Meet Design Impact’s new executive director, Teresa L. Gonzalez. Teresa stepped into her role in April. Teresa is a native of New Mexico and recently drove cross-country to Cincinnati from the Bay Area, where she served as executive director of Centro Legal de la Raza. While it’s clear that Teresa was walking in with a wealth of knowledge and expertise, she has already started her tenure with curiosity, warmth, and humility. Read on to learn more about her commitment to reclaiming lost narratives, her vision for DI, and the philosophies she brings to her work.
Q: Tell us about yourself. What should people know about you that they can’t gather from your bio?
A: I am really easygoing and try to make folx feel comfortable, seen, and heard when they are around me. My leadership style spans from adaptive to full range and centers on uplifting intergenerational and intercultural leadership, strengths, and diversity in values, experience, skills, ideologies, and perspectives.
Q: What is your vision for DI?
A: I recognize the importance of understanding and respecting differences as strengths and building upon the cohesiveness of the individual and collective power of the DI team. My role is to ensure they are supported, resourced, well-rounded, self-determined, and interdependent. As it relates to the outward-facing work within the community, it is important to honor the complex cultural landscapes of the communities we serve, as a foundation for aspired social development. Historically, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have been left out of dominant norms and narratives. Therefore, we must reclaim these lost narratives and understand historical racism and trauma, through both quantitative and qualitative approaches, identify and cultivate local assets, then develop strategies that are multi-culturally focused and oriented, not locked into a single way or viewpoint. We must continually work at developing these strategies of authentic representation. This means centering community members who are proximal to the issues as well as to the solutions but too often lack the resources, opportunities, and time to advocate and assert their power to enact change.
Q: How would you describe your role at DI? What kinds of things will you be working on?
- Collaborative visioning, leadership, and oversight to accomplish the mission and org strategic goals.
- Strengthen the internal infrastructure and backbone of DI with robust systems, policies and procedures.
- Steward the increasing growth of the organization, managing demands and expectations for our work.
- Ensure the financial health of the organization through innovative resource development strategies.
- Coaching and supporting staff to ensure their wellbeing and sustainability in a difficult consulting field.
- Partnering with key external stakeholders and leaders to advance community-driven priorities/strategies.
Q: What drew you to DI? And how do your superpowers lend to what you do now at DI?
A: The energy at Design Impact is undeniable. I engaged virtually at first and was drawn to their theory of change focused on creativity, equity, and leadership. Additionally, the cultural statements aligned with my values, passion, and aspired development. I’ve worked as a consultant at the local and national level with many nonprofits trying to address equity internally and externally. Although we have the language down very well, many organizations struggle to provide the time and resources to invest in learning new ways of being and doing that are transformative and decentralize power.
In terms of my superpower, I am an earthen and fallible human vessel carrying and offering gifts to our people such as love, hope, and action.
Q: What keeps you up at night? What are some causes you’re passionate about?
A: I don’t lose sleep at night anymore. As a young single mother of four children and responsible to co-raise several children and young adults in my village and community, I would worry about their well-being often. After many years of feeling that many of the circumstances and conditions they would face are out of my direct control, I decided to focus on things that were within my control and ability. Hence, I daily choose faith over fear, power over panic, and do my best daily to be rooted, relevant, and adaptable.
Q: When you’re not at DI, where can we find you?:
A: Being an active board member, engaging in culture or arts events, and playing with my granddaughter.