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How Tough Conversations Fuel Mailchimp’s Community Involvement

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I’ll be honest: Last summer, it was really hard for me to get work done. As I sat at my desk all day, it seemed like tensions and conflicts around race, identity, and diversity were boiling over across the globe. Around the office, my Mailchimp coworkers were talking privately, trying to figure out what was going on, what our roles should be, and what to do.

Building The Mothership

My colleagues Aaron, Kevan, and I found ourselves having lots of tough conversations about how to have tough conversations. How could we collectively and inclusively talk about race, injustice, and social issues in our workplace? And how could we turn that conversation toward constructive action?

At most companies, these would be unaskable questions. But Mailchimp is different. Our Chief Culture Officer, Marti Wolf, encourages this kind of dialogue, so Aaron, Kevan, and I approached her about hosting a community open forum. With her OK, we invited all employees to gather in our office’s central Coffee Hour space one morning in mid-July. Our goal was to have a heartfelt, company-wide discussion of our fears and concerns where we could share personal experience, amplify the voices of people of color, and identify ways for allies to help. All teams at Mailchimp paused their operations so interested employees could attend.

The forum was inspiring, illuminating, and uncomfortable—and it got many employees ready to act in a meaningful way. All the positive energy and overwhelming interest generated from that morning pushed Aaron, Kevan, and I to establish a diversity resource group, which we dubbed The Mothership. The group encompasses all flavors of Mailchimp employees.

Our mission is simple and vast, and we like it that way: empowering each other through social awareness and inclusivity.

Taking action in our community

We’ve hosted a few events to keep the community forum conversation going, and our internal newsletter, “Good Trouble,” curated by our cohorts Margie, Floyd, Brooke, and Kory, regularly presents actionable items drenched in social & community awareness that further The Mothership’s mission. But we’re also working beyond the office walls. Mailchimp has long been active in our Atlanta community, and The Mothership is proud to contribute to that involvement.

Last year, Mailchimp adopted the 5th grade class of Hope-Hill Elementary School, located in our neighborhood. Hope-Hill educates more than 430 students, from pre-K through 5th grade. More than 90% of their students qualify for free or reduced cost school lunches. They had a need for academic mentors, so members of The Mothership pilot tested a mentorship program. Five of us were assigned to English and math classrooms and visited once a week. We helped the students learn, but we learned from them, too—mostly about how urgently we need kids’ candor, jokes, and difficult questions.

Now that the calendar’s flipped, The Mothership is planning for the coming year. We’re excited to work more with the kids at Hope-Hill, and we’ll be partnering with Mailchimp’s Culture team to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day through a week of service along with our community. To launch our efforts, we’ll be volunteering at the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Following that, we’ll make sack lunches for the homeless (decorated with artsy doodles that make the heart smile). Thursday marks our annual volunteer project with Habitat for Humanity. To conclude the service week, we’ll host the 5th grade class at our office for a book fair that will include books donated by Mailchimp peeps and finish off with a pizza party. Freddie is sure to make an appearance, too!

We know the weeks and months ahead will be filled with many more hard questions to be asked and tough conversations to be had, but we’re feeling inspired, empowered, and ready to work.

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