Companis Worker, Tracy Flynn; The IF Project’s Director of Programs, Dr. Felisa Bryant; and Companis Executive Director, Gary Davis.
“If there was something someone could have said or done to change the path that led you here, what would it have been?”
That’s the question that launched The IF Project, a nonprofit that’s built on a model of collaboration between law enforcement and incarcerated individuals to help people in prison and at-risk youth take a more positive path. “IF” began with a visit by Seattle Police Department (SPD) Detective Kim Bogucki to the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) in Purdy, WA. Kim was working with Girl Scouts Beyond Bars and wanted to explain to the Scouts’ incarcerated mothers why a police officer was meeting with their children, and to help put them at ease. On her initial visit, she asked the “IF” question. Then one of the mothers, Renata Abramson, asked others at WCCW to write their responses to the question. A few weeks later when Kim returned, Renata handed Kim 25 essays! And so began the powerful IF Project writers series.
The IF Project is now its own stand alone 501c3, established in 2017. It’s grown to include a number of programs including ones focused on youth and community outreach, personal reentry, and health & wellness.
Dr. Felisa Bryant is The IF Project’s Director of Programs. Dr. Bryant lights up when she goes through the list of initiatives that the organization is currently offering, including its most recent program in conjunction with the SPD called Before the Badge. It’s a five-week course for police recruits that connects them to people in the community who tell their stories which, says Dr. Bryant, exposes them to a variety of perceptions about the police. Ultimately, it helps build bridges. “We also started attending the recruits’ graduations, so it’s no longer us versus them. We can actually see each other as humans and bring humanity into the situation.”
Dr. Bryant’s job is a big one with a lot of moving parts. The nonprofit is also coming out of the COVID quarantine which pushed a lot of their programs online and put others on pause. Now they are in a position to grow. “That prompted the board to say, ‘let’s build some supports,’” says Tracy Flynn, the Companis Worker who is currently partnering with Dr. Bryant as her executive coach. Tracy has been a private consultant for about 16 years working with organizations mostly around leadership development and program development and implementation. “Dr. Bryant is the expert in her own life, in her own vision, and in her own picture of what she wants,” says Tracy. “I serve as a sounding board and thought partner – someone who has a bit of a balcony view who can offer some feedback and connect her to some resources and community leaders.”
“Tracy and I have a good relationship,” says Dr. Bryant. “We both went into this with an open mind, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised!”
Tracy says she wanted to volunteer through Companis but needed to be careful how much she could commit to. “I really appreciated the clarity involved when Jennifer (Jennifer Wing, Associate Executive Director of Programs with Companis) came forward with this opportunity and helped me work out what I could do and the time I could give.”
Tracy says she also enjoys the monthly meetings with other Companis Workers and the other Worker support opportunities that Companis offers. “I like that Companis is building communities of support, and their values-based beliefs around the goodness of people. That’s exciting to me.”
Dr. Bryant, in turn, is grateful for Tracy’s counsel and compassion. “If every leader could have a support like this,” she says, “I think it would stop a lot of burnout.”
Dr. Bryant is our guest speaker at this year’s Showcase, Companis’ annual fundraiser. The October 19th event will be in-person at Town Hall Seattle, as well as online. Click here for more information and to RSVP.