Putting Empathy to Work: A Letter from the CEO

Written by Chelsie Walter. Photography by Alex Larrison, Angie Lipscomb, Chelsie Walter, and Stacy Wegley.

Women of Cincy began on a whim on January 20, 2017, to document stories from the Cincinnati Women’s March. Five 20-somethings pulled together a few cameras, recorders, and an Instagram account the morning of the march. We had no idea what we were creating, or just how far it would take us.

This summer, we’re taking a moment to look back at that day and celebrate how far we’ve come, and then to share our vision for this movement going forward. We’ve spent the past few months asking questions, talking with community members, and reflecting on the lessons we’ve learned in order to create an impact-driven framework for our organization. Now, we’re happy to share these building blocks with you.

We’ve changed a lot from that first day. What hasn’t changed is the fundamental belief that telling stories changes things. When we see each other as people and celebrate the everyday Cincinnatians who make this city great, we’re all better off.

Empathy and relationships have always been at the core of our mission, and they always will be.

When we open ourselves up to the world, it’s scary. We ask our interviewees to open themselves up, to share with us their true selves – not just the highlights on their resume. We ask our team members to show up and be open and honest with us. Our bonds aren’t those of professional acquaintances; this community has become a family. 

If you've followed us from the beginning, you've witnessed the result of countless real, open, and raw conversations: a renewed focus on gender inclusion and allyship; an ambassador team focused on building community relationships; an uplifting and innovative mentorship program.

We've grown and evolved quite a bit in the past two-and-a-half years, but we've always held fast to the idea that when you change hearts, you change behaviors and when you change behaviors, you change systems. Empathy and relationships have always been at the core of our mission, and they always will be. These new focus areas are simply about refining the process, and seeing where we best fit in this amazing city. How do we look farther ahead? How do we renew our focus to impact our communities and make a difference?

We started with you – the people of our city. We asked readers, team members, friends, and fellow advocates about where we want to be as a city and where we currently sit. We asked, “What’s standing in our way? And where does Women of Cincy fit into that fight?”

After identifying some of the key issues affecting our city, we began to sketch out what that impact-driven framework looks like...

1. Promoting Inclusive Communities

We all know we’re stronger together. The Women of Cincy team is working to encourage the growth and creation of inclusive communities through storytelling, events, and leveraging our ambassador team to build one-on-one relationships with our communities one person, one neighborhood at a time.

2. Amplifying Social Equity

Everyone has a story and everyone has power. We believe in amplifying stories and connecting folks to one another to combat inequities in our city. We’re dedicated to community-driven storytelling showing both strength despite inequities and insights into creative solutions. We’re here to keep innovative ideas and folks connected and visible through our platform and to always look at the big issues through a local lens.

3. Building Community Muscle

The beauty of a muscle is its ability to flex. We believe in creating a community that can react and come together when needed. We’re building that community through hyper-local storytelling, our mentorship program, the ambassador team, a tight-knit Women of Cincy family, and reinforcing engagement and pride in our city through our brand.

4. Expanding Pathways for Women

Sometimes it’s hard to see yourself in a position in life if you’ve never seen someone who looks like you in it. We’re here to tell stories about folks who’ve gone down that road before you – all of the messiness, the trials, and successes – in hopes that it inspires you to take that next leap forward, into whatever it is you want to do. We’re also working to create a network that will open new doors for our residents and as many Cincinnatians as possible.

We’re so grateful you’ve stuck with us on this journey. We know it’s ambitious and there’s a lot of work to do. But together, we can make incredible things happen. We know, because we’ve seen it. You’ve supported us time and time again. Don’t stop now. Here’s a few ways you can help:

  1. Nominate an awesome Cincinnatian for us to interview! Our stories are 100%-driven by community nominations. All interviewees are welcome regardless of gender identity.

  2. Spread the word. The more people we reach, the bigger change we can make. Share our stories and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; and sign up for our newsletter.

  3. Consider supporting us financially. This work takes time and resources. Any monetary support is greatly appreciated! You can give by purchasing merch, giving us direct financial support, or letting your local businesses know about our sponsorship opportunities.

  4. Join the team! Do you have time and a talent you’d like to give? Consider joining one of our volunteer committees. 

  5. Help us find a home. We believe proximity and empathy are inextricably linked. We’re pursuing a home for this work. A physical space for our team, community, and like-minded folks. If this piques your interest, shoot me an email.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything. Follow along with us on social media as we take the next four weeks to celebrate the work we’ve done so far and look to the future.

Thank you,