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Saying Yes to Investing in Professional Growth: Reflections from a BIG – Bold Impact for Good Program Alum

By December 12, 2022May 3rd, 2023No Comments
Woman posing with lake and mountains behind her

Mariah Harrison, current Nonprofit and Philanthropy Coordinator for the City of Albuquerque Office of the Mayor and past participant of BIG – Bold Impact for Good workshops facilitated by Prospera Partners

Mariah Harrison, MCRP, was born and raised in New Mexico and has spent her career working with leaders in her community. Connection and service are her passions and guide both her personal growth and that of the organizations with which she works. She currently serves as the Nonprofit and Philanthropy Coordinator for the City of Albuquerque Office of the Mayor, and her background includes Tulane University’s Center for Public Service, AmeriCorps*NCCC, and UNM’s Office of Community Engaged Learning and Research. Harrison’s nonprofit board experience spans athletic, philanthropic, and community development-based organizations. 

An alumna of Prospera Partners’ BIG Solopreneur Retreat in 2020, the Emerging Social Sector Leaders program in 2020, and Dismantling Racism in the Nonprofit Sector in 2021, Harrison takes a moment to reflect on what she has gained from Prospera Partners’ programs and how she feels they have propelled her to do more.

The first BIG program I participated in was the solo-preneur retreat, a small, in-person experience. It was very much my kind of thing with like-minded folks who were feeling challenged but present in order to share their knowledge and learn from others.

In most cases we were looking for help with business strategies, but also a shared space to grow our ideas and tangible plans for those futures we had in mind. Vicki guided us through questions about our limitations, strengths, goals, etc. But, it was meant to be deeply introspective, a place where we could be safe in sharing honestly, and in receiving. Together we discovered more about how to create powerful work and where to start that design using personal fulfillment and professional accountability. Most of this structure began with compassion and empathy for ourselves and others in mind. It brought forth deeper purpose and better ways for each of us to serve our clients.

Soon thereafter I took part in the Emerging Social Sector Leaders program. The Transformational Leadership Model was at the forefront, and here we learned more about how our beliefs and behaviors ripple out among our environment. Another learning circle, it was good to be with people who allowed that “we” do not always have the answers. But the experience did ask “who am I,” “who am I really,” and, naturally, “what does the nonprofit sector accomplish, really,” and “what is my role in that?” It helped me to see places in my work where I could step up or step aside. 

The same followed in my experience in the Dismantling Racism in the Nonprofit Sector (DSRNP) program. At the time I was looking to reach further into supporting nonprofits. I was co-coordinating a speaker series, on the board of two nonprofits, and was working in a public role at the City of Albuquerque. Everywhere I turned there was a mirror being held up and opportunities for change and growth for myself and for the organizations in which I worked. The DSRNP series was helping me look for opportunities to “address systems of privilege” in my organization and elsewhere. And, we were reminded that many of us were still at the beginning of the learning – that the learning work does not have an end; it’s a journey.

This last program helped me see the nonprofit sector more objectively; the limitations to engagement and funding when something is created in a white-centric system. Our incredible facilitators, Rae, Vicki, Everette, Kourtney, and Eileen, all guided us through conversations and exercises that allowed us to see how much power we have to make change through transformational leadership.

Transformation is not a point-to-point experience. “People have to be at the center of their own transformations” is a note I wrote during an Emerging Leaders session. I’m sure it was something Vicki said in the same context as her statement, “transformational leadership keeps working on you.” Being cognizant of our work, our internal, emotional and perspective re-alignment work, is the core of the transformation. Call it mindfulness or presence or what have you, but the point is to be intentional about the changes we have to make in ourselves in order to affect change in our surroundings. The “I” work tells us to be cognizant of what we’ve experienced and how it comes into our work.

These BIG Bold Impact for Good programs encouraged us to reflect on our role in creating a more equitable social sector, how we can effect change when not in a leadership role, and how to work with colleagues on making small changes that lead to cultural change. 

If you’re on the fence about signing up for a BIG workshop here’s what I would say: If ever there was a time to invest in your growth and to start with what you have, the time to start is now. What you have is the desire to move forward and support your community. What you have are more resources than you know. And, invest in your voice, even if it’s a whisper. 

BIG learning circles (or Communities of Practice) are valuable spaces because they focus on the learning experience. It’s not a top-down method and no one gets out without some kind of contribution and reflection. It was tough – it is tough – for me to be in a Zoom and feel on the spot around folks “I don’t know,” but most of those folks were going through similar experiences as I am. And, Vicki is a solid and creative facilitator. She brings out the best in her colleagues, and the people she hires will also bring out the best in the BIG programs. I remember that as we went through sessions, I met folks I wanted to spend more time with or get to know better. I didn’t need all of my notes to know that this space was special.

2023 can be the year you say “yes” to investing in your leadership growth, or the growth of your nonprofit board, staff, or volunteers by joining one or more of next year’s BIG – Bold Impact for Good – sessions. All BIG workshops are centered on transformational leadership, systems change, equity, inclusion, and justice in order to create meaningful, positive change for nonprofit organizations and professionals. Learn more!