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Changing lives for the better

After working on economic development projects in the public sector and doing a fellowship at Generation, Joe felt inspired to start his own non-profit supporting LGBTQ+ kids in rural United States.
Headshot of Joe wearing white shirt
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My impact on economic development

Having growing up in a rural Rust Belt town, I have always been interested in economic development. How do we improve the quality of public schooling and increase access to meaningful, well-paying jobs?

Through the Public and Social Sector practice at McKinsey, I’ve worked on these topics. On one engagement, I helped a major North American city develop a 50-year education strategy. On another, I helped public and private players think through how to reskill their employees for a changing labor market. Throughout my time at the firm, I’ve worked on topics that mattered to me personally and helped make a difference for my clients—mostly state and local governments, NGOs, and private companies.

After more than a dozen client engagements, I wanted to try a more operational role. I took a firm-funded fellowship at Generation, a nonprofit McKinsey founded that gives young people skills and training to start fulfilling careers. Generation is the world’s largest education-to-employment organization and operates in more than a dozen countries. As a fellow, I developed a framework to help Generation think through the kinds of impact the organization wanted to have on its students, employer partners, and society at large. Using this framework, we developed an approach to measure where the program was excelling and where it could be improved.

Joe holding Hope in a Box while wearing a mask
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Inspired my non-profit

My fellowship with Generation inspired me to work full-time on my own nonprofit, Hope in a Box. Originally, I started Hope in a Box as a side project when I was a business analyst. The goal was to help rural educators ensure every student feels safe, welcome, and included at school, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. At Hope in a Box, we provide curated boxes of books featuring LGBTQ+ characters, detailed curriculum for these books, and professional development and coaching for educators on how to cultivate an inclusive classroom. We believe that through literature, educators can fight stereotypes and cultivate empathy. I started the organization based on my own difficult experience growing up gay in a rural town—and knowing how much even one book with one gay character would have meant to me as a kid.

Our work at Hope in a Box is even more important this fall: during COVID-19, many LGBTQ+ youth have been separated from their support networks and confined to homes where they don’t feel accepted. When students return to school—whether in person or online—they deserve to feel safe, welcome, and included.

Colleagues supporting my entrepreneurial spirit

McKinsey supported this effort by letting me take leave from the firm and rapidly scale my organization. As of fall 2020, we are supporting 300 schools in all 50 states, up from 30 schools in last year’s pilot program. More broadly, my McKinsey training gave me the confidence and work ethic I needed to turn an idea into a national program. Many of my McKinsey colleagues have also lent time and expertise to help me grow Hope in a Box. Now, our team is hard at work to bring Hope in a Box to all 7,000 rural school districts in the United States.

Pro-bono work at McKinsey

One of my favorite things about McKinsey is its commitment to pro-bono work. The New York office in particular is deeply engaged with the local community and often sponsors engagements for nonprofit and community-based organizations. One of my own favorite engagements was a pro-bono project for Lincoln Center, the iconic New York performing arts institution. We helped their team use analytics to identify and create programming that would attract and retain Millennial audiences and the collaboration was ultimately highlighted at SXSW. One year later, I was thrilled to start seeing themes from our collaboration reflected in the Lincoln Center’s new season. These opportunities exemplify what I like the most about the firm: cutting edge ideas, analytics, and strategies used to benefit local communities.

About me

I love to cook. One of the small silver linings of the pandemic is that I can cook almost every day of the week. When I was working in the office or at client sites, it could be challenging to cook during the week; it was hard to balance with travel and a long work day. Now, I have flexibility to block out time to cook and try more elaborate recipes that require being in and out of the kitchen throughout the day. My latest experiment was lamb tagine, a North African stew that cooks over the course of an entire day.

I graduated from Yale University, where I studied terrorism, insurgency, and civil conflict with a focus on South Asia. I graduated with honors and distinction in my major and was elected student body president.

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