As I’ve spent the last several months framing out what would become The Movement Podcast, I found that the most valuable thing I could do was share my ideas with someone I trusted and get their feedback. My policy ideas focused more on how to actually implement policies that benefit communities were half-formed and the discipline of having to explain them to someone else proved invaluable.
Like the oft-heard recommendation that startups need two founders, I realized that I was suffering from trying to start a movement by myself. To be clear, I was not alone as I had plenty of institutional, leadership, and marketing support, but I didn’t have what may be the most important kind of support: intellectual.
My immediate instinct was to hire someone to provide this kind of support, but I quickly realized that while this approach had some clear benefits, it also had some drawbacks, including the biggest: I wouldn’t benefit from the diverse experiences that I had elicited while I was crowdsourcing my external intellectual support.
With the support of my colleagues at TransLoc, I identified a unique solution to my problem: a part-time, internal-only, Policy Fellowship. I’m taking policy in a different direction and so it only seems appropriate that I take this role in a different direction. Since TransLoc has never done something like this before, let me break down what I’m going for with this unique approach:
Internal-only: Due to the size of the company, there are not that many formal opportunities for existing employees to get experience working in a different department. This fellowship for existing employees allows interested employees to stretch themselves and get exposure to a different part of the company.
Part-time: The employee, his or her manager, and I will negotiate the appropriate number of hours for an employee to devote to this fellowship. For some, that might be a larger number and for others that might be a smaller number. There is no predefined amount of time required.
Short-term: Similar to the part-time nature, the length of the fellowship is negotiable between the employee, his or her manager, and me. The primary determinant of the fellowship length will be the existing responsibilities that the employee has in their current role and the scope of the potential policy project that the employee and I decide upon.
I expect there will be many benefits to this approach:
Rotating employees through this role will provide me with fresh ideas and perspectives that would be harder than if I just hired someone and he or she stayed in this role for a couple of years.
The structure of the fellowship will allow the applicants to explore an area of policy that they are both personally interested in and will also advance the goals of The Movement.
This fellowship could provide a growth opportunity for employees who want to build new skills, are looking for a change of pace, or aren’t being challenged in their current role.
This fellowship will provide exposure for an individual contributor to work more closely with a senior leader in the organization.
This will expose more internal-facing TransLoc employees to critical external perspectives that the policy department focuses on.
And while I’m not so blind to think there will not be tradeoffs to this approach (e.g. interviewing/training every six months, balancing current workload with policy project, and other unforeseen tradeoffs), they aren’t enough to discount trying this approach.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted the fellowship in our company newsletter, hosted office hours, and accepted applications from a variety of departments across the company. Even those who couldn’t commit to participating now were interested in being considered for future fellowships. After interviews, I settled on three candidates to test the first iteration of this fellowship. Each of those selected has been at TransLoc at least two years and entered the application process with a clear understanding of the type of project they wanted to tackle.
Landis Masnor, a research analyst who moonlights as the chair of local bike advocacy group BikeDurham, will explore the link between qualitative stories, quantitative data, and courageous leadership by public officials.
Stuart Powell, a member of TransLoc’s sales team and recent author of EcoShot, wants to dive into the barriers and opportunities for communities to continue to invest in the electrification of transit, microtransit, ridesharing, and micromobility.
And Jenna Zaloom, a customer care specialist who has already dabbled with helping our user experience team to better understand our customers, is interested in the intersection between empathy and public transit and how we can bring humanity back to transit.
I’m excited by not only what all three of these Policy Fellows will learn over the next six months as they tackle their projects, but what they can teach me as I continue to highlight the importance of courageous decisions needed by everyone to achieve the world we all want to live in. Look for them and their influence as we continue to build The Movement.
Read our latest white paper to learn how transit leaders across the nation are implementing policies that benefit their communities!