FUSE Fellows at CGI America: A Unique Opportunity
By: Alex Castillo & Eric Steiner
July 20, 2016
The FUSE fellowship is known for being an opportunity to have local impact, but what is less known are the ways that our strategic projects can have national reach. Through a collaboration with the Clinton Global Initiative, a selection of FUSE Fellows were recently invited to participate in CGI America, an annual gathering of leaders in business, philanthropy, government, and nonprofits to “develop solutions that encourage continued economic growth, support long-term competitiveness, and increase social mobility in the United States.” CGI is known for turning ideas into action, which happens to be a central tenet of our fellowship. Participating in CGI America was an opportunity too good to pass up.
Cross-sector collaboration can seem like a vague term, but the reality is it is happening all across the nation. That was immediately apparent from the lineup of speakers and attendees at the conference, representing public and private sector leaders working together to develop new, specific and measurable solutions called Commitments to Action. To be considered a peer or even a contributor in this group was an honor and also validated each of our decisions to transition our careers to do this important work.
It can sometimes feel as though our work in our cities is being done in a vacuum. At CGI America, we learned that our efforts to support the immigrant communities of Los Angeles, whether from the perspective of an entrepreneur or a naturalizing citizen, are also happening in similar ways in communities across the country.
We returned from CGI America having built valuable connections with individuals and organizations that can immediately support our host agencies in their efforts to support immigrants. Thanks to a CGI commitment, immigrant entrepreneurs seeking support from the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs will soon be able to utilize a free, language-accessible online business plan creator called DreamBuilder, developed by the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation and the Thunderbird School of Global Management. And Los Angeles Public Library patrons will be able to access programming in the future from partnerships with Sesame Street’s Sesame Workshop and Barbershop Books, two renowned programs aimed at fostering early literacy among diverse communities.
At this point in our fellowships, we are looking back, reflecting on the progress we have made to date and how to ensure it is sustained. We are also looking ahead, at how we can broaden our impact in the communities we serve. Attending CGI America as a FUSE Fellow was a perfect representation of the “win-win” that is the FUSE fellowship. When developing partnerships, we look for “win-win” opportunities, those that are beneficial to both partners and thus likely to be successful. The winners of the FUSE fellowship are the communities we serve and the Fellows themselves. We are moving the needle on some of our city’s most pressing challenges while developing ourselves as civic innovation professionals.
The United States is known for its innovation economy, and America’s cities are the engines of that economy. We are proud of the work we have been able to accomplish thus far in the great City of Los Angeles to support immigrants, represent their diverse perspectives, and address their unique needs as entrepreneurs and naturalizing citizens. We look forward to seeing what is next.
Alex Castillo is a FUSE Fellow at the Los Angeles Public Library, working to promote programs that provide pathways to citizenship at the Library’s 73 branches. Alex is a brand management and development executive with significant experience in global consumer products and filmed entertainment. He previously worked for Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and Kraft Foods with leading global brands including Pantene, Gatorade, Gillette and Kraft Cheese. In 2002, he founded Castle2000 Films with the mission to produce groundbreaking films that entertain, inspire and promote social and cultural diversity. Alex received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Eric Steiner is a FUSE Fellow at the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, working to help ensure that immigrant entrepreneurs and small business owners have access to the tools they need to successfully integrate into the Los Angeles business community. Eric has more than a decade of experience in international community development and public service, including service in the Peace Corps in Ecuador and working at the United Nation’s Capital Development Fund. Eric also has significant local government experience, serving at the New York City Office of Emergency Management as well as the New York City Housing Authority. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology from Miami University of Ohio and Masters of Urban Planning from New York University.