Posts by Emily Hashimoto

How to build a collaborative (and happy!) shared nonprofit space

In November last year, five Colorado nonprofits moved into a free-flowing, bright office as part of the Denver Shared Spaces Project. Think the nonprofit version of The Real World: five (somewhat) strangers, picked to work in an office together, to find out what happens when people work side-by-side towards the greater good.

Unlike the drama-laden show, these “roommates” in the Colorado Collaborative for Nonprofits get along famously. (No pulling hair or name calling here.) If your organization is thinking about doing something similar, here are their tips on how to make the most of it:


The colorful hallway of 789 Sherman. (Photo credit: Alyssa Kopf.)

1. Plan. Thoroughly. 

Sally Hallingstad, Director of Events & Marketing for Metro Volunteers: Define expectations ahead of time. What’s the purpose of the partnership? What are the potential ways to collaborate, beyond space, and how far will it go?

Alyssa Kopf, CEO of Community Shares of Colorado:  Bring in an organizational anthropologist to learn what kinds of organizations will be in the space and what they value. And try to gauge ahead of time as best you can if you’ll all play nicely together.

Renny Fagan, President and CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Association: Staff participation at all levels is key, and the long process of inclusion and communication is well worth it. “When you include people in change, they want to make it work.”

Dace West, Director of Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships: Be aware that collaboration is a tricky thing, and that you’ll most likely be looking at a “marriage of organizations with very different needs.” There’s also the complexity of real estate, timing, and priorities to consider, which makes it especially important for partners to be thoughtful about how they’ll work together, and what their shared vision will be. After all, it’s more than just a space and a place to be.

2. Be patient, and adjust accordingly.

Melinda Higgs, President/CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center: Even when you plan, you may need to plan (again) – especially when you don’t get your first choice of space. “We ended up focusing on the space planning and then, once the space planning was essentially complete, we moved onto the program planning.” In other words: be flexible!


Besides this map in the breakroom of who’s who, other ways members of the Collaborative are getting to better know each other include bbqs, brown bag lunches, and more. (Photo credit: Alyssa Kopf.)

Sally:  From kitchen duties to shared printers, it takes time to figure out what works. The domesticity of a shared office space – like, what to do with six microwaves? – can make for an adjustment period.

3. Imagine working beyond desks.

Sally: A shared space is designed to promote collaboration, and it helps to keep that in mind. At the Collaborative, for example, some organizations have their staffs spread out, sitting side-by-side with other organizations. The eventual hope is that the first floor training center will someday host programming they can work on together.

4. Think toward the future.

Alyssa: A process like this demands long-term thinking. “Going through shared space planning is a great opportunity to broaden your thinking about your mission, the lifecycle of your organization, and how you want to contribute to collective impact.”

Have a question for a member of the Collaborative? Feel free to contact an organization via their Idealist page, or leave a comment here.

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Start right now! Tips for aspiring social entrepreneurs

Being graduation season, we asked some of the most innovative thinkers in Colorado to share some advice with young and aspiring social entrepreneurs. Check out what they had to say, why Colorado a great place to let your imagination flourish, and how you can get started right now.


Photo via Hampton Roads Partnership on Flickr’s Creative Commons.

I’m an aspiring social entrepreneur. What should I be considering?

Tamra Ryan, Social Enterprise Alliance Colorado Chapter Chair and CEO, Women’s Bean Project: Look to what others have done, and when seeking advice, be specific about what you need. The community of those who have already done this work is invaluable; at Women’s Bean Project we have 24 years of mistakes to reflect upon and learn from – and help others avoid.

Nathaniel Koloc, CEO, ReWork: Make sure you love and are invested in the idea you’re working on. Building a company is really hard work and you’ll need the motivation to get through the rough points and the uncertainty. Also, it’s going to take a lot of your time, so you might as well spend that time on something that feels very worthwhile.

Banks Benitez, VP of Partnerships, Unreasonable Institute: Be proactively coachable – open to receive advice when offered; some of the best entrepreneurs we work with have this quality. They go out and ask for advice, recognize what they don’t know, are aware of their blind spots, and seek understanding about what’s coming. They seek out mentors who can help and have walked the same path. Proactively coachable entrepreneurs recognize the limitations of their knowledge and have the humility to ask for help.

Micah Williams, Marketing + Special Projects, TEDxMileHigh: Be useful to others. Be a connector. Go out on a limb for someone. Aspiring entrepreneurs do most for themselves when they strive to do the most for others. Selfish, power-hungry, and narcissistic are characteristics of 20th-century iron-fisted leadership. We’ve arrived to a new century, where seeking avenues to do good for others is what sets people, and organizations, apart.

What makes Colorado so fertile in innovation? It seems like many businesses and ideas are first taking root here.

Tamra: We’ve always been pioneers in Colorado, with lots of energy and creativity, and it carries over into social enterprise.

Nathaniel: I think the quality of life in Colorado (very high), the outlook (progressive), and the style (laid back and accessible) has combined to make it a place where the “activation energy required” for innovation is low. It’s easy to get people to try pilots and prototypes, it’s easy to connect with decision-makers and get advice, etc. So things that elsewhere would get killed by inertia (and judgment), are able to take off and learn to fly in Colorado.

Micah: The massive growth and excitement in Colorado is a realization of years of backend work on improving its infrastructure, managing its growth, keeping money local, and protecting what makes Colorado intrinsically awesome: the 300+ days of sunshine, the towering snow-capped mountains, the endless outdoor activities less than an hour from major cities, and innovative research institutions that churn out jobs and educated young minds.

What can I do to get started right now?

Tamra: Look into the Social Enterprise Alliance; they have many resources for social enterprises. The Colorado Chapter has local events throughout the year. Follow us on Facebook!

Nathaniel: If you are starting a company and haven’t taken the time to understand what lean methodology is all about, you should stop everything you are doing and do that. Also look at design thinking and agile.

Banks: Attend entrepreneurial events and get embedded in the entrepreneurial community.

Micah: Seek meaningful relationships. That’s the number one resource we have as entrepreneurs. Don’t rely on a ‘great network;’ rely on great friends. Surround yourself with curious people who dream big. Finally, always remember the words of Ben Franklin: “Well done…is better than well said.” Yes!

Want to learn more? Micah also recommends reading Unreasonable Institute’s blog and PandoDaily, as well as attending the TEDxMileHigh event on June 15.

In Colorado? Banks thinks you should check out New Tech; Ignite Boulder; Silicon Flatirons Center; and the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at CU Boulder. 

Learn more about Colorado month at Idealist!

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How a Colorado company is reworking social entrepreneurship

One obstacle to doing good we often hear people talk about is a lack of skills and/or knowledge. Boulder-based recruiting firm ReWork tackles this obstacle by connecting a skilled talent pool to the social enterprises who need them most. 

You’ve probably heard the term “scrimmage” before. In sports talk, it’s a practice game that doesn’t count.  In ReWork’s vocabulary, it’s an event that matches startup social entrepreneurs with willing volunteers to help them problem-solve.

Here’s how a typical Scrimmage works: Participants are presented with a challenge or project , and then break off into teams. At the heart of the event is rapid prototyping as inspired by Google. Instead of brainstorming at length, for example, the teams hammer out ideas on the fly, continually testing and iterating on them in the moment to help get them in the best shape possible. Failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn.

The process is then repeated throughout the day until the teams report their solutions to the rest of the group, and everybody (of age, of course) can celebrate with a beer!

Since starting the Scrimmages last year, ReWork has collaborated with a variety of local incubators such as HUB Boulder, Social Venture Partners, Unreasonable Institute, and more.

Scrimmage in action

Meet Shane 

Shane Gring launched Denver-based BOULD in 2011 after becoming interested in energy efficiency and the ways it could create savings for the low-income families he was serving while working for Habitat for Humanity via AmeriCorps in Boulder.

Like most startups, BOULD, which strives to greenify affordable housing projects, had a few kinks to work out. Needing help on simplifying the enrollment process and creating enticing messages for potential participants, they partnered with ReWork for the very first scrimmage in November 2012.

Two teams took on one problem each. One streamlined the enrollment form. The other team came up with messages and tested them right there with people on the street and at CU Boulder’s architecture school, eventually coming up with simple, accessible communication.

“I like that this process allows you to see how people react, right away, without the space of waiting to roll out an idea and seeing how people like it,” Shane says.

Because of its success, rapid prototyping is something they do at BOULD all the time now in their day-to-day work as well as special events like their Green Building Hackathon.

Meet Brett


Photo credit: ReWork team.

After a stint with TOMS shoes and living abroad to pursue a master’s degree in sustainability, Brett Dioguardi moved to Colorado and found himself without a gig. He learned about ReWork through Twitter, and was accepted to their talent pool in the midst of his move.

Brett was familiar with BOULD before the Scrimmage, having worked with them in a volunteer capacity, including helping to get them ready for the event. The day of, he worked on the team that was responsible for putting together messaging.

“I was a great fit for this group because although I had some knowledge of BOULD beforehand, I was still able to bring fresh ideas and thoughts to the discussion in a group of folks who were new to the company,” he says.

To him, it was an amazing experience where he got to meet new companies and people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. More significantly, however, after helping out BOULD pre and post-Scrimmage, Brett was offered a full-time position to work on partnership development.

“When I reflect on the experience, prepping for the Scrimmage and all the work before and after was even better than a job interview because I got to show [BOULD] what I was actually capable of,” he says.

Ultimately ReWork’s Scrimmage taught both Brett and Shane a lot about the power of face-to-face interaction, how iteration is key, and that continued problem-solving can help them tackle a constantly evolving business model.

In your everyday life, how do you practice the principles of Scrimmage?

While they’re mostly in Colorado right now, this year ReWork will be holding open Scrimmages across the country as well as private ones for companies. Get in touch by emailing 

To learn more about green building, starting your own social enterprise, or any of BOULD’s programs, contact Brett and Shane.

Learn more about Colorado month at Idealist!

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Join us in celebrating the Colorado nonprofit community!

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(Photo via C. G. P. Grey on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

We’re thrilled that people and organizations all across the globe are using Idealist to post and find opportunities, further their careers, and turn their good intentions into action. Thanks for helping us build this amazing community!

To make our network even stronger, this year we’re reaching out to nonprofit communities around the U.S., state by state, and inviting them to make the most of of our site.

Starting today, we’re heading to the lovely state of Colorado: land of the Rocky Mountains, the Aspen Filmfest, and John Denver. Many organizations are already a part of our community—like HistoriCorpsColorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation, and Charter School Growth Fund—but we know there are more out there. That’s where you come in!

Help us go the extra mile

This month, posting Colorado-based jobs will be free. FREE! Our normal $70 price is pretty low to begin with, but we’re excited to offer this sweet deal as we aim to bring you every nonprofit, government, and social enterprise job in the state. (Yes, we know it’s a lofty goal, but why not dream big?)

If you’re thinking about how awesome this is for your organization, don’t wait another minute.

Or if you’re just a superfan of Colorado and want to see it represented on Idealist more, there’s no shortage of ways you can help.

  • Tell your family, friends, colleagues, networks, and the organizations in your area who you think could benefit.
  • If you’re already a member of our community, log in to your Idealist account and spread the Colorado love by connecting with others.
  • If you’re not yet on Idealist, create a profile.

Over the coming weeks we’ll also be showcasing people and organizations in Colorado doing great work, featuring everything from advice of experienced social entrepreneurs to innovations in food rescue to volunteering after retirement.

What’s your Colorado story? Tell us below! And thanks for helping us spread the word.

Fun fact: Our very own April Greene hails from Colorado. Some of her favorite things from the state include: the Rockies, yucca, cute snowboarders, delicious sunsets, Garden of the Gods, microbreweries, the Olympic Training Center, and Rocky Ford melons.

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