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Welcome to a new ASU Lodestar Center Blog series, “Get to Know the Lodestar Center!” We’d like to provide our readers with a peek into what we do each day to accomplish our mission by introducing members of the faculty and staff via short interviews and conversations. Meet the folks who are here to help you and your nonprofit succeed!
Elsbeth Pollack is a Program Manager for Public Allies Arizona (PAAZ), an AmeriCorps program that engages service-minded young individuals in 10 months of paid leadership training, apprenticeships, and service opportunities in collaboration with local nonprofit partner organizations.
PAAZ's mission is to create a just and equitable society and the diverse leadership to sustain it. Public Allies' citizen-centered, values-based approach to leadership has created pathways for young people to engage in their communities, and has helped communities and organizations tap the energy, passion, and perspectives of a new generation. The leadership development programming challenges and supports Allies to become leaders who connect across social boundaries, facilitate collaborative action, recognize and mobilize community assets, commit to continuous learning and self-development, and are accountable for creating impact.
How would you describe yourself in 5-10 words?
A community-focused listener, connector, and advocate.
Public Allies works to build a network of community-centered people that lead through a lens of equity and social justice, in whatever sector they end up being in. We’re do this by placing folks in nonprofit organizations, holding biweekly trainings, connecting them with current community leaders, valuing their personal experience, and providing them coaching and opportunities to explore who they are, what and who they want to be, and how they’re going to do that in the world that they work and live in.
I do this work because I believe in the power of people to harness their own strength, energy, and drive to improve our communities. And I love being a connector and support for that work!
Do you have any secondary interests?
Community organizing and resource development, connecting people with the appropriate and applicable organizations, communities, ideas, resources, and leaders that will support their development.
For how long have you worked at the ASU Lodestar Center?
My three year anniversary was on November 4th!
What were you doing before this?
I worked at a nonprofit in Tucson called BorderLinks for about four years. Most recently I was the Development Coordinator, so I oversaw fundraising, grant writing, community engagement, and I ran a small capital campaign to support the organization. Before that, and the majority of my time at BorderLinks, I led bi-national delegations with groups from across the country to come to the border region and learn about the implications of border and immigration policy, connect with local communities and build relationships, understanding that we’re all in it together; that policies, systems, and decisions affect everyone, no matter where we are. I spent a lot of time in Tucson, Ambos Nogales, Douglas, Agua Prieta, the Copper Canyon, and Chiapas, connecting people, translating, putting together programming, and developing curriculum.
What has been your most rewarding experience or the proudest moment in your career so far?
It may seem small, but I’d have to say it is the Public Allies graduations. When we have 40-some people walking across the stage who have done a really intensive 10-month program, and I have seen them cry and laugh and struggle and succeed and get all of this impactful work accomplished in the community, and to know all of the different trajectories that they’re going to go on to have – I always feel so proud of that. We put a lot of sweat and tears and work and laughter into that, too, and to know that it got them to that point is just amazing.
What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
To be present! [I’ve learned that] everyone is different and needs individualized support and engagement, because they are coming from different starting points. I’ve been lucky enough to have the space and time to really commit to and be present with individuals in that way. I think that I’ve been able to do my best work when I can understand as much as possible where people are coming from, what their struggles have been, what their successes have been, what they want, and then go from there, instead of just assuming or prescribing what has worked for me or what I’ve seen work for other people. I strive to do that every moment of my life, to engage with people in that way.
What do you like to do when you’re not here at the Center?
I love spending time with my dogs and my partner, Mike. I love reading speculative/science fiction, where the authors are able to dig into current issues in a way that explores, creates, and complicates the implications of different ways of thinking and being. I cook to de-stress and love feeding people! I make art, specifically collages, and am a big fan of sending and receiving written letters, which I think is a lost art. I’m also involved in different organizing and community building work. For example, I recently put on a Human Library event where participants were able to “check out” people with specific stories and learn more about their lived experience.
What do you think people should know about your work, or about the Lodestar Center, that they might not be aware of?
That we exist! I see Public Allies as a really wonderful, yet under-utilized, community resource. Our members are often starting out in the nonprofit sector, and have so much energy and passion and want to do good and see change, and are so open to coaching and mentorship and learning, in order to build capacity and support the mission and work of nonprofits. For me, that’s such a win-win; we’re supporting this next generation of leaders and we’re also supporting these nonprofits and government agencies that are doing such important and relevant change work and community-building work in Phoenix. I want people to know that this exists and that the opportunity is out there. Partner with us!
What are you most looking forward to with regard to your work and/or the future of the nonprofit sector?
I’m really excited that we have opened up our program to folks with DACA status (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). It’s a pilot program that’s also happening in a few other Public Allies sites across the country. It’s opening up the opportunity to folks that are already a part of our community, who are already incredibly engaged, and have so many wonderful ideas and dreams and hopes, and it’s the first time that they will be able to take part in our program because we were able to find a way to make that happen through a partnership with Welcoming America and the AmeriCorps VISTA program. I’m so excited for the potential of that, and for having their voices in our space, and the leadership and network that we have available.
There is still work to be done, as we’re still not including all members of our community, but it’s a step in the direction of recognizing where leadership can come from.
Do you have any advice for nonprofit professionals and/or aspiring nonprofit professionals?
I believe that we all have the answers that we need, either inside ourselves or in the places that we are and the people that we’re around, and we often overlook and don’t trust our lived experience. So, trust yourself, be intentional, look internally, look at who and what you have around you, and go from there.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We are still recruiting for Allies! We have about 10 open positions right now. We’re looking for folks who want to engage in nonprofit work, to learn from and with community, and who are aching to learn, grow, and connect.
Learn more about Public Allies Arizona.