Harmony Rhodes is a 2019-2020 Fellow. She is a native of Detroit (Southwest) and graduated from University of Michigan Dearborn with a bachelors in Political Science and Communication.

Tell us about your host company and your role in the organization.
My host company was the DTE Energy Foundation. I was a grants communications coordinator where I handled internal and external general inquiries for programs, grant notifications, and developed communication strategies to improve the grantee experience. My responsibilities also included write-ups for quarterly board meetings, grants management, and run reports and analyze grantmaking activities. My mentors adequately prepared me to recommend COVID proposals for funding focused on Health and Human Services and emergency funds to nonprofits in and out of state including the then epicenters New York and California. That role enabled me to intricately understand how philanthropy fills voids in pursuit of a more just and equitable society.

Tell us about your most recent challenge project; what did you learn from the experience?
I worked closely with my team on our impact project. Our project partner was Citizen Detroit, a nonprofit organization that researches policy and curates programs to increase community education on local issues. My team thought it was important to intentionally partner with Citizen Detroit given how important it is to increase civic engagement during a global health and racial pandemic. The scope of our project was focused on the Young Citizen’s Council (YCC) which primarily engaged people from 18-35. A few of the final deliverables were a resource list and community outreach plan aimed to further structure, engage, and recruit new members. Our stakeholder interviews reinforced how important it is that Detroit organizations proactively collaborate on projects to create a greater impact. During a global health and racial pandemic, young citizens have been active and mobilizing to create change. This work is more relevant now than ever.

How do you feel you have positively contributed to the community this year?
Through Challenge Projects, especially as nonprofits transitioned to fully operate remotely, I listened, captured stories and completed work that I hope helps strengthen their programs or operations. Community building requires the collective working together. I’m honored to have played a small part. Presently, I’ve been having conversations with my loved ones, colleagues and neighbors about being intentional with time, resources and creativity.

Please share the most memorable moment you have experienced as a Fellow. Why was it memorable and how has it impacted you?
My most memorable moment I experienced as a Fellow was the executive mentorship time during a leadership Friday. They were not related to the field I work in and their advice, especially given that I’m at the start of my career, have been added to my professional north star. I learned from their experiences and acquired a lot of practical advice at a critical moment in my life. The insight I received partly informed my immediate next steps professionally with confidence.

My team and outside of Cody High School after interviewing students.

What was your favorite Challenge Project and why?
My favorite Challenge Project was with the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD). I was involved in creating the structure for the youth advisory board along with a proposed student/administration escalation plan. My work that led me to social justice and philanthropy started as a DPS student. It was incredibly fulfilling to give back and was a full-circle moment for me.

If someone reading your interview is considering applying to be a Fellow, why would you encourage them to apply?
I would encourage you to become a fellow because the design thinking framework that you master coupled with simultaneous community work over the duration of the year will inevitably add substantial value to your professional development. Design thinking challenged biases and ensured that our cohort wasn’t creating deliverables to the people we served but with them. Also as a native Detroiter, I learned a lot of history in an unexpected way. Every challenge, I was always astounded at the amount of sustainable work we completed in such a short amount of time. Challenge Detroit’s alumni and partner network is extensive. The networking opportunities both in person and virtual were very meaningful.