A Look Forward
After two years of organizing #NYCEDU on a part-time volunteer basis, I’ve officially stepped into a new role as “founder.” In taking this step, I’m accepting the responsibility for guiding #NYCEDU from a loose collaboration of education innovators to an organization with the processes and discipline to scale up in both members and in impact.
But really, this isn’t a step, it’s a leap of faith. And like any leaps, I need to figure out 1) where I’m landing, 2) what I need to get there, 3) what the challenges are which can knock me completely off course, and 4) what I’m doing in the immediate future to get there. Here are my current thoughts:
1) Where I’m Landing
If #NYCEDU is successful, it’ll be THE place for anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, socioeconomic background, profession, you name it, to connect, collaborate, and create. It will be a platform for the diffusion of education innovation that works. And, it will have fundamentally reoriented the entire NYC education ecosystem around designing WITH not FOR our communities.
2) What I Need To Get There
- Leadership Development: Influence, Storytelling, and Fundraising Skills
- Strategic Guidance: Nonprofits, Stakeholder Management, and Funding
- External Credibility: Fellowships, Awards, and Relationships
- Funding: Donors, Clients, Sponsors
- Expanded Network: By race, sector, age, borough, and socioeconomic status
3) What the Challenges Are
- Ignorance: When I first jumped into entrepreneurship, there was so much I didn’t know I didn’t know, and those were the very things that caused me the most harm. What don’t I know that I don’t know as I embark on this journey?
- Fear: I am afraid of failing. Before, if I failed at something, the person most affected long-term was me. I was the one who bore the brunt of lost revenue, or reputation. But if I fail with #NYCEDU, large or small, I feel that I will have failed a community of people, of people who had placed trust into me and into the vision, hopes, and dreams that #NYCEDU promises to cultivate.
- Remembered Pain: I lost relationships, suffered greatly from mental health challenges, and lived a life of financial instability for a year and a half in order to get to where I am now… living a life of immense freedom, with a reputation for excellence in my chosen niche, the financial capital to travel, save, and purchase “nice-to-haves”, and surrounded 24/7 by people who love me and trust me. And although I’m committed to stepping up as the founder of #NYCEDU, I break down in tears when I think about what could potentially happen again with my personal relationships, mental health, and finances. It was so hard the first time, but I had the benefit of not knowing what I was getting into. Now I’ve swung too far emotionally in the other way. I know intellectually that I have the base of support I need, that the worst thing that can happen if #NYCEDU fails to raise adequate funding is that I take on another consulting client or tutor students until it has, and that I’m a much stronger entrepreneur than I was four years ago, but emotionally I’m a mess. I trust that I will eventually work through this remembered pain, and that I will get to the the life that I want for myself again, and an even better one at that, but still, it really hurts to think about all I’m giving up to take on the personal risk that comes with starting a new venture.
4) What I’m Doing in the Immediate Future
- Taking Care of Myself: I’m seeing my therapist, monitoring my finances, but also not holding back from the things that keep me balanced, like buying much needed climbing shoes, and reserving time for climbing, parkour, cooking, and relationships. And yes! I finally started learning how to cook! It’s way healthier and way cheaper.
- Aggressively Collaborating: I am intentionally shifting away from doing the work to communicating the work and trusting the community to self-organize around it. The concrete projects on my plate to put this into action are to launch a monthly keep-in-touch newsletter to my personal network in order to share triumphs, failures, and asks, building a volunteer team that takes on larger and larger responsibilities at #NYCEDU – there’s no reason that I need to be the one figuring out nonprofit fiscal sponsorship and incorporation! – and launching a monthly #NYCEDU newsletter to communicate those responsibilities / opportunities for leadership and growth.
- Understanding My User: #NYCEDU’s mission is to cultivate, connect, and catalyze community builders who are people from the community designing with the community in order to fundamentally transform New York City education. The first step to getting this done is to identify those dedicated, passionate, effective community builders who have been doing this good work for years in order to hear what their stories are, what they need to catalyze their work, and what they hope to both give to and get from #NYCEDU. Therefore, I commit to creating a list of likely targets, pursuing their story, and bringing them together to co-create #NYCEDU.
And a Look Back
What gives me the confidence to move forward is the amazing support I’ve received from the existing #NYCEDU community. My look back is therefore dedicated to celebrations and the people who have contributed to those celebrations.
- We have a new website: Sean Perkins and his team at Mobility Labs dedicated their time and resources to create this friendly, wonderful website that invites people to come join #NYCEDU. Take a look here: http://www.nycedu.org.
- We have a clarified vision, mission, and theory of change: I applied to Echoing Green and Camelback Ventures. Both were amazing opportunities to clarify #NYCEDU’s vision, mission, and theory of change in ways that have never been done before. Thank you to a huge swath of advisors who contributed to the process! These include: Alli Lee, Chris Chavez, Daniel Scibienski, David Fu, Eugene Leventhal, Laura Patterson, Jerelyn Rodriguez, Jessica Falkenthal, John Baldo, Josh Dormont, Mike Boyle, Sean Duffy, Miranda Meyerson, Peter Gualt, and Susie Kavanaugh.
- And on a personal note… I’m now a certified wilderness first responder! This was an incredible experience, and it gives me the confidence to continue sharing the love of climbing with friends both indoors and out. Thank you to Tom O’Connell for being the first to encourage me to go.
In short, I am looking forward to an incredible new quarter, and I thank you all for going on the journey with me.
5 Comments Add yours
Hi, really proud of you for sharing and education in and itself is a long cycle. So just like you take the climb the wall slow and steady, it is going to be the same thing in this EdTech & EdCommunity startup space. It is the nature of this field – for now, it might change.
I am with you as it relates to financial stability and stuff. I am definitely on the risky side of things. But 2017 is about getting on track.
Thank you so much, Natasha. I am so encouraged by your words, and support your work whole-heartedly as well!
Thank you for sharing your vision and struggle here. Such a worthwhile project and one that will benefit our kids in countless ways. I really identified with the challenges and risks you so honestly describe to build this community. I support you, and this mission, and look forward to being a part of this vital community.