Esther Akinrinlola is a change management consultant at Deloitte. She also sits on the Board of Directors at SKETCH. Jackie Black, SKETCH’s Resource Development Administrator, sits down with Esther to chat about her community involvement and what motivates her to stay engaged.
Jackie: Before we get into talking about SKETCH, do you mind introducing yourself and letting us know a little bit about your life.
Esther: My name is Esther, and as a profession, I’m a change management consultant at Deloitte. What I do is help organizations meet their business objectives by managing the people side of changes associated with processes, systems, technology, organization structures and culture to increase employee adoption and usage.
Outside of work, I’m actively involved in community initiatives and I’m very big on community. As an example, I support SKETCH as a member of the board. Outside of SKETCH, I manage the Nigerian Canadian HR Community (NCHRC) – a group of over 200 people set up by me and a couple of my friends to help HR professionals who immigrated from Nigeria to Canada with up-skilling, integration, community and value creation.
In addition, I’m also a Pastor’s wife. My husband’s a youth pastor, and we’re actively involved in the youth ministry in our church and in our community. Our desire is to help youths to build key skill sets – core skills they need to transition through life whether its leadership skills, or financial skills or social skills etc.
Outside of these, I love to cook, travel and watch cartoons. So that’s kind of me in a nutshell.
Jackie: I can’t believe you have time for cooking and cartoons following everything you just mentioned. It seems like youth skill and capacity building is something that you actively choose to involve yourself in.
Esther: Yes, it seems that way. As I think about it also, even change management is about up-skilling and capacity building. On the other hand, while community building is about giving back, it’s also about connecting people with the things they need in order to do what they need to do.
Jackie: That’s a great parallel. And so amongst many other things, you’re not only a SKETCH donor, but you’re also a board member. Before getting into that, do you mind talking about how you first found out about SKETCH?
Esther: A few years ago, I put up my hand to lead an Impact Day project at Deloitte – which is a project where professionals, in addition to donating money to the organizations we support, provide pro bono professional services to not-for-profit organizations like SKETCH. I remember hearing about this program and wanting to be involved, and I said “OK, how can I help?”
I was told about SKETCH, who at that time needed to build a marketing plan that would help them in the next year. This happened in October 2018, and I remember thinking to myself “oh, that sounds interesting and like something I could do”. In my former role at PwC, I did a lot of strategic planning, so it was right up my alley.
I was asked to lead this project and I remember showing up at Sketch on this fateful day with an awesome team of consultants and we spent the day brainstorming on communication principles, marketing strategies, customer strategies and how SKETCH could convert that strategy into an action plan that could be realized fairly quickly. The end goal was to help SKETCH answer the question, how do we operationalize this in the most efficient way?
And I remember before I left there that day, Rudy asked to speak with me privately. She was impressed with the way I articulated myself and told me about an open position on the board, and on the spot asked if I would be interested in joining SKETCH?
It happened really quickly lol. It went from me offering to help, to getting an offer to join the board. And because I loved my first impression of SKETCH, I loved the vibe and how close knit everyone looked. So it was a quick yes.
Jackie: My next question was about what made you decide to deepen your engagement with SKETCH after your initial introduction, but it seems like it all happened pretty quickly.
Esther: SKETCH resonated with me in terms of the things that I like to support. It’s helping, it’s giving back, it’s community. So it was a no brainer. Once I understood what SKETCH was about, I thought to myself “yes, for sure.” I wanted to support them. The rest is history, but that’s kind of how it all started.
Jackie: Right, okay. So since getting involved with SKETCH from a marketing standpoint, what does your role look like now?
Esther: The role I play at SKETCH is being part of the board and we drive strategy and direction which helps to steer the organization to drive and deliver value to the community in an advisory capacity.
Specifically, for me in addition to advisory support, I am also involved in the implementation of some initiatives to support how we drive and derive value and how we are tracking the value we’re creating. In 2021, I plan to increase my participation to be more involved in some of our projects in some operational capacity depending on the need.
Jackie: That’s great. And as you mentioned, SKETCH is only one of the causes you support. I was wondering at what point in your life did you get into philanthropy? Was it a conscious decision or was it something that you’ve always been involved in?
Esther: You know, I don’t remember at what point I got involved in philanthropy. I think what happened was I was born into it because I picked up what I saw growing up. My parents have always been big community people. My mom is that person who is big on helping widows and making sure that people who don’t have access to education get it.
For context, my parents have four kids, but at every point in time we always had no less than ten kids in the house because my parents were always taking on people to help. My dad’s a pastor, and that comes with also being responsible for people. So I guess it was just something that I saw growing up, and it became a way of life because I didn’t know any different.
Then it started to grow in a more structured way. My parents set up a foundation that helps people from all walks of life, especially widows and children who need access to education.
The short answer to your question is that I never thought “Ok, this is something I want to do.” It’s just something I was born into and it’s been a way of life ever since. I feel like I always find myself in situations like this, from when I was growing up to then when I met my husband.
Jackie: It’s interesting to hear you speak about your professional work and your community work because they really bleed into one another, especially when you talk about making processes smoother and more efficient. So amongst all of this, what motivates you to stay involved?
Esther: I never thought about why I do what I do. I just think about what’s around me that needs fixing and how I can fix it.
I’ll give an example. I stay in Durham region, and I set up this WhatsApp group to give people access to a community of support – and that support could be as mundane as “Where do I buy tomatoes” or as big as “How can I find a job?”
So for me it’s just making sure that people have a support network in whatever capacity they require. So maybe that’s my motivation. I may not have the answers, I may not be able to fix it, but I want to put people in the right direction and connect them with the right people to make sure they get the information or support they need. And I learn in the process too.
Jackie: So you do so much work with SKETCH around building our systems for marketing and donor retention, but what do you hope for SKETCH in the future?
Esther: For me, I want SKETCH to keep being able to do what they do best. SKETCH is a great place that’s been around for quite a while and I want it to keep creating value for a lot longer. That value, whether it’s capacity building, giving people a safe space or helping people to reach into themselves to find expression, or helping people with the tools they need to succeed tomorrow is very important for the people we support.
It’s the whole spectrum. And I want to do what I can to make sure that they have the right support. It’s a combination of the right support, the right structure and the right people. We have the right people, we have the right structure, we need the right support. And that support comes in the form of donations – which is getting the resources we need. So we can do what we need to keep doing.
2020 has been an unprecedented year that has taught us that things can change very quickly. But it has also taught us resilience, and to survive against all odds. And that’s what SKETCH stands for. Survival against all odds. That happens as a result of the community that supports us, which we’re forever grateful for. So, to all our supporters, “thank you for all that you do and we look forward to doing more together”.
To those who want to support SKETCH, giving people what they need today while making sure they also get the skills they need to succeed in the long term is the kind of timeless value you’d be a part of when you support SKETCH.
As much as you can see the value today in terms of money, or time or whatever support you give, also think on the timelessness of the value you create. Because after these young people build their skills, what they do is they go and positively impact their family, their friends and their community at large. That has a ripple effect. Today, you may not see the forest through the trees, but think of it as one small step today that will create a long term positive ripple effect tomorrow.
Jackie: I love this emphasis on resilience. And I think if you need a lesson in resiliency all you have to do is look at the young people that SKETCH engages. But to end our discussion, why should someone make a donation to SKETCH?
Esther: Because it’s a good thing to do. I know different people have different reasons why they support causes but using myself as an example it’s using what I have to help my community and people around me. Because truthfully, it comes back. I believe in the principle of whatever you give, you get.
But beyond that, it’s just the fact that in my mind, in the world today, we are blessed with different resources, skills, abilities etc. but that’s because we’re here to compliment each other. When you take some of what you have and you give it to the next person, you’re doing your part. It’s you being a part of the world around you, you being a part of creating value for somebody else. It’s being part of somebody else’s story.
It sounds a bit cliché but it’s true. Think about what SKETCH does as an example, we help youth who are marginalized or experiencing homelessness to find expression and freedom through the arts.When you support SKETCH, you are helping to tackle marginalization and homelessness while also helping people who want to be more skilled in the arts become better versions of themselves. That’s a big deal!
If you think about it that way, you’re a teacher, you’re a rent payer, you’re giving food, you’re helping doors stay open. It may not look that way when you make a donation, but that’s what you’re doing. So beyond giving back, it’s also fixing something. It’s empowering people and in a way tackling the situation that causes marginalization. Your support is helping to fix something.
I would like to invite you to support SKETCH either in-kind or cash. You can partner with us, you can host a fundraising event, you can donate or you can volunteer with us.
In conclusion, we recently rolled out a campaign to help us purchase and secure a legacy space for SKETCH – Project Home. This will help us purchase the space we need to keep delivering on our programs. I invite you to support us by making a donation or buying a community bond for you, your family or your friends. To find out more, please visit www.sketch.ca.