Voices from the Sector: An Interview with Cheryl Contee, Chief Innovation Officer, The Impact Seat


Recorded on March 12, 2021, Makiyah Moody, Senior Manager, chats with Cheryl Contee, Chief Innovation Officer, The Impact Seat, about the power of technology in change-making organizations, the urgency of this moment, and the experience of a being a Black female entrepreneur.

 01:08 Can you tell us a little bit about Do Big Things and the problems you are trying to solve there as well as the work you do at The Impact Seat?

04:04 Can you talk a little bit about how technology plays a role in the impact that these change-making organizations are able to have?

  • Bringing people together for a united movement. Rapidly, real time, in a powerful way, at scale.

06:22 You mentioned meeting people at scale and the power of technology, but can you go down one more level related to the role of technology in combating the attacks we’ve seen on Democracy within the last year?

  • Some people are more vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation than others and the internet has certainly facilitated that. Social platforms can do more to take responsibility for the impact that they have.
  • The more they try to stop us, the harder we will come.
  • Trying to take away our voice and our vote – we will only come harder and louder.

10:52 How are Do Big Things and Impact Seat meeting the urgency of this moment and has anything changed since the pandemic started?

  • I was always keen with my team to build a 21st century company. The way that we work did not change at all, for the most part our work continued the way it was before.
  • Democracy is at the forefront for may of the groups for whom we work with. Climate change and environmental justice. Gun safety continues to be a concern for us. Economic recovery and empowerment. Keen to ensure that equity mean that everyone has a fair shot and what they need to be successful as we move forward into the 21st

14:42 Tell listeners about your experience starting a company as a black woman and advice you have for other black women who might aspire to be entrepreneurs or want to navigate in some of those spaces.

  • We’re all driving towards the same destination: freedom.
  • It’s important for black and brown people to consider entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship feels like its risky. Big risk, big reward. But also, entrepreneurship now is easier than ever, and the startup costs are lower than they have ever been. When you see a gap, a problem, you can be a part of creating that solution; of creating something new.
  • You can fail up.
  • If you believe in yourself, you will find others that believe in you.
  • I am living proof and I wrote a book about it. Amazon Bestseller, Mechanical Bull, I wrote this book because it’s the book I wish I had when starting out.
  • We need to make sure that progressive economic solutions are tied to progressive political solutions. That is how we actually completely change this landscape.

When logic leaves the room, you know that racism and/or sexism has entered. We all benefit when that world is gone.

24:45 Is America possible?

  • The world my grandmother grew up in – I don’t even know if she would recognize this current world.
  • Winston Churchill said something along the lines of Americans will get it wrong every time until they get it right. And I believe him.

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