Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"Baltimore - The best place in the world to change the world"

This is the slogan of Baltimore Corps, another one of the entities that set their eye on Baltimore as "the social change capital of America".Baltimore Corps' President and CEO Fagan Harris explained his organization today to an audience of movers and shakers attending Ballard Spahr's breakfast series.
Fagan Harris, CEO Baltimore Corps

Baltimore Corps tries to bring talent to Baltimore and keep it here by attracting potential fellows from "flagship" partner universities around the country in response to the assessment that "We don't have a bench of talent" plus a "narrative problem" all the while "Baltimore is on the frontline of social justice".
“What New York City is to finance and San Francisco is to technology, Baltimore is for social change. If we can get it right here, we can get it right anywhere. We have more models for strengthening communities than many other places.” (Harris speaking with the Case Foundation)
Fagan Harris observed that demand for pathways towards social entrepreneurship is there and reported that the biggest motivator for millennials to locate somewhere is "optionality" ("thank you for introducing this new word to me" said Delegate Mary Washington who was in the audience).

Harris explained the term as "option value" which I understood to mean that millennials like to take an initial job that opens additional options.  In other words, working on the social justice front line in Baltimore will look good on the resume. By cultivating close ties with over 30 universities they get talented graduate students to apply as "fellows" to Baltimore Corps. In the last three years the organization graduated over 100 fellows. This year they received over 1000 applications. Baltimore Corps is a clearing house, Fagan explains. "Others do things like this nationally, but we want to go deep in one city". Fagan is a hometown boy with an education from Stanford, Oxford and a Rhodes scholarship who in his young years already completed a stint as program officer of a non-profit in Oakland, at the White House and at the Aspen Institute before coming back to Baltimore in 2013.

One  fellow was at hand to describe his work with the Baltimore Health Department under the leadership of Health Commissioner Leana Wen, probably Baltimore's most famous member of government and a board member of Baltimore Corps and ardent admirer of Fagan Harris. “Fagan is one of the people shaping the future of Baltimore,” Wen told Nick Fouriezos who writes the OZY posts.

139 social impact organizations applied for Baltimore Corps' fellows, an impressive rate that is sure to make a difference for those social impact enterpreneurs that become ever more numerous in the Baltimore. Fagan named as an example the CUPS Coffeehouse, initially Holly Gray's one person place combining workforce development, re-entry program and being a community hub. He sent fellows to help out in the endeavor.

Getting fellows interested in working with government is a challenge, said Harris, maintaining that social impact cannot be achieved soley through non profits or social entrepreneurs "on the fringe of the problem" if the core (government) is not addressed. Asked about his measures of success, he named talent retention. He mused, "why can't we mentor fellows also for the next and after next carrier step?".
Baltimore Corps Alumni

Having just explored Innovation Village West Baltimore I asked Mr Harris if he has spoken with Richard May who believes that "the talent is already here". It is on my calendar for tomorrow, he responded. It should be an interesting conversation.

As Jon Laria of Ballard Spahr who organizes the series of breakfast meetings at his high powered law firm noted, "there is so much going on in Baltimore. It is important we learn about it and make the connections".

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Profile of Baltimore Corps by the Case Foundation
Stories of Baltimore Corps alumni


From Baltimore, Maryland, Fagan is the co-founder and CEO of Baltimore Corps, an organization dedicated to building a stronger Baltimore by mobilizing a new generation of leaders focused on urban renewal. Fagan is proud to work everyday strengthening one of America's greatest cities. Previously, Fagan worked at College Track, a national after school program dedicated to creating college-going cultures in historically underserved communities. As Fellow at the Emerson Collective, Fagan staffed the White House Council for Community Solutions where he supported efforts to harness the talents of Opportunity Youth. As a passionate service advocate, Fagan has worked to ask and empower Millennials to pursue careers of social impact at Stanford University (where he was Student Body Vice President) and later, at the Franklin Project, a national cross-sector effort dedicated to revitalizing citizenship through service. Fagan studied international human rights in Ireland as a Senator George J. Mitchell Scholar and holds a Masters of Philosophy in Comparative Social Policy from the University of Oxford where he was a Rhodes Scholar. (Echoing Green)