Blog : Change Maker

April Changemaker — Brian Stephens

April Changemaker — Brian Stephens

by Brian Stephens, CEO + Co-Founder, CAISSA Public Strategy //

What inspires you?
I get passionate about my city and people getting excited about Memphis and fighting for it. From the business perspective, our company’s primary objective is to help move opinion. We work on visibility for clients and to improve reputation. We work to make things better and help people think differently and more positively. This is translated into the Memphis Cluster because in our city we have a deficit mindset. Leadership Memphis along with the Memphis Cluster are working to get people to have a positive opinion.

How do you use your background in business, industrial psychology, law and military science to help inform the work you are involved in and improve your city?
The movement of opinion is how we do things, get people to think differently, and get rid of biases, which is more psychology based. With a law and military background, strategy is vital. Also, what has helped teach me are my failures. I have had massive and epic failures and it was these failures that helped me learn! I am better able to break down the silos in the community and now am working to get the right people talking to each other.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 issues facing your city today?
I am going to change that – let’s talk about the top 3 opportunities… We all have the same problems in our cities, but here are opportunities Memphis has. First, we have a lower cost of living, which makes us attractive to businesses. Second, the people here are so real and polite in a way that is not fake. We are from the south, so of course we are polite, but we are down to earth. Third, we are one of the most generous and giving cities. When we look at what cities donate the most per capita, we are always in the Top 5. All of these opportunities can be leveraged.

What are one or two projects you are currently working that you are most excited about?
Leadership Memphis is a hub for our CEOs for Cities Cluster. They are taking on unbelievably difficult situations and helping to improve the city. Leadership Memphis is working on getting more volunteers in the city, helping more students get to college and helping others get back to college. Also, Leadership Memphis is currently working to train and teach people about what is going on in Memphis.

What’s your advice for the next generation of city change makers?
There are two parts to this…

First, care about something! You don’t have to care about everything, but whatever you feel passionate about, get to work on it and don’t quit. Even after you get movement and energy, don’t quit and then keep moving to work on something else. People check out and get frustrated, but you can make a difference and we need people who won’t give up.

Second, there are always going to be dragons and trolls. Dragons are the ones who fly and burn everything down and when you try to rebuild, they are not around. Trolls are the people who nitpick and complain about everything. They constantly tear apart good ideas and have a problem with everything but don’t help find solutions. You have to shut down the dragons and trolls in the world, or else they will take over. You can’t have people who just complain. People need to fight the dragons and trolls everyday and push back!

What should we know about your work that you haven’t yet mentioned because I didn’t ask the right question?
The Memphis Cluster is working diligently on making sure we pass along all the great info we learned to whoever needs it. We make a cognitive effort to inform others. For example, if we learned about planning, but not everyone could attend, we make sure to share the information so they can still learn about the topic and then, we start connecting additional people. This helps us create a “micro cluster” or a web of people in the community. We are hoping to push this effort more and use this web to navigate change.

March Changemaker — Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson

March Changemaker — Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson

Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Ohio // 

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the future and work at making each tomorrow better than today.

What do you see as the greatest strengths and challenges of Toledo, Ohio?
The citizens of Toledo are our greatest strength. They are hardworking, resilient, and compassionate.  One of our greatest challenges is filling the funding gap left by multi-million dollar reductions in revenue sharing from the state and federal government.  The loss of these dollars has put pressure on our ability to provide higher levels of public service for our citizens.

In your opinion, what are the top 3 issues facing your city today? 

  1. Protecting Our Water
  2. Maintaining Clean, Safe, Livable Neighborhoods
  3. Supporting Economic Development for Job Growth

What are one or two projects on which you are currently working that you are most excited?
We have really turned the corner with being able to capture, manage, assign work, and communicate back to citizens regarding their requests for city services through the Engage Toledo program.  We generated more than 47,000 work orders through Engage Toledo in 2016 in response to our citizens.

The Toledo Youth Commission has developed an interactive map of resources which uses technology to help connect and engage our youth and their parents with resources throughout the city.  Communicating so many positive choices for youth in the arts, sports, health, recreation and transportation will have long-term favorable impact in our community.

What’s your advice for the next generation of city changemakers?
I’m a fan of Dr. Suess, who wrote, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  Celebrate your differences. It is our differences that lead to innovative thinking and collaborative success.

What should we know about the work that you haven’t yet mentioned because I didn’t ask the right question?
I think about the long-term impact that every decision I make, partnership I form, and agreement I enter into will have on the citizens I was elected to serve.  I care about Toledo’s legacy and the effect my work will have on our children and grandchildren and so work hard to uphold a high standard of conduct befitting the City and the Office of the Mayor.

Finally, could you tell us something about yourself than most of your colleagues don’t know about you?
By now many have heard that I play the piano; however, they do not know that I am also a singer and when I retire I want to become a baby holder at the local hospital.

February Change Maker — Ginny Seyferth

February Change Maker — Ginny Seyferth

How did you get involved in public relations? 
I started in Public Relations after college at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, moved to the oil industry with Amoco, then joined Amway Corporation’s media relations team before I opened my own firm 32 years ago. Today, our  firm is well recognized for our client support to manage issues, brand awareness and new product launches and we have a unique practice working with many Michigan companies on talent recruitment and retention. This is our work that ties to working with our City branding, and helping the City understand the attributes of a great brand.

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January Change Maker: Javier A. Soto

January Change Maker: Javier A. Soto

Javier A. Soto, President & CEO, The Miami Foundation // 

What do you see as the greatest policy issues that Miami must address in 2017?
In 2017, significant attention will be paid to transit issues. Explosive growth has impacted the ability to move in the city.

Equally important, but a longer-term issue that Miami is facing is the effect of sea level rise. We have already begun to see issues with this along the coast. We will need massive infrastructure changes in order to address the impact of climate change on the city.

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December Change Makers: Pittsburgh Cluster

December Change Makers: Pittsburgh Cluster

All year we have profiled leaders who work tirelessly to make their cities more beautiful, successful, and inclusive. To close out 2016, we are featuring an entire city, rather than a single person – the gritty, tough, and fabulous Pittsburgh.

Though we wish we could have profiled every person we have the privilege to work with from the city, it would have been a book, rather than a blog.

Check out four leaders who are growing Pittsburgh:

Tracy Certo, Founder + Publisher, NEXTpittsburgh
William Generate Jr., J.D., President & CEO, Urban Innovation21
Nathan Martin, CEO, Deeplocal
Jane Werner, Executive Director, Children’s Museum


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November Change Maker: Denise Reid

November Change Maker: Denise Reid

Denise Reid, Executive Director, Mosaic and Workforce, Tulsa Regional Chamber //

“Always raise your hand, and raise your voice. Even if your voice shakes and you’re scared, raise your hand and use your voice. Be true to yourself.”

What’s your advice for the next generation of city change makers?

Be very intentional in understanding the people you have at the table, and understand who is missing. Go outside of your usual sphere of influence to make sure that you capture the creative capital needed to drive your city’s success.

Also, if you are at the table and you notice representation is missing, make the reach to be inclusive. If you don’t have someone to ask, figure out how to help others grow to be able to meet that need.

Finally, be sincere about the direction that you are going and the challenges that you face within your community. Be positive in your approach. If you own where you are and what is going on, you can more forward. For instance, if you don’t know how to build capacity, recognize that, ask for help, and learn from others.

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October Changemaker: Cindy Frey

October Changemaker: Cindy Frey

Cindy Frey, President, Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce  //

What is your advice for the next generation of city change makers?

The biggest piece of advice I can offer to the next generation of city change makers is to get involved! Community leaders are eager to form relationships with next generation leaders, to share the community’s history, to mentor, and to provide guidance. On the other hand, community leaders need to be open-minded about the approach young leaders take.  Here, we have a history of a strong, nine-month community leadership training program. It’s a great program, but I sense we need to update our model.  Next generation leaders might prefer to hold a hackathon to solve a problem in a weekend. They may see a solution that involves new technology. We need to move over and make room for new ways of tackling issues.

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September Changemaker: Carol Evans

September Changemaker: Carol Evans

Carol Evans, Executive Director, Legacy Parks Foundation  //

What is your advice for the next generation of city changemakers?

The best advice I can give to the next generation is to listen in many different ways. So many people are passionate and have great ideas. It is extremely important to give these talented people a voice and a platform.

An expression I like to use is to “make the table rounder and larger.” By this I mean it is part of my job to invite people to this table so that their ideas can be heard and we can achieve sustained success. In my line of work, you do not always have to come up with the best idea but you have to be able to identify the best idea.

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August Changemaker: Tanisha Robinson

August Changemaker: Tanisha Robinson

Tanisha Robinson, Founder + CEO, Print Syndicate //

How did Print Syndicate get started?

I grew up in a small town in Missouri, in a large Mormon family. I didn’t really fit in. In high school, with the launch of AOL chatrooms, I was able to find other odd kids like me and a place to belong. Twenty years later, the Internet is a place where, regardless of geography, people can find belonging among others just like them.

While I was the director of marketing at a company similar to Café Press, I realized that there was an interesting opportunity at the intersection of on-demand printing and creating a timely response to what people talk about on social media.

Print Syndicate’s purpose is to enable self-expression through exceptional design. And, through self-expression, hopefully to enable self-acceptance.

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July Changemaker: David Ginsburg

July Changemaker: David Ginsburg

From the start of our conversation with David Ginsburg, president & CEO of Downtown Cincinnati Inc., and our July City Changemaker, David explained he believes no one is a changemaker alone. Rather, change occurs through the collaborative, focused and sustained efforts of committed and diverse teams.

How did you get to where you are now?
It was not a direct line. I came to this position through the retail industry. I worked for 20 years for Marshall Fields, first as a stock person, then a sales person, then a buyer, and eventually in store management. I moved to Cincinnati to work for U.S. Shoe Corporation, where I directed merchandising and management support services for more than 300 stores nationwide. During this period, I had the opportunity to visit two to three cities each week. I saw how downtowns and suburbs were changing and how they interacted.  During a time of ownership transition at U.S. Shoe, Downtown Cincinnati Inc (DCI). was being formed and I was hired by the new organization as Vice President of Retail Development.

Was this transition hard?
It seemed that everything I had done in the past was perfect preparation for my role in leading DCI.  This job has taken all of the skills I developed throughout my career – customer service, quick response, a sense of urgency – coupled with my ability to solve problems and my understanding of downtowns.  It has also been an opportunity to implement the many things I have learned from bosses, mentors, and colleagues.

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