Cultivating Equity with Mailchimp Community College

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Last week marked the start of Mailchimp Community College in partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

Over the next few months, a cohort of 12 Mailchimp employees will have the opportunity to think broadly about equity in our community. To explore what that means for a city like Atlanta, civic leaders, nonprofit executives, community organizers, and seasoned philanthropists will address topics like infrastructure and education, as well as intergenerational cycles of poverty. The cohort will graduate from the program with a better understanding of our city’s nonprofit ecosystem—and our company’s role in it.

How we got to Mailchimp Community College

To better connect our employees with our investments in Atlanta, I was asked to turn a part-time community involvement project into a full-time role. Many people at Mailchimp already cultivate fascinating pursuits outside the office, including calligraphy, improv—even an organic nail polish business. But I quickly learned that my colleagues were searching for ways to better cultivate their involvement in the community.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Plus, in a company that’s growing so quickly, we need solutions that scale beyond individual requests. Mailchimp needed a system for employees keen on community engagement to approach organizations with more confidence. We also needed colleagues to understand why our company is involved in the community at all.

We needed Mailchimp Community College.

Building on what already works

I happen to sit next to the Mailchimp University (MCU) team and have had the pleasure of watching it bloom into an integral part of our culture. MCU has graduated more than 250 employees over the past 3 years, and partnering with Michael Sacks from Emory’s Goizueta Business School has helped develop leadership skills throughout our growing company.

One day over pizza, I asked Rachel, our learning and development manager, if the MCU team could graciously lend its successful precedent and educational infrastructure to this new idea. This was a significant request of resources, which is why I’d strategically provided pizza for the meeting. She couldn’t really say no.

Rachel agreed to help, but she pointed out that MCU is successful in large part because they have a great partner to help pull it off. Michael Sacks and Emory’s Goizueta Business School were the right partners for MCU. We’d need a similarly excellent institutional partner, but with a local nonprofit perspective and expertise to make Mailchimp Community College a reality.

Identifying the right partner

Our first choice was to partner with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. They’ve been serving our region for more than 60 years, and nonprofit organizations and philanthropists look to them for guidance.

In hindsight, their commitment to equity made them the only real choice for us. We’re lucky that they quickly agreed to partner and build the program together. I didn’t even need to provide pizza this time.

We’re looking forward to building something that’s specific to Mailchimp. But we’re also cognizant that it should be replicable, in case other companies have employees who want to get more meaningfully involved in their communities. After all, like many American cities, Atlanta is increasingly becoming less equitable. And companies in our industry are already trying a variety of approaches to address inequality and poverty.

Our other key partners in this effort will be the employees in this initial cohort. We have a diverse group of people from nearly every department—from data scientists to support technicians, UX designers to paralegals—who will help shape the program with valuable feedback. By the time they graduate, we’ll hopefully be able to share an open source approach to community education.

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