Necessity is the mother of invention, and for Nakida McDaniel, that necessity was a job.
She became unemployed in 2008, and for the next 18 months she searched for a job, eventually finding a position as a community organizer with Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods (NBN). The job instantly challenged much of what she had learned during her previous work with nonprofits.
“I thought I was supposed to just swoop in and fix neighborhood problems,” she says. “But that’s not how things like overcoming the educational achievement gap and wealth disparity gets done.”
Three women stepped in to mentor her at NBN: Naomi Randolph, now the executive director at Women AdvaNCe; Dee Washington, who now works as a freelancer; and Paula McCoy, NBN’s executive director.
“They taught me to not be an answer to people’s problems, but instead, to teach them to solve their own problems by providing access to resources or opportunities for work,” McDaniel says. “They can do things on their own.”
The women changed her perspective, comparing the work of a community organizer with that of a talent scout searching for the next great athlete, musician, or actor.
“They told me that the ‘talent’ won’t look like talent you normally see. It might be someone who is sitting on her front porch with a crowd of neighbors around her. She has influence, and she’s the person you have to connect with. Discover what motivates her so she can motivate her community.”
McDaniel’s successes have led to astounding results.
“I’ve gotten to see people develop marketable job skills. I saw parents learn how to be involved in their children’s education. I saw it every day, and that’s what keeps me motivated.”
After seven years with NBN, McDaniel has a new position with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She’ll be providing support for volunteer leaders in three states.
“Seeing parents lose their children to gun violence made me feel like I had to do something,” she says.
In addition, McDaniel plans on joining a Resident Impact Council through the United Way’s Place Matters Initiative and remaining involved with the city’s Poverty Task Force.
“What makes this all worthwhile is I get to go into communities and work with people that everyone else has given up on.”