By Zach Itzkovitz
As I tried to find a silver lining to my experience interviewing and writing about the 25 nonprofit innovators for the AJT’s July 3 issue, I realized that it would be helpful to embody many of the qualities of the individuals themselves — creativity, pragmatism, flexibility.
Some say the best journalism is a product of echolalia. Inferences, speculations, inductions — essentially the differences between a human and recorder — are frowned upon in news, or at least kept on the backburner. This challenges creativity.
When Michael Jacobs tasked me with covering the innovators, I realized soon after that it was important to distinguish between the individuals and the organizations of which they are crucial parts. The article was not titled “25 Nonprofit Innovations.”
But many of the innovators were reluctant to talk about themselves, preferring to impart the details of their organizations’ operations. I took this as some combination of humility and shyness in the face of a journalist and a recording iPhone. Curiously, the more I learned about the individuals, the more I learned about their organizations.
Alexis Dalmat Cohen, for example, witnessed the struggles of a foreign family as a child. Culture Connect, her organization, focuses on acclimating immigrants and providing services to make life in a new country easier. Amy Sacks Zeide threw a party for homeless youth after hearing about a Christmas robbery at a local shelter.
I don’t mean to trivialize the experiences and accomplishments of these individuals. I do mean to show that big organizations, big impacts and big amounts of money start with small people and small ideas, something I often overlook or take for granted.
I often use youth to explain all of the things I haven’t done. It’s easy to cite a lack of time and experience. This added to my surprise at learning about Garrett Colvin, three years my junior, who started his own nonprofit organization and works with other well-established organizations. Touché, Garrett.
The 25 people I spoke with came from a diverse range of backgrounds, values and situations. However, they all believed that they could make a difference, and they do. What are my excuses? What are yours?
It was a relief to see the innovators appear in print after weeks of frantic phone calls, interviews and violent typing. Now I’m off to changing the world for the better, firsthand.