The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan residents by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. We interviewed Ashley Keimach, a Policy Circle Leader, to learn more about her role at the state think tank.
What do you do at Mackinac Center for Public Policy and what do your day-to-day activities look like?
At the Mackinac Center my formal title is Regional Director of Strategic Partnerships. I like to boil that title down into three elements: Storytelling, Finding Solutions, and Making motivating connections. In short, I utilize the power of relationships and storytelling to help people that want to make a change in their communities find free-market solutions. I work primarily with our partners in South East Michigan and am constantly looking for new approaches to raising money that is mutually beneficial for both parties involved.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
The biggest challenge I face in my role is the tendency I have in looking at my work with tunnel vision. Raising money requires a challenging balance between meeting a monetary goal and cultivating meaningful and authentic relationships. It is always tempting to focus solely on the year end fundraising goal; however, in the long term this is not only inefficient, it is also destructive to the delicate relationship between a fundraiser and “donor”. I have found that the best way to combat this is to remind myself of this tendency and to resolve not to view the person I am working with as a “donor”; rather, I view them as a community changer with passions, interests, and ideas. By doing this I allow myself room to make genuine connections and it puts me in the position as serving them rather than them serving me and the organization I work for.
How has your background informed your current role?
In college I studied Linguistics with an emphasis in Socio-linguistics (the social implications and history of language). When I first made the decision to switch career paths into fundraising I thought I had no connection to make with my background and my new role. This idea was quickly eradicated after my first meeting with one of our partners. I now realize that by studying language I was able to effectively tell a story, get my ideas across, listen for clues of interests, and ask meaningful questions. All of these traits are critical for a successful fundraiser and I would not be able to do my job well if it were not for my background in Linguistics.
Can you think of an example where civic engagement led to a change in public policy?
Due to my line of work, when I think of civic engagement I think of ordinary people coming together and using their resources for a cause. The first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about how this has impacted public policy was the fight in making Michigan a Right-to-Work state. It was deemed impossible and the idea that an organization would try the impossible was laughable. It was long and it was hard but through the amazing support of your average citizen deciding to make a difference, The Mackinac Center and other partnering organizations was able to make the change. While on the surface it seems like the bulk of the work was at the hands of organizations, it was really the behind the scenes people that made it possible. It was the business owner, the grandmother, and the teacher that made it possible. This is what renewed my view of the power in civic engagement.
What’s the best thing about being a Circle Leader?
For me, the best part about being a Circle Leader is being able to bring people together. From as far back as I can remember I have always had a deep interest in bringing people from varying backgrounds together to talk and share opinions. Finding this organization has given me the platform I needed to do so.
What do you think is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a Circle Leader?
The most important lesson I’ve learned since being a Circle Leader is that a healthy and well-rounded dialogue can only be had with people who have varying views on a particular issue. Initially when starting my circle I wanted to invite people who completely agreed with me on every issue. I quickly realized though that by doing so I was doing a disservice to the members in my circle. While most of the women in my circle hold true to free-market ideals, I made sure to purposefully invite women who see the validity in the free-market perspective but might have different ideas on its role in policy. I have found that by doing this each woman in the circle is challenged and a rich conversation is thus birthed.
What was your first job?
I got my first job back when I was 16 years old. I was a cashier at Chick-Fil-A and I loved every moment of it!
What or who were your major influences as a young person?
I had two major influences in my life when I was younger. The first major influence was my mother. I have still yet to find a more encouraging, strong, and resilient person than her. My second major influence as a child was Frederick Douglass. I first came across his writings in high school and was so encouraged by his story that I decided to study language in college. Frederick Douglass had such a way with words and stories that I resolved to use my words and stories to impact change just as he did.
What does your morning routine look like?
My morning routine is wildly different everyday due to the nature of my work. With that being said, I have found one thing to be constant no matter what my days consist of. Every morning I wake up, drink as much coffee as I can without feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack and then I have quiet time. Some days my quiet time lasts for an hour while other days only a minute. Despite the inconsistency in time, I try my hardest to close my eyes and pray and reflect. I find that by doing so I’m able to recalibrate my mind, desires, heart, passions, and motivations.
Are you reading a book right now? If so, what is it and why did you choose it?
Currently I am reading The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. The reason why I decided to read this is because I am on a journey of enhancing my storytelling abilities and I believe the best way to sharpen my skills is to bury myself in stories. That mixed with my husband constantly trying to get me to read science fiction is what caused me to choose this book.
What’s a food you can’t live without?
I could never possibly be expected to live in a world without spicy food. My original answer to this question was going to be Mexican food but after moving to Michigan I realized my options were slim. Disappointed at first, this cessation of quality Mexican food has helped me identify what it is about Mexican food that I love the best: Spicy umami flavor! If loving spicy food is wrong, I don’t want to be right!
What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you? (ending question for profiles)
The best way for people to contact me is through my personal email firstname.lastname@example.org or through my LinkedIn account which can be found by typing in my first and last name.