Paul is the Founder of Coeffect, a consulting firm helping nonprofits to leverage data more effectively.
Paul joined the SVP Denver Board in June 2022.
One of your roles is serving as the facilitator of our Theory of Change cohort. What have been some of the highlights?
I love seeing the wide range of nonprofits that are doing interesting work in the Denver area. So far, we’ve worked with over 45 different social mission organizations through the Theory of Change cohort. And these nonprofits are very grassroots – with 1, 2, 5, maybe 10 team members. Seeing so many people working on so many different causes in this very small, entrepreneurial environment has been really neat.
One of the organizations that stood out to me was the Redemption Road Fitness Foundation. They have introduced a fitness and life skills program leveraging Crossfit and goal-setting to help folks transition out of the criminal justice system. One of their team members who had been incarcerated stood up and did the equivalent of a TEDx talk about their organization and their intended impact. We knew he was a really talented individual, but to see that level of articulating what Redemption Road is about – hitting both the logic and the emotion – just blew me away.
This is one of the strengths of our cohorts – providing space for the talent that exists in grassroots, nonprofit organizations to shine through. It’s been really cool to see the amount of talent that sits in our nonprofit sector – the number of people who are willing to invest their lives into some kind of community impact.
What role do you play in the community where you feel you make the biggest impact?
I’ve really tried to orient my career to working with organizations that are doing very impactful work.
In my work, I appreciate how I get to be in relationships where someone is learning how to collect data, how to understand their impact, and how to create learning loops within their team. And I have the privilege of working with a lot of folks who are just getting established and need a little bit of guidance – a little bit of foundational knowledge to help them move forward.
So, I think that I have the most impact when I get to teach somebody who’s willing to engage in that process. I’ve been on that journey myself – data skills were not something that I was taught in school or grew up around. It’s something I’ve had to learn on the job. So, it’s fun for me to shortcut that learning journey for folks and then to see them really apply it. And I’ve seen folks make their teams stronger by being able to apply basic principles of data, learning and evaluation.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received, and did you listen?
There’s an interesting piece of advice around friendship that I got from one of my uncles when I was high school. He said, “You’ll count on probably two hands the number of friends you’ll have for your entire life. There’s going to be a lot of people in your life, but those long-term friendships are pretty rare and pretty special.”
As a kid, it’s hard to internalize that, but I think I’m getting to the point in my life where I appreciate this advice more – especially in a world where it’s really easy to have a lot of surface level relationships. I’ve always been a person who values relationships and I seek those that actually have some substance – those that are deep – and I also know those are pretty rare.
You can have a fulfilling work life, but if you don’t have some strong friendships, you are not going to enjoy your work fully and you’re not going to have what you need personally.
Within the landscape of the arts, what arena do you most gravitate towards?
I’ve always gravitated to music. Something that a lot of folks don’t know is that I was a music student in college. I went to Arizona State University on a music scholarship. In a roundabout way, that was how I met my wife. We, as music students, were required to be in marching band, and I met my wife through the band at Arizona State.
I ended up transitioning out of that because I couldn’t see a career path for myself as a music teacher and nor as a performer. But I’ve always appreciated and been drawn to the unspoken emotion that music brings out.
Music helps you quickly tap into a feeling that is real and visceral. I think a lot of us spend most of our time in our head and in our thinking brain. Music is a quick way to get to your feeling and emotive brain. I appreciate finding a good album of almost any genre and listening for the artist’s intent as they take you on an emotional journey.
So, what was your instrument?
I was a trombone player. I think there are a lot of trombone players that get into organizational development roles because trombonists are not soloists. You can’t just cut it on your own…nobody wants to hear that. You are oriented to being in a team game from fifth grade when you start.
I think this has actually served me well and has influenced my work and my life. It’s about creating that team environment where everybody’s working well together.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience with SVP Denver?
I’m hopeful with where SVP Denver is going, and likewise, just where Denver as a community is evolving. I think that there are a lot of people who want to be engaged in their community.
There are also a lot of things that encourage us to stay inward – to not be in relationship with other people. So, there’s a great potential and a great challenge. But, Denver’s a place where a lot of interesting work is happening, and we get to see that in SVP Denver every day.
It makes me hopeful that, in terms of being the kind of community that is creating great social and environmental conditions for every person that lives here, I feel like we’re going in the right direction. I think that SVP Denver can be an important part of that.