Last week my organization had its annual conference, and I had my official introduction to the work we do. AEO is a national organization that works with non-profits that serve low-income, low-wealth and minority entrepreneurs, and this year’s event focused on discussing particular issues facing the microenterprise sector and providing opportunities for knowledge and resource sharing.
It was an educational, inspiring and engaging event. Honestly, it was everything I'd imagined and more.
It was the best possible orientation.
Having joined the organization just a few week prior to the conference, I had to jump right in and support the tremendous amount of work that our small team had to get done. Within the first few days I was busy crunching numbers for a report that we released at the conference. It felt great.
What that meant is that there was no time for a proper orientation; but the conference proved to be the perfect temporary substitute. I spent three days interacting with the leaders and staff of our member organizations while learning more about what they do and how they do it.
It was exciting to see the direct impact of my work.
The data that I analyzed, the report I helped edit, the press release that I worked on, the communications I wrote for a project I’m managing… these are all things that I actually saw the outcomes for - both during and after the conference. I almost never saw the impact of the work I did at my last job. Working for a large corporation meant that maybe I’d see the work we were doing indirectly referenced in the media or in an internal publication, however it wasn’t hard to feel like the work was in vain. But here the work I've done was - and is - visible.
I'm even more inspired by our mission.
My organization’s goal is to create economic opportunity for underserved entrepreneurs with the vision that every individual in the U.S. has access to resources and services for creating wealth, assets and healthy communities. With that objective in mind we work with nonprofit organizations that provide assistance (e.g. training and microloans) to current and aspiring business owners, most of whom don’t have access to financial resources and technical assistance elsewhere.
Often when people think of microfinance they think of international development. However, there are so many people in the US who are left out of the banking system and whose best chance for economic security is through entrepreneurship. I’m both excited and proud to be a part of a sector that is committed to providing individuals with that opportunity.
In other exciting news: at the end of the month I’ll be attending a similar industry conference, Microfinance USA, where I’ll have the opportunity to soak in even more. I’m definitely looking forward to it!