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CSIS Student Spotlight: Daniel Condoluci-Smith and Angel Cancino


Eliza Halpin
May 20, 2020
Alumni Stories, Executive Programs

Daniel Condoluci-Smith and Angel Cancino are two current students in the Executive Program for Social Impact Strategy. While both had been working independently to develop their own non-profit organizations, Daniel had founded Shine Beyond Company and Angel’s organization Higher Self Friendly was in the works, after meeting through the course, they realized the potential for collaboration and they even hosted a virtual retreat together. Learn more about the Executive Program helped them transform their organizations and how COVID-19 has impacted how they’re approaching their ventures.

 

 

Please introduce yourself. What drives you, and what shaped that mission? Can you share a bit about  your organization?

Daniel Condoluci-Smith, Director of Philanthropy for the Delaware Humane Association and Founder of the Shine Beyond Company.

Daniel: I am from Delaware, so just south of Philly. I was born and raised here and I’ve lived here my entire life. I am a graduate of University of Delaware. I think about this question a lot, about what shaped me. I mean, my family was always my mom. In particular, it was always about giving to people and caring about the community. And I didn’t grow up in a rich household by any means, so once I fell into fundraising,  coming from a lower income household, I was just so fascinated by people giving their money and time.  I’ve always cultivated this value of wanting to help people.

My vision for people that started the Shine Beyond Company is about kindness and connecting people. It came from little things that I and my husband had been doing in the community and realizing that kindness is contagious. People would see little things that we did, like at our Christmas party we would ask people to bring gifts for a nonprofit. And they would then go and say, “hey, I had my family do this because I saw you guys do it and it was a really good idea.” I’m fascinated by watching how there’s a tightrope of not being boastful and saying, “Oh, look at me. I did all these great things”, but also sharing kindness, so that it is contagious. Some are fascinated by seeing how it all branches out and how people are connected. So that’s what led to me wanting to do this, just that desire to spread kindness by connecting people and connecting resources together.

I keep going back to that greatest sentence in the world and mine keeps changing constantly. At the core, it continues to be around spreading kindness through connection, so connecting people together and inspiring people through positivity and gratitude. I’m about a year and a half into it, but it still feels very new and young and early. I played around with a blog for a little while and it’s actually been through a combination of COVID-19 and this class that has pushed it forward a lot. I had this mental block with it for a while and I realized that with COVID-19 and the stresses that people were going through, it was the perfect time for people to kind of focus on kindness and the person that they want to be after all of this is done and we go back to whatever the new normal is. Having the inspiration of the class and seeing all the people around me, meeting Angel, and having this huge terrible thing happening in the world around me pushed it forward quite a bit. Twice a week my venture has recharge sessions which are hosted on Zoom and it’s a group of people that typically has somewhere between six and twelve people who sign on, and it’s really just about kind of disconnecting from noise and acting together. We talk about gratitude. We talk about kindness. We’ll do some meditation, things like that. It seems to really be helping people cope with the loss of everything from the past, the life that we all knew while thinking forward.  

Angel Cancino, Outreach Coordinator at the Arizona Center for After School Excellence and Founder of Higher Self Friendly. 

Angel: I’m originally born and raised in Mexico, moved to the US after high school and then I did my undergrad and masters degree here in the US at the University of Texas at El Paso. My background is in communications and advertising. I found through my developing career that I felt I needed to do something more meaningful. So, I started getting involved with nonprofit organizations, utilizing my skill set in communication and advertising and PR background to work and volunteer within the nonprofit sector as well. I moved a lot between jobs, trying to find what I wanted to do.  My most recent move geographically from Texas to Arizona was when I started working with the Alliance for Arizona Nonprofits with the idea that that move was going to help me land a job with a nonprofit that I would fall in love with. After being exposed to the state of Arizona’s 20,000 plus nonprofit organizations while working with the Alliance of Arizona nonprofits that year, I realized that what I really wanted to do was start my own nonprofit organization. I looked at what shaped me and what I really cared about and that came back to just thinking about my own story and in my own story, about personal growth and about spiritual growth. That is how Higher Self Friendly came about, thinking about a population that I could serve. In a way, it’s a little bit selfish because I consider myself as a beneficiary of my own organization because I still want to continue learning and growing. Higher Self Friendly not only helps me help myself but also helps other people.

The Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy has really helped me in thinking through our logic model and because at the beginning of starting my venture, it was just helping people start on their own journey of personal growth or spiritual growth of connection within. My vision is to help those who want to be helped in this area and maybe just help them a little bit to find a little bit more self awareness of who they truly are. And maybe that way they can realize their full potential and live a more fulfilled life.

Higher Self Friendly’s mission is to create community and provide support for LGBTQ+ people and other humans who are seeking to explore a deeper connection within. Through this course I was very happy to learn how to craft that the most important sentence of the world. Our goal is to create a supportive community for our members to develop their individual spirituality by providing a safe space and the various pathways to explore a deeper connection within.

 

How Daniel and Angel began collaborating: 

Daniel: Jointly, our vision of what led us to collaborate together was just realizing that Angel’s venture was centered around connecting within and mine was centered around connecting outwardly and connecting people together. It was a natural vision together of values and journey of connecting within through Angel’s program and then connecting outwardly for mine.

Angel: Yes, I remember that conversation we had. We ended up in one of the same discussion groups and I was commenting a lot about my own nonprofit organization.  I hardly ever had time to read everybody’s comments, but since Daniel started commenting on some of my discussion posts, I started reading about Daniel’s work. And I remember he was talking more about the other job that he currently has with the Humane Society, and then he started telling me how he was interested in the vision for my venture because it was very similar to a venture that he had started a couple years ago. We had this conversation about how I didn’t know much about Daniel’s venture. So I started asking him, all via text message, “tell me more about what made you think this way or want to do this?” When I learned a little bit more about Daniel’s venture, I thought “Wow.” So the vision for my organization is to help people find themselves and be more connected within, and then I learned that in Daniel’s journey, having found himself and having found what his purpose was led him to start helping others like  As a result of finding yourself, you also find what your purpose in life is and and, I agree with Daniel. It was very natural to have both organizations come together, merge with one vision, needing the other vision to create a bigger thing.

Angel: The program has a lot of potential for collaboration, just in general. We can’t do this alone. This is all about social impact, it’s all about collaboration.

 

How did you approach adapting your venture’s mission to COVID- 19?

Angel: It was actually because of COVID- 19 and the relationship with Daniel that I have been developing Higher Self Friendly. Higher Self Friendly was just in the idea phase when I started this course, it didn’t even have a name yet. It was registered as an organization because of COVID-19. When we were talking about what kind of collaboration Daniel and I could potentially have with both of our organizations, I think I even mentioned merging to Daniel. We were like, oh, let’s continue talking about it, let’s continue the conversation. Then one day Daniel said, let’s do a safe home retreat because of COVID-19.  At the beginning that was a little too fast for me. I’m very much in my head, strategizing. And that just made me think, you know, this is the time now to do something, to start something. Because of COVID we started collaborating on this activity. Other activities are in the planning stage. (The retreat) has been the only activity that Higher Self Friendly has been involved with so far because, in my mind, Higher Self Friendly was going to kick off in 2021. Thanks to COVID-19 things just happened for me. 

In terms of scale, I hadn’t thought about Higher Self Friendly  becoming a virtual community as well. I thought that I would look for a physical place where Higher Self Friendly would look like a community space with a community center and a yoga studio, with room for workshops and retreats.  It became its own thing with our virtual retreat that we launched a couple weeks ago. That gave me an idea of thinking maybe this can continue to be a virtual thing, connecting people from all around the world.

Daniel: I had this mental block with it for quite a while. And COVID-19 I thought, this is my time, this is the time to stop thinking about it and do it. I’m immunosuppressed so it was stressful at first because I wanted to be out there helping. I wanted to be one of the people who was out getting groceries for vulnerable populations and delivering but I am a vulnerable population so I started thinking about what I can do that can make a difference in little ways. And I thought that the Shine Beyond Company was kind of a perfect platform to spread kindness through the safety of my own home. And it was the perfect time to launch.  A lot of what I’ve thought about is doing the Shine Beyond Company’s work virtually, so creating virtual communities so that the organization can serve people not just where I live, but anywhere around the globe that it makes sense for somebody to be a part of it. So there’s really no better time to launch a virtual community than COVID 19. In that way, I’m thankful for a global crisis pandemic.

Daniel and Angel’s virtual collaboration during COVID-19

Daniel: One major activity was the partnership with Angel and Higher Self Friendly to host an all-day stay-at-home retreat. It was that journey that we talked about earlier of focus within, connect within and then connect outwardly. The first half of the day was about yoga and being compassionate and then the second half was about gratitude and thinking about connecting together. We had about 17 people consistently throughout the day. Most were on from early in the morning until late at night, which I was kind of shocked about. It was really a good day, very impactful and something that I think we’d like to do again. That’s in the vein of what I’m thinking for the Shine Beyond Company, having retreats, mastermind groups, coaching, just really keep connecting people.

 

Can you articulate some of your processes for making decisions and significant changes to your mission?

Angel: Maybe this is not so much aligned with a business mindset, but everything has been very organic and everything has  come from my heart, whatever resonates, whatever feels right, that’s a decision that I take, that’s a step that I take. And sometimes I do get a lot in my head thinking about it more strategically, but I take a step back and I let my heart guide me because at the end, I think that that’s what’s going to make this venture.

Daniel: For me, involving other people has been huge in my thought process strategically. So before I even had a name for the venture, I hosted several focus groups and just threw ideas out there. I asked people what kindness meant to them, how they spread kindness and how they’re inspired and really tried to see where I could be filling a need. I see it the same way as Angel that I’m as much of a beneficiary of my ventures as my clients are but I never want this to be what Daniel wants it to be. Even on recharges, I’m constantly asking people, what do you want to see. Who do you want me to be bringing in to help inspire you and help you through this pandemic. So I think involving other people is a huge part of my decision making and strategy.

 

How do you or your initiative understand and handle disappointment failure and resilience during this time?  

Daniel: I think it helps me to always remember the values of the organization and how they align with me personally. And I think reminding myself of why I started this to begin with and having faith that it’s going to go where it needs to go. Mindfulness really is how I deal with disappointment and failure.

There are some things that I’ve tried already that really didn’t take. I tried hosting an in-person retreat last year. A lot of people were excited, but ultimately, I had to cancel it, because I wanted to have five or six people signed up. By the time that I was coming up on the cancellation deadline, I had three people. That was a hard decision and I was afraid of what that was going to look like. The first major activity that I did as a venture, I was canceling, and I was afraid that everyone was going to see that as a failure or that I took on more than I could chew. Instead, I learned from it. I’ve reminded myself that not everything is going to be a home run. But things will take shape as they need to. I had actually created the logo for the recharge last summer, because I had this idea of just creating a space where people could sign online and recharge for the week. But I didn’t have confidence that it would take off. So I only told my husband and left it there. It took COVID-19 to finally launch it, and I’m like, I already have the logo, I already have the idea. I just need to do it. So I just keep that belief that things will happen when they’re naturally ready to happen.

Angel: Listening to Daniel makes me think about the cover photo that we have for our Facebook group which says desperate times call for desperate amounts of love. And that really resonates with the way that I deal with disappointment or things that don’t go our way as well.  My friend always reminds me, why did you start this Angel, what was the reason why you wanted to start this? Its impact and inspiring people. Two weeks ago we had 17 people in our retreat who had no idea what they were getting into. The retreat didn’t only exceed mine and Daniel’s expectations, but it exceeded the participants’ expectations as well. And a lot of them have commented and shared with us in the survey and evaluations that the retreat really helped them and put them into a mindset of wanting to be more inspired, coming back to the mission and coming back to what is the reason why I wanted to start this venture.

 

Why did you sign up for the Executive Program?

Angel: I signed up because I had been thinking about my idea of a nonprofit organization. Here in Arizona we have a really good university that runs a couple of really good programs on nonprofit management. I had been thinking about those, and then I randomly met an alumni of the Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy. I went to a town hall meeting where she was one of the moderators of a panel and I read her bio, and I heard her speak about her own journey which really inspired me. So I reached out to her and I told her, “I’m really inspired by your journey as a professional, your career and what you’ve accomplished.” And I told her a little bit about my idea, my venture, and how I wanted to start a nonprofit organization. She said, you have to do this program. I did my research and it really hit home. So that’s how I first learned about it and why I signed up. 

Daniel: I had been feeling like I wanted to do something like this, but I didn’t know what it was. One night, I’m just scrolling through Facebook and here comes this ad for this program at Penn. From the second that I saw the name, I thought, that sounds like something for me. And then the more that I learned about it, it felt like it was this program that was crafted specifically for me and I was just so excited to know that it was going to be people from around the world who share the same vision and value of just making the world a better place and wanting to to do whatever we can to do that. I’m usually someone who needs to kind of get my ducks in a row and think everything through 800 times before I jump on it, but I think three days later I had applied, and the rest is history.

 

What are some of the moments or things that you’ve enjoyed most about your participation and the executive program so far?

Angel: Even if we didn’t have an in person convening I feel that the networking has been great. I have been able to develop other relationships, besides the one that I have with Daniel through the course. That’s one of the things that I’ve enjoyed most the networking opportunities and the relationship building. Another example is Kaveh, Kaveh actually participated in our retreat as well. He closed with his session that he closed with during our virtual convening. Once one classmate introduced me to a friend of hers, who is also part of the LGBT community and runs retreats and now him and I are planning another retreat focused on acceptance and going more within. 

Daniel: I also have enjoyed the networking and meeting people and just the inspiration of hearing what other people are doing and their perspective of how they see the world and just been really nice to see and really inspiring. I’ve also just enjoyed the time to step out of my professional world of the stuff that I do on a day to day basis for work and to really focus on my venture and my goals in the future.

 

What are a few things that you have learned so far in the program that have been useful to you?

Daniel: This is very specific, but I have seen and worked with logic models in previous workshops and classes I’ve taken. This is the first time that has been presented in a way that I finally understand it and understand how it can be useful in my world. I also have learned a lot about collaborating through the collaboration that we’ve done because there’s plenty to be learned and books, but I’m definitely somebody who learns best by actually doing. Being able to plan a retreat together really just taught me things that I didn’t even know that I needed to know. There was so much more than let’s do a retreat, and even things about learning how to create a brand for a joint program while respecting the separate brands that people have, and how do you market when there are different resources and communicate with the people that you need to reach out to. There was just so much to learn about that. 

Angel: Definitely the logic model. Also, the asset-based versus deficit-based approach from the Community and Collaboration class. That has opened up a whole new world for Higher Self Friendly, and it’s been making me check all my biases. As I go through this journey of developing the venture because it’s still very much in the idea phase even though we’ve already done some activities like the retreat together, putting the customer in the center  has been making me think a lot and something that Daniel just said earlier, he doesn’t want this venture to be what Daniel wants. And in a way, that’s it. That’s the thing that I am coming to open up myself more because Higher Self Friendly was being what Angel wanted it to be. And especially because it’s based on my own personal journey of spirituality, but it doesn’t have to be what Angel wants to be, it  can be what the customer wants it to be so that has been great to learn. I had talked to one of the teaching fellows about starting or having the opportunity to run a focus group with the LGBT community from CSIS alumni and current cohort students, And that way, I can learn more about what the customer wants.and continue shaping where my venture is going.

 

What are some of your greatest accomplishments that you’re most proud of as a student?

Daniel: I’m proud of a few things. I’m honestly most proud of this partnership. I kind of hoped going into the program that I would find a friend or a couple friends to help partner with or inspire the next phase of the Shine Beyond Company would be. But I don’t think I expected to find a friend so quickly and to feel like we could launch into something like this so quickly and the fact that we were able to do something that really helped a group of people. Like Angel said earlier, it exceeded our expectations, but it also exceeded the expectations of the people who participated, and at the end of the day, when they were sharing the gratitude that they had and the impact that it had on them throughout the day, there were some really life-changing things that people shared. I was expecting to help people cope, to help people disconnect for a day. I was not expecting people to sit on zoom for 11 hours and literally have their lives changed. So I’m very, very proud that I found a friend and we could inspire others in a time that’s very dark for a lot of people. I’m proud that I have stuck with it. I am not the best student in the world, so the fact that it is May, and I am still in the program, I’m very proud of that. And I’m proud of the work that we did during the convening. It was a really powerful three days and we were all very emotional, because COVID had just taken off around the time of convening was supposed to happen and it was something that we all are so looking forward to. But we all needed that three days to just disconnect together so I’m proud of the work that was done in those three days.

Angel: I think I’m most proud of finally going out and registering my venture thanks to CSIS. I’m definitely very proud of the relationship building, especially the relationship that Daniel and I have built that has led to collaboration. I am very proud of how open minded I have become thanks to a lot of the learning from the course. I am a recovering control freak. And the course has really helped me expand my horizon and open up to ideas that Higher Self Friendly can become a lot more than what I had initially thought.