We were fortunate to have Juliette Bobrow intern with us over two periods this year — January-March and June-August. She recently returned to Carleton College for her senior year, but we are glad to be able to share her reflections on her internship with Intentionalist.
“Seattle has changed.” This phrase has followed me around like a shadow since I began my internship with Intentionalist. It comes up in conversation with locals almost as frequently as the weather. Hearing this over and over again makes me yearn for something that I have never experienced. I didn’t grow up in Seattle. I don’t know what the city felt like ten, twenty, thirty years ago. I don’t know what those “good ol’ days” were like. Yet, I’ve become entirely nostalgic for this Seattle of yesteryear that I’ve heard so much about, (in the most abstract terms) — the kinder city, the more connected city, the more equitable city, the less elitist city. While I have no idea if what I am imagining was ever real, it is something I can relate to. Having grown up in San Francisco, I know what it feels like for “home” to be a different place each time you return. Pockets of the city I grew up in have managed to maintain a sense of history, tradition, and community, but they are few and far between.
San Francisco’s rapid gentrification, massive corporate development, vast wealth inequality, and homelessness crisis parallel Seattle’s changes, and I am all too familiar with the conversation — often times bleak — surrounding change. Enter Intentionalist, a bold new venture I joined due to founder, Laura Clise’s compelling vision of a more inclusive economy, driven by a community-centered platform that supports diverse local businesses. Working for Intentionalist has encouraged me to view change less as a passive lamenter of days gone by and more as an active citizen determined to breath life into the waning opportunity we have to reclaim the kinds of connected, kinder cities many recollect. I pursued an internship with Intentionalist, because I wanted to help create a platform that makes it easier for people to support the diverse communities they care about.
“I’ve since learned that even on a college student’s budget, intentional spending can make a difference.”
While I began my internship with Intentionalist, I embraced the possibility of new experiences, but I could not have predicted how this work would also impact my personal worldview. This internship has given me more hope — most notably it has opened my mind to many new possibilities when it comes to our collective effort to combat social inequalities. Instead of grasping at ways to push back, I now consider how choices I make day-to-day can support the communities I care about, even in the face of dramatic changes. I am not saying that innovating new forms of resistance aren’t essential (they are!), but prior to this internship I was not making explicit efforts to utilize my privilege and power through the money I spend. I’ve since learned that even on a college student’s budget, intentional spending can make a difference.
In the face of a transforming city, people are banding together. Bringing people together around shared values and shared forms of action is powerful. We have the ability to form meaningful coalitions, and Intentionalist is in the midst of creating a really remarkable one. I have been craving this collective action, and it has been exciting to realize that the money we spend can be a powerful complement to philanthropy, volunteering, and protest.
Over these past months, I have learned that there is something truly rewarding about meeting the owner behind a business you love, telling a friend about them, and then having that friend come back to you with their own story to tell based on your referral. There’s something exciting about help to facilitate new connections! When some of my friends and family visited Seattle this summer, it felt so special to introduce them to businesses whose owners I personally knew. I want more people to have this experience.
Sharing the stories behind the businesses we got to know made me realize how quickly a place can feel like community when you make the effort to get to know the people behind the products and services you enjoy. I love thinking about how the stories I have written on the Intentionalist platform might ripple outwards, and help more people feel connected to their own communities as well as ones they have yet to explore.
Connection is at the heart of what Intentionalist is all about. People want to connect with each other. We are making it easier for community-building to take root by facilitating connection between like-minded people. Connection bind the threads of our social fabric together. It fosters our capacity to align our cities and communities with the values we share regarding economic and social inclusion.
Each of the Intentionalist meet-up events made me a little more confident in the power of people coming together in community; I also witnessed this power at events hosted by the businesses we’ve gotten to know. I feel honored that small business owners have invited us into their space and trusted us with their stories. Their kindness and generosity has left me humbled as I have learned about the immense time and energy they devote to their businesses, which are intertwined with their livelihoods. I feel so proud to have been a part of a company that’s working to bring Seattle (and eventually other cities) closer together. While these moments of connection are just one small piece of a much larger battle in a city undergoing rapid transformation, I have already witnessed the small ways that Intentionalist is already having an impact.
Every day, this internship allowed me to put into practice what I have learned in the classroom about conducting community engagement work on a theoretical level. Forging reciprocal relationships with community partners and engaging critically with my place and my position relative to them has been a daily source of reflection and learning.
I have learned by example, watching my boss and mentor, Laura Clise, forge not only a company from scratch, but also spark the beginning of a movement that has the potential to shift the way we think about the money we spend. Laura moves through the world genuinely excited to learn from those she encounters. Her ability to listen so carefully to everyone she meets is something I strive to emulate. Ultimately, this internship and Laura’s mentorship have taught me how to be a more helpful and productive member of a community. I am thankful that Laura has founded a company based on her mission to foster kinder, more connected, equitable cities, I am so excited to keep following the Intentionalist journey. Can’t wait to see what’s next!