2021 Week 2: Nonprofit Management
Posted: June 30, 2021
RYAN AGHAMOHAMMADI | IMPACT HUB
A large part of this second week — now that I’m adjusting to the rhythms of Impact Hub more and more — was about attunement. Whether navigating a mix of working from home or going into the office, or finding a better work-life balance, this week has taught me to listen to my body and follow my intuition. In a work environment as responsive and adaptive as Impact Hub, the constant influx of new ideas and projects, meeting people, and reflecting on what these developments and interactions mean can be disorienting. The main challenge for me has been how to attune to a space while also recognizing that sometimes there are natural impediments to that attunement.
One of my main projects this summer is to develop a narrative and storytelling series based on Impact Hub’s work. As I’ve spoken to Impact Hub’s staff and members, I keep returning to the idea that community can arise through anything, if only through intentionality. To me, storytelling necessitates one’s own participation in it; the act of writing, the act of speaking a story even, makes one a part of that story, even marginally. In that manner, it is so important to approach this work with intentionality. To share a story with someone is to initiate a relationship, or community with them. This truly is a sacred space, and it’s one to not take lightly. This past week has really highlighted my personal importance with that sanctity.
That being said, one of the ways in which I’ve been grounding myself is reflecting and thinking about how I can approach everything with intentionality and authenticity — the work I’ve been doing, the way I process and reflect on what happens, on what my next steps are. Community starts with self, but community is also our selves. We may have no control over certain events from occurring, but those events give us the opportunity to enter into a new story, one of authenticity and intentionality. Devoting time, space, and power to one’s self can only strengthen the network of people we spend our time with. When we attune with ourselves, we attune with those around us. We build community through attention to ourselves just as we attend to those around us. This is a story we’re all a part of; this one we all get to write.
ELEANOR FRANKLIN | STATION NORTH TOOL LIBRARY
A challenge I’ve been struggling with this week is how to maintain a work-life balance when I work in a very small office with coworkers who don’t have clear boundaries between personal and professional relationships. When I first started at the Tool Library, I was enthusiastic about the tight-knit work environment, as there are only three full-time employees plus myself. It has definitely been nice in many ways to have a more relaxed dynamic with my supervisor and coworkers; I can have flexible hours, not have to show up at a precise time to “clock in,” and I feel very friendly with my coworkers. However, the flip-side to this is that without strict boundaries, the fluidity and ambiguity can become confusing and even stressful. When I feel comfortable with my coworkers, I will let down my guard and talk about how I’m feeling or what’s going on in my life as they do with each other, but then I begin to worry about whether this crossed a line or if they are taking that as an assessment of my ability to do my work. Sometimes I get the sense that they all have an unspoken understanding of where the invisible line is that I can’t see. The casualness in the workplace also comes with a lack of clarity on when it’s okay to take breaks. There is a lot of interaction between myself and my coworkers throughout the day, because we are all in the same space and friendly with one another. So when it comes time to eat lunch, a lot of them will just grab something from the kitchen and continue to speak to one another, which blends back into work at some point. There is not a clear distinction between break times and work times, and I often find that at the end of the day I haven’t taken any breaks at all or I’ve forgotten to eat lunch because no one else was doing so I felt like I couldn’t. I usually thrive in independence, so this dynamic has been a huge struggle for me to assert my own needs and do what I know I need to do for myself when there is a power dynamic in place and a fear of judgment or punishment on my end.
CASEY LEVITT | MADE IN BALTIMORE
One challenge I’ve been facing this week is figuring out how to split my time between multiple different projects. I’m working on 3 different projects that are led by 3 different people, so it can be difficult to figure out what work to prioritize. Since I’m just starting to dig in with each project, I’m still getting a sense for how long different things take. Furthermore, I noticed that currently I tend to do the work that is familiar or straightforward first, leaving the more open-ended projects for later. This isn’t the best tendency because I know the way I work, and for the open-ended projects, I’ll need to leave time to fumble around and figure out what I’m doing. I’m sure that as I get more familiar each different project and start having more concrete deadlines, figuring out how to prioritize work will become easier.
Another challenge I’m facing comes from working virtually with a time difference; finding time to ask for questions or guidance on each of the different projects can be tricky. For example, I often have questions or want to report updates at the end of my workday, but by that time it’s much too late on the east coast. However, something I’ve realized is that my supervisor(s) are also working virtually (they’ve been doing so for awhile), and they’ve totally figured out how to stay connected during the workday. There have been several moments in which I’m in a 1-on-1 meeting with my supervisor, I ask a question about someone else’s project or that requires someone else’s knowledge, and we’ll just call them on the phone right there. It’s definitely helpful that the team is constantly communicating, so even though it’s not the same as being able to walk across a room and ask a question, I’m figuring out ways to get the help I need.
ERIC LYNCH | ST. AMBROSE HOUSING AID CENTER
This week I got to go into my organization’s office in-person for the first time. St Ambrose’s staff works in three rowhomes, two of which are connected on the inside. Walking around inside a repurposed set of rowhomes naturally gave off a homey atmosphere, and I quickly settled into the space. I was given my own office which has really worked well for me, allowing me to focus on whatever I’m working on. But I also got to meet many staff members who I’ll be working with throughout the summer. My supervisor has been really helpful in allowing me to get involved in the full diversity of what services St Ambrose provides. I’ve worked with Owen, who specialized in legal counseling and will help me understand how St Ambrose is going to address the looming eviction and foreclosure crises that will come when the moratoria end. I spoke with David, who works in housing redevelopment and was able to explain to me how St Ambrose works with local government to refurbish foreclosed homes and sell them at an affordable price.
Still, adjusting to in-person work was not super easy. At home, it’s easy to step away from the computer and lie down or go for a walk for a few minutes. In an office, it’s a bit harder to actually feel like you’re “stepping away” from your work for a moment. Currently, I’m working on a hybrid schedule, so switching back and forth to in-person and virtual has been a bit tough. It’s hard to stay as focused or consistent when switching rapidly between the two. The other challenge has been balancing all of the newly-learned information, names, and ideas I have gotten over the past two weeks. Writing things down and keeping a schedule are obviously useful, but it’s hard to take in so much new information at once. I’ve been enjoying the variety and activity of my internship so far, and I’m excited to see what I can do once I have settled in even more.
LUCAS ROZENDAAL | WAVERLY MAIN STREET
My second week at Waverly Main Street, I definitely felt more comfortable and a little more settled in. During the first week at really any new organization, a lot of big projects and plans get thrown at you all at once, and it can definitely be a little overwhelming figuring out where to get started. Thankfully, I’ve made some progress in terms of figuring out what to prioritize and how to break things down into manageable chunks. Project #1: improving the Waverly Commons space. Currently, we’ve been manually transporting water by car to the site to water the flowers there; that’s obviously a highly inefficient approach that limits the amount of planting we can do in the garden. So we filled out an application for a water access from the city, which will make a huge difference. We’ll be spreading fresh mulch on the site next week, which should help beautify the space as well. Another big decision we have to make is with regards to awnings and shading–nobody wants to go to events in a community space if they have to sit in Baltimore heat! We’ve worked out a short-term solution, but I’m currently looking into a couple awning companies in the city to see about getting a quote for a more permanent installation. It’s super exciting getting to work on something so concrete.
In terms of big challenges, I do think virtual work can be tricky in terms of communication. WMS is a small organization (three people including myself), so everyone is always busy. That means that, in a virtual setting, it can be hard to get in touch with people and make sure that everyone’s on the same page. I do think that this week’s been better in that sense, however, since I have a better sense of what I’m supposed to be working on and how to focus my energy. Moreover, the rest of the team has been very willing to support me and answer my questions when I do get stumped or am unsure of how to handle things. Excited to see where things go from here! Tags: 2021, Fusion Partnerships, Impact Hub, Made in Baltimore, Nonprofit Management, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, Station North Tool Library, Waverly Main Street