Charnae Sanders our 2019-2020 Fellow at Co.Act Detroit is Detroit Native. She graduated from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor’s in Online Journalism with a Minor in Media Design, Production, and Technology.

Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.

Co.activists unite as my team and I celebrate the public launch of our space in June of 2019.

Co.act Detroit serves as a hub for nonprofits and community organizations in Southeast Michigan to connect, convene and share ideas and solutions together to strengthen our sector. We currently offer convening spaces free of charge for nonprofit and community organizations through December 2020. Outside of providing space, we offer a variety of programming to meet organizations where they are. 

I am responsible for leading our Conversation Series where we uplift local and national perspectives on various issues affecting our work, communities and region. I also coordinate our Slowing Down: Self-Care for Nonprofit Professionals Series designed to encourage those in our sector to take a pause and celebrate the importance of slowing down to speed up. I also assist in coordinating various workshops and other programming happening in our space. I enjoy the thrill of being able to play a part in creating experiences that will impact others and provide them with tools they need to drive their work forward.

Tell us about the challenge project you’re currently working on; what are you learning from the experience?

We are currently working with Sinai-Grace Guild Community Development Corporation to address, “How might we support a thriving age-friendly community in Northwest Detroit?” I am a member of the Branding and Communications team where we are specifically working on developing a communications plan to enhance communication to the senior community. 

As a Detroit native who actually grew up on the Northwest side, I’m really enjoying this project because I’m learning so much about the opportunities and resources available and the ways neighbors come together to address challenges in their community.

Just a few Challenge Detroit Fellows exercising our human-centered design thinking muscles at TechTown Detroit.

How do you hope to impact the community this year?

I hope to impact the community by providing valuable tools and information that Sinai-Grace Guild Community Development Corporation could utilize to support their efforts and impactful work in our city. What I love most about the challenge projects is being able to work with various partners through playing a small role in an assignment that can result in a big impact for the communities they serve.

Please share the most memorable moment you have experienced so far as a Fellow. Why was it memorable and how has it impacted you?

One of the most memorable moments I’ve experienced so far as a Fellow was being able to partner with Detroit Public Schools Community District for our first challenge project. For the project, we were tasked with amplifying the voices of high school students by having them inform us what they would like to see in a student leadership conference. As a DPS alum, being able to listen, learn, and connect with students, teachers, and administrators was very special to me. I felt like I was able to give back in such an intentional and exciting way that made this experience truly worthwhile.

How do you believe your fellowship will shape your career moving forward?

I feel this fellowship has given me more confidence, not just in myself, but in also not  underestimating how much of an impact someone or a group of people can make in a short period of time. This fellowship has helped me recognize what it truly means to “trust the process” and to have a “yes, and” mentality through design thinking. My fellowship has inspired me to find the possible solutions or room for growth in every challenge and to embrace my own unique talents throughout the process.

If someone reading your interview is considering in applying to be a Fellow, why would you encourage them to apply?

I would encourage anyone considering applying to be a Fellow to apply because this opportunity challenges you in all the right ways. It challenges your way of thinking and takes you outside of your comfort zone. You also have the opportunity to not just learn more about Detroit, but immerse yourself in the city through various projects and opportunities to hear from people who will blow your mind! This experience has opened my eyes to so much of the amazing work happening in our backyard.