Welcome to the Garden Level!

Hi, my name is Bryn Webster, and I think economic development is neat. I know, that probably sounds kind of nerdy, but when I heard about the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), which supports small businesses right here in Columbus, I knew it was my kind of place. Their mission of achieving economic growth and equality through education and affordable microloans is right up my alley, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re located in a gorgeously renovated brick schoolhouse that’s equal parts industrial and charming. From their Food Fort, which provides incubation space for local food trucks, to their Women’s Business Center, which offers training and assistance for female entrepreneurs, ECDI is on the front lines of the battle against poverty and economic inequality and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home!

For the next ten weeks, I’m going to be working for the Development Department as an assistant researcher and grant writer. Our department, which is located on the “Garden Level” aka the basement, is responsible for securing all of the money that ECDI uses to fund its various loans and programs. As I learned by starting my fellowship in the middle of one of Development’s busiest weeks, grant writing is a face-paced, high-pressure job where creativity is key and the details can make or break you. Because this was such a big week for the Development Team, I was expected to jump right in and start laying the groundwork for future projects, which was scary at times but ultimately very rewarding. Working for Development is like being on the ground floor (or in this case the Garden Level) of real social and economic change.

Because who needs windows anyways?

Because who needs windows anyways?

Now, I know a lot of people wouldn’t relish the idea of sitting in a basement for the next ten weeks, sifting through economic literature and writing papers. In fact, when I excitedly told one friend that I’d be researching and writing grants all summer, they noticeably cringed. While it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time, I can honestly say that it couldn’t be a better fit for me. The feeling I get when I find the perfect source to cite for one of our proposals or sit in on a marketing class to learn how our programs are impacting the lives of women in our community, it’s indescribable. As I walk down the stairs to the Garden Level every morning, I know I have the chance to help people achieve their dreams and create economic prosperity for those least advantaged in our society. I think that’s pretty neat.

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