5-Minutes With Maya Salameh, A NationSwell Fellow Dedicated to Improving Mental Healthcare for Arab Americans

With the support of the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, Cerberus, and ServiceNow, NationSwell has just completed a second year of the NationSwell Fellows program, which supports young leaders through skills-building workshops, mentorship, and access to an expanded network and resources. Over the course of 10 months, this impressive group of young people worked to co-design fellowship programming, create community with one another, connect with mentors, and develop and refine individual incubator projects. 

This cohort of young changemakers were highly accomplished outside of the program and highly intersectional in their approaches to their social issues. These young innovators devoted themselves to a variety of social impact areas including mental health access and awareness, climate justice, LGBTQIA+ rights, youth unhousedness, data for good, and Indigenous rights. In this series, NationSwell is highlighting a few outstanding fellows and giving you insight on how to support them.

In this installment, we talk with Maya Salameh, who believes in better mental healthcare, including increased access and awareness, and improved cultural competency, for Arab Americans. Her incubator project was a comprehensive literature review to progress the resources available to clinicians, researchers, and others who have a stake in the mental health journey of the Arab American community.

Tell us about your journey to social impact and Arab American mental health work. What was the moment you knew you wanted to devote your professional life to what you’re doing now?

My journey to social impact work and passion for Arab American mental health technically began at Stanford. As a Psychology undergraduate and Sociology graduate student, I participated in research at the intersections of social science, care access, and racial justice. But even before that, I grew up acutely aware of how Western wellness models seemed to exclude people like me. I remember being told by my relatives that therapy was “for Americans.” But I witnessed firsthand a community need for culturally competent care, and I became passionate about making mental health resources more accessible to all Americans, especially hyphenated ones. 

A pivotal moment in my work was the opportunity to develop my honors thesis, an interview study I conducted in 2022 with 35 Arab Americans, investigating their experiences with psychological care and definitions of mental health. This work affirmed for me the urgent need for more inclusive and culturally sensitive mental health resources, and also highlighted other knowledge gaps in the limited research, especially for gender and sexual minorities within the community. 

What are some of the ways this fellowship has been able to support your work? What have you gotten out of it, and has anything surprised you along the way?

The NationSwell Fellowship has been instrumental in advancing my work. The funding and brainstorming space allowed me to devote capacity to this nugget I’d had on my mind for the last two years. Getting to develop this literature review on the psychological care experiences of queer and gender-marginalized Arab Americans allowed me both to build upon my previous research and to contribute to the limited knowledge base on this minority within an already invisibilized identity. I invite you to read it here. My mentor Patrice Berry also offered valuable insights on building a social impact career as a woman of color and the many ways one can continue contributing to community-based research outside of academia. 

What surprised me the most was the incredible network of like-minded young leaders I got to connect with! Our cohort’s collaborative environment and shared commitment to social change helped me refine my approach and broaden my perspective on impactful social work.

What’s the focus of your work right now? And what’s next for you?

My work currently focuses on improving Arab American and other immigrant communities’ access to psychological care and public benefits. I have the honor of contributing to the Digital Benefit Network at the Beeck Center, where I support their measurement and evaluation approach as they work across verticals to make benefits more accessible and equitable. Generally, I remain interested in the development of new community-based interventions for immigrant communities and leveraging digital advancements to enhance public services.

Looking ahead, I’m attending UCLA Law in the fall to continue my research and advocacy efforts, aiming to influence policy changes that will improve legal protections and benefits access for immigrant communities. I plan to specialize in Critical Race Studies and engage in clinics like the Immigrants’ Rights Policy Clinic. I am especially looking forward to entering law school on the heels of the newly approved MENA category on the Census. This rollout will likely create new opportunities for Arab lawyers to advocate for their communities, as well as present new questions and debates around federal resource allocation, civil rights, and legal protections for Arab Americans. 

By integrating my research background and evaluation experience with legal skills, I aim to advocate for laws that not only alleviate discrimination but actively promote racial equity. As an Arab woman, and the first lawyer in my family, I aim to represent all my communities with integrity and dedication. 

How can NationSwell’s ecosystem of social impact leaders and partners help you with your short term and/or long term goals? 

In the short term, I’m seeking opportunities to collaborate with organizations focusing on mental health and marginalized communities to apply my research insights and contribute to culturally based resources.

In the long term, I aim to build a network of advocates and professionals committed to enhancing the safety net for all Americans, whether in terms of benefits access, psychological services, or legal protections. Support through mentorship or collaboration to share my research and findings would be incredibly valuable.

To learn more about the NationSwell Fellows program, visit our fellowship hub.

Sustainability Next: An interview with Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Fred Tan and LabStart’s Deepa Lounsbury

Sustainability leaders stand at the precipice of a pivotal moment for the future of our climate. While no single individual claims to have all of the answers, changemakers are increasingly turning to each other to chart the course forward for sustainable innovation and climate action — exchanging insights on how to implement unique initiatives, harness emerging technologies, institute best practices, and challenge conventional wisdom in order to effect transformative changes for our ecosystems, our societies, and our most vulnerable.

In 2024, Sustainability Next — a new editorial flagship series from NationSwell — will spotlight the standard-bearing corporate sustainability leaders, entrepreneurs, experts, philanthropists, and more whose catalytic work has the potential to shape the landscape of progress amid urgent need for environmental action. 

For this installment, NationSwell interviewed Fred Tan, Head of Social Impact at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Deepa Lounsbury, the CEO of LabStart — a nonprofit venture studio that helps build accessible pathways for underrepresented entrepreneurs to bring climate technologies from lab-to-market and one of HPE’s grantees.

Jason Rissman, Chief Experience Officer, NationSwell: What brought you into climate and sustainability — was there a moment in your life that galvanized your commitment to this work?

Fred Tan, Head of Social Impact, Hewlett Packard Enterprise: I grew up in Singapore, and we are very climate sensitive by nature of our location and the economy that the country relies on. That was always at the front of my mind growing up, intersected with the fact that my family, before my generation, has historically never graduated from high school. When I look at my life and the opportunity I’ve had to journey through different socioeconomic circumstances, it’s a privilege to be able to work on systemic issues, cultural issues, and to combine the two to focus on how climate affects communities and how communities can be empowered to help tackle the climate crisis. 

Deepa Lounsbury, Managing Director, LabStart: 18 years ago, I sat next to a venture capitalist on a plane who told me that he invested in energy. I slipped one of my resumes into his pile as he was looking through them, and fast forward three months, I started my first job in climate at a small venture capital firm in Los Angeles where I was looking at a whole variety of technologies, including algae biofuels, recycling technologies, novel wind technologies, and solar. I’m still optimistic and going strong, and have taken a lot of notes along the way to figure out how to accelerate more solutions and bring talented human beings into climate work.

Rissman, NationSwell: How do you see this moment in sustainability — which trends are filling you with optimism and which ones are giving you pause or concern? 

Lounsbury, LabStart: The biggest source of my optimism is that there is so much energy and interest. I’m heartened by the number of people who are excited to dedicate their life to this big and complex problem, the existential crisis of our time. The thing that worries me is that it feels like starting a climate startup is a luxury that only very few people can ever even dream of. We can’t depend on every big climate solution being launched by the very few people that have a big enough bank account or the right friends; we have to make our umbrella much bigger. 

Tan, HPE: Similar to Deepa, I think one of our phrases that we commonly use is that every job is a climate job. I think the enthusiasm and momentum is incredible. We are seeing the structures put in place that will enable us to get to where we need to get to from a sustainability perspective, and we’ve got the best and brightest minds working on these issues — that give me lots of cause for optimism. 

Living a sustainable life is, in many ways, still seen as a privilege for folks; it’s part of a structural and cultural problem that we haven’t yet solved, and that’s one thing that keeps me up at night. We need to do a better job of enabling change to happen, both structurally and culturally, so that everyone is able to participate in the fight against the climate crisis — and also the benefits of a more sustainable life. 

Rissman, NationSwell: Tell us a bit about your sustainability strategies — what are the unique commitments and challenges that you’re embracing?

Tan, HPE: I think fundamentally we see that the world is becoming increasingly data-driven, and naturally we feel strongly that technology holds the key to unlocking solutions to some of the most pressing challenges that we’re going to face as a society — including the climate crisis. 

I think we also see it as our business imperative to reduce our emissions across our value chain, to build climate resilience throughout our business — so much so that in 2022, we accelerated our net zero target by 10 years. Today, we are one of only three global IT companies with a net zero target of 2040, and interim targets that have been approved by the net zero standard of the Science-Based Targets Initiative. 

Sustainability is built into the fabric of our business strategy, and as a tech company, the greatest opportunity for reduction for us comes from helping our customers minimize the environmental footprints of their IT estates. 

Importantly, the climate crisis is not just an environmental issue. It is also a social issue in which 5 million excess deaths are anticipated between 2030 and 2050, disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minority communities. Thus our strategy and commitment is to lead a collective effort to safeguard both the planet and its people.

Lounsbury, LabStart: LabStart is really all about unlocking potential for climate — there’s the human potential, and then there’s the technological potential. Our goal is to unlock both. BIPOC college graduates are only half as likely to have their name on a patent as white college graduates, so something that’s not talked about enough is having an idea that is “good enough” to launch a climate startup, or one that’s protected enough where you have a moat you can actually create a scalable solution around. 

We estimate there are about 25,000 climate-related patents inside our Department of Energy-funded national labs, but the vast majority of them don’t get commercialized because it’s hard for outsiders who aren’t familiar with the national labs to access the IP. We’re putting both of those opportunities together to seed climate startups with both diverse founders and climate IP that’s inside of our research institutions.

I’m proud to say that our current ten fellows are a really diverse bunch in terms of their ethnic makeup: 50% are Black or Latinx and 50% are women or non-binary.

Rissman, NationSwell: It’s a fantastic model — can you tell us a bit about how you find the renewable energy-related patents that you’re going to try to match with talents? 

Lounsbury, LabStart: There are, for example, 6,000 energy efficiency related patents and 6,000 energy storage related patents in our DOE National Labs and even more at our universities.  We simply start with those who know their IP portfolios best (the technology transfer officers) as well as keyword searches to look for technologies that offer solutions to decarbonization problems that we have not yet solved.  The next step in our evolution is to build upon today’s method and accelerate the IP filtering process utilizing AI and advanced technology solutions. 

We start our technology funnel that way, and then we utilize a mix of both internal and external reviewers at different stages of narrowing it down. We have scientists, industry/corporates and investors, all weighing in on which ones have potential, and then we compile a shortlist of patents that entrepreneurs can select from when they fill out our application. We do also give them an option to look outside the shortlist.  We select LabStart Fellows based on relevant experience, hustle, and their thoughtfulness and rationale for starting a business based on their selected IP. 

Rissman, NationSwell: Fred, I’m curious about how you see LabStart, the role that they’re playing today, and how you’re supporting them.

Tan, HPE: We believe in innovation at HPE; we believe that innovation starts small, and we believe in supporting American innovation, so the national labs are great partners of HPE. I think when we look to tackle the climate crisis, our belief is that we need to support both the individual solutions and also ensure that the ecosystem more broadly is able to thrive.

When we look at the ecosystem of incubators and accelerators, we see that only 2% of them are focused on helping climatic entrepreneurs. So our strategy at HPE is to support the intermediary organizations that enable climate entrepreneurs to start their ventures, to thrive, and to succeed. LabStart hits on all these parts. 

Rissman, NationSwell: Tell us about the progress that you’ve seen to date, and what you’re hoping to accomplish in the next couple of years.

Lounsbury, LabStart: We just finished the first three months of our program, and it is kind of breathtaking to see how far a single person can take a great idea in 12 weeks. They have talked to dozens of customers, the licensing offices, developed stunning pitch decks, calculated the environmental impact at scale, and generally have launched.

When we’re talking about deep climate tech, it’s a long journey and different organizations support it in different ways. I think what’s really important for us as the first leg of the relay race is to make sure we pass the baton and collaborate with all the other downstream accelerators that are primed to help entrepreneurs at a later stage, at step two, step three, step four. I’m so excited to see where everybody lands next. 

Rissman, NationSwell: Fred, curious to hear a bit just about how HPE is supporting — tell us a bit more about what you’re able to do.

Tan, HPE: It’s a mix of everything. Our funding for LabStart goes toward supporting them organizationally in a way that is unrestricted and gives them the flexibility to grow in a way that best meets their needs.

I think what we’re trying to work toward is how we can help become a convener by bringing others to the table, in terms of leveraging our network of customers and technical experts within the company, and to be able to support LabStart and the fellows that go through the programs. But then also to give a signal to others that we interact with, other organizations, companies, and foundations, to catalyze more funding and resources for LabStart as an organization. 

Rissman, NationSwell: If we look further out — let’s say seven, ten years into the future — what do you hope you’ll have built together?

Lounsbury, LabStart: What we’re doing is paving new paths to wealth in a somewhat nascent industry, new paths for intellectual property to actually get in the hands of the people who need it and will benefit from it. Instead of bushwhacking like we’re doing right now, I hope to pave a smooth, well-lit road with proper signage and street lights for all the maybe-entrepreneurs who are on the fence. I would love to be part of that inspiration and for them to know that there is a path for them that many people have gone down before.

Tan, HPE: From one side of the picture, what we hope for is that there’s more innovation that hits market scale. Throughout history there have been promises, and sometimes unkept promises, to communities that the evolution or revolution will bring jobs and economic opportunity and security. 

I think what LabStart is doing is crucial in ensuring that we keep our promise with the tech revolution that we see happening, and crucial in opening up doors and opportunities for people and communities to participate in what will be the economy of the future. 

Rissman, NationSwell: As you’ve been experimenting and learning together through this partnership, what have you learned about intersectional approaches like this that might be of help to our other members or other funders who are curious and motivated about trying to advance equity while pursuing the energy and climate transition?

Lounsbury, LabStart: The first thing I learned is that if you put an opportunity out there, the people will come — the talent and the hustlers and the people who just need a little bit of help to take that first step. We were just astounded by the quality of applications we got in our very first full application cycle. 

The second thing I learned is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. I think every accelerator might have learned this, but this journey is hard and there are lots of times when you feel really alone and down. To start with why you’re doing this as a way to center and to figure out where your light is coming from is a really important piece of it.

The last thing I’ll say is that we have a really big vision, and it’s inspiring to be surrounded by super optimistic people. I don’t think you’ll find anyone more optimistic than entrepreneurs.

Tan, HPE: What I’m learning is humility, honesty, and trust. If we’re not intentional, power can become imbalanced whenever funding is involved, and working with Deepa and LabStart has required honesty about what HPE can bring to the table and what we cannot bring to the table — and also the humility to step back and recognize that what we bring to the table might not be the end-all, be-all of what the sector needs. 

To make space for others to come along and to provide their expertise — even if it means putting ourselves in the backseat — also requires that honesty and humility, but then also trust in these other partners. I think we’ll continue to learn as we support LabStart, and as we continue to bring others to this table in support of Deepa’s vision.

Impact Next: An interview with Guardian’s Francine Chew

At a moment of growing inequality and division, who is advancing the vanguard of economic and social progress to bolster our most vulnerable communities? Whose work is fostering the inclusive growth that ensures every individual thrives? Who will set the ambitious standards that mobilize whole industries, challenging their peers to reach new altitudes of social impact? 

In 2024, Impact Next — a new editorial flagship series from NationSwell — will spotlight the standard-bearing corporate social responsibility and impact leaders, entrepreneurs, experts, and philanthropists whose catalytic work has the potential to shape the landscape of progress amid urgent need for social and economic action.

For this installment, NationSwell interviewed Francine Chew — VP, Head of Corporate Impact for Guardian.

Greg Behrman, CEO and Founder, NationSwell: Tell us a little bit about your leadership journey — was there a formative experience that helped you to arrive in impact work? 

Francine Chew, Vice President of Corporate Impact for Guardian:

I’m an immigrant from Jamaica, and I came here when I was 12 as a part of this program called Prep for Prep that provides leadership opportunities to academically gifted minorities in the New York City area. As a result of Prep for Prep, I went to Exeter, and then I had an opportunity to go to Yale — it provided an incredible foundation and access. 

I felt like I was Jane Goodall — like a scientist in the jungle, wondering what strange environment I had been lifted and shifted into. When I moved to Exeter and saw the differences in resources and even level of conversation and discourse between what I was seeing in New York City public school versus private education, it was clear to me that there was a whole other world.

My life, I think, is testament to the benefit that access and opportunity can provide, and I’ve wanted to pay it forward as a professional do-gooder. 

Behrman, NationSwell: What would you say are some kind of defining facets of your leadership that help you to be an effective leader in this space?

Chew, Guardian: Because I started out on the for-profit side of work and didn’t cut my teeth at a foundation, the profit and purpose has always been an easy marriage. I care more about the life-changing impact that comes from participating in a program that I’ve helped structure versus the number of students who’ve enrolled. 

For me, at the heart of this work is the question, “If not for this intervention, this involvement, what would not have happened?” The activity and the outputs aren’t enough — it’s the actual change that matters. 

Anytime you’re dealing with corporate social responsibility or corporate impact within the context of an organization, you have to be comfortable with the fact that you have a dual mandate to drive the goals and purpose of the broader corporate entity alongside those of underrepresented populations. Our job is to figure it out in a very creative way that satisfies both needs.

Behrman, NationSwell: As someone who is very comfortable being at the intersection of profit and purpose, do you have any unlocks for folks in making the case for the business value of social impact work?

Chew, Guardian: I think what we have not done enough of is building in mechanisms to do longitudinal tracking. The first part of that is beginning with the end in mind — you start by asking questions, especially with young populations, about how you can stay in touch, because asking for permission upfront means shaping the dollar allocation and use of funds. 

I think the second part of that is putting on the hat and saying, if I were the biggest skeptic in the world, what would convince me? I sometimes think about a story I heard about how President Obama won over the democratic apparatus to become the nominee. He didn’t ask, “Why don’t you see me as presidential?” He asked, “What do I need to show and demonstrate for you to get behind me?” 

That stayed with me — “what do I need to demonstrate?” It’s taking an unemotional approach and saying, “What metrics are convincing and how do you see the world so that I can better understand and align to that?” 

Asking what would have to be true and getting people to start answering some of these questions can help you bake in accountability — it means that they’re thinking about it in ways that they weren’t before, and then you’re getting them to become a part of the journey.

Behrman, NationSwell: What makes your approach to the work differentiated — are there any programs, initiatives, or partnerships that feel particularly exciting?

Chew, Guardian: Part of what’s exciting about here at Guardian is there’s a real commitment and follow through on the narrative of change: More than half of the executive leadership team at the firm is new, and with this shift has come new clarification of Guardian’s purpose of inspiring wellbeing through mind, body and wallet. 

When there is agreement and alignment on how we do that at the very top of the house, everything can flow through from a process perspective, including the work itself. There is a strategic coherence and a simplicity on what we’re trying to achieve, and internal alignment on our organizational goals.

Behrman, NationSwell: How do you think about collaboration with other corporate philanthropies or private foundations or funders? 

Chew, Guardian:  It’s something that we’re definitely open to in the future. Currently, our partnerships are exclusively with for profit and nonprofit organizations.  An example is the collaboration with EVERFI by Blackbaud to launch Minding Your Money (Guardian’s first-of-its-kind financial wellness curriculum that addresses the intersections of personal finances, relationships, and health and that helps young people learn lasting financial habits before they enter adulthood). There’s an opportunity for it to be white-labeled so that other organizations can fund the expansion of the program in schools across the country, because we can’t do it alone. While we touched 20,000 students this academic year, and that’s an awesome number, we would like to touch 500,000 students in a single academic year! The only caveat is that with everyone who white labels, I need to know about it so that impact is attributable back to Guardian. 

Even in the criteria for expansion and ecosystem building, the question we need to answer is, “What’s in it for us?” That’s the banker in me. Track who uses it, ask other people to use it so that the benefit can be broadly distributed, but I want credit for that too. At the end of the day I would like Guardian’s name to be in all of these conversations as the people who launched and led the work, and then I would also like there to be room for others to say, and then we took the baton that they passed to us, and we made it much more.

Behrman, NationSwell: Who are three peer leaders you admire, look to as exemplars or swap notes with? 

Chew, Guardian: There are so many people I admire who are doing this work, but one is Tia Hodges from MetLife Foundation. I’ve had the chance to know her through the charitable committee for the Life Insurance Council of New York, which I chair, and her willingness to partner, to serve, to share thoughts, is just so admirable. 

I also have this standing Friday call — we rarely cancel — with two women who I worked with at Prudential: Sarah Keh and Nisha Aidasani. We say we’re each other’s small council, a la Game of Thrones, and the call is an hour in which we carve out time to chat a bit about what’s happening personally and professionally. It’s a chance for people who understand the work, but also each other, to connect, share wisdom, and support one another. I truly value that group, and it just sustains me in many ways.

Behrman, NationSwell: What are three resources that you might showcase or lift up that have helped to inform your leadership? 

Chew, Guardian: I read the Wall Street Journal religiously and I used to read the Economist all the time. Even though we are focused on social impact, we can’t drive impact unless we are aware of the broader economic impact. So whatever the medium is that is most effective for you, It is incredibly important to be grounded in the economic realities of what’s moving our companies and our space. 

Impact Next: An interview with Indeed’s Abbey Carlton and Maggie Hulce

At a moment of growing inequality and division, who is advancing the vanguard of economic and social progress to bolster our most vulnerable communities? Whose work is fostering the inclusive growth that ensures every individual thrives? Who will set the ambitious standards that mobilize whole industries, challenging their peers to reach new altitudes of social impact? 

In 2024, Impact Next — a new editorial flagship series from NationSwell — will spotlight the standard-bearing corporate social responsibility and impact leaders, entrepreneurs, experts, and philanthropists whose catalytic work has the potential to shape the landscape of progress amid urgent need for social and economic action.

For this installment, NationSwell interviewed Indeed’s Abbey Carlton, Vice President of Social Impact and Sustainability, and Maggie Hulce, Chief Revenue Officer.

Greg Behrman, CEO and Founder, NationSwell: How was it that you arrived in social impact work — could you each tell us a little bit about your journey to get to where you are now? 

Maggie Hulce, Chief Revenue Officer, Indeed: I spent most of my early career struggling with the question of where I could do the most good in the world — “Is it better to be part of a corporation, or to be in government? Where can you actually drive the most change?” 

I found myself gravitating to drivers of economic opportunity: workforce development, access to education, and the challenge of finding meaningful work that also pays well. Indeed is unique in how deeply the mission to help people get jobs is embedded in the culture.  At the same time, Indeed is a tech company, with the ambition to disrupt a huge industry and the potential to improve the lives of billions of people. That combination has been pretty magical, honestly. 

Abbey Carlton, Vice President of Social Impact and Sustainability, Indeed: Growing up in the rural Midwest at a time when a lot of factory jobs were going away and seeing the impact that had on people, families, and communities made an early impact on me — I saw firsthand all of the ripple effects that come when people don’t have jobs and opportunities. 

Economic opportunity has really been the animating theme of my whole career, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come to Indeed, where hundreds of millions of people go to find jobs every month; I believe we are changing how hiring happens. 

It’s been really exciting to get to work alongside business leaders like Maggie, who see that social impact doesn’t have to be this niche thing to do off to the side — it really is core to our mission and our business.

Behrman, NationSwell: You’ve mentioned how embedded and connected to the core of the business social impact is; what else is different, special, or exemplary about the work you’re doing at Indeed? 

Hulce, Indeed: In our space, there is a very natural synergy between what is good for both sides of our ecosystem — job seekers and employers — and the social value that comes from making hiring faster, more effective, and more fair. 

To make hiring more effective, you first have to understanding skills and occupations deeply. You have to collect a lot of data about job seekers and jobs, and then you have to use that data to make recommendations that are nuanced, because people are nuanced in what they solve for when choosing where to work.  

We can also use all the information we collect to make data-driven arguments to employers about how to optimize their jobs or hiring processes.  This coalesces with what we’re trying to do to make hiring more fair and to help people connect with opportunities that they might be overlooked for. 

Carlton, Indeed: We’ve set four really ambitious ESG commitments for 2030, two of which Maggie and I work together very closely on: First, to help 30 million job seekers facing barriers get hired by 2030, and second, to shorten the duration of job search by half. Those are goals that will have a huge impact on people who struggle to find work, and, if we do it right, will really improve economic opportunity for lots of people. They will make our business better, they will make hiring better, they will make it easier for our clients to connect with a broader and more diverse talent pool. 

Behrman, NationSwell: Could you give an example of what that work might look like in practice?

Carlton, Indeed: Let’s say I’m someone who has gone through a cybersecurity boot camp at Year Up, and now it’s time for me to go out and look for a job: What is it like for me to look for a job on Indeed? If we can put a spotlight on where that on-ramp works really well, and where there are opportunities to help somebody who’s gone through a non-traditional educational program to explain what that is and what they learned and what skills they’ve built, we can build that into how we think about our job seeker profiles going forward.

Hulce, Indeed: Abbey’s team has played a big role in helping our product and engineering teams understand the challenges that people face when they don’t have a bachelor’s degree.  Our teams are asking: How do we help job seekers represent their skills in our ecosystem?  How do we help them present their skills in a way that’s compelling to employers?  And how do we influence employers to remove college degree requirements? 

At a certain level, inertia is the biggest barrier we face.  But, we’ve seen data-driven conversations with employers can actually change things.  For example, we can help employers realize that for certain roles, removing college degree requirements is a good business decision, as it helps them reach a much broader pool of talent.  It’s a unique role we can play, as we see both sides of the market. 

Behrman, NationSwell: What would your advice be to other leaders in the space who are similarly hoping to drive impact outcomes while making the business case for this work internally? 

Carlton, Indeed: I’ve learned that if you see your role as a social impact leader as being the counterbalance to the business strategy or being off to the side, then you might not invest in understanding the problems other teams are trying to solve across different areas of the business. Opportunities arise when you can connect those dots, whatever they may be. 

Hulce, Indeed: Our mentality internally is always, “We should be customer #1.” We care a lot about equity in our practices, so it makes sense that we should be practicing on ourselves first. If we have an idea, we want to know how well it will work.  So we try it out, and see what we learn.  This approach also helps us build more empathy for our customers.

Carlton, Indeed: What Maggie and I have done together recently is think about whether there is a single galvanizing focus that we could bring to the company so that all of these good things don’t get diluted, and we really think about skills-first hiring as being that focus. 

If we think about promoting economic mobility, that is a way that Indeed is uniquely positioned to drive change. So we’re going to pull that lever and focus on centering skills in the hiring process, because that’s how we believe we can make hiring more equitable for all job seekers.

Behrman, NationSwell: What is it about your personal leadership that you think has helped you to be effective?

Hulce, Indeed: I think a lot about the importance of optimism – believing that change is possible — and the idea that you need to triangulate with different types of brains to actually solve some of your hardest problems. 

As a leader, I also reflect on how to get people excited about what we’re trying to do. How do you get them to believe in what is possible? And how do you get them to work together to challenge and change the status quo? 

The last part of leadership I think about a lot is the importance of time spent developing and investing in people, in giving them opportunities to grow.  

Carlton, Indeed: When I was leaving the Rockefeller Foundation, my then-boss gave a toast where he described me as firm in my principles and flexible in my methods — that is the way that I try to work.

When you are in this work, you come to realize how deep, entrenched, systemic, and long-term it is. I have tried to navigate the space of doing work on jobs and economic opportunity with some pretty firm principles and beliefs, but with a lot of flexibility on how we get there, trying new things in the process. 

Behrman, NationSwell: Who are some of the peer leaders you really admire that you want to shine a spotlight on?

Carlton, Indeed: Hamdi Ulukaya, who founded Chobani and then the Tent Partnership for Refugees, is a leader whose work I have been following and admiring for some time now — I am in awe of some of the ripple effects his work has had. Last year, Indeed had the opportunity to be a part of the coalition that Tent has brought together and to sponsor a number of large-scale hiring events focused on refugees in Europe. I think his leadership is such an inspiring example of the role that business can play in galvanizing real deep change around social issues.

Hulce, Indeed: I’ll call out our CEO, Chris Hyams, as someone who has been so incredibly thoughtful about how he weaves together what we’re trying to do as a company and the importance that it can have on society. From his advocacy for responsible AI to our ambitious goals with ESG, he is definitely leading from the front.

Behrman, NationSwell: Are there any resources — books, essays, poems, quotes — that have informed your leadership that you might recommend to other leaders?

Hulce, Indeed: I am halfway through Big Bets by Rajiv Shah, which discusses how to bring people together to drive bold change. I’d also recommend a book by Deanna Mulligan called Hire Purpose.  She was the CEO of an insurance company, and her book discusses reskilling, upskilling, and long term talent strategy. 

What Makes a Joyful Community?

This question stays top of mind for me. A joyful community is at the core of Seattle Foundation’s vision as we strive for shared prosperity, belonging and justice in the region.

I’ve also been reflecting on a joyful community due to an experience hosted by NationSwell. In March, I joined a gathering of corporate and philanthropy leaders in Montgomery, Alabama to reflect on the civil rights movement and the journey towards justice in the United States.

I have history with the south, as a part of my family has roots in Mississippi. Walking around Montgomery somehow felt like being home again with people and a culture so familiar to me. It also brought me proximate to the places – like the Bricklayers Hall which served as the headquarters for the Montgomery bus boycott – that were important meeting grounds for the civil rights and social justice gains that we are fighting to protect today.

While in Montgomery, we toured the Legacy Museum, created by Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative. As I walked through the exhibits, I reflected on the lasting impact of the institution of slavery in this country – Jim Crow laws, school segregation, redlining, the criminal justice system, and so on. As I exited, there was a quote that summed up the museum’s purpose and commitment to justice – that the children’s children of those who endured these times, could one day live unburdened by the legacy of slavery.

That struck me – to live unburdened by the legacy of slavery. My time in Montgomery invited reflection on that legacy in my own life.

My paternal grandfather came to Cleveland from St. Louis when he was a young man. He and my grandmother settled in the City of East Cleveland, a predominantly Black community, and invested in real estate to ensure no one in the family would ever go without a home. Not too long ago, out of curiosity, I asked my aunt what prompted my grandfather’s move to Cleveland. Her response – a group of white men threatened to kill him. He was fleeing for his life.

My maternal grandfather was a farmer in a small town in Mississippi. It’s where my mom was born, raised, and learned to work on a farm. I remember spending a few summers on that land. I was also aware that my grandparents likely did not own the land on which they lived and raised their children and some grandchildren. And discussing why was not a conversation that the elders in my family openly had.

In 1989 when I was six years old, my mom married an incredible guy who became my bonus dad. His name was Eddie. He was funny and quirky. He was also white. In three states in this country from the 1980s, 1990s, and as late as 2000, my parents could have been jailed because of the illegal nature of their interracial relationship.

At 41 years old, I hold this history and memory in my body that is defined by the impacts of slavery, white supremacy, and institutional racism. What would it feel like to be unburdened by this?

I believe it would feel like joy.

Joy has been at the center of my work for some time now because it is a way to bring people together. Regardless of lived experience or status, joy evokes a certain feeling, even a sound. Through joy, we find warmth, laughter and belonging. For some, joy is rooted deeply in faith; and in it, we find strength. Joy is something that no one can take away from us. For others, joy is an act of resistance (as first coined by poet Toi Derricote), and liberation. We have the right to exist and to be free.

We all deserve access to a safe home, connection and belonging, and resources to live our best lives. We also deserve to live in communities unburdened by racism, othering, discrimination, and violence. These are all building blocks to a joyful community.

So, how do we get there?

A part of the solution is for all of us to do better in valuing and honoring the humanity of our neighbors who are different from us. The other part – and this is critical – is meaningful, equitable, and sustained policy and systems change. The burden and legacy of slavery is clearly found in systems and policies that were designed for only some to succeed. To realize a joyful community of shared prosperity and belonging, we must change that.

Seattle Foundation recently completed a strategic plan outlining the work we will do over the next three years to move towards making the vision of a joyful community a reality. We will make bold moves in innovative financing for affordable housing production, climate justice, and increased access to make childcare more equitable. Throughout our grantmaking and advocacy, we will remain committed to racial equity and justice, community organizing, and policy reform. We’ll remain steadfast on this journey until every individual has true agency and power over the direction of their lives and systems are not barriers to their success.

The path ahead will be difficult but I will not be deterred because I know what I’m after – joy. Not just for me, but for generations to come. Generations of babies that will one day grow and thrive as adults whose experiences are not altered by the impacts of systems that have failed to serve them. Future adults who will be able to move through this world without fear, with true freedom, and full of joy.

NationSwell Releases Report on How Businesses Can Show Up for Democracy in 2024 

Includes interviews from Chobani, Levi Strauss & Co, KPMG, Match Group, Patagonia, Salesforce, and Starbucks 

NEW YORK — Every U.S. business has an opportunity to meaningfully impact civic participation and the health of democracy, but there is no single model or approach that they must adopt. Based on exclusive interviews with its executive membership community, NationSwell released a report that provides a strategic framework to help employers customize their support of democracy around their unique contexts, goals, and capabilities. 

“In a pivotal election year where democracy faces unprecedented challenges worldwide, businesses have the opportunity, as trusted pillars in society, to protect it,“ said Greg Behrman, Founder and CEO of NationSwell. “Despite pressures to back down from addressing societal issues, businesses must seize this moment to make civic participation a priority. This comprehensive resource is designed to equip business leaders with a strategic framework to support the health of our democracy in a way that is non-partisan, effective, actionable, and vetted by industry peers.”

NationSwell is an award-winning executive membership community and advisory that works with social impact, sustainability, and philanthropy leaders to help them to accelerate their impact, lead at their best, and meet the moment. The report is based on interviews conducted in the spring of 2024 with leaders from Chobani, Democracy Works, Einhorn Collaborative, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, KPMG, Latino Community Foundation, Levi Strauss & Co., Lyft, Match Group, Patagonia, Protect Democracy, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Salesforce, and Starbucks. 

Here is what is included in the report: 

A strategic framework for employers

The customizable strategic framework in the report presents three goals for businesses to pursue:

  • Goal 1: Encouraging and enabling civic participation 
  • Goal 2: Promoting information accessibility, transparency, and quality 
  • Goal 3: Supporting issues that protect fundamental rights and strengthen democracy

Supporting guidance and materials for business leaders

The report contains detailed and practical elements that are aligned with advancing the three strategic goals: 

  • Talking points for making the business case for democracy, sourced directly from business leaders and democracy experts
  • Tactical implementation guidance and dozens of real-world examples showing how businesses are promoting civic participation and a healthier democracy
  • Peer-vetted partner and collaborator recommendations to help employers supplement their own strengths and pursue collective action

To read the full report, click here


“At Salesforce, we understand that a healthy democracy depends on civic participation, and voting in particular. When citizens don’t vote, we increase the risk of unrepresentative government, low institutional trust, and further marginalization of minority groups. When citizens do vote, our government is more representative and accountable to their interests. High participation helps to legitimize the institutions we depend on for the regulatory and market stability our business needs.” – Margaret Taylor, Senior Director and Head of Public Affairs, Salesforce

“Our colleagues and communities will be exposed to information from a range of sources. One of the clearest ways we can foster trust is by providing high-quality information about the logistics of voting and information about the candidates and the issues they care about from trustworthy sources.” – Corley Kenna, Head of Communications and Policy, Patagonia and J.J. Huggins, PR and Communications Manager, Patagonia

“Our business depends on a healthy democracy, and a healthy democracy depends on voter turnout. It is in our interest to drive engagement by educating and motivating our audiences around issues rather than candidates.” – Joanna Rice, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Social Impact, Match Group

Impact Next: An interview with Amazon Web Services’ Maggie Carter

At a moment of growing inequality and division, who is advancing the vanguard of economic and social progress to bolster our most vulnerable communities? Whose work is fostering the inclusive growth that ensures every individual thrives? Who will set the ambitious standards that mobilize whole industries, challenging their peers to reach new altitudes of social impact? 

In 2024, Impact Next — a new editorial flagship series from NationSwell — will spotlight the standard-bearing corporate social responsibility and impact leaders, entrepreneurs, experts, and philanthropists whose catalytic work has the potential to shape the landscape of progress amid urgent need for social and economic action.

For this installment, NationSwell interviewed Maggie Carter, Director of Social Impact at Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Greg Behrman, CEO and Founder, NationSwell: Maggie, was there an early or formative experience that brought you into this work?

Maggie Carter, Director of Social Impact, Amazon Web Services (AWS): 

It all started with my mom, who always led by example. She was always giving back. Whether it was volunteering in my school library or serving hot meals and donating blankets and clothes to the homeless in the DC metro area, she was always giving her own time and bringing the family along for the journey.

When I was in college, we led our first Recycling Awareness Week to kick off recycling on campus, and that experience of building and running a grassroots campaign is where I first got the bug to do something with a purpose, and throughout my career I was fortunate to find roles that combined that passion with sports.

When I was leaving the NBA, I knew that I wanted to get closer to program delivery on the nonprofit side. I made the transition to the UN Foundation and UNICEF, which combined my focus areas: children, education, and health. And from there, I was pitching AWS and Amazon on what a partnership would look like around disasters, emergencies, and innovation. The AWS team said, would you be willing to come build this from the ground up? That’s how I got to where I am today.

Behrman, NationSwell: At AWS, the products are part of the impact — they’re at the center of things. Can you speak to the philosophy behind that model?

Carter, AWS: For us, it’s very much about how our technology has the potential to transform the ways organizations are delivering their programs or services to impact their communities and their beneficiaries. We look at our role as co-building solutions with organizations and helping them to scale their impact.

For example, in Rwanda, they are leveraging secure messaging and AI on AWS to more effectively and rapidly identify symptoms in cancer patients and connect them to oncologists when their symptoms worsen. In Rwanda there’s just one oncologist to over 3,000 cancer patients on average — there’s a huge demand and low supply of doctors, and by using this messaging app, we’re helping those cancer patients that need more critical care receive it sooner.

We also co-built a solution with a small organization called Operation Barbecue Relief, whose mandate is to feed those impacted by a disaster, as well as the first responders to disaster. So we designed a solution with them called Project Smoke — an application to help track and monitor their food supplies so they can better manage resources and deploy them where they’re needed most. 

Behrman, NationSwell: Is there anything else that feels very important and differentiated that people should know about this work?

Carter, AWS: Each of these solutions is repeatable and scalable, they’re not band-aids. For us, it’s important to stay laser focused on the unique value proposition that the AWS cloud has when we’re engaging with organizations in our key priority areas — specifically around disaster response, health equity, and environmental equity.

Behrman, NationSwell: Is there an attribute or an approach or a philosophy that guides your leadership that has helped to make you effective?

Carter, AWS: I put high expectations on myself and I lead by example, so it’s about finding that balance where there’s a high bar but also empathy for what is going on. 

It’s always been in my DNA to be the fixer, the builder, so shifting that mindset to where I’m coaching and enabling my team and my leaders to identify that path forward themselves — that’s been a big learning for me in the last two to three years. 

I’ll also add that it’s been amazing to see employees rise to the occasion. Shifting to this approach really helps them build confidence in themselves to find that path forward — it equips them to be successful critical thinkers, here and beyond.

Behrman, NationSwell: Who are some of the peer leaders you really admire that you want to shine a spotlight on?

Carter, AWS: One who really stands out is Jacqueline Fuller, formerly at Google.org — she is at the bleeding edge, and I was fortunate to work with her and her team when I was at UNICEF USA on some pretty strategic partnerships around Zika and Syrian refugees. I want to also mention Leisha Ward at Target, Paul Poman at Unilever, and Kayleen Walters, the head of impact at Minecraft. 

And finally, my mentor, Kathy Behrens at the NBA. Throughout my career, since I worked for Kathy, I’ve always thought to myself, “what would KB do?” What she’s been able to do with the NBA over time, launching NBA Cares, shifting to the social justice initiative, launching the foundation in the last few years — it’s been amazing to see.

Behrman, NationSwell: Are there any resources — books, essays, poems, quotes — that have informed your leadership that you might recommend to other leaders?

Carter, AWS: I love stories of perseverance — those human interest stories where you see what somebody was able to achieve when everybody doubted them, especially in sports.

I particularly love “The ‘99ers” — the documentary follows the U.S. women’s national soccer team that won the World Cup in 1999. I remember watching it live and crying about how this was opening up opportunities for future generations of women moving forward. I think that team gave women and young girls confidence in themselves to be able to push boundaries, to push the envelope, to go where other girls haven’t been able to before.

5-Minutes With Maya Siegel, A NationSwell Fellow Focused on Making Consent Education Accessible for Gen Z

With the support of the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, Cerberus, and ServiceNow, NationSwell is uplifting a second cohort of young leaders through skills-building workshops, mentorship, and access to an expanded network and resources. Over the course of 10 months, the NationSwell Fellows team works with these impressive leaders to co-design programming, develop and refine individual incubator projects, and make curated connections. 

This group of young social impact innovators is highly accomplished and working through intersectional strategies. As social impact innovators, they work on a variety of social issues including mental health access and awareness, climate justice, LGBTQIA+ rights, youth unhousedness, data for good, and Indigenous rights. In this series, NationSwell will be highlighting each outstanding fellow, showcasing their passions and endeavors, and giving you insight on how to support them.

In this installment, we talk with Maya Siegel, who is highly passionate about climate justice and opportunities for young people, and currently works as the platforms manager for Feminist, the largest women-owned social media platform for women, girls, and gender-expansive people. She is the co-founder of Stories of Consent, an organization dedicated to making consent education more accessible and available for young people. 

Trigger warning: this story includes experiences with sexual violence

NationSwell: Tell us about your journey to social impact and what inspired you to start Stories of Consent. What was the moment you knew you wanted to devote your professional life to what you’re doing now?

Maya Siegel: My journey into this space was sparked by my love for community service, which led me to volunteer for organizations with missions spanning from gun violence prevention and environmental justice to menstrual equity and beyond. Through these experiences, I gained an understanding of the interconnectedness of social issues and developed skills that were valuable to the workforce. 

There was no singular moment where I decided to make this my career. I just kept pursuing my passions and eventually had the skills and experience to be paid for the work I was doing.

My motivation to start Stories of Consent stemmed from experiencing sexual violence before consent. The first time I was with a partner who demonstrated consent (which was nearly a decade after my first encounter with sexual violence) changed my life, and inspired the desire to shift the narrative of survivorship from one of trauma to one of  joy. In 2023, Emily Bach and I co-founded Stories of Consent (SOC) with the idea of sharing only stories of affirmative consent, in contrast to survivor testimonials.  

NationSwell: What are some of the ways this fellowship has been able to support your work? What have you gotten out of it, and has anything surprised you along the way?

Maya Siegel: This fellowship has given my cofounder and I the time to intentionally think about SOC’s impact and future. We are incredibly grateful to the NationSwell team and mentors, who not only encourage the SOC team to dream big but lend their time, resources, and experience to our cause. 

NationSwell: What’s the focus of your work right now? And what’s next for you?

Maya Siegel: Presently and for the foreseeable future, we are focused on amplifying stories of affirmative consent from all 50 states on our website and in middle and high schools around the county via the Certified Peer Educator Training. We hope these stories will contextualize consent for young people and contribute to our collective global health and safety.

NationSwell: How can NationSwell’s ecosystem of social impact leaders and partners help you with your short term and/or long term goals? 

Maya Siegel: Currently, SOC is looking to engage students on college campuses through collaborations with student-run organizations and student advocacy centers. If you are part of either, we’d love to work with you! Additionally, we are always open to amplification and funding opportunities. 

Thank you so much to NationSwell for this fellowship opportunity and for actively supporting our mission to make consent education accessible and relatable.

To learn more about the NationSwell Fellows program, visit our fellowship hub.

Pathways to Economic Opportunity: Barclays and COOP Careers

As wealth and income inequality continue to climb in the United States, some employers are developing innovative models and catalytic partnerships designed to bring new skills, job access, and ultimately economic opportunity to financially vulnerable and historically marginalized individuals.

In a new interview series, Pathways to Economic Opportunity, NationSwell is taking a closer look at some of the solutions companies are pursuing in service of leveling the playing field and expanding their talent pipelines. In spotlighting these partnerships, this series hopes to uncover the “secret sauce” that makes these solutions successful for the benefit of other employers and their leaders.

The first installment featured the Dow Last Mile Fund for Manufacturing & Skilled Trades. Here, in the second installment, NationSwell sat down with members of the teams at Barclays and COOP Careers (COOP) — a nonprofit that aims to provide training, job skills, and peer connections in order to help vulnerable populations overcome underemployment — about their partnership and newly-launched Financial Services track.

Here’s what they had to say:

Bird’s Eye View: Through its partnership with COOP, Barclays aims to equip the next generation of finance professionals with the abilities and networks they need to overcome underemployment while developing a robust network of diverse talent in the financial sector.

In 2023, the partners announced a new Financial Services track designed specifically to help participants find careers in data analytics and finance. The partnership’s pilot semester, which kicked off in August 2023, welcomed 35 students through two separate cohorts, and a spring semester began in mid-February.

Fast Stats: 

  • Every spring and fall, COOP convenes peer cohorts of 16-18 diverse, low-income college grads in New York, California, Illinois, and Florida, focused on three distinct areas: data analytics, digital marketing, and financial services. 
  • In addition to virtual training and skill-building, the program matches motivated first-generation college graduates with alumni coaches to support them in building the professional tools and networks they need for the careers they deserve. 
  • Within 12 months of program completion, four-in-five COOP alumni are fully employed, earning a median of $52,000 per year (median pre-program earnings are $12k (inclusive of both folks that enter the program under or unemployed).
  • COOP’s “head-heart-hustle” approach to curriculum design is 200-hours long and focuses on providing a mix of hard and soft skills, as well as near-peer guidance, social capital, and industry connections.

The Secret Sauce: 

“That’s what it’s all about for us: building social capital. We believe it’s the connections that make a difference in finding that first — or next — great job.” – Patricia Malizia, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, COOP Careers

1. NationSwell: What’s the origin story of the relationship between Barclays and COOP?

Sarah Wessel, Managing Director of Partnerships at COOP Careers:

The relationship started as a partnership brokered through Robin Hood. The first couple of years were mostly focused on philanthropic support from Barclays, with some volunteer engagements mixed in.

As we got to know each other better, the Barclays Citizenship team approached us to discuss a more formalized partnership between our two organizations, which began maybe three or four years ago. 

Over time, given Barclays’ role in the sector, we realized it was a great opportunity for Barclays to become the lead partner for a new financial services track just as they were thinking deeply about how to diversify their talent pipeline and help more individuals launch careers in financial services.

The partnership has just grown immensely over the last 18 months.

John Kenny, VP, Citizenship team at Barclays:

At Barclays, our Citizenship strategy is focused on employability. Through our LifeSkills program  we’re really focused on how we can help upskill individuals who have historically faced barriers to work and help create pathways into meaningful employment. 

So we look to work with the most impactful partners in this space, and we’ve been so impressed by COOP’s completion  rates, placement rates, and with what COOP participants have gone on to do post-program. 

2. NationSwell: It sounds like the Financial Services track was born out of a trusting partnership and an unmet need. Who were the key stakeholders involved in the early formation of the new curriculum, and what was the critical piece of information that signaled that this was the right time in both programs’ relationship together to launch something new? 

Sarah Wessel, COOP Careers:

It was less about one moment and more about how all of these things converged: strong early partners in the finance sector like Barclays, and a lot of knowledge from our alumni due diligence across the industry. We told ourselves that if we want to scale 10x in New York, we must find a way to access the financial services industry because it is the largest upwardly mobile employer market here. 

And the COOP theory of change is all around social capital and alumni peer mobilization. So everything we do is focused on what our alumni can come back and teach students, and how they can help provide them an entry point into upwardly mobile careers. We view trends in our alumni community as a barometer for how we should be approaching program evolution.

The impetus for this belief that we could help others with entry into the field was when our existing alumni were finding some success in finance jobs. There is a real need, and the talent we were already training was obviously a good fit for the roles that financial institutions are looking to fill. 

If we give our participants more context on the cultural environment in finance and the types of roles they would be applying for, that would really help them feel more confident about  applying for these roles at a larger volume.

3. NationSwell: Sarah, you described a particular need you discovered through all the learning you just walked us through. How is that now reflected in the experience that a participant has in the program? What are the key elements of that journey for them? 

Sarah Wessel, COOP Careers:

Our 200-hour curriculum is oriented around three pillars: head, heart, and hustle.

Head covers the technical skills, and we were able to add quite a number of modules specific to the analytics skill set that they will need going into roles very specific to banking and finance — hard skills such as Excel, SQL, and Tableau 

Heart helps to strengthen soft skills, such as communication, conflict resolution, and time management.

Hustle is about growing job-hunting skills like resume and cover letter writing, email etiquette, and collective networking to start their job search with a plan, a portfolio, and support from peers — and connections.

4. NationSwell: What sort of fingerprint does Barclays have on the curriculum or on the experience program participants are having in the financial services track? 

John Kenny, Barclays:

We’ve brought together leaders from different businesses and functions across Barclays to share their view on what types of skills are important to learn and refine, and then we’ve collaborated with the COOP team to inform the curriculum. That level of collaboration speaks volumes to how COOP is hyper-focused on equipping grads in the program.

We’ve also created guest lecture opportunities, where we have members of our team give seminar-style talks to COOPers, others have taken part in career chats, and dozens have help the COOPers prepare through in-person mock interview sessions held at our office. 

5. NationSwell: How do you select participants? What are the criteria that you’re using? 

Sarah Wessel, COOP Careers:

Any participant interested in applying for COOP fills out a form on our website. From there, they sign up for an info session, which is held in a group format and typically virtual. During that info session, all interested applicants learn about COOP and different career tracks, and they hear alumni that speak about their experience in the program and what they’re doing now so folks can start to understand what they might be interested in pursuing.

The eligibility requirements are that candidates have to make less than $50,000 a year; they have to be able to commit to our program, which is four months long, Monday through Thursday, at night; and then they have to meet two out of the three other requirements to be considered: identify as a first-generation college graduate; have been Pell Grant eligible while they were going through college; or identify as a person of color. 

Over 95% of our participants identify as people of color, and around 85-90% identify as first-generation college graduates. 

If everything looks good and it seems like they’re still motivated to apply, they go forward to a group interview. In this interview, they are given an assignment they have to complete ahead of time and then talk through their process live.

We have a long waitlist, but if you get through the process, we have a pretty high acceptance rate.

There isn’t a second layer of screening that we’re looking for, but there are some personality traits that we’re interested in, because our model is built upon paying it forward. So when looking at who’s really interested in being a part of our program for the long haul, we strongly consider whether they are ready to make the time commitment. 

What I think is really special about COOP is the relationship between the alumni near-peer coach and a cohort member and how they pull them into their industry and help them build their career for the first few years. 

6. NationSwell: What happens after someone completes the program — what sort of support are they receiving on a go-forward basis to take that big step into a career path? 

Sarah Wessel, COOP Careers:

Our program is designed to follow people forever. Folks end up feeling like they can lean on each other throughout their career, which I think is really special.

But in terms of official support from the organization, every single one of our alumni is assigned an alumni manager who is responsible for supporting them with getting their first good job. They meet one-on-one with their alumni manager as many times as they want to do mock interviews, resume reviews, job searching, and talk through any challenges they might be facing. The alumni manager also helps them with negotiating their first offer if they need help with that.

Our alumni managers recently hosted a workshop on overcoming rejection and keeping your motivation high in the job search, which is something that, especially this past year, has been really pertinent to a lot of our participants.

Patricia Malizia, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at COOP Careers:

We also send an alumni email newsletter every month, which we recently restructured to better serve our alumni. We created a job resources page to ensure all alumni know about the jobs that are open and available. 

We also have a whole section on our website dedicated to supporting our alumni, which we just relaunched to serve our alumni even better. And we have blogs on our website about some of the things that Sarah mentioned, like developing your  resume and cover letters.

Matthew Snitkey, Director, Barclays

We have had the opportunity to hire 11 COOP alumni into Barclays across several teams, including Global Markets Operations. The support and preparation COOP provides is evident and tangible. We’ve been so impressed with how COOP alumni have hit the ground running and have brought diversity of thought and positive results in our process, workflows and controls.

7. NationSwell: What do you think is most helpful for other leaders to know about the DNA of this partnership?

John Kenny, Barclays:

We so often hear people on the Barclays side — including senior leaders and hiring managers — saying how impressed they are with the drive of COOPers. These are folks who have gotten their degrees, many of whom are working full-time, and then dedicate several hours each night to additional intensive learning for extended periods of time. And I think that, in and of itself, exemplifies a level of commitment and a level of interest in the sector that they’re building on at COOP. 

Sarah Wessel, COOP Careers:

The relationship-driven way we’ve built this partnership is a missing link for first-generation college students. Yeah, there’s a need for some skills and aptitude, but as John said, many participants have the drive and the ability to do any number of things — what they need is access. And what Barclays has really done is find a way to provide that access.

Barclays has been open to believing talent can come from anywhere, and that it’s part of their responsibility as corporate citizens to find ways to get all of their staff involved in different communities and provide that access. These students have the ability already — they just need somebody to vouch for them and give them that first good opportunity to succeed. Finding meaningful work is hard. Why should it be lonely?