We rely on an ever-changing network of passionate experts to educate and inspire us. Each Insight Immersion stop features a visit with knowledgeable professionals who are at the top of their game and love what they do. There’s an innate power in interpersonal interactions, so we delight in connecting our clients with a diverse array of experts to learn from and gather unexpected insights.
Meet some of our experts:
JESSICA HOLMAN OF HUMPHREY’S STREET COFFEE
TALKS ABOUT THE COMMUNITY ECONOMY
Jessica Holman is the Senior Director of Community & Employee Relations at Humphreys Street Coffee, a social enterprise born out of a desire to cultivate leaders within their own neighborhoods by creating jobs, providing mentorship opportunities, and teaching job skills that empower youth.
During a recent Insight Immersion with the Public Library Association team, we toured Humphreys Street’s roasting facilities and interacted with the after-school teens who are learning the art of coffee, while earning money and being trained in financial literacy.
How can a non-profit coffee enterprise stand out in a crowded coffee marketplace and how does it compete with the popular chains?
We ensure exceptional quality by providing training that complies with the Speciality Coffee Association of standards and the equipment we use in the shop is top of the line. While many coffee shops in the city offer good coffee, we believe that by employing local students and prioritizing diversity, we are able to make the greatest impact and create an environment where everyone feels welcome.
What is the reaction of the mostly low-income local community to a high-priced coffee business as a catalyst for community development?
Due to gentrification, the community in which our coffee shop resides (Wedgewood Houston) is no longer considered to be low-income. Families were forced to move when their rent doubled, and they could no longer afford to live there. We built a community center in a neighboring community, Napier-Sudekum, where the majority of residents live in governmental housing and lack access to jobs. We took advantage of gentrification by opening a coffee shop with products that only the newly arrived residents of Wedgewood Houston could afford, with profits ultimately pouring back into the surrounding under-resourced communities, such as Napier-Sudekum. Charging competitive prices allows us to hire more students and support our parent nonprofit, Harvest Hands.
How do you find the right balance between business and social justice?
Oftentimes, people who think about social justice in the coffee world are only interested in the impact on the people and places where coffee is grown. While the idea of fairly grown and traded coffee is essential, we also believe in the importance of social justice in the communities where coffee is roasted and brewed. Our motto is “Drink Good Coffee for a Change”, and we are interested in both global and local change. We believe that jobs create opportunities for human and leadership development and justice is often an issue of economics. I like to tell people that we don’t hire students to make coffee, we make coffee to hire students.
BENJAMIN SMITH OF SOUTHERN WORD
TALKS ABOUT THE EXPRESSION ECONOMY
Benjamin Smith is the Executive Director of Southern Word, a Nashville-based nonprofit that utilizes the power of poetry and public speaking to help young adults cultivate their professional skills and make their mark on the community through storytelling.
During a recent Insight Immersion, a talented team of Southern Word young poets performed a powerful poetry slam session before leading our group into an intimate exercise that culminated in each of us writing and sharing a poem.
How does your mission at Southern Word fit in today’s fast-paced, consumerist and social-media obsessed culture?
As we have become more digitally connected as a society, we have grown more disconnected emotionally, more isolated, less present, and less engaged. Our national divisiveness is a symptom of our forgetfulness, losing track of how to leave our silos and relate to other humans. Social media is a misnomer; while it digitally connects people, it invites and is driven by self-promotion into the social, not engagement with the social, and certainly not exploring the depths of oneself or relationships. Southern Word is demonstrating that human connection can compete with technology. Youth are hungry for this personal engagement. Through writing and sharing in Southern Word’s programs, youth discover the power of engaging with others deeply in real time and in a real space.
How has your experience been in terms of implementing an innovative approach while dealing with a traditional system in terms of school curricula and leadership?
Even though teachers and administrators value class time dearly in an environment of high stakes testing, Southern Word does not have a challenge finding teachers who welcome us into their classroom. This demonstrates the power and efficacy of the work we do. Teachers understand the needs of their students, and we would not be allowed in classrooms if teachers were not witnessing something transformative during the sessions. While our programs speak to tested objectives, we simultaneously are addressing profound social emotional and mental health needs that exist among our youth and our society as a whole. We are having public conversations around subjects that have very few sanctioned forums in our culture. The need for this is hard to deny.
What elements of spoken word and storytelling would you see as valuable and applicable in the business world?
We conduct sessions with adults and corporate groups, so we know the relevance is substantial. The craft of storytelling impacts our ability to market, to persuade, to create, to partner, and to interact with each other. To the extent that business is made possible through positive interactions and understanding, we cultivate the ability to engage in substantive conversations with people from diverse backgrounds. Beyond teaching youth to write, we are moving them from silence to speaking their story. This is under-taught. We teach our children to ride bikes and swim as a priority, but we do not teach our children to speak publicly, so many of us grow up with a deep-seated fear of speaking in front of groups. Unlike reading, writing, and math, proficiency in public speaking is not a requisite milestone in our education. Yet, I imagine most business people would identify public speaking and self-presentation as one of the key determinants of success across a wide range of professional fields. In this way, Southern Word is equipping youth to participate in their future lives and the future world.
MATT STOCKAMP OF NISOLO
TALKS ABOUT THE IMPACT ECONOMY
Matt Stockamp is the Impact Associate for Nisolo, managing social and environmental impact initiatives for the ethically-sourced shoe brand.
During a recent Insight Immersion at Nisolo with the Greystar team, we learned about the brand’s ambitions to affect change on a global scale, after trying on a few pairs of shoes, of course!
How do you measure social impact and how can other brands learn from your experience?
It’s been said of social impact, “If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist.” At Nisolo, we had been in the business of improving livelihoods in the community of our Peruvian shoemaking factory for three years before we took a step back and realized we had only a few hard metrics to show for it. We realized that measuring social impact begins with meeting people where they are at and developing authentic, trusting relationships with them. With that in mind, we visit the homes of each of our producers when they start working in our factory so we can get to know them on a more intimate level and better understand the challenges they face. In regards to the second half of the question, I would say that other brands should feel comfortable testing their impact model. We found a lot of false assumptions in ours when we started to measure our impact. Impact measurement is crucial because it exposes where you need to improve.
How did people first respond to a fashion brand that involved social impact as a key part of its model?
We've had a really positive response, as more and more people are subscribing to slow fashion. We're in a unique time where we as a society are recognizing that businesses have a real role to play in alleviating poverty. You can have a profound impact on people and the planet through the products you purchase. The more consumers can understand and visualize the impact of their purchases, the more inclined they are to evaluate their impact and support companies that are challenging the status quo.
Can you tell us about a time when you saw the effect of the work you’re doing firsthand?
The general feedback we receive when we get comments is that customers are inspired by human experience they have when they purchase a pair of our shoes. With our handwritten thank you note and our Impact Report, customers appreciate the thoughtfulness of our messaging, and accessibility of information into our supply chain. Since our first impact assessment in 2014, we’ve spent over 500 hours in the homes of our producers, building relationships and understanding their immediate needs as well as their long-term goals for their families. Establishing these relationships have been both emotionally enriching and pragmatically informative; each of these components has been essential to understanding and measuring our impact.
JENNIFER CLINGER OF THISTLE FARMS
TALKS ABOUT THE LOVE ECONOMY
Jennifer Clinger, a graduate of Magdalene, a two-year residential program in Nashville for survivors of abuse, trafficking, prostitution and addiction is now a full-time employee of the program’s social enterprise, Thistle Farms, acting as the Community Engagement Coordinator.
During a recent Insight Immersion at Thistle Farms with the Public Library Association team, Jennifer talked about the power of love and emotional experiences, which prompted us to think about cause branding, which is based on the growing interest in putting your money where your values are.
Why did Thistle Farms decide to center its enterprise around the concept of love and how does that makes sense from a business perspective?
Love encompasses all without judgement. I believe it's good business to love your employees. An employee who feels loved is a productive, happy employee.
How does Thistle Farms use storytelling to communicate its message?
Stories connect us. Stories let us know that we are more the same than different. Stories break down divisions and allow us to feel our humanity. We take this show on the road and we go to as many places as our budget allows. We set up a table with our products, and we share stories of healing, hope and light. Our "Find Your Way Home" book is full of stories.
What are the main emotional touch-points when visiting Thistle Farms to shop at the store, eat at the cafe or tour the production facility?
The main touch-point is that there are 200 women on our waiting list who are praying for something normal and beautiful. Visiting Thistle Farms provides a living wage for those of us who were once stuck in a system designed to keep us down. It provides, stability, normalcy, and beauty.
JENNA WANDZILAK OF DELOS
TALKS ABOUT THE WELLNESS ECONOMY
Janna Wandzilak is a Vice President on the Delos Solutions Team, consulting with clients who are transforming indoor environments to focus on the people that spend time within them.
During our Insight Immersion with the Virgin Atlantic team at Delos, we got to experience some of the company’s WELL Building Standard solutions first-hand, even feeling a positive change in our breathing on our way out!
How does Delos’ offering differ from traditional environmental sustainability initiatives?
When the green building movement accelerated, there wasn’t anyone focusing specifically on the people inside these buildings. The work that Delos is doing is focused on broadening the scope beyond environmental sustainability. By including the best concepts of green technology, we have developed integrated standards, programs, and solutions designed to promote wellness, stress resilience, performance, restfulness, and joy.
How do you showcase the value for an abstract concept like wellness and get potential customers excited?
Today, we spend around 90% of our lives indoors. Our efforts to maintain healthier lifestyles can be significantly undermined by subtle forces such as the quality of indoor air and water, as well as the quality of lighting. Indoor environments can influence almost every aspect of our lives—our moods, energy levels, how well we sleep and how productive we are throughout the day. From companies looking to attract and retain top talent or boost productivity to families looking for homes that will keep their kids healthy, spaces that can enhance and health well-being is valuable to all.
What is your value proposition for companies that want to focus on their employees’ well-being as well as productivity?
The WELL Building Standard is delivered by the International WELL Building Institute and is focused exclusively on the ways that buildings, and everything in them, can improve our comfort, drive better choices, and generally enhance, not compromise our health and wellness. The projects that have become WELL Certified to date have provided valuable insights, including post-occupancy metrics that demonstrate the value of designing for health. For example: CBRE Canada found that in its WELL Certified offices, the total employee turnover rate has fallen by almost one third; Cundall’s new office, which focused on improved indoor air quality has saved the company £200,000 due to a reduction of four sick days per year per employee; at Arup Boston, 43% of staff said they feel more healthy in the office compared to not in the office, compared to 2% in their previous office. These insights provide further evidence that high performing buildings are fundamental to the health and wellness of people.