September 18th Virtual Transform Westside Summit: Innovation During the Pandemic

The September 18th Transform Westside Summit featured three speakers from local and international organizations on the subject of “Innovation During a Pandemic.” President & CEO of Westside Future Fund, John Ahmann, moderated the panel discussion which included: Michael J. Cochran, Partner, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton; Amelia Nickerson, Chief Executive Officer, First Step Staffing; and Mark Malhotra, Director of Innovation & Scale, CARE USA

Michael J. Cochran, Partner, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton

Michael ‘Mick’ Cochran spoke on adapting to change in a “dynamic world” in regard to charitable organizations. Pro bono legal counsel to Westside Future Fund, Cochran has helped springboard much of the progress achieved for affordable housing through innovative approaches to leverage support from corporations. Cochran also called attention to achieving affordable, sustainable housing for legacy residents as a necessary alternative to gentrification. 

Amelia Nickerson, Chief Executive Officer, First Step Staffing

Amelia Nickerson contributed to the topic of innovation by recapping the origin story of First Step Staffing, where she is currently the Chief Executive Officer. Amelia spoke on Founder & Chairman, Greg Block, an entrepreneur looking to positively impact the community by taking on the problem of homelessness and tackling the systemic issues plaguing the homeless community at large. First Step Staffing combats homelessness by offering jobs and job preparation to participants.

Mark Malhotra, Director of Innovation & Scale, CARE USA seen on screen

Mark Malhotra offered a unique perspective to the panel by discussing the topic of innovation from an international perspective. As Director of Innovation & Scale for CARE USA, Mark, currently stationed in Ecuador, spoke on empowering local communities so they can resolve their own issues. CARE USA stands by the notion that “people closest to the problem really have the best solutions,” as it deploys resources in response to challenges unique to any given community as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Each speaker offered perspectives on past innovations which catapulted progress in their respective fields, as well as plans for keeping up to speed with a rapidly changing world. Throughout the summit “fearless” was often the operative word used to describe these organizations, as they each seek to continue to positively impact the Westside throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

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