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Community Highlights: Meet Christiane Maertens of DoGoodery

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christiane Maertens.

Hi Christiane, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
When I look back at the path leading to the founding of DoGoodery, so much of it now seems inevitable. But a lot had to go right to get here. We are a consulting agency working with partners who have an authentic commitment to doing good, born out of my passion for creating impactful social and environmental programs. I can easily trace back through my career: seven years with The Walt Disney Company, leading the design of its first corporate social responsibility portfolio; my tenure as the Deputy Director of the North American Association for Environmental Education, building a professional team that leads one of the largest and most diverse environmental education networks in the world. But most often, I think about working in my family’s pupuseria as a kid.

I started working at the pupuseria when I was nine years old. My parents immigrated from El Salvador and Germany and really emphasized independence and work ethic to a fault. I loved the camaraderie of a restaurant and that’s where I really started to fall in love with the power of people coming together to deliver goodness. The pupuseria was my first glimpse that my sweat equity could result in something tangible. It proved to me that not only could I make things happen, I wanted to. Driven by my pursuit for teenage independence, I began working as a gas station attendant. My boss was perceptive and saw that I was ambitious to learn and do more, so he started teaching me to change oil, swap alternators, and all kinds of other things that needed to be done. I learned so much from that job, the most important being: that people will give you more trust and responsibility if you show them you’re up for it, and that being a woman who operates outside of traditional gender roles has its challenges.

Through college and the following years, I had a timeshare sales job, internships in Washington DC, and moved up little by little to manage regional Fortune 100 contracts for T-Mobile. Then, I learned about a dream job opportunity through a mutual friend, which led to my next big lesson: our network, our privileges, and simple coincidence are just as important in our career trajectory as our effort. Careers are rarely linear. The idea that you can “just” work hard and you’ll get promoted and you’ll eventually be the CEO isn’t true for the vast majority of people. I believe we need to be more honest about how many foot-in-the-door opportunities we get through forces beyond our control and that not everyone has the same forces in their lives.

That dream opportunity was in environmental youth programs at The Walt Disney Company, which spoke to my lifelong passion for environmental activism and my experience working in government relations. I spent a challenging and fulfilling seven years at Disney reenvisioning and expanding their environmental and STEM education programs, and am so grateful for the people who supported me during that time – many of whom I still get to work with today.

After Disney, I moved on to the nonprofit world as Deputy Director of North American Association for Environmental Education. There, I reshaped the struggling nonprofit into a thriving leader in the environmental education field, with educators and affiliate organizations in more than 30 countries. In helping mission-driven organizations professionalize their strategy, I saw that the field had the potential to attract far more funding than we’d previously imagined. Working alongside that incredible array of organizations influenced my next steps. In the process of championing environmental education initiatives in both the nonprofit and business space, I realized that there was an opportunity to scale my ‘dogoodery’ – to empower a network of ‘DoGooders’ across sectors, systems, and social impact areas.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The biggest challenge I faced in founding DoGoodery is that we’re defining a new space. Of course, corporate social responsibility has been around for decades, but it’s been more of a tactic rather than a purposefully defined strategy. More and more, as a country and as a world, we’re saying that isn’t enough and businesses are rising to the call. Similarly, organizations that are already dedicated to a social cause often benefit from outside perspectives and evaluation. They want to ensure that what they’re doing is working, is founded in an evidence-based approach, and that they are effectively telling the story of the work being done. Of course, there are many consultancies that support some of these activities, but we do it all.

Wherever you are in the process: trying to figure out what your social role may be, executing that role, evaluating its efficacy, or telling your story – we can help! But the catch is, you have to show up for the impact, not just the soundbite. That, in and of itself, is a radical approach.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
At DoGoodery, we ideate, create and execute initiatives to improve lives and reduce inequity with empathy, joyful collaboration, and a research-based approach. We’re a team of nimble creatives with extensive expertise across sustainability, education, youth development, social justice, civic engagement, and diversity, equity and inclusion. We work across sectors, supporting business, nonprofits, academia, and government to define the impact they want to have in the world, develop the programs to enact that change and tell their story. We help turn big ideas into a better reality.

Some of our projects include creating free learning and engagement materials for teachers and parents across the country in partnership with Amazon Studios, executing a statewide competition across CA schools as students innovate solutions for water conservation with the California Water Service, and working on implementing effective Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion practices with USC. We’re also currently expanding our Sustainable Experiences & Events teams, recognizing that there is a more thoughtful way to imagine gatherings like conferences, summits, and fundraisers.

That’s Dogoodery’s work… MY work I would describe as getting smart people in the same room, people with passion and drive. I now have this whole network, this collection of interesting, risk-taking, big-picture people, and being able to set them free to work on exciting initiatives is amazing. I also get the honor of representing DoGoodery and our clients to the media through speaking engagements, hosting panels and workshops, and MCing events like the Nobel Prize Summit (I know… I know… a bit of a name drop but it was such an honor!).

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Play is always top of mind! It’s easy to feel pessimistic about a lot of things right now, so we are constantly trying to infuse humor and laughter and joy into our days. One of the things that set DoGoodery apart is that energy coming through in our work. Not everything has to be about “the grind” and “the hustle.” I encourage my team to make their work one enjoyable facet of a fulfilling personal and professional life, and I try to model that in my own.

I also value a healthy mix of confidence and humility. When I was young, my dad told me to focus on my own work and not worry about what others were doing. That has been great advice to keep close over the years. I know I’m good at my job, and I know that there’s still tons more to learn – which becomes an exciting prospect when you’re able to remove your ego and enjoy the process.

I have been privileged to get to do work I care about, have the resources to learn things I don’t yet know how to do, and have had mentors and cheerleaders in my life who have supported me through the hard parts. I’m grateful now to get to pass that along to my team and to our clients.

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Image Credits:

Ilene Squires Photography

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