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Sunday, 28 September 2014 22:00

Q&A: Carrie Pickett-Erway, Kalamazoo Community Foundation

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Carrie Pickett-Erway Carrie Pickett-Erway COURTESY PHOTO

The president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation since 2012, Carrie Pickett-Erway is prepared to begin the nonprofit’s next chapter at its new home. After the Arcus Foundation gifted the organization new office space in downtown Kalamazoo, the nonprofit needed to think about how to use its location to better fulfill its philanthropic role and engage with the community. The executive spoke with MiBiz about her plans to offer new opportunities for the foundation’s partners throughout the region.

What were some of the foundation’s needs when considering a new space?

We spent quite a bit of time on designing work environments that supported collaboration in significant ways. We were also really intentional about designing a work environment that could handle multiple generations of workers. We have a workforce that is very diverse in terms of age ranges. We also recognized that the workforce is getting more and more diverse every day. We were really intentional about trying to figure out how to design this space so that we can get the most out of the folks that work here, but also this is such a key for us in engaging our community.

What is the idea behind having an open and collaborative work environment in your type of organization?

In our former space, we had three meeting rooms and in our new space we have 12. … Each one of the meeting rooms has been uniquely designed for a specific kind of function. There are more (meeting rooms) so we can have more people coming in to do work collaboratively.

How does the new space correspond with the goals of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation?

The mission of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation is really to make life better for all of the residents who live in Kalamazoo County. As we do that work, our challenge is engaging with the community so we can better understand what the issues are that face residents (here). We need to bring the community into conversations that we have to help us understand issues like housing, homelessness and access to education. Those are some of the big issues that we are really trying to better understand.

What role did the design of the space play in your plans?

As a funder, convener and a leadership organization, the community needs to help us design the best strategies to respond to those issues. So when we were looking at designing the space, we were looking at ways that allow us to bring the community in and use the tools, technology and resources that are available to better understand those issues and really help people better engage with their own voice and help find solutions.

How can the community come in and be part of this new space?

We have a large initiative focused on education called “From Cradle to Career.” We often bring community partners in to help us better understand the community outcomes we are meeting and not meeting. So there are practitioners in the community, but also parents and students who come together to look at college and career readiness. They look at data around high school graduation rates and ACT scores. They are doing research on the strategies and practices that help kids better prepare for college. We do a lot of convening around education, specifically around college readiness.

How does the space help convene those conversations?

We invite partners to meet here and bring up data that we find … and we can display that data while in meetings and conversations so that we can start talking about what we need to do next as a community.

Would you say that the organization’s strategy has changed with its move to a new space? Or do you now have a new way of implementing the strategy?

The Community Foundation has always been about impact. This move to a new building has helped us refine our strategy, and we definitely have a new way of working. We are taking advantage of this move to think about how we do our work in the community.

Read 2140 times Last modified on Sunday, 28 September 2014 21:03

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