About a year ago, I started thinking about how to expand my professional network and get better acquainted with the non-profits serving our community. My goal was to learn more about the issues facing Denver and to figure out where I might be able to plug in and use my skills.
My desire to get more involved led me to Impact Denver, a leadership development program offered by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. The six-month program takes established professionals and equips them with the knowledge, network, skills and experience they need to enhance their impact in the community.
In addition to hearing from experts on a wide range of regional issues (including Gov. Hickenlooper), participants were tasked with working in teams to help a community partner tackle a local challenge. As you can imagine, many non-profits come to the table looking for assistance, so there was a wide array of projects to choose from.
With four school-age sons at home, education is a topic near and dear to my heart, so I was drawn to education-related projects. Luckily, my teammates also expressed a desire to help kids in some shape or form, so we chose to work with Junior Achievement, which provides financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs for students from kindergarten through high school.
Along with having each of us teach a 5-week class to high school students, Junior Achievement was interested in forming a partnership with Denver Startup Week, but wasn’t exactly sure how to forge the connection. Their aim was to get kids interested in entrepreneurship in a new way and give them real world experience beyond what they were learning in the classroom. With that in mind, my team researched how to best present partnership ideas to Denver Startup Week and tried to determine the best contacts to reach out to.
We discovered that Denver Startup Week organizers were already thinking about how to get kids involved in the event.
However, they were reluctant to align themselves with just one youth-based organization. Fortunately, Junior Achievement was open to having other organizations at the table. The result of our effort is the Denver Startup Week’s first “youth” track, sponsored by Junior Achievement and Young Americans Bank. Slated for September 28th, the event will allow kids to attend sessions to expand their knowledge of entrepreneurship and learn about some of the challenges startup businesses and their leaders face.
Impact Denver not only provided the opportunity to help address a community need, but also gave me a better understanding of a variety of public issues – from budgeting to transportation. The networking was also invaluable. I met different people from different professions from all over the city. I plan to stay involved this fall by serving as a coach for one of the new groups of participants in Impact Denver and helping chaperone a kids group at Denver Startup Week.
I would wholeheartedly recommend the Impact Denver program for mid-level professionals who want to improve their leadership skills and learn more about local non-profits. It was very worthwhile and if given the chance, I would gladly do something similar again.