By: Jennifer DeBusk Alviar, M.Div
There is a certain beauty and alchemy to co-working that I didn’t fully appreciate until I became a member of The Riveter during its May 2017 launch. On one level, it offers a meaningful quality of community building for women, work and wellness. That, in itself, is priceless. But the sheer joy I have found is through the organic, surprising and ultimately delightful collaborations that have arisen during my time here.
In January 2017, I landed a new job with a leadership vision that I love. I serve as the Seattle Volunteer Coordinator for Doing Good Together™ (DGT™). This nation-wide nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization has an inspiring mission: to empower families to raise children who care and contribute. I have the privilege of building rewarding partnerships with Seattle’s diverse nonprofits that offer family-friendly service opportunities for children ages 5-12 years old. We believe that valuable leadership skills such as generosity, kindness, compassion and civic-engagement will best equip children in becoming strong future leaders. Here is a link to our monthly volunteer service projects to provide a flavor and scope of these opportunities.
But there is a difference between landing a job and leveraging opportunities. This is where my co-working space at The Riveter tipped the scales toward true collaboration. I had the good fortune of meeting Amanda Friedman at a panel discussion with female founders highlighting their entrepreneurial endeavors. Amanda is the Founder and CEO of Babyrific. Her clientele caters to mothers of young children using technology to make parenting logistics more user-friendly. Her website expresses it perfectly: “Simplifying the Search for Kid-Friendly Activities.”
Amanda kindly reached out to me and expressed interest in highlighting Doing Good Together (DGT’s) family-friendly online community service opportunities on her Babyrific website. She sees this collaboration as a holistic approach to parenting and positive community building. Through our new-found partnership, I will be joining Amanda for a Season of Giving party hosted at The Riveter on December 9, 2017 from 10:00 am – 11:30 am. There will be fun games and activities for children, along with the popular kid-friendly musician, Caspar Babypants. We are currently brainstorming a service project that children can participate in to benefit a local nonprofit. Stay tuned!
Collaborations, by nature, are dynamic. They grow and change as they develop. I will never forget one of the captivating question that Amy Nelson, co-founder of The Riveter, asked this panel of female founders. “You start with an amazing vision of a product or service you want to develop. Somewhere along the way you recognize a need to pivot in a new direction. How do you navigate this shift while staying true to your overall vision and end goal?” Amy’s question was not if but how. The art of pivoting calls upon an agile mindset. A clenched fist may drive business, but it doesn’t inspire creativity and flexibility to adapt to change and stay open to possibility. This nimble quality of leadership calls for a light touch. A clear focus. A grounded presence.
What was it about this “pivotal” question that I found so compelling? Perhaps it’s because it felt familiar, relatable. Like other entrepreneurs, I had pioneered an unconventional path. I studied world religions at Starr King School for the Ministry, a member school of the Graduate Theological Union’s consortium of seminaries in Berkeley, California. My seminary training as an ordained, interfaith minister lent itself to an inquiry-based mindset of exploring meaning, purpose, value and social change. But my kinesthetic nature pulled me toward a more embodied way of relating to these questions. In this respect, I became a bridge-builder. I navigated the space between two worlds. One represented the academic world of ideas and social causes. The other represented a hands-on approach to service within and beyond church walls. My ultimate goal is to put a human face on social issues grounded in service and relationship-building.
This inquiry-based journey led me to test out some of the following pilot projects:
How do we teach our children responsible, financial stewardship to care for our local community and make a positive social impact? This question inspired an art project designed by kids, for kids to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital. The following article captures this spirit of service and kid-friendly entrepreneurship: “A Child’s Perspective of Money and Human Dignity.”
How do we cultivate in our children a compassionate approach to cross-cultural understanding? I sought an international service project that felt timely, scalable, and age appropriate for a group of 50 pre-k through fifth graders for a summer church camp at Epiphany Parish. This exploration resulted in a humanitarian aid service project where children prepared hygiene kits to support Syrian refugees.
I developed this project in collaboration with Rita Zawaideh, founder of a nonprofit organization called Salaam Cultural Museum (SCM). SCM is engaged in humanitarian and educational activities. Our mission is to provide humanitarian aid to people affected by conflict and natural disaster within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and to bring cultures and people together to build bridges of understanding. Please check out this website to explore the many different ways that you can help volunteer to support Syrian refugees.
How do we use movement-based learning to help our children self-regulate their emotions and overcome obstacles? This health and wellness question grew out of an exciting collaboration with Curt Jordan, founder of Kong Academy. Kong Academy is an organization dedicated to teaching parkour programs to improve physical education in the Seattle school district. His vision is to empower kids to develop positive leadership and creative problem-solving skills by teaching them the parkour discipline of physical movement.
Curt shared his proposal with me to build a parkour playground to serve low-income families like the Refugee and Immigrant Family Center (RIFC). As he put it, “I believe that all people regardless of age, nationality, or income should have the ability to learn how to move their bodies. Parkour provides that constructive outlet in the funnest way possible. Therefore, I want to share this discipline with the community by transforming how schools think of physical education and give kids the inspiration to move, stay safe, and play throughout their lives.”
The Riveter recognizes that a shift in mindset is often best embodied through a shift in movement. It is no coincidence that this co-working space offers yoga and meditation classes to help people stay grounded, present and embodied. After all, movement underlies the Riveter’s core mission of serving women, work and wellness.
In this respect, the art of pivoting can become a metaphor for moving in the world with grace and agility both personally and professionally. But it also invites us to bring our whole selves to the table in all our humble, hopeful humanity. The Riveter may help guide women to grow in confidence and leadership. Indeed, these women already possess many superpowers. However, no one is expected to show up as Wonder Woman — that idealized persona of full autonomy and self-sufficiency. Instead, we are welcomed into a network of community where people are strengthened and inspired by creative collaborations and a growth mindset for learning. Just show up as is. That’s all. Welcome to The Riveter!