Meet the Team: Kyla Carlsen

Feb 13, 2023

Which programs are you most excited about launching in 2023?

We have some big milestones coming up this year. Building on our lessons learned over the past three years around equitable grant-making, we’re on track to provide nearly $2 million in grants through a process that centers those most impacted by the funds in the decision-making of how and who grants are awarded to. One of those funds will specifically address the racial funding gap by exclusively supporting BIPOC-led nonprofits.

After several years of co-creation in partnership with MCR, I’m really excited to activate a network of capacity builders through a community of practice and public directory tool that will facilitate nonprofits connecting to self-directed technical assistance resources and elevate the quality of capacity building services in our region.

But what I’m most excited about is the opportunity to share what we’ve been learning and piloting over the past three years since opening our doors, through a pandemic, much of which has happened behind the scenes. We’ve supported regional collaboration through grants, facilitated peer learning, and toolkits. We’ve convened BIPOC nonprofit leaders and regional philanthropic leaders to imagine a more equitable relationship dynamic. And, we’ve developed resources for nonprofit wellbeing, leadership development and reimagining the future of work in our sector. I’m excited about sharing these lessons with our community more broadly to accelerate greater impact from everything we’re learning.

Kyla Carlsen
Senior Director of Program Strategy & Innovation

What ideas or concepts are informing your approach to work and programming in 2023?

As we enter the next phase of our organizational growth, we’ve developed a strategic framework plan that has been instrumental in guiding our programmatic development for the next three years.

We also practice a continuous learning culture, so our programming evolves directly from what we’re hearing, testing and learning with our community and partners. Our equitable grant-making programs have been directly informed by convenings we hosted through 2021-2022 around the Detroit Nonprofit Leadership Census, annual Detroit Capacity Building Forum and convening nonprofits and funders together. We’re taking what we hear and applying it in practice in real-time.

Members of the Collaborative Leaders Learning Circle (CLLC) meet at Co.act Detroit for their January session. Co.act Detroit, Detroit, MI, January 13, 2023.

We also look to global insights and best-practices to inform our approach like the Participatory Grantmakers Community, Community Organizations Reimagining Ecosystems (CORE) national cohort, and The Wellbeing Project. The book, Letting Go: How Philanthropists and Impact Investors Can Do More Good by Giving Up Control has also been really influential for me in rethinking and unlearning how capital is and has historically been invested into our communities.

Personally, I’ve been reading Work Optional and exploring concepts like slow living, time freedom and the art of leisure that have informed my relationship with work, finding and sustaining balance. Last year I had the opportunity to participate in the Global Wellbeing Summit that also impacted both my own approach to work and inspired some of our nonprofit wellbeing programming to come this year.

What are you reading/watching/consuming for work or for pleasure?

I set an intention this year to spend more time in nature and museums. A big part of this for me is travel, and experiencing a sense of wonder. I’m consuming adventure.

While this is both for pleasure and self-maintenance, seeking new experiences keeps my brain active and inspired and I’m able to bring that creative energy to our work. Physically getting outside, exploring new and different places at home or abroad, and visiting different cities reminds me of all the great assets our city has to offer but also what’s possible for our community, the value of learning from others, and adapting to our own unique opportunities to accelerate our region’s growth and development.

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Celebrating 2022 KIP:D+ grant recipients. Marygrove College, Detroit, MI, June 23, 2022.
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