For Millennials, Prop A is About How We Want to Stay

If you are twentysomething transplant living in Austin, within the last year, one of your best friends probably moved away. Even if it wasn’t your best friend, you’ve almost-certainly attended going away parties for others who landed another job or were accepted to graduate school. Whether we get too cool, get sick of it, or get priced out, people tend to come and go in this town. 

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These farewell gatherings are heavy-laden with nostalgia. We sip Lone Star on a porch and opine “the Old Austin;” that mythological place known by few, but claimed by most everyone,

What does it mean to belong to a place? In these settings, it often manifests in turf war style conversations where tenure is measured by how many dive bars you’ve seen shuttered. Maybe it’s something even more obscure, like how “what-used-to-be ____” ditched its dart board in a recent remodel. None of us ever played, to be sure, and yet, it’s absence has a presence. The more dart boards you remember, the longer you’ve been in Austin.

Our social calendars are dotted with these goodbyes, but, in seemingly equal proportion, we also gain the chance to revive friendships with old pals, recently-transplanted here. For every going-away soiree, an e-mail (subject line: “Hello Again!/ Neighborhood Tips Plz”) appears in your Inbox, awaiting a helpful reply. 

This city continues to attract as many millennials as it hemorrhages because, turns out, Austinites can’t keep quiet. The secret is long-spoiled. Our economy is good. Winter is gentle. Tacos are delicious. 

Underneath our “Don’t Move Here” shirts, we fundamentally remain welcoming to these newcomers. We share recommendations; our favorite “spots” (parking included); ghost stories about dart boards; because, at one point, we were newcomers. For once-transplants that now call this place home, something about Austin compels us to stay, and we want to share what we love about this place. We stay put because of jobs (or maybe, in spite of jobs), but, moreso because this place becomes home. Though I moved here with the flimsiest pretenses (and also left and came back), my life is now deeply interwoven with others whose story matches mine. The revolving door keeps whirring, but we are building community nonetheless. 

Yet, as the city changes rapidly, I have realized that my ideas of what “community” means must shift as well. I find myself asking who can afford to stay here. Or whether Austin ten years down the road is one we still want to inhabit, still worthy of our Lone Star soaked nostalgia. More practically, I wonder if it’s one I can afford. 

Though our city’s economic growth is laudable, it is increasingly important to consider who shares in that growth, and who will be able to remain in this city long-term. For Austin to retain its cherished weirdness, we also need to maintain levels of affordability that support a diversity of people, energies, professions, and backgrounds.

This November, we have a chance to support that vision by making a historic investment in our city’s housing stock. Following a nationally notable grassroots campaign, voters can approve $250 million towards affordable housing in the City of Austin. This funding will build homes attainable for low and middle-income earners, and simultaneously support long-term residents most at-risk for displacement. 40% of the bond will buy land to build permanently affordable housing via a community land trust model, while additional funding will support new rental properties, supportive housing for homeless individuals, low-income homeownership, and income-qualified home repair programs. 

If, like so many of us, you’ve only lived here a short while, $250 million far exceeds any previous allocation for housing in Austin. A quick history lesson reveals that our last housing bond in 2013 approved $65 million (or, about a quarter of this November’s request), while a similar 2012 housing proposition failed altogether. 

Study after study says we need this bond, offering evidence of how costs escalate relentlessly while wage growth remains only modest. This graph, pulled from the City of Austin’s 2017 Strategic Housing blueprint, illustrates that relationship all-too-clearly.

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In other words, housing costs are skyrocketing, but our earnings are not. We want to stay, but can we afford it? While many of us treat this city like a playground during our twenties, our expectations shift dramatically as we consider whether to settle in or jump ship. 

Anxiety around these realities manifests differently. Young professionals question whether this is a good place to grow a career, or if the home they can afford is the one they want. Meanwhile, as our supply of low-cost rentals dwindles, service industry workers and artists (i.e. those most responsible for “keeping it weird”) already bear the worst brunt, relegated to housing further from the city’s core. Neighborhoods once claimed by communities of color are in the foreground of these discussion; we now designate these areas “Cultural Heritage Districts.”

Demographic trends show that many of us will leave Austin entirely. Whether for Louisville or Lockhart, millennials are choosing to ditch the hustle in exchange for more time and space to support families, passion projects, and creative capacity. We moved here because we were attracted to the city’s affordability, creativity, and easygoing nature, but these qualities are now threatened. Fast-forward and it’s unclear whether the Austin of 2030 or 2040 has those qualities at all. 

Even at present, the physical form of our city is changing. In areas with the most drastic infill development, like East Austin’s Govalle or Holly neighborhoods, contractor-built pop-up boxes appear seemingly overnight. Suburban growth in our surrounding communities casts an even more dramatic shadow, with Hays County clocking in as the nation’s 4th fastest growing county in 2018. 

Against this backdrop, more subtle shifts in our socioeconomic and demographic make-up are underway too. For example, from 2011 to 2015, U.S. Census data shows that Austin households making 60% of Area Median Income (AMI) or less ($86,000 for a family of 4) decreased by 4,411, even as we gained a net 34,893 households citywide. This AMI measure is a common threshold for affordable housing eligibility, but also for much of our workforce, period. For example, Austin teachers make over $50K each year on average. 

Clearly, this election comes at a critical tipping point in our city’s history. For many households, this bond is urgently-needed and the stakes are incredibly high. But for all of Austin, across all income brackets, we are currently fighting a battle for, as Mayor Adler puts it, “the soul of our city.” 

As millennials, we are the chief inheritors of what these bonds will build and how it will impact our region. We are choosing what kind of city will keep us here, or what kind of city will allow us to stay.

Calling out our generation’s apathy is longtime low-hanging fruit, but it’s also no longer true. Recent Pew Institute research reveals that we outvoted Baby Boomers in 2016 and will soon be the largest voting bloc in America. In fewer words, we’ve got the power. While local candidates or referendums are rarely as energizing as Beto or Barack, that power can matter most in state and local elections, where margins are slim, and voter turnout is abysmal.

In a time when it’s never been more hip to be woke, let’s apply that awareness to our own backyard. As it stands, the loudest advocates in our local government aim to preserve a version of Austin they won’t be around to inhabit. Highly-organized resistance to our land development code rewrite (the-process-formerly-known-as-CodeNEXT) has already stymied progress around how much and where we can build more housing. It’s time we get loud too and create the community where we want to live. 

Prop A is one way to make sure Austin remains the place we believed in that brought us here. It allows us to build a progressive, caring city, welcoming people of all income levels and aspirations. Prop A will support some of our neediest residents, yes, but also our teachers, artists, friends, and all those folks who actually used the dart boards before we all moved here in the first place. Voting for Prop A trades the transience of our endless going-away parties with a more progressive future vision for our city. 

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This funding will not house everyone in need; our most recent citywide housing plan calls for 135,000 new units to be built over the next decade. Still, it’s not too little, and it’s never too late. If the underbelly of our economic success is gentrification and displacement, this bond funding enables what few tools we have to abate those forces.

Voting for Prop A is a chance to reaffirm our belief in the Austin that first brought us here. If we are concerned for the “soul of our city,” this bond is a foundational fight in that battle, setting a historic precedent for the Austin we want to preserve and become. By choosing to vote in its favor, we not only support that vision, but also the right to stay and take part in its ongoing creation. 


2018 Notley Fellow

Ellen Ray is an urban planner, committed to creating a more equitable built environment. Her work at Cambridge Systematics provides municipal, state, and federal transportation planning and policy solutions. She recently completed a master’s in City and Regional Planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology. While pursuing graduate studies, she worked at the Urban Land Institute, Federal Reserve Bank, and Jamestown L.P. and also served as president of her planning program’s student organization.  
Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ellen received a BA in American Studies from Yale in 2012. Following graduation, she fled the Northeast to work as an Americorps VISTA in Mayor Leffingwell’s office in Austin, then coordinated community involvement initiatives for Capital Metro.
She bikes everywhere and is currently learning to play country-western bass.

Notley Fellows Spotlight Series: Elisa Sepulveda

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Elisa has spent her career galvanizing communities in the technology industry, particularly for entrepreneurs and technologists. Elisa attended Cornell for her MBA and a Masters in Organizational Psychology before moving to Texas, where she worked for IBM. She participated in their acclaimed management rotational program, holding positions in HR, marketing, and finance, before building Watson’s initial R&D and sales and marketing teams. Austin’s entrepreneurial scene took hold and she moved on to help build two artificial intelligence companies before joining Galvanize as the evangelist for Austin. At Galvanize, she unites the technology community through events, partnerships, and marketing.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Miniature Schnauzer, Lola, riding and showing her horse Watson, traveling, and cooking international food. Elisa is a member of the inaugural class of Notley Fellows.

We sat down with Elisa to discuss what causes are close to her heart, the areas of social impact she wants to change, and the organizations she is passionate about  participating in.

What specific issues are close to your heart and why?

I am very passionate about helping women and underrepresented minorities succeed in technology. I was always the only women in my math and science classes as I advanced in education and it was lonely. I got support from my family, but I think that I would have gone further in math and science had I been supported by a community of women studying the same thing and advancing in technology roles. Today there are more women and underrepresented minorities in tech, but it isn't representative of the population. I want to help more young women and minorities see and pursue careers in technology.

What organizations or causes are you currently involved with? How are you involved?

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I am very involved in a lot of organizations around women and underrepresented minorities in tech. Right now, I'm focused on helping Female Founders ATX formalize their organization and plan for expansion across the state. I'm also working on a few initiatives in tech to bring skills to Veterans in software engineering and entrepreneurship. The more we can arm these groups with the tools and network they need to be successful, the more of these people will ascend to high levels of success.

What do you think local businesses can do to support nonprofit organizations?

More local businesses, particularly in the technology space, should be lending more of their expertise to enable nonprofits to become more sustainable. We have a lot of business acumen and can help create more sustainable business models for nonprofits, but often, businesses don't know where to start. Just by reaching out and offering to help, we can do a lot to impact nonprofits.

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What for-profit companies (local or national) are currently doing an exemplary job of being socially responsible, in your opinion? How?

Social responsibility should be at the core of a business, like TOMS or The North Face. I think that the companies that build social responsibility into their business models, like TOMS, are the most impactful.

How can we make it easier for everyone to have a social impact?

We need to stop talking about social impact as something that is new and different. Social impact is making a difference, whether it's on a small scale as one person, or on a large scale for thousands of people. By lowering the barrier to entry and teaching others that making small changes have a big impact, people will see how easy it is to positively impact their communities.

Sometimes, social impact seems exclusive to large, wealthy organizations. How can we make impact accessible for everyone?

Social impact starts with an individual, just like doing good starts with individuals. We make choices every day to help others and give back to our community. The more frequently that we choose to do good, whether we are doing business or having fun, we make social impact more accessible.

Creating A Reflective Democracy Through Women

Fellows Dinner with Wendy Davis of Deeds Not Words

Today’s government is anything but reflective with many of the individuals with the most refusing to take the time to think deeply about their actions and their consequences.

What if we had a more reflective democracy? That is the question former state senator and candidate for governor as well as the founder of Deeds Not Words, Wendy Davis, posed to the Notley Fellows yesterday

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During a conversation with the Fellows led by Notley cofounder, Dan Graham, Wendy expressed the need for our each of us to be more reflective in our political participation, starting with creating life-long voters and educating future generations on the legislative process.

This is the mission of Deeds Not Words. Through advocacy training with high school age women, Deeds Not Words is educating young women on the legislative process and how to insert their voice to be more effective, persuasive changemakers.

And it’s working. During the 2017 legislative session, Deeds Not Words worked with a group of young women on 10 different bills, each drafted from scratch to curb sex trafficking and assault. Of those 10 bills, a total of 7 were passed. This singular act helped these young women understand their power to take policy into their own hands.

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The goal of Deeds Not Words is to not only create lifelong voters, but help young women see themselves on future committees and instill in them the dream and accessibility of running for public office. Deeds Not Words works alongside other organizations like Annie’s List, Jolt Texas, and Emerge America to effect change as these young women move on from high school and into careers in politics and policy.

“When we don’t have women in positions of political power, it creates a rush to defend bad behavior and over simplifies the “boys will be boys” mentality so common in today’s political world” said Wendy Davis.

When asked what the Fellows can do to drive change in Texas, Wendy said to pay attention to your local races and help build a bench of political leaders you respect. By doing this, you’re investing in voter infrastructure and showing lawmakers that Texas has the ability to turn out the votes.

Thank you to Clayton and Carly Christopher for welcoming us into their beautiful home for last night’s dinner. To learn more about the Notley Fellowship, visit www.notleyfellowship.com.





Notley Fellows Spotlight Series: Pervez Soomar

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Pervez loves technology, personal finance, career development, and anything that physically and mentally challenges him. His passion lies somewhere between helping startups grow through sales and helping (hopefully inspiring) people to meet their personal and professional potent


When he's not working with his awesome team at Andela, coaching someone through an interview for a job they want, talking to a company about revamping their sales strategy, reading through a resume, or speaking to a younger audience about personal finance or career growth, you can find him strolling the streets of NYC & Austin with his dog daughter Bella. Pervez is a member of the inaugural class of Notley Fellows.

We sat down with Pervez to discuss what causes are close to his heart, the areas of social impact he wants to change, and the organizations he is passionate about and participating in.

What specific issues are close to your heart and why?

Two specific issues keep me up at night. The first being equality in education and opportunity. Unfortunately, where you are born and raised too often determines the level of access you have to a proper education. Going a step further, sometimes an education isn't enough if there isn't an opportunity to provide value with the skills one has. I consider myself beyond lucky for my parents fleeing poverty in Pakistan and coming to the states -- because of this, my siblings and I were able to go to school, get jobs, start businesses, and make an amazing living. The second issue that is near and dear to my heart is financial literacy in schools and especially low-income schools. Habits around finances highly determine a person’s quality of life and ability to live. The student debt crisis has a lot to do with a lack of education that the millennial generation received while growing up and it has blocked so many from being able to do the things they want in life. My time in finance showed me the power of money regardless of your income and has since become a huge part of my DNA.

What do you think local businesses can do to support nonprofit organizations?

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I think local businesses can support nonprofits by making social impact as important as any other initiative or businesses strategy. I actually think of it in a similar sense for an individual. Many businesses and people think that they need a lot or "can wait" to show support but I don't think that’s true. There's value in businesses being involved early and besides having a direct impact, it spreads a culture of giving and I am a big believer that it comes back tenfold.

What for-profit companies (local or national) are currently doing an exemplary job of being socially responsible, in your opinion? How?

This is an easy one for me. Andela. Andela helps companies scale their engineering output by providing distributed tech talent with a focus on growing that talent across Africa. Andela is as mission driven as a for-profit business gets with a saying that brilliance is evenly distributed throughout the world If you haven't already guessed, I work at Andela :). I also love the team at Ellevest. Ellevest is providing an investment platform for women with a mission to close the gender investing gap. It is specialized to women's income and life cycles which is incredible.

How can we make it easier for everyone to have a social impact?

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Generally, I think people want to be involved more and want to have a bigger impact on things they care about. Many of my friends want to get involved and just don't know how. I felt and still feel the pain while being new to Austin. My advice for nonprofits and other organizations that are looking for assistance is to go "on the road." The WeWork my office is currently in has hundreds of small companies that don't have as easy of an outlet to get involved as someone at a bigger company. Why not come do a 15 minute presentation where you're guaranteed a large audience that will likely convert to a donor/volunteer?

About Andela

Andela scales high performing distributed engineering teams with Africa’s most talented software developers. Andela is focused on bridging technological skills gaps across the globe by building an inclusive, international ecosystem.


About Ellevest

Ellevest is an investment platform built by and for women with the mission of closing the investment gender gap. Ellevest helps women invest by building portfolios that invest in companies that benefit women, and formulating algorithms personalized for womens’ investment needs.

Dinner with Dell Medical School's Mellie Price

Last week the Notley Fellows gathered at Capital Factory to hear from our August guest speaker, Mellie Price, who joined for a dinner and discussion on how entrepreneurship can transform the healthcare industry.  

As the Executive Director of Commercialization at the Dell Medical School and a long-time entrepreneur in Austin, Mellie’s background ranges from founding startups to executive roles at publicly traded companies. Mellie is a master of creating explosive growth for a variety of organizations and has turned her talents to healthcare to help drive change in one of society’s most complex industries.

Read on for a brief recap of the night’s conversation

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Universities are giant ecosystems overflowing with great ideas that can solve big problems.  However, these ideas often get stuck within their respective universities, just waiting for the right person to package and deliver them to the world. As the Director of Commercialization at Dell Medical School, Mellie is tasked with bringing these great ideas to fruition. Mellie works alongside scientists and healthcare professionals to devise a plan that helps them license or distribute their product to hospitals or the public market.

“We demonstrate something that works at a small scale, and then replicate it at a larger and larger scale. That is how room for real growth and transformation is created,” - Mellie Price
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The University of Texas is home to great minds, advanced ideas, and innovative breakthroughs that could revolutionize the entire healthcare industry. Mellie is in an exciting position to deliver a new and improved healthcare vision to the community and build care models that focus on innovative solutions. Many of these innovations stem from the emergence of preventative healthcare rather than reactive treatment. At Dell Medical School, they are rethinking how incentives can be used to steer the medical community into more innovative models, which is what much of the research currently centers around. While she couldn’t disclose the exact nature of her current projects, she was candid in her excitement about the things she is working on.

 

More about Mellie

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Mellie Price is managing director of the Texas Health CoLab and executive director of commercialization at the Dell Medical School. She is an experienced investor, technologist, executive, fund manager, public speaker and serial software entrepreneur.

Price is the co-founder of two highly successful startup ecosystems, Capital Factory and SoftMatch. She is also the founder of Front Gate Solutions & Front Gate Tickets, a data security company; and two health tech startups. Price is an active member of the Texas entrepreneurship community and a winner of the Austin Business Journal’s Profiles in Power Award (2015) and its TechFlash Titan Award (2014).

Price, a proud member of the Austin community for 30 years, serves on the board of directors for Leadership Austin, Sustainable Food Center, Mission Capital, and Capital of Texas Public Telecommunications Council (KLRU-Public Television). She currently serves on the Mayor’s Health Alliance and his Technology Advisory Committee.

Price is an adjunct assistant professor who thoroughly enjoys teaching the Longhorn Startup entrepreneurship course in the Department of Computer Science, College of Natural Sciences.
 

Follow Mellie on LinkedIn and Twitter!

Special thanks to Capital Factory for hosting us!

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Notley Fellows Spotlight Series: Jeffrey Schwartz

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Jeffrey runs operations for Mastodon Ventures, OzRey- a national investment and operating firm focused on a range of innovative restaurant, hospitality and commercial real estate developments. Prior to OzRey, Jeffrey was a Lead Expansion Manager for UberEATS. He was a member of the inaugural product launch team and was then responsible for launching UberEATS across North American markets. Jeffrey also co-founded a gifting startup in Austin, LoopandTie.com. He has spent time in LA focused on business development for Sony Pictures and started his career in Finance at Jefferies Investment Bank in NYC.

Jeffrey attended UT Austin, graduating from the Business Honors Program. He is a past rider and board member of Texas 4000 for Cancer and currently lives in Austin with his wife Haylie, their son and 2 dogs.


What organizations or cause areas are you currently involved with?

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There are a number of organizations based in Austin that I’ve been closely connected to throughout the years. In college, I rode my bike alongside other UT students from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska with Texas 4000. I later spent 5 years serving on the board as the finance chair helping the organization strive to achieve their mission of cultivating student leaders and engaging communities in the fight against cancer.

I also share my love of music as a volunteer for KLRU and Austin City Limits, as it brings me great joy to help make live music experiences more accessible to Austinites.

And finally, my wife and I have supported Urban Roots for the last 3 years as we connect deeply with their mission to use farming to transform the lives of young people while nourishing the community. 

If you could wake up tomorrow and one world or community problem would be solved, which problem would it be and why?

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I’ve always subscribed to the belief that one should think globally, but act locally. While many of us consider ourselves lucky to live in a city as wonderful as Austin, we do face a number of real challenges as a community. Given my passion and background in food, it astounds and deeply concerns me that nearly 25% of children in Travis County are considered food insecure. The one problem I would solve for is childhood hunger in our community. Why? At a fundamental level food fuels us, sustaining the bodies and brains we rely on to maintain a level of well-being required to function and contribute to society. This is particularly crucial for growing children on whom we all count to be the next wave of innovators and dreamers in Austin. This issue is something that can be solved by the triangulation of community involvement, self-sufficient food growing, and food education / access to healthy food - topics that all interest me. 

 In what ways can Austin's corporate sector be better equipped to support local nonprofits?

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Participation. I am a strong believer in the power of one...and then how that can be multiplied across many to strengthen impact. The Corporate Sector in Austin has a unique opportunity to lead by example and encourage participation in civic pursuits amongst their employs. The cause supported is of no importance. The method in which an employee decides to participate is of no importance. What matters is that they do something. By taking the stance that community involvement is part of a company's culture (...and perhaps even expectation?) we can leverage the time, energy, dollars and intelligence of Austin's employees to build a better Austin. 

 

Get Involved with Urban Roots

Urban Roots is a farm-based youth leadership community in Austin that uses food and farming to empower and engage youth in the community with hard work, healthy living, and civic engagement. Since Urban Roots began in 2008, 288 young leaders have graduated from the Farm Internship Program, 288,601 pounds of produce has been harvested, and 235,000 servings have been donated to 12 different hunger relief organizations.


Want to get involved? You can volunteer on the farm! Contact volunteer@urbanrootsatx.org if you have any questions and check out the volunteer days to learn more.
Buy fresh veggies for a great cause! Urban Roots grows approximately 45,000 lbs of food every year, donating 40% to charity and selling the rest to the Austin community. Check out the Urban Roots booth at the Farmer's Market so you can eat UR veggies and support an amazing program!

Notley Fellows Spotlight Series: Clark Nowlin

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Clark Nowlin, a Fort Worth native and member of the inaugural class of Notley Fellows, moved to Austin three years ago after graduating from Baylor University with degrees in finance and entrepreneurship. With his passion for rallying people around exciting and impactful ideas, he started two organizations while at Baylor, an entrepreneurship book club and an enneagram study group for personality analysis. Today he helps run a music nonprofit, ALL ATX, with the mission of keeping Austin a music town by supporting affordable solutions for musicians. Clark was a full-time touring musician for four years prior to moving to Austin and now makes music for fun with friends in his home studio. Clark loves tacos and meeting new people.

 

 

We sat down with Clark to discuss what causes are close to his heart, the areas of social impact he wants to change, and the organizations he is passionate about and participating in.

 

What specific issues are close to your heart and why?

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Environment: We’ve only got one planet. Protecting it for future generations to thrive is one of the most important things we can do.

Human rights: All human life is of equal value. Though different from one another, everyone deserves an equal shot at pursuing happiness.

Art: I believe everyone “has a song to sing.” Expressing ourselves through art is one of the most satisfying things to be done. I challenge myself and encourage folks to “sing that song” – the world will be bland if we don’t!

What organizations or cause areas are you currently involved with?

I help run and work closely with ALL ATX for artist promotion/funding and sustaining Austin’s culture. I volunteer with and donate to the Andy Roddick Foundation, which helps kids receive better opportunities in low-income areas. I also donate to Carbonfund.org for CO2 emissions offset.

 If you could wake up tomorrow and one world problem would be solved, which problem would it be and why?

Denuclearization of the world’s militaries. Nuclear war is the most immediate threat to society. We should just take it off the table so it's not an option. No inherent upside. Infinite downside.

If you could make one improvement within the social innovation sector what would it be?

I think it’s better to swing for the fences with social issues instead of playing it safe. Encourage nonprofits to take more risk to potentially become effective by strong and specific campaigns and/or earned revenue models. There are lots of comfortable groups out there delivering ambiguous and less-than-optimal social returns on their capital.

In what ways can Austin's corporate sector be better equipped to support local nonprofits?

Consistently invite speakers in for “lunch and learns” to get employees up to speed on issues that are happening. It is an easy way to spread awareness and get long-run community buy in for causes.

Businesses create value that ultimately is put back into ‘business’ or ends up in charitable/philanthropic endeavors. The two work together already and could do so more by using the same problem solving and innovating mindset that it took to build a great company to come up with solutions for social problems. I think it’d be good for any business to adopt a charity and set aside a minimum amount of money & employee time to make an impact with it that the business can truly own. This sustainably helps the community and makes the company look great if executed well. Even better, it’s also go-to for employees to volunteer if it fits in with their philanthropic passions. Win-win.

Who is Clark Twain?

Clark Twain... My Saturday project. I think creativity is a muscle and everyone should exercise it! I make music under the name Clark Twain for fun with friends. It’s a creative outlet to recharge me after a long week. Check out the single & music video here: 


Learn more about how you can get involved

  •  ALL ATX, a music education based nonprofit benefiting the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), The SIMS Foundation, Austin Music Foundation (AMF) and Black Fret.

  •  Andy Roddick Foundation, a nonprofit organization on a mission to close the educational achievement gap by providing opportunities to children in underserved communities. 

  • Carbonfund.org, a nonprofit on a mission to reduce the carbon footprints of individuals and businesses throughout outreach and education. 

Untangling CodeNEXT with Glasshouse Policy

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You’ve surely heard of CodeNEXT, it’s Austin’s favorite new buzzword relating to the complicated initiative to revise the land development code in Austin. In order to help simplify the complexities of CodeNEXT, Glasshouse Policy worked to "gamify" regional planning, making it easier for people to learn and engage in the changing Austin community. By breaking down the technical jargon and explaining the convoluted policy terms, more individuals are able to engage in the process and conversation surrounding CodeNEXT.

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Glasshouse Policy is a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 nonprofit policy organization with the mission to remove the gap between citizens and policymakers, allowing for more engaged, transparent, and collaborative communities. In their recent work, the organization has been focused on the CodeNEXT conversation.

The first few months of the Notley Fellowship has unearthed some similarities in our member’s interests, one of those being CodeNEXT and city zoning laws. Last week, the Notley Fellows and Glasshouse Policy Co-Founder, Tom Visco gathered for an engaging conversation about the creation of our nation’s initial zoning policies and how they evolved into the system we have today.

“There are a lot of things in the CodeNEXT conversation that have to be untangled,” said Tom. “The reason that I’m so passionate about how and where people should live and work is because this is the conversation about what successful living in the United States in the twenty-first century will look like. Cities are what we do, and we have to get it right.”

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The evening consisted of the Fellows playing a lego-based interactive board game designed to imitate the complexities of of managing Austin’s increasing population growth. The intention of the game is to shed some light and allow for better understanding of Austin’s land development code and the potential challenges that we may face in the future.

 

Here are a few fun tidbits we learned throughout the night:

  • Austin is the same geographic size as New York City, with 7% of the population of New York City.

  • Austin has sprawled faster than the city of Houston over the past twenty years.

  • Its projected that 500,000 people will move to Austin by 2024.

 

Learn more about how to get involved with Glasshouse Policy at glasshousepolicy.org.

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Thomas Visco co-founded Glasshouse Policy with Francisco Enriquez in 2014. Thomas currently serves as Policy Director of Glasshouse Policy and is responsible for policy development and client and program support.

Thomas has designed and executed grassroots organizing initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels on a variety of pro-community issues including Texas fire code reform, consumer protection, toxic chemical regulation, transportation policy, and tax reform.

Throughout his career, Thomas has managed community engagement projects, leading stakeholder mediation to implement citizen-sourced ideas at all levels of government. 

 

Doing Well While Doing Good

Doing Well While Doing Good: The 4 Tenets of a Community-Minded Brand

In the beginning of the Notley Fellowship, we Fellows are charged with a thought exercise. How can we merge our skills and expertise in the private sector with the public, non-profit space? As a marketer, I believe both sectors have a lot to learn from each other. Just as non-profits should take on a strategic marketing lens, businesses should take a community-minded approach to their brand building.

Here’s an example – and why. Think of General Electric. What’s the first thing that came to mind? A blue GE logo? Thomas Edison? The word “innovation”? These images are brand associations. Like people, brands carry associations, which give us shorthand knowledge into who a brand is, what it stands for, what it does, and what its values entail. With the General Electric exercise, when you brought the brand to mind, associations came with it. Maybe you pictured product associations—based in functionality, quality, and design. Or, you might’ve thought of organizational associations—the global nature of the company, its concern for customers, or the way it treats its employees.

Beyond these associations, brands can also be linked to causes—known in consumers' minds as community-minded. An organization could be environmentally sensitive, have a strong corporate responsibility program, or prioritize a foundation—any of which could help build value around the brand as much as its products, global nature, or concern for customers or employees. 

A brand’s perception around community might even eclipse its products. Take Life is Good, for instance. Life is Good did not create a mind-blowing innovation—they created t-shirts. However, the core of their business is their social mission, and they donate 10% of their net profit to kids in need. Although the founders started with $78 and 48 t-shirts, their story captured hearts, and now, Life is Good is a $100 million company. Likewise, Warby Parker, TOMS, Ben & Jerry’s, and Patagonia have built tremendously successful brands around their commitment to social and/or environmental causes.

It is of course difficult to calculate how much of such success can be attributed to a mission-driven core. Perhaps these companies had superior products or a competitive advantage, but it’s also clear that this community-oriented association—their values and programs—has differentiated their business, enhanced customer loyalty, and propelled brand awareness.

 

Does Social Responsibility Mean Brand Profit?

 

So, what does bottom-line payoff look like? While being a “good corporate citizen” can generate feelings of respect and admiration, does social responsibility translate to profits?

According to recent studies, the answer is yes. The Cone Communications Digital Activism survey found that 89% of consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality. Millennials are particularly inclined to reward socially responsible companies. According to the Cone Millennial Cause study, they are 79% more likely to purchase products from a company that is socially responsible, and they are 83% more likely to trust the company. 

Think of your own habits. How do you feel when you purchase TOMS shoes? Do you think differently about a brand once you’ve learned about its corporate responsibility programs? Would you prefer that your daily coffee comes from a company that proudly provides fair wages to its workers or one that doesn’t boast social responsibility? Would you be more loyal to the business with that community orientation?

Most likely, cause programs elicit positive associations from you—and for this reason, they also add visibility and vitality to the brand. So, how can you build a community-oriented association for your brand in an effective way?

 

4 Steps to Build a Community-Minded Brand

 

To capitalize on social responsibility efforts, initiatives and programs must build associations that help the company stand out from the crowd. Dr. David Aaker, a premier thought leader and consultant on brand strategy, believes an organization must obey the fundamentals of branding to do this. He outlines four tenets of success:

 

  1. Have a focus. Building and maintaining a focused initiative enhances impact and visibility. As a global restaurant company, Yum! Brands’s mission is to feed the world. This goal includes those at risk of hunger, so Yum! has focused their charitable work on solving hunger both locally and around the world. They’ve developed relationships with community hunger programs, food banks, national Hunger Walks as well as a partnership with United Nations World Food Programme. Their relentless focus on eradicating hunger, whether through relief efforts overseas or through local pantry programs, has amplified their social impact and their branding efforts alike.

  2. Be consistent over time. As with any branding effort, consistency over the long-term is key to allowing a brand association to generate a substantial benefit to a company. Rather than a scattered effort to solve every world problem or participate in a variety of efforts, the brands who have maintained consistent involvement in a specific cause gain impact and visibility. Ronald McDonald House has supported families during difficult times since 1974. McDonald’s consistent efforts to build, strengthen, and expand Ronald McDonald House over the long term has helped them protect their investment and build upon its recognition.

  3. Link the program to the brand. Participate in a program or effort that is relevant to your business. For instance, aligning with a deeply patriotic cause, American Express supported the renovation of the Statue of Liberty. The REI Stewardship initiative focuses on environmental causes—the perfect connection for a brand that sells outdoor apparel and equipment. Choose a cause that has an authentic connection to your organization.

  4. Be branded. Like a company with a strong brand, a branded program is more effective, memorable, and impactful. Tide created their “Loads of Hope” program in response to Hurricane Katrina, washing loads of clothes for those affected by the disaster. Using their materials, Home Depot created a “1,000 Playgrounds for 1,000 Days” campaign that turned vacant lots into safe playgrounds for children. Of course, adding a social media component, like Always did with their campaign #LikeAGirl, adds powerful amplification to the effort. Creating a brand around the initiative defines the meaning of the effort and enhances the impact of the program.

 

What are great examples of social responsibility programs, actions, and initiatives that you’ve seen? Have they followed these principles?

 


Rachel Jamail is the Board Chairwoman of the 2018 Inaugural Notley Fellowship. Rachel is is a passionate leader in both the business and non-profit sectors of Austin. She is the Site Lead at Facebook and previously served as the Director of Global Brand Marketing at Spredfast. She serves on the boards of the Anti-Defamation League, Texas Enactus, and the University of Texas Psychology Department. She is also a member of UT's 1883 Council. Rachel earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas and a Master's from Harvard.

Dinner with Google’s Gerardo Interiano

Being An Empathetic, Impactful Leader with Gerardo Interiano

“I want to hire people that are humble, hungry and smart” – Gerardo Interiano

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Last week, the Notley Fellows gathered at Galvanize in Downtown Austin and engaged in an electric conversation with Notley cofounder Dan Graham and Gerardo Interiano, Head of Local Market Staffing at Google. Interiano has a long history in politics and is a self-proclaimed tech outsider with a long-standing passion for community work, government relations, and hiring great talent.

Interiano grew up surrounded by politics. His family has a long history of political involvement in El Salvador, where his uncle was president from 2000-2005, and his brother now currently serves. Once he graduated from the University of Texas School of Law, Interiano was fortunate enough to serve for Congressman Lamar Smith and Speaker Joe Straus, where he drew the Texas redistricting maps in 2011. While he left politics because of the increasing viciousness, noise, and polarization, he remarked that these two men “showed him what it means to be in public service,” and that “95% of those in office are good people who are doing good things in the best interest of their constituents.”

After leaving politics with no desire to run for office, Interiano helped create and manage Google’s public-facing government relations. His biggest criticism? “Tech [in general] is afraid of government.”

Six years later, Interiano wanted to reinvent himself within the company and add additional skill sets he didn’t have in his job. Realizing that “your company is as good as your people,” he set off to fully examine and break down Google’s incredible hiring process. When asked why he wants to break a system that seems to function properly, Interiano responded – “if you don’t innovate, you get left behind.”

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With his innate abilities to lead and develop creative new approaches, Interiano has been dissecting the hiring processes at Google. He wants to fully understand the traits of the best performers and how to track them with data and metrics, including quantifying traits such as humility. To fundamentally change the hiring process, he is invigorated to find a solution of how to screen the right people into the candidate pool. It’s his mission to unearth candidates that might have traditionally be left out of the process - the ones that possess the soft skills necessary for today’s dynamic business environment.

Interiano left the Fellows with a challenge of using a soft-skill both politically and in technology. By integrating empathy into political discussions and problem solving, Interniano believes the largest problems will be slightly easier to tackle.


Thank you to Gerardo Interiano for joining us and to Irene’s for fueling the night’s conversation. Stay tuned for the next featured Fellows’ dinner guest next month - Mellie Price, Managing Director at Texas Health CoLab & Executive Director of Commercialization at Dell Medical School.

We loved gathering at Galvanize, an urban coworking space that cultivates entrepreneurs, startups, Fortune 1000 companies, and tech professionals in the heart of Downtown Austin. Galvanize is on a mission to make growth and education accessible in underrepresented groups in the tech industry by forging a diverse community of eclectic entrepreneurs, programmers, and industry experts united by common values. Thank you for having us, Galvanize!