On May 15, another year of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute Community Leadership Program came to a close. Participants celebrated the completion of an intensive program that stretched them in many unexpected ways.
Two Davis Brown attorneys, Kelsey Crosse and Corrin Hatala, participated in the 2018-2019 program. “It is an amazing experience to be surrounded by 49 individuals who want to improve our community and are so passionate about it,” said Kelsey about the experience.
In addition to the monthly class sessions where the group delved in depth into topics important in Central Iowa, the program divides into groups focused on helping a non-profit.
National Alliance on Mental Illness - Greater Des Moines
Kelsey’s group worked with National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - Greater Des Moines. The group evaluated opportunities for NAMI GDM to tackle the stigma related to mental illness in the workplace. They learned about NAMI’s work and the unfortunate status of mental health in our community, as well as the barriers surrounding mental wellness at work. Kelsey’s group created a video highlighting signs of mental illness and drew attention to NAMI GDM.
They also worked with NAMI GDM on its strategic plan, identifying opportunities to expand the organization’s reach into businesses. Additionally, they performed market research for NAMI GDM to gauge which companies in the Greater Des Moines community are willing to provide services to employees surrounding mental illnesses and what services they desire. Kelsey enjoyed aligning her passions of helping employers navigate employment laws and equipping individuals and workplaces with the ability to feel more comfortable having conversations about mental wellness.
Habitat for Humanity Tool Lending Library
Corrin’s group focused on the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity Tool Lending Library. This resource, housed within the East Euclid ReStore, allows individuals to become library members for a small annual fee and provides those members with access to a wide variety of tools, including lawn mowers, aeration tools, ladders, fertilizer spreaders, and more. Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity leadership identified the growth opportunities that existed with the program and engaged the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute to help create both strategic and execution-facing plans to use the program to serve the community. Corrin’s group analyzed the program’s target market and made process improvement suggestions to make it easier for people to use the library.
“We identified barriers to access - for example, you couldn’t become a member on a Saturday, one of the highest traffic days in the ReStore - and were able to make suggestions to improve service and inclusion. Another great outcome was that we implemented a POS system upgrade so that the organization can analyze usage and requests. They can use the new data when applying for grants and seeking additional resources and overall in understanding the program to make it more sustainable.”
They also conducted a visioning session with leaders from departments across Habitat for Humanity, developing mission and vision statements and themes. As a part of improving the Tool Lending Library’s functionality, Corrin used her legal skills to draft new legal documents for the program as well.
Reflecting on the experience, Corrin said,
“Honestly, I was a little skeptical at first of the refrain that the experience would change me and that I would grow relationships with my fellow classmates. But there is something about exploring these topics that really created a sense of camaraderie. We looked at natural capital in Des Moines and heard from the Farm Bureau, farmers, and environmentalists, and brought our own perspectives to the conversation. We looked at human capital in our community, ranging from socioeconomic factors to cultural capital and other systems that deeply affect our community, and heard from guest speakers and brought our own experiences to the table. These experiences gave us a true depth of knowledge about a breadth of topics, some we had only explored superficially before and showed us where leadership is needed in our community moving forward.”
“I have a deepened appreciation for perspective. We all have unique backgrounds and different life experiences. While we can never truly understand everyone’s perspectives, it is important to be cognizant of this and aspire to learn so that we can build stronger relationships, improve our work together, and serve to the greatest of our ability. This program showed me the value of taking a step back and seeing things from other perspectives, and it taught me how I can ask questions to find creative solutions and other approaches.”
Since Arthur Davis founded the organization in 1979, over 25 Davis Brown attorneys have completed the program including Mike Kulik ’87, Robert Holz ’85, Frank Carroll ’88, Lori Chesser ’93, Julie Johnson-McLean ’00, Scott Brennan ’02, Jason Stone ’09, Courtney Strutt-Todd ’10, Jason Ross’10, Krystle Campa ’14, Tara Hall ’15, Michele Brott ’17, and Maggie Hanson ’18 and now Kelsey Crosse and Corrin Hatala.