We are so thrilled to bring you the story of this book project entitled “US.” It’s a collection of immigration stories from the B Corp network here in Portland, and an incredible testament to the diversity of backgrounds, entrepreneurial spirit, and tenacity of the people highlighted. This was a collaboration in just about every way, which makes it all the more special. Funding for the book came in part by the Scout Books Equity Alliance, design from Visible Alliance, incredible support and funding from The Joinery, and of course the work and cooperation of everyone featured in the books. We’re proud to share this book and talk to Kelsey Moody of The Joinery, who is one of the volunteers who helped make this happen. Don’t miss The Joinery’s post on the event that launched the books!
Can you tell us about the US books? What are the origins of this project?
This project started out from a discussion between a few local B Corp business owners during the challenging and divisive times of early 2017. They were talking about how their like-minded businesses could come together and stand up for their core values. This led to the forming of a group of representatives from several B Corp businesses who were tasked with coming up with a way to show support to our local immigrant community. Of the many ideas that were discussed, we felt like something tangible would be an impactful statement, if we could make it happen. The group worked to gather stories, resources, and services to make the US Book come to life, which then culminated in a celebration that took place almost exactly a year after our first meeting as a group. We partnered with Visible Alliance for editing and design work, and Scout Books for printing. The stories are from people who work at Portland area B Corp businesses from all over the world and who were willing to be vulnerable and share their personal experiences. The book itself is intended to be used as a guided small group discussion. The idea being to read the book, and then discuss the included questions with a group of colleagues, neighbors, or friends. The questions focus on how we can look at our implicit biases and re-examine the assumptions we make about people who have different cultural backgrounds than we do. It also guides you toward imagining how you might be able to best support this community by helping them feel welcome while honoring where they come from.
How are the books being used?
The books were used to facilitate discussions at both BLD PNW 2018 and the B Corp Champions Retreat 2018. Several businesses have used them to host discussions with their employees. I would love to see it used more often as a tool for having discussions around EDI in the workplace and beyond.
What was it like pulling all these stories together into a book?
Extremely powerful. I had the pleasure of getting to interview two of my colleagues who’s stories were so much more than I thought I already knew. One of the most impactful parts of this initiative was the experience of the interview itself for both the interviewer and interviewee. We tried as much as possible to set up the interviews with co-workers or friends. Partially so the interviewee was more comfortable, but also to provide an added opportunity for these folks to connect with one another. I can certainly say that having the opportunity to learn so much about the stories shared by my co-workers deepened my commitment to this project even further.
How might other communities, businesses, or organizations use this as inspiration for their own projects?
When we said we were going to create a book, I thought it was a crazy idea. All of us barely knew each other and were committing to doing the work in addition to our full time jobs. Beyond the power of the content of this book, I learned that people can accomplish a whole lot if you put in the work and have the passion to make it happen. It also showed me what an amazing community of B Corp enthusiasts we have here in Portland. I would say, if you want to do something that has a positive impact on your community, take it one step at a time and don’t be afraid to access the talents of your those who share your passion.
Are there any resources or examples of other projects that highlight the value of immigrants and other historically underrepresented groups that you’d like to recommend?
My People’s Market isn’t exactly a project, but an amazing group of businesses owned by POC. They have public markets, pop up shops, and other events to lift up businesses of those who are historically underrepresented. Also, the nonprofit beneficiary of the US Book project, Oregon Healthcare Interpreter’s Association (OHCIA), is an amazing organization working to bring both access to healthcare for non-native English speakers, and living wage jobs to immigrants, refugees, and asylees.
Huge thanks to Kelsey Moody for taking the time to talk about these books! If you’d like to purchase one for yourself or your organization, The Joinery has them available for sale. If you’re curious about the B Corp community that helped make this possible, check out B Local PDX, which is a non-profit dedicated to helping Portland-based B Corps grow and connect, and join us for a B Learning Lunch!