Where are you from?
How did you get where you are today? Why GreenLight Fund (GLF)?
Most of my life and career, I have been interested in delivering social impact as well as bringing different types of people together. GreenLight Fund is a great fit because the organization allows me to do both, bringing diverse sets people together towards a common goal to serve children and families. Ever since I ran a nonprofit in Detroit for mentoring and tutoring Detroit children, I have always stayed involved with the city. Fortunately, the work I do for GLF is also very local to Detroit and focused on serving its young people.
How has your experience helping students at University of Michigan been different from your current role at GLF?
The academic environment is very unique, but my focus was on serving students and our community partners that worked alongside us. Generally at universities, there are a lot of competing interests and it's hard to make change in such a large bureaucracy. At GLF, we have a tremendously diverse set of Detroiters with a central goal of improving the lives of people in the city. Despite our differences, we move rather efficiently at directly and systematically making impactful decisions and executing them.
How do you describe social entrepreneurship?
I believe that when discussing social entrepreneurship, we should pay particular attention to how we define the "social." The primary objective and focus must be on making a significant positive change by addressing a pressing social challenge. If you are an entrepreneur and making this social impact is your primary objective, then you are practicing social entrepreneurship.
Can you describe a transformative experience in your life? What did it reveal about yourself? Early in my career, I was exposed to the role of an educator as I interacted directly with teachers. I loved being around kids and working with young people in the classroom. After more exposure there, I found that although I was passionate about helping children, I wasn’t best suited to be in front of the classroom full-time. So I realized that I was more passionate and able to support educators by improving the systems and organizations that should be supporting them.
What is your vision for Detroit? GLF?
I want GLF to be the place where we create a supportive network that invests in proven organizations with a deep social impact for children and families. GLF should learn from and reach out to as many Detroiters as possible in order to enact authentic, local change. In terms of Detroit, I ultimately believe we should be be an example for other urban areas to deliver effective social impact.
What advice would you offer to people who want to make a social impact?
To make an effective social impact, your most salient traits should be to empathize with people and listen deeply. If you want to serve others, you must be very proximate to the folks and communities where you intend to make change.