011 : The Power of Intentionality to Restore Equity with Richard Hollant


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What happens when you experience a workplace culture that fails to see you or hear your creative voice? What happens when you speak truth to power but are told that your perspective is a threat to the culture? Well, you have a choice – you either suck it up and accept that this is the way it is or you walk away.

In this episode, Richard Hollant, the founder of co:lab, shares how he responded to this very situation – he left his employer to create a firm with a culture that was in alignment with his own sense of purpose, meaning and belonging.

Richard also shares how creating a healthy culture is an on-going experiment of trying new things and allowing people to stumble. This also resulted in a pivotal moment in the firm history when they decided to turn away from lucrative client engagement in favor of work that had a sense of urgency in an effort to restore equity. Listen to this amazing and thought-provoking conversation.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Richard Hollant shares how intentionality and equity frame his thoughts about the relationship between culture and design.
  • How a dysfunctional culture he experienced at one firm drove him to launch co:lab with a different type of culture.
  • How even a strong culture can be toxic if it is not challenged.
  • What it takes to answer the question, “What do I want to belong to?”
  • What does it look like to create a connection of folks who generally see the universe in the same way and navigate the resulting challenges.
  • How creating a healthy culture is an on-going experiment that requires intentionality and allowing people to stumble.
  • Training new leaders must include providing on-going opportunities for first-hand experiences.
  • How the type of work they accepted evolved as they went on the journey to clarify their mission around urgency and equity.
  • How he decided that he could no longer feed the engine that feeds and creates oppression.
  • How to respond when cultural values are tested during challenging times.
  • How design can be used to reshape systems experiencing inequity.
  • How speaking truth to power without power is meaningless. 
  • Some of the power is understanding and using the proper language and presence in the conversation.
  • How designers are uniquely equipped to contribute to system change.

Resources Mentioned in this episode:

About the Guest:

Rich Hollant is the Founder and strategy + design director at co:lab—a mission-based brand strategy and design firm working exclusively on social/community impact with partners from corporate responsibility Initiatives, foundations, nonprofit organizations, municipalities and social entrepreneurs. Rich is an AIGA national board member, co-chair of Design for Democracy, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of Hartford, board member of Billings Forge Community Works. His latest venture is Parkville Studios, an emerging artists residency space and 360° mentoring program in Hartford.

Sponsor for this episode:

This episode is brought to you by the Culture Design Studio, a consulting firm that helps people and cultural leaders who feel constrained in their ability to engage their employees to become champions for their people through a series of facilitated workshops. They provide a practical and collaborative process to transform the culture within your creative organization.

Culture Design Studio has worked with organizations like Duarte Design, Design Thinkers Group, Red Bull, USAID, Bacardi, and the Office of Civic Innovation

If you’re looking for more than just a consultant and want someone who can facilitate your organization through a structured conversation to transform your culture, Culture Design Studio is the one for you.

Contact them today to learn more about what they can do for you and your company.

Full Transcript: Powered by Otter.ai

Announcer Welcome to The Culture Design Show where we feature conversations with leaders and thinkers who are passionate about culture and design. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Steve Chaparro  Steve Chaparro here. I am the host of The Culture Design Show, a podcast where I feature leaders and thinkers at some of the top creative firms in the world, including architecture, design, technology, and marketing. What’s the one thing they all have in common? They all believe in the power of culture, and design.

This podcast is brought to you by Culture Design Studio. We help people and culture leaders who feel constrained in their ability to engage their employees to become champions for their people. Through a series of facilitated workshops, we provide a practical and collaborative process to transform the culture within your creative organization. We’ve worked with organizations like Duarte Design, DesignThinkers Group, Red Bull, US Aid, Bacardi, and the Office of Civic Innovation. So, if you’re looking for more than just a consultant, but someone who can facilitate your organization through a structured conversation to transform your culture, reach out to us at CultureDesignStudio.com.

Rich Hollant is the founder and strategy and design director at co:lab, a mission-based brand and strategy design firm, working exclusively on social and community impact with partners from corporate responsibility initiatives, foundations, nonprofit organizations, municipalities and social entrepreneurs. Rich is also an AIGA national board member, co-chair of Design for Democracy, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of Hartford, board member of Billings Forcge Community Works. His latest venture is Parkville Studios, an emerging artists residency space and 360° mentoring program in Hartford. But, here’s the thing. Everything he does is done through the lens of culture. Rich, welcome to The Culture Design Show.

Richard Hollant Hey, Steve. Thanks for having me.

Steve Chaparro It’s an honor for us to for me rather, I don’t know if it’s an honor for you, but it’s an honor for me to have this conversation with you. I know that your your name was mentioned in many circles as we approached this new season of the culture design. So, now we’re very glad to be able to talk with you.

Richard Hollant Absolutely. It’s an honor for me to whenever folks have made such a commitment to focusing and and learning about culture. And, you know, and growing it, the more I look in, the more we have so many similarities. Yeah. There’s, it’s a real pleasure to to be connected and to stay connected.

Steve Chaparro I think a great place to start for us is you know, the theme of the podcast is culture design show itself. But it really focuses on this inner intersection of the design of culture and the culture of design. So when you think of that pairing of words, those two pairings of words what comes to mind for you?

Richard Hollant  The first thing that always comes to mind for me is, is two things right? Um, things that come to mind are ideas like intentionality.

Steve Chaparro Yeah.

Richard Hollant Because, when we are talking about culture, in in design, in the great Venn diagram of life, that’s one of the overlaps is the intentionality, right? And whenever we’re doing anything, for us anyway, for me, that is intentional. That’s about design. I can’t help but think about the systems that are actually in play that govern how a lot of folks who think that they’re being intentional or not being intentional. So then the other word that kind of pops in for me is In that context becomes equity. So, so I take a look at, you know, when I hear your idea about the design of culture and the culture of design. I also start on replacing words.

Steve Chaparro Right. Yeah.

Richard Hollant Thinking about like, oh, how about the, the, the equity of culture in the culture of equity?

Steve Chaparro Yeah. Yeah.

Richard Hollant And in what does that mean? And how does that, how would that drive us to? How would that lens drive us to resolve some of the challenges that we all face? When we’re trying to be intentional in how we do our work, and how we live our lives?

Steve Chaparro Yeah, I think that word intentional being intentional intentionality has been definitely a word that has come up a lot. I mean, there are a lot of things that we should be intentional about even before say our current state of affairs. In COVID-19, but I think even the fact that we are now many of us are working from home. And we’re using technological platforms for us to have a conversation. And so how can we be intentional about everything that we do versus what we maybe were doing in person. But I think I, one of the things I want to go back a little bit is, is to understand and to learn about your role at colab. You founded it, I think 32 years ago, and I would love to hear what were some of the initial reasons why you founded colab and how that journey has progressed. When you think of inclusion you when you think of equity, when you think of design and culture, all those different things. What was the foundation for colab? And how is it developed?

Richard Hollant That’s cool. Um, so the work that we currently do around equity and community development and in supporting of the heart and soul of a community is not the work that we’ve always done. You know? And yeah, the reason it was really cool to hear your framing of the question, right, because I hadn’t looked at it in this context before. The reason I started this, this business in the first place, 30 something years ago, which is, you know, pretty much just that college in the middle of my first year of working professionally, um, it came down to, there was a system that was in place in the organization where I was working, and I’m not gonna say the name sure I’ve avoided putting it on anything so that I could actually talk about it right, because I don’t think that these folks were I don’t think that they were had bad intentions, right. I think that you know, that they were acting within what they knew, without recognizing, and it was that there was this hierarchy that existed a hierarchy over porting a hierarchy of connecting and an a wall that you ought up to that felt like some of the worst family stuff, you know, it came down to you maybe you’re right but we’re doing it this way Because I said so. And there was that kind of way of wearing the mantle of leadership that I’m in my youth I thought it was important to take a swim to take out that slingshot and knock down that Goliath. Wow. Not acceptable.

And, and we got to a point where I stood for Pete for a level of quality that, that I was willing to pay for with my own salary, you know, not, for example, getting paid for two weeks so that we could use that money to do something right. As opposed to the way we’re doing it. In a lot of ways. It was about like, Can you hear me Can you hear this matter? Yes, you know, Hear that I want to drink that kool aid that you’re putting out there so deeply that I’m willing to throw myself on the rail for it. Um, and that that offer got met with a pause and got met with “that attitude is destructive to the culture that we’re building”.

Steve Chaparro Oh my lord, are you serious?

Richard Hollant And, and yeah, exactly that, that there’s that they saw something oppositional about it right? Well, in retrospect, I think they were right, that attitude was countered to the culture that they were building, you know, the culture that they were building was not this was about getting it right ish, you know, and then move on to billing, because we’ve got all these mouths to feed right, you know, in a delay of a couple of weeks to get it right. It doesn’t matter where it came from. It would interrupt how the train was moving. Right. And I understand that, you know, so then I had to answer for myself. It’s like, well, What do I want to belong to? You know, what, what is it that I actually really care about. And it’s so much that I didn’t get my way here. I recognize that that’s kind of like the issue was, what I recognized is that the culture of this place, didn’t make space for you to be heard, without me also feeling without me being treated as a problem, you know, as a, you know, as a threat, and I’m not a threatening guy.

You know, so, um, so I realized that, you know, maybe I’m gonna start building a thing myself, and build it in a way that’s like, that stuff that I actually stand for and that I believe, and that when I get met with challenges, I get to do some growing and step back and say, like, Well, did I really mean that, that I really believe that, you know, am I really standing for the stuff that I need to stand for? And if I, if it turns out that I didn’t believe in it mean it? How do I make that clear without making folks feel like it’s a correct? Yeah, you know, how do we move together in a way that, you know, that we can, can navigate through disagreements and we can navigate through changes and needs and you know, we can navigate to the complexity of what you know, of what it takes to get practically anything done in a group. And, And that, to me, is what I mean about intentionality, right? You know, it’s not about, you know, can we make that list of values? Can we have that punch list? And then we can all just keep going back and looking at that punch list and say, like, yeah, okay, what we’re doing right now, it’s in alignment with this. And I could justify, you know, my perspective because it’s, it’s somewhere embedded in these, you know, five or six values. But to shift that to, like, how are we going to create a connection of folks who generally have see the universe in the same way and navigate through the disagreements and the change in directions. And you know, in all, how we respond to what comes at us in a way that we hold together, we grow, and we’re stronger.

Steve Chaparro There’s so much so much what you just said, I mean, I’ve got cylinders are flying off, you know, just things are flying off in my head, because there’s so many things that you said, you know, because it resonates with some of my own experience about sometimes when you don’t find what you’re looking for, then you create it. And I think there are a lot of young folks as well currently, that are seeking for a culture at an organization where they can feel like they belong. They can feel like they’re being heard, that they’re being seen, and they’re given an opportunity to help shape whatever it’s, you know, it’s going to be moving forward and I think too many times the younger generations get a bad rap for wanting to have a voice in something even though they don’t have the years of experience. And I don’t think that’s the point. The point isn’t so much whether they have the best ideas, many times, it’s just about whether I am seen whether I’m heard whether I can contribute to this thing moving forward. What are your thoughts about that?

Richard Hollant I don’t, I don’t think that anybody learns, stop trying. Right. And so I think that we that, that organizations have to make a decision about how they’re going to create pathways for folks to stumble. Um, and and I think that if you keep getting met with some old cast even song, you know, that time to make a change, back, take it easy, you know, you’re gonna walk, you know, that’s the end. And well, you should, because I think that the certainly the culture that I carry Brown is a culture that cares about growth. And that cares about learning and that cares about spreading, spreading, spreading through spreading knowledge through experiences. So, golly gee, I don’t think that that’s an issue for for young people.

Well, no, let me take it back. I’m gonna walk that back for a second. I applaud a generation that is willing to stand up for what they value and is willing to insist on being heard. Yeah. I plotted it when, when I was in my early 20s and started this business. Um, and I continue to applaud it today. I have to tell you, I look at my staff and, and I’ve got folks on my staff We’re 24 years old, that I refer to on a daily basis, you know that we talk about how they’re leading things and they say I’ve got it in my job as long as they feel like they’ve got it to stand back and ask a couple of questions to make sure that they are confident in what they’re doing. And if they need the support on there, if they if I pick up that they’re kind of floundering or feeling rudderless, I’ll step in and I’ll help get them there. Right. And they have all put a sign up on a ball on a wall that says Rich may not go to meetings alone.

Steve Chaparro Ha, I understand where that comes from.

Richard Hollant Yeah, well, yeah, because they don’t want it all in my head right now. Because how can you lead? How can you, how can you lead without having first hand experience? You can’t, you know, so, um, so there that’s one of one of the things that I believe in culturally right there. You know, folks need to be present, you need to take it in, you need to read the nuances of what’s going on in body language. And you know, who’s looking at their watch when you’re talking when, when the conversation is moving into what phase of it, you know, and all that helps you set priorities, it helps you understand, you know, what’s, what’s gray and has room for play, and what’s absolutely no and what’s absolutely must, you know, so that first hand experience tells you everything, right?

And so the system that’s always confounded me, it’s confounded me to my head, where they’re often with their account managers that go in and they take the information or they translate the information and they write it into a post on Basecamp or Slack or email, you know, or briefing and share it over, in and then take the product that’s being created. And translated back to, to the organization, that whole process filtration that happens in there. Um, it just stands in the way of a genuine connection that creates really purposeful and meaningful work. So, so I just never understood that now mind you, um, that’s one of my that’s a privilege that I have right that I wasn’t a part of an institution long enough, right. So so I get I got to build this thing for 30 years with a mentality of Oh, that makes no sense whatsoever so we’re not doing that. Um, yeah, and yet it’s just one part of culture right? That’s that’s how we do the work. To me the the bigger part of culture is about why we do the work.

Steve Chaparro And what would you say what are the reasons why you do the work? What what what is it that internal drive that compels you to, to do that work?

Richard Hollant When when I initially started the business, we were working for big corporations. You know, we weren’t doing social responsibility work. I mean, that language didn’t exist back then. The folks that I knew that worked in corporate foundations back in those days, you know, they treated it when they had the same kind of corporate intensity that folks who were been failed at those organizations might have, you know, it was it wasn’t you know, it was metrics driven. It was driven by a different set of values for sure. Um, and, and one day, um, so we were working for these organizations and we got to, to be very, very profitable because we had this opportunity to since I didn’t know how to never built a deep bench of a bunch of people cranking out SK use, you know, so since they didn’t know how to do that, we ended up growing in the space where we were advising, we were taking a look at the, at the top of the of the ice cream sundae, right? You know, where, where you can see what the whole thing is. And we’re shaping sort of the vibe of the organizations, you know, what they stood for, what their futures were, like, you know, and how they communicate the essence of who they were moving forward. Right.

So, so in a lot of ways you could do that, you know, in a consultancy, right? You walk in, you say what you need to say you help explore what needs to be explored. You open up the list of what could be and then you turn it over to these firms that have like huge benches that can crank out Those that thinking over and over and over and over and over again, right, you know, you could turn it over to replicant firms. And so it didn’t take much for us to be really comfortable. So early on, we found ourselves in a position where we’re spending half our time doing this corporate work and then the other half of our time like tinkering with stuff that felt really good to do. I wasn’t thinking then in terms of intentionality, I wasn’t thinking about what impact really means. I didn’t have a much a very sophisticated sense, in my opinion of the equity space either. It was simple, it was, like almost Pavlovian in a lot of ways. It’s like, well, this word pays the bills. This work feels good. I need to pay the bills. So I’m going to hit that paddle. Oh, but I also want to feel good, so I’m going to hit this paddle and those are the the simple like rat responses that We were doing at the time. And you know, we’re be able to split our time pretty evenly, you know, in a kind of Robin Hood model.

One day I had this opportunity to meet with, with a new client at the Human Rights Institute. And and we’re going to start doing some work with them. What seemed initially like a simple project that turned into something far more complicated as we got deeper and deeper into it. In the midst of our initial conversations, the true graph for me of what of what generations of oppression look like, wow, in the context of human rights, you know, so there’s what happens when there’s a spike in in human rights violations, and how quickly the system come together and bring that spike down because of all the muscle memories that are involved. When you’re up against you’re first, those first crack depressions, right. But it doesn’t smother that if it doesn’t bring it back. If it doesn’t return back to the condition prior prior to that spike, and it starts to transfer over generations and generations, we get to a point where there is no memory muscle memory to go back. Okay, well, that answers that question. That’s about urgency, what we’re talking about here, we’re talking about protecting the stuff that we actually care about that feels good. And the urgency of of that work. And I realized that weekend that urgency and equity, for me Can’t be part time work. Yeah, you know, they can’t be the thing that I commit to while you know, I feed the engine that creates the oppression at the same time, and there was this imbalance And the more I started unpacking all of what, you know what the simple realization had brought forward that I needed to do, you know, I needed to do that unpacking in the following week, sandwich staff and stated like, Listen, this might affect our relationships long term.

But, we need to finish up this corporate work that we’re doing, you know, we need to honor the contracts and we need to finish this stuff up. And and we’re going to go on a journey. We’re going to stop pursuing work that’s about selling stuff and increasing money for the sake of money, right? And, and we’re going to move into the space where we preserve and amplify and support the stuff that we’re really passionate and care about. You The more we can talk about it, the stuff that we really are passionate and care about, are about communities and particularly the communities that we’re most connected to. That is where our culture is. That’s where we take all of our cues from. That’s where the people that we love exist. That’s the context in which we raise our children to be good citizens and caring and loving beings. And that’s what we need to continue to deeply commit ourselves to, and strengthen and in whatever form of prayer fullness that we manifest preference preservation, yeah, um, I do the work to ensure that that happens to and not just awesome prayers, right.

Steve Chaparro Yeah, I love I love what you described as, as you encountered your previous work and you understood what that allowed you to do, but also maybe some of the compromises that you were making. King in doing some of that work and that point of clarity for you. And I’m sure that point of clarity is constantly being challenged. As you know, you have the good times and the bad times in terms of finances or whatever, you know, when we, when we settle on, this is what we believe this is that these are the things that we’re going to do, which also provides clarity as to the things that we won’t do. How, how is that tested in challenging times?

Richard Hollant Well, let’s put it this way. Um, if we go back to the principle that I was stating before, right, the work that we were doing when we were doing that work, the corporate work allowed us to work part time. Yeah. Oh, and still do well, right. You know, because we were splitting our time between you know, we were taking our own money and being Robin Hood with it, right. So now we’re in a nice word. profits don’t look anything like just the month by month, week by week. There’s a certain amount of security that comes from, you know, the nature of the work the nature of being in relationships with folks versus being vendors. And you know, and you really actively partner and don’t just supply services, you know, we roll up our sleeves and we’re in it together. And so so that ends up being a piece of security, right. And I don’t mean just financial security, but security have a purpose. We get to by being in partnerships, always work purposefully work that’s meaningful to us.

And, and I had to decide early on, that’s the most important piece you know, that we’re working in a meaningful way towards impact that we believe in, and that if we are embedded in a community, that that has value, right, and value can be monetized. It can also be exploited.

Steve Chaparro Right.

Richard Hollant But, it can be monetized and make a living doing this, if it matters. So what that’s the discipline that that’s taught us is to get closer and closer and closer to the flame, you know, and that flame is absolute impact that flame is like what we all agree needs to be addressed these hotspots. And, and you know, so we need to take the we take the risk of diving into those hotspots of being the first ones to say things like, you know what, this needs to be an equity platform, it’s not going to go anywhere. We talk for example, I know it’s uncomfortable to go into school systems and talk about racial equity and we need to go into the school system and talk about racial equity. Yeah, we can back down from that position because that is where the fire is, you know, and and we need to be in the fire, to have impact that can translate into some kind of living wage for the people who are doing the work.

Steve Chaparro So, if some people were hearing our conversation today, they would say, you know, those are great aspirations to have to reshape, you know, to be able to try to rectify racial equity or financial equity or even, you know, in the city that I live in Long Beach, California, there’s a lot of talk about housing equity and digital, even digital equity, the access to you know, the Wi Fi as an example. Those are seen, those seem to be very, these are systems we’re talking about in many cases. And it seems like a very daunting endeavor to go in one. Go into a system, almost speak truth to power to unveil these inequities. And then to almost compelled the powers that be in those systems to listen to us. And to at least say that we have something to point out. And then the question then becomes, how do we actually lead those conversations? How can design be a tool to help reshape diamond? There’s a ton in, in what I just described, but what are some things that you’ve used? Whether it’s communication style, outreach, the methodologies and mindsets of design, how would you use design to help reshape some of those systems?

Richard Hollant Absolutely. Happy to talk about that. There are two things that you said that, that stood out to me. The first thing that he said Is he talked about rectifying what’s happening in communities, right. And you talked about treats power. I think those two things are overlapping and and I do want to talk about them a little bit. Um, I don’t believe that we are in it to rectify anything. You know, I don’t think that we have that power as a small firm. Right? I think that, that we’re contributing to a cause to a fight that we believe in. Right? Yes. And it’s really important for us to be clear on that on a daily basis. That it’s not our it’s not our individual fight. It’s our collective fight.

Steve Chaparro Right. Right.

Richard Hollant You know, so that we are part as much as we’re taking on a system, we were part of a system that can take on that system as well. And that leads us to this idea of power. I don’t think that treats power has a bearing whatsoever on much of anything, you know, I mean, I think that there’s something that sounds really awesome about it, and I love the visual of it. Yeah, you know, I love that guy that was standing in front of the tank in tenement square. You know, I love the I love the flower. in the, in the rifle. All these images are just powerful, lovely images. But I think that that truth pack speaking truth to power without power in the behind the truth is meaningless it gets you nowhere. You know it’s dismissible. We watch it all the all the time in the news, right? Watch the menu can the other day stand in front of a whole bunch of folks who wanted to speak truth to power will walk right past them? Weren’t there? You know, we watch this happen all the time in our political systems, right? So I’d rather see power, speak to power. Hmm, you know, and get a treat. So that’s the that’s more of the equation that we work with. So, um, we align ourselves with organizing and community organizing, you know, On one level, on another level, where the language set for being in political circles and for being in boardrooms, right, to be able to infiltrate those spaces, with what we know is happening in community, you know, so we’re able to talk to folks about how to shift their investment to underwrite a need for more organization, or more community organizing and more civic engagement in their communities.

Steve Chaparro Right.

Richard Hollant So, while we’re doing the the in community work, we’re also doing the backroom work of repeating this need over and over and over and over again until it’s heard. And until you know, we start being able to steer be more part of steering conversations around civic engagement and we start contributing to those conversations.

Steve Chaparro Right.

Richard Hollant So, we’re bringing them the street in a lot of ways into these boardrooms and into these other conversations. We could not do that. If we didn’t have boots on the ground as well, right? I, you know, I think that if we were just in there talking theoretically, it would get us it would be kind of meaningless. And what would end up back in community is look nothing like what community actually is needing and craving right. Um, but I love listening to you read the bio earlier. And because I’m like, oh, wow, man, that was so long ago. And all that was true. So much has shifted in just a little time between when that was written here, this was this that was probably maybe a year and a half ago. Yeah. in that timeframe. Here’s the thing that we did, which might illustrate what I mean. By, you know, standing in that position where we have a foot in each camp in and by bringing our own feet together, we bring those two camps closer together.

About a year ago, no, it’s more than a year ago. It was a little over a year, about a year and a half for fun. We entered into this arrangement with the Hartford Public Library, where we could take over one of their closed library branches. You know, so it’s a it’s a building that was beautifully up kept. It’s huge. And, and it had been closed in the, in one of the underserved corners of Hartford and in a place where they recently lost their community center and lost their library and, and, you know, it a large part of city has its back to that piece of community. And so we entered a deal where we’ve taken over that building operate our offices out of it out of a portion of it. You know where our desks and chairs and things that are based exist and then all the rest of the space like these huge conference room that did sit 100 people in in smaller conference rooms in the kitchen areas and you know in the middle of the city probably I’m gonna guess it’s about three quarters of an acre to have two an acre of space in the back of, of you know manicured lawn space and parking lots for you know, for dozens of cars. We are operating we are sharing the space with a with the community. We started an organization called Free Center and it’s an organization that creates access to space for members of communities, who have something in mind that they believe will amplify the needs of the community and, and will help organize within the community around arts and culture, around financial literacy around youth development. All these things that we’re actually really deeply passionate about because they’re a part of family, and hence at the heart of community are what free centers looking to create access to and amplify and we’re growing programming and we’re getting our own grant funding. Like right now we’re in the midst of being funded through a grant to launch a stand against race campaign.

So it’s the thing that’s our own design where the client, we understand what civic engagement and around standing against racism looks like in our community. So if I bring that up, because we’re we’re in it, you know, We’re deeply in it. We live and breathe this thing. You know, we’re I’m there when I’m because it used to be a library, right? I’m there when on a Friday. So going back a second, we work a four day workweek. I mean, everybody’s off on Fridays. I tend to go in, because I’ve got the space to myself. And if I walk around playing a guitar and just singing at the top of my lungs, I bother nobody, right? So that’s what I do. I go in on Fridays, and I Tinker and I finish up things that I need to do. I sit in in the middle of this big empty space, I think about possibilities.

Steve Chaparro Right.

Richard Hollant And it was a Friday Where were the because it was a library. At one point, the door rang incessantly with folks who are looking to for assistance in filling out their section nine applications. This was hours before they were due. Right. And it’s folks you needed to make a quick list right? They needed access to technology.

Steve Chaparro Mm hmm.

Richard Hollant They needed access not just the technology to to the tools themselves, but guidance in how to use the tool. They then needed to be able to do some some technological things that have that ordinarily have costs associated with them, right? Like, send files to a printer and print out 100 pages of returns of pay stubs, right. So they needed that kind of consumable capital investment. Right. And they needed guidance, right? You know, they need folks to help them with all that stuff. And then to take a look at these 50 pay stubs and figure out how to tell the best narrative right and as I was looking at each person trying to create the best narrative what they wanted to put forward was a matter of pride right a matter of like my deserves to be funded so they were pulling together their their their three best weeks to make their case or control. tenuring section eight, when really, this wasn’t that story, you know, the story that they needed to tell us like, oh, here’s how hard it is not to, like, invest in me, I’m a good person. I’m a hard worker, you know, and I’m taking a look at how in all that, I look at how the system system sets the priorities, set these obstacles in motion, and then strips an entire community of the resources to meet these already ridiculously high bars set ahead of people to just be treated like human beings.

And I’m, and I sit in this place, and I can tell you, every meeting that I’m in with people that are putting, you know, a ton of funds into community, that guy story is with me, it’s not with me because I heard it it’s with me because I was there and I lived it. And I’m going to say the same is true for my staff, right when the doorbell rings They get up, they go and answer it. We could they could turn away people and say like, Oh, no, we’re not closed and I fully operational as a community center yet. But you know what nobody does. They get up, they answer the door and your people need and they’re coming in with them. And we’re figuring it out on the fly. Right? That is the culture that I care about. That’s the culture that doesn’t turn people away, right. That’s the culture that listens to people’s needs, you know, and and however hard it is. And However, a challenge it is to our business proposition will respond to the needs of the people because that’s who we are. And so that’s where my heart is, man.

That’s awesome. The last question before we have to end our conversation today is how in those spaces of social and community impact, how are designers uniquely equipped, I’m not going to say to lead, but to contribute to addressing those challenges? I think every design is uniquely equipped differently.

Steve Chaparro Sure.

Richard Hollant Um, I think that the design discipline has a set of skills. I’m like that Liam Neeson they have a particular set of skills. But, um, but when some mistake what those skills are right, um, I think that in some in some environments, that deliverable matters, right, you know that we can design a thing that’s compelling, that motive that we think motivates or that stands the possibility of motivating is one, as far as I’m concerned, time slice something deliverable.

Steve Chaparro Yeah.

Richard Hollant The real value that designers bring to it is that if we do have training with an open heart, we recognize that the business interests and the idea of empathy are not mutually exclusive. You know that we’ve had the ability because that by and large, what we’re trained to do to integrate all of that, right? We can bring that capacity to integrate empathy and, and business interests, to the communities that we work with, and try to mitigate that gap whenever we get a chance to do that. And that to me, is the is the power design.

Steve Chaparro Folks, we’ve been talking to Rich Hollins the founder of co:lab. Rich if people want to learn more about you and the work that you’re doing, where can they find you and learn more about you?

Richard Hollant If you really want to find me go to my Facebook page, but on my Instagram page, my own it’s like immediately on Facebook, it’s a public thing and and I put out every thought that I have in Instagram, Richard Holland a website’s always a shamble. Cuz It changed what we’re doing changes on the daily and we rather do the work than to keep up with a website. Yeah. But there’s some examples there for, like ages ago, but really connected me in social media. It’s a community and that’s where we like to be.

Steve Chaparro All right, Rich, thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate your time. This has been an awesome conversation.

Richard Hollant Same here, man. Good to see you. Good to meet you.

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