My Valley Vision Experience
Mekdem Wright served a 12-month term as a Student Board Fellow with Valley Vision while pursuing his MBA at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, through the GSM’s Nonprofit Board Fellowship Program. He has recently graduated with his MBA and completed his board fellowship, and reflects on the experience here.
This past year with Valley Vision has been an invaluable experience for me. I’ve learned about the responsibilities of nonprofit board service and developed an understanding of how to manage and operate a nonprofit. I’ve learned an effective approach to economic, environmental and social progress. I’ve connected to this community – my community.
Learning Valley Vision’s Collective Impact Approach – My fellowship began with a one-on-one board orientation with CEO Bill Mueller and included a crash-course in who Valley Vision is, what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. He taught me their “Collective Impact” approach – how they connect and engage the regional ecosystem to mobilize towards economic, environmental and social progress. Wherever there are gaps in these change efforts, Valley Vision seeks not to fill the gaps themselves but instead to pull and “stitch” the regional network together, working through collaborative cross-sector partnerships and coalitions. They always have a positive exit strategy in mind, intending to eventually hand-off the work to others. This was profound to me at the time and counter to most of the conventional business school teachings I was receiving. In my time with Valley Vision, I saw this theory in practice time and time again and the success it produced. Collective Impact has now become my default approach and way of thinking about change.
A Seat at the Table – As a Board Fellow, I was humbled and honored to have a seat among the top CEOs, chancellors, presidents and executives of the region’s anchor institutions. We came together over (yummy!) food and drink to discuss important issues in the community including:
- the Aggie Square Innovation Hub and improving connectivity between UC Davis and industry,
- K-12 education in Sacramento County,
- safety and equity in the Sacramento region in light of the Stephon Clark tragedy, and
- regionally-driven, state-wide inclusive economic development strategies.
The insights I gained from these discussions were extremely valuable in developing my own understanding of effective strategies and tactics for regional change and the challenges and barriers that come with them.
Connecting to Valley Vision’s Network – As a backbone organization creating collective impact, Valley Vision is connected to a powerful leadership network that starts with its board of directors and expands out to over 6,000 leaders across Northern California. As a board fellow I had the privilege of accessing this network and developing my own personal network. Most notably, I helped Valley Vision to conduct a Wildfire Smoke Impacts Assessment which involved having one-on-one dialogue with top leaders from the region’s businesses, schools, universities, utilities, and governments.
I’ve grown to call this Capital region my home since moving here in 2016, and my experience with Valley Vision has played a big part in helping it to feel like home. Valley Vision has helped me to build my professional network, better understand the community, and embed myself within the community. I’m unsure where my next step will take me, but I hope to remain a part of this community and continue to help to make it more equitable and livable in whatever capacity I can.
Lastly but certainly not least, I want to thank all the passionate and dedicated staff at Valley Vision – my friends, mentors, and fellow champions of change. You are all truly heroes and continually inspire me with the work you do and how you do it.
Mekdem Wright served a 12-month term as a Student Board Fellow with Valley Vision while pursuing his MBA at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, through the GSM’s Nonprofit Board Fellowship Program. He has recently graduated with his MBA and completed his board fellowship.