Naomi Ross has been an ambassador with Bridges Unite since Fall 2017, when she serendipitously connected via Facebook with Debra Pogorelsky, one of Bridges Unite's co-founders, about carpooling to Homestead, where they spent a day of volunteering after Hurricane Irma covered streets in debris and left many residents without power for more than a week. Her passion for community-building inspired the launch of ‘Value of Miami’s Community’ in Spring 2018, a podcast which features leaders & organizations from throughout greater Miami making a positive impact on our community development and the lives of residents.
Finding myself in lasting service to others
I’ve been actively involved with serving communities across Miami-Dade County in a variety of ways ever since I discovered how much I was drawn to hands-on volunteering in my last year of studying architecture at University of Miami. Now, I’m nearing a decade of on-going civic engagement, with three of those years dedicated to AmeriCorps service, which was a significant educational, rewarding, and transformational period of life.
Whether I volunteered for a single day with an organization, or spent several years in a paid or voluntary leadership role, I have been fortunate to develop a strong network of Miami-based connections primarily in the nonprofit sector that I tap into on a regular basis. There are so many important efforts being implemented in our diverse neighborhoods, and every single opportunity has taught me something new. Lending a hand in a broad way has also helped me see the potential for further collaboration amongst groups that tend to work in silos here. I believe in the power of coming together to tackle social issues, because we can learn a lot from one another and bridge the gaps that exist, ultimately strengthening our approaches to current and future development.
And so the idea for a series called ‘Value of Miami’s Community’ (VMC) was created and brought to fruition as a way to amplify what’s happening locally to affect change, with an emphasis on valuing the life and well-being of every Miamian no matter what their home address, gender, socioeconomic status, age, cultural or ethnic heritage is. Everyone has something to contribute to the collective, but we have to be intentional about operating in this manner because the status quo hasn’t been. It requires dedicated persistence to move forward and make sure we’re continuously factoring in equitable, holistic, and sustainable practices. This latest venture has brought everything I’ve previously learned full circle, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hosting it with inspiring community partners.
From online to offline civic engagement
Within the first couple of months since launching VMC, I’ve been able to host three unique groups doing impactful work within Miami, and I’m proud to say we’ve already had a few thousand views between their episodes. I spend several weeks sharing about each episode on multiple social media platforms to give a preview of what the featured organization does, who the guest speakers will be, and our topic of discussion. Then we use Facebook Live to record the talks so they can be viewed on-line whenever anyone wants to watch them, plus there are high-quality audio recordings that will be added to podcasting applications to reach a national audience. My goal is to develop a platform where all the VMC footage can be watched or listened to, and make it search engine optimized so site visitors can easily link with the causes they care about most.
In addition to expanding the awareness of VMC’s community partners through online mediums, we have maximized partnerships by collaborating off-line by way of events. For episode #1 I brought on leaders from South Florida People of Color (SFPoC), which offers programs that encourage intergroup dialogue and personal connections across the racial divide, such as their ‘Unity 360 Community Race Dialogues’, and coming soon to neighborhood eateries is the ‘Awkward Dinner’ series. I was able to connect SFPoC with a ‘Freedom Flicks’ documentary screening, where they joined the post-film panel for a powerful talk in honor of Black History Month. Then for episode #2 I chatted with the founder of Miami’s annual Urbanism Summit, who spoke about the 2018 program bringing together multi-disciplinary practitioners for a day of sharing creative, innovative, and actionable ideas on the many facets that form our urban environment. I ended up moderating the summit panel on Equity, which engaged diverse professionals from health, community organizing, arts and technology sectors.
Most recently for episode #3 I partnered with the coordinators of another well-known annual convening called Philanthropy Miami. They are committed to the education and growth of our local nonprofit sector, and their 2018 conference revolved around a theme of “fearless” leadership to achieve success. I offered to do live coverage of this year’s main event day, connected with their Facebook page to help attract a larger audience to their efforts, and spent time doing live interviews with a fantastic group of individuals representing a broad range of backgrounds. We had brief but engaging talks about public space & active transportation, pro-bono legal services, financial literacy & youth, music fellowships, corporate social responsibility, purpose-driven entrepreneurship, a mutually beneficial sharing economy, and much more. It was an experience I hope to replicate in the future with new collaborators.
Proudly supporting women-led groups
For March 2018 I wanted to celebrate Women’s History Month because it’s our time to shine! All my guest speakers are amazing ladies, and the key topics are female-centered.
I’ll be chatting with local changemakers from The Women’s Fund and Babson WIN Lab Miami for episode #4. Our discussion will delve into intersections between pay equity and entrepreneurship, so everyone is invited to watch us via Facebook Live or attend in-person and learn about the opportunities for improvement that exist in society when it comes to fully valuing professional female leadership in the workforce, whether its at a for-profit, nonprofit, or in the realm of startup ventures. (RSVP @ VMC4.eventbrite.com.)
Then for episode #5 I’ll be sharing the microphone with 100+ Women Who Care Miami-Dade alongside Ladies Empowerment & Action Program (LEAP). This time our conversation will focus on the power of female-driven philanthropy and how it’s made an on-going difference for an organization such as LEAP, which is transforming the futures of women they serve through education, empowerment, & entrepreneurship opportunities. Get ready to be inspired by the practice of paying it forward. Full details will be posted on Facebook via the Celebrate Diversity Miami page soon.
Both Ep. 4 & 5 will be broadcasted live during the weekly Venture Café Miami gathering on Thursday evenings @ 6:30pm on 3/15 and 3/29 respectively.
This party is just getting started, so stay tuned…
Reflecting on how far VMC has come in a relatively short time, I’m excited for the rest of this calendar year, and humbled by the positive feedback I’ve received. In the beginning, I was reaching out to organizations I felt would be worthwhile featuring, and as I shared above we’ve experienced incredible results already. Now I’m happy to say numerous groups are asking to be guests, and they’ve expressed gratitude for the creation of such a platform that can generate on-going awareness of all their hard work with broader audiences. Being able to utilize my honed social media and networking skills to uplift so many causes has helped me realize that there’s a real need to sustain this project of mine, so I’m in the process of seeking financial means to expand what I’ve started.
Plans are in the works for additional topics of interest that will cover the following (but not be limited to): heritage & preservation, accessibility, voter engagement, youth & higher education, urban resiliency, health & well-being, civic engagement, equity in technology, and so on. For April 2018 I’ll be highlighting a newer initiative that began in 2017 now known as ’10 Days of Connection’, and listeners can find out fun ways to get involved with a movement bridging thousands of Miami residents of all ages with each other across neighborhoods.
If you’d like to be featured on the series (or know someone else who would) please send me an e-mail at: CelebrateDiversityMiami@gmail.com, plus you can support VMC by visiting: www.patreon.com/ValueMiami.