There are very few things I love more than identifying people's needs and creating services that delight them.
CNT Young Innovators
While I was working at the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), the organization was facing a problem: our donor base was quickly going grey. There was little outreach to younger groups who could be the donors of tomorrow. An idea was floating around to create an associate board for young professionals, and I immediately volunteered to take the lead. With the help of a few former CNT interns, I built the inaugural board and planned our first events. The response was staggering – clearly young urbanists in Chicago had a pent-up demand for opportunities to engage with urban sustainability organizations. Our kickoff event had around 100 attendees, and by the end of the first year, our email list had grown past 200. CNT's work is pretty technical and niche, so these numbers were outstanding. One of the keys was recognizing that young professionals in Chicago wanted to do more than just network – they also wanted to learn and make real friends. We alternated expert talks with outdoor activities like a canoe trip down the Chicago River to a water treatment plant. After building a following, we instituted reasonable monthly fees for board members, and the organization now has a growing base of young donors.
During the final year of my bachelor's studies, I was co-president of an organization called Inspire Media that funded student film and art projects on social issues. When I came in, we already had two successful grant programs and a popular spring symposium. We knew that we could do even more. We soon noticed a glaring need: other social issue organizations didn't have the media skills to make the videos they wanted, and young film and journalism students didn't have the opportunity to land coveted spots on big student film sets. I led the board in creating Inspire Productions, a program that built student teams and connected them with other social issue organizations. We received a flood of applications, and by the end of that first year we had already created films for social issue organizations both on campus and in the City of Evanston. A few years later, I interviewed a young student applying to intern for CNT, and I was delighted to see Inspire Productions on her resumé. It was an honor to see that it was such a meaningful experience that she wanted prospective employers to know about it.