BANTIGUE | IMPACT HUB BALTIMORE

“I don’t get this place — people switch desks they’re working at and they’re giving food to everybody.”

I couldn’t help but laugh to myself when I passed someone (clearly new to the space) make this comment last Friday. Partially because the idea of having snacks out for everyone seemed so novel, but mostly because I was hoping I didn’t sound this confused during my first week at Impact Hub. Let’s be honest, I probably did.

When people asked me about my internship placement before, I used to word vomit my baseline knowledge of social entrepreneurship and hoped they’d ask no further questions. I quickly realized that I was initially uncomfortable to expand on the term because it defied connotations I’d always associated with entrepreneurship, such as profit-maximizing and all-things-capitalism. With week six looming, I find that I’m increasingly fascinated with learning more about this new economic ecosystem Impact Hub aims to promote.

This week was the first time the whole Impact Hub core team was physically present in the space after several weeks. At our team meeting, I reviewed my progress on the impact report I’d been drafting in their absence. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back I was confidently using terms such as “place-based economic development” and “incubator program” within my brief updates. I would’ve intentionally avoided doing this during earlier team meetings in fear of using these terms in the wrong context. To my surprise, my team shared how they were impressed I learned the language and concepts so quickly. This was rewarding to hear, especially since I’d been working independently for some time, and had to just trust my interpretations of past grant proposals, strategic plans, and organizational data.

It’s crazy how close we are to the end of our internship placements. For me, the mid-point event last week first made this reality more apparent, and prompted me to reevaluate my goals for my time at Impact Hub. I’m still reflecting and thinking of ways I can be as supportive as possible. I’m proud of what I’ve absorbed so far, but know there’s still a lot more I can learn.

P.S. Will fill you in if I discover any new terms next week!

 

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

Week 5: “Ignorance is Not Bliss For All”

Here at the end of week five, we are officially beyond the hump and are marching towards the end of the summer with no indication of slowing down. A few highlights of my week included: participating in webinars on Inclusive Transportation and discussing what that look like in the city and state, discussing the “calling-in” versus “calling-out,” birding for the first time and learning about the growing relevance of micro-transit, wrapping up the start of a project that I won’t be here to see through, and teaching and learning about Food Access and Justice nationwide and here in Baltimore.

Here is just a little bit about one of my experiences.

My office recently won a grant to implement or further advance the need for Inclusive Transportation in our state agency. Inclusive Transportation is easily-transportation for all people regardless of ability and age. In our preparation to begin using this grant, we participated in a webinar with other agencies around the country and in doing so, I furthered my understanding of how important language is to everyone and learned how much we all struggle with it- even (more so, especially) at this level of work. The feelings and tensions created during these webinars were similar to those of students, like me, going through a training like SafeZone. These trainings address plenty of questions and point out a lot of our ignorance. So many times, I have felt like I had no idea what to say out of fear of offending anyone. So many times, I would say something without realizing how it can offend someone. In many way, this speaks about my own privilege in many ways. We discussed calling-in on someone rather than calling them out when they say something ignorant. During the webinar, we heard many other agencies use different languages, ones filled with stutters, ums, uhs, and some silence when discussing their goals with this grant. We all struggle with speaking inclusively and it is so important for agencies to partake in trainings that call-in on our ignorance. It is not something just college students should be doing.

Taking this back from a personal level to a state-wide one, when you design transportation systems, it is so easy to let ignorance take over and design for only able-bodied individuals. At the MTA, we have groups like CACAT, the Citizens Advisory Committee for Accessible Transportation, that recommend solutions to accessibility-related problems within the agency. Instead of designing, creating, implementing, and then having complaints, why not have groups like CACAT be part of the design process from the start to provide accessibility considerations. This grant ensures that participants have groups like CACAT present in these discussions.

On this experience, I feel like I am learning a lot about other design considerations besides just trying to solve the presented problem. As an engineering student, many times, the goal is just solving the problem presented to you, but I am learning that how you solve it and who else to consider is just as important because ultimately, we are designing for the public, which includes everyone. When we fail to do so, we not only risk hurting individuals physically, but we also sort of segregate them from society. Design is intentional, whether we mean it or not. Design has consequences, whether we see them or not. Our ignorance has consequences. We must be persistent and meticulous about our design consideration. Some might ask, at what point is too far? I don’t know, but we are not there yet it.

Again, if you want to discuss anything I have written about: accessibility, micro-transit (aka birding hehe), and/or more food justice, come find me and let’s chat.

 

picture of Morgan Ome CIIPMORGAN OME | CENTRAL BALTIMORE PARTNERSHIP

My favorite parts of the week by far are when I leave my cubicle and go talk to residents in Central Baltimore. I usually get to speak with residents at meetings or community forums, or when I interview them for the storytelling project that I’ve been working on for the last month. Since I’m not from Baltimore and have only lived here for a few years, I relish every opportunity to learn more about the city and to hear about different people’s experiences.

I’m a Writing Seminars major, so storytelling is a big part of my life. Lately, I’ve been thinking hard about storytelling and how it is related to privilege. We can better examine this relationship by asking: which stories are given the spotlight, and which are pushed to the side? Whose stories are told and whose are ignored? Lastly, who is given the platform to tell stories?

Reflecting on these questions, it becomes clear that stories of privileged people are given more attention. I primarily read white, male authors in my classes. News can tend not to feature the voices of the poor or disadvantaged. That doesn’t mean that their stories are less important or that we shouldn’t try to seek those stories out. In fact, we should make a greater effort to do so.

At a small meeting this week, I met Sam, a community organizer in Barclay, who is starting a literary arts organization for young people so that they have opportunities to express themselves through writing. Since he is a lover of poetry he wants to share his passion with the youth. He also told me how he went to the hospital to visit Taylor Hayes, the seven-year-old girl who was shot last week while riding in the back of a car. He went to drop off a teddy bear for her.

I met Daniel, a contractor in Harwood, who rehabilitates vacant homes, and wants to contribute to the neighborhood’s growth after losing friends to violence and drugs over the years. I spoke with Lottie and Jean, two warm, committed women who have spearheaded the creation of green spaces in Barclay and worked tirelessly to clean up the neighborhood.

On Saturday, I had an interview scheduled that I was really excited about. When I showed up, some of the people asked me to leave. They were having a celebration, they explained, and didn’t want to be interviewed. I apologized and left. Even though I had initially been invited, I felt flustered in the moment, and embarrassed because I had interrupted the gathering.

As I walked home, I told myself that respecting people’s needs is more important than getting an interview. I understand that being the receiver of their stories is a privilege and that I have the responsibility to tell their stories with respect. I’m still finding my place here in the city. People have been so willing to let me into their lives, to talk openly about the challenges they face. It’s my job to keep working to find those people and share their stories, but only if they want to share them with me.

 

picture of Rollin Hu CIIPROLLIN HU | FUSION PARTNERSHIPS

On Saturday, I went to Bengies, the drive-in movie theater, with several other CIIP interns. On the way there, we passed by a Levittown-esque suburban sprawl and a Lockheed Martin Facility. Combined with the drive-in theater, these are some quintessential parts of 1950s America — even complete with the military industrial complex through Lockheed Martin.

All the fonts on signs and the drawings of white men with their heteronormative nuclear family units looked like the vestiges of early Cold War anti-communist propaganda. The rows and rows of cars facing the movie screen looked like either a scene from Pixar’s Cars or the sexual fantasy of an auto-company executive. Before the movie began, they played the national anthem with a video filled with images of families of different races frolicking together and U.S. troops gazing solemnly in the distance to the country America decides to invade next. It was totally a 1950s atmosphere but it seemed like several parts of that time made their way to today.

One theme throughout CIIP thus far has been addressing and accounting for the legacies of the past — things like redlining, lead paint in houses, over-policing. Just by looking at Bengies, you can see the legacy of auto-centric space design and reactionary patriotism. This is not to suggest that these issues do not persist today but that the problems we see today have a history that is essential to understand.

I didn’t really learn about any of that history at Bengies — not that I expected too. It was just weird to be in a place where it felt like Jim Crow segregation was just around the corner and that led me down this convoluted train of thought. Incredibles 2 was a good movie though.

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