Work-Connect-Thrive

Haven Birth Story, Part 1

Haven Birth Story, Part 1

As with all entrepreneurial ventures, The Haven was born out of a unique set of experiences over the past 20 years that led me to this moment. In particular, four experiences and beliefs were the primary drivers behind The Haven: my experience as a remote worker, my belief in community, my lifelong fight for justice and equity, and becoming an elected official. I’ll dig into each of these in later blogs, but here’s the short version.

Part 1 - Life as a remote worker

I’ve been working from home for seven years. Let me be clear, I am incredibly privileged to do so and have no right to complain. I was able to more easily breastfeed my two girls (it still wasn’t easy - that’s a different blog - but working from home certainly helped). When I need a quick stretch break I can take my dog for a walk (let’s be honest, that hasn’t happened since my kids were born, but it remains an aspiration). My husband and I can catch up over lunch. I don’t have a commute. In short, I’m very lucky.

But the reality is that after seven years of sitting alone in my office, I’ve felt my joy-quotient drop substantially, along with my productivity and creativity. Yes, I’m distracted by kids and dogs and laundry and bills. But mostly I miss the interactions with other inspiring adults. The opportunistic conversation at the water cooler that leads to a new idea; being able to ask a colleague to pop into a conference room to help me brainstorm on the whiteboard for ten minutes; the opportunity to learn from other people by working alongside them; the community that comes with a place-based worksite.

I love my work and the flexibility that comes with working from home, but I needed to make a change in order to continue being happy and effective.

So, I started checking out local coworking options. And honestly, I just didn’t find what I was looking for.  If I’m going to leave my slippers and desk, it needs to be for a place that feels inspiring and warm and beautiful and creative. Also, I still want to work from home some of the time, so I don’t need a full-time office or dedicated desk. I didn’t find a space with a part-time flexible option that was compelling enough to make me pay money to leave my nice home office.

In addition, I do the “coffee-shop shuffle” and need a solution to the problem of driving around town all day going from meeting to meeting, buying my fifth cup of coffee in five hours, logging onto another crappy wireless network and trying to hold professional meetings while the people at the table next to me discuss their date the night before.

So, I don’t want to meet with people at my house, and I don’t want to meet with them in a public coffee shop. I don’t need (and can’t afford) a private office, and I’m not going to rent a conference room every time I need to meet with someone.

I need a private, affordable, part-time, flexible, beautiful, professional, inspiring work and meeting space. (hmmm…)


Part 2 - Community is everything

The Blue Zone Project has studied rare places where people live longer with a higher quality life. They’ve identified nine “secrets” to help us live longer and better. You probably won’t be surprised that four of the nine are about community - belong, loved ones first, wine @ 5, and right tribe. (Three others are also addressed at The Haven - move naturally, purpose, and down shift. Maybe someday we’ll tackle the last two - 80% rule and plant slant.)

My husband Scott and I believe that community is everything. Whether times are good or times are bad, life is better when you have a supportive, diverse, loving, close community.

But what’s happening in the 20th century? Our connection to community is threatened. I would argue that one of the reasons is a dramatic increase in the number of people who work from home. Nationally, almost 3% of workers work from home, a 115% increase just since 2005. In Central Oregon, that number is more than 12%! We are right smack dab in the middle of a giant experiment. Yes, employers save money and employees gain flexibility, but what happens to a community when 10-15% of workers are no longer part of a physical work community? Thousands of people in Central Oregon are disconnected from an office - the place where people have made friends, built relationships, and participated in the community for a hundred years.

We hope The Haven will be that community for a few hundred leaders who work from home in Central Oregon. As someone who was born and raised in Bend, the heart and soul of this community is near and dear to my heart. Much more on this topic to come.


Part 3 - My journey in fighting for equity and justice and my experience as an elected official

After graduating with a degree in teaching, I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corp and was sent to Boston as a volunteer teacher. I spent a year living and working in one of the largest housing projects in the Northeast, where a majority of the families were people of color. There was a huge 1000+ student public elementary school that served the neighborhood and it was an atrocity (I do not use that word lightly). I taught in a tuition-free private urban Montessori school down the street that only served around 50 students. I will never forget one African American family who had two sons - one attended the public elementary school and one attended my school. I watched over the course of a year as their life trajectories diverged dramatically, just because of the schools they went to. Statistics dictate that the brother who went to the failing public school is likely either dead or in jail. Meanwhile, the brother who was lucky enough to get into the Montessori school thrived and had a much higher chance of reaching his full potential. Watching that family suffer from a public system that did not serve them well changed my life, and I have spent the last 20 years trying to first figure out why - and then trying to change - a system where the school you are assigned to can mean the difference between a fulfilling life or becoming a product of the school-to-prison pipeline.

I worked as a teacher, school leader, system leader, philanthropist and national nonprofit and policy leader. I have spent years studying the systems and policies that result in public institutions that perpetuate racism, oppression and inequity. Much later, I began to study white privilege and am trying to come to terms with my role, as a progressive white woman, in perpetuating those same systems and privileges.  

Then I ran for school board.

Like any position, you can’t truly understand what it is like to be a publicly elected official until you are in the seat. As I dug into our own school district, as well as our state and federal political system, I came to quickly understand what happens when diverse voices aren’t represented at the tables of power. Whether it is women, people of color, sexual minorities, or other ages or backgrounds that aren’t represented, policies simply aren’t made with their needs and experiences in mind.

I began to dig into the statistics and learned that women are only 23% of politicians, receive only 2% of venture funding and 5% of bank funding, are only 25% of small business owners, 5% of fortune 500 CEOs etc, etc, etc. 

So, at The Haven we have the modest goal of helping Central Oregon become the first metro area in America to reach gender parity across leadership, politics, entrepreneurship and business ownership and to dramatically increase representation of other underserved groups.

I’ll also note that I have become increasingly aware and concerned about the state of men in 2019. One of our Board Members, Moe Carrick, has spent significant time thinking about this, so I’ll leave you with her words and the knowledge that The Haven wants to be a place where both women and men come together to solve the tough challenges facing both genders, as well as people who identify as non-binary. We are lucky to have my husband Scott and other amazing men as partners in this work.

My best,
Carrie Douglass

p.s. Read The Haven Birth Story, Part 2 here

Leave a comment