Stephanie Tyree: How did you learn about The Hub and become interested in the work the organization is doing?
Bryan Phillips: I’ve actually been on The Hub’s mailing list for several years as an attempt to try to keep up with all the great work that groups are doing in West Virginia. I was always interested in The Hub’s work from a 5,000-foot view, but I really gained an appreciation for the organization’s ability to work with communities and not for communities while I was putting together lists of economic and community development groups in the state for roundtable discussions for a project I was working on with a past organization. One deep dive later, I jumped at the opportunity to send in my application. Let’s just say that I’ve been watching their job board for a while now.
ST: What does it mean to you to see the work happening around the state to revitalize communities through The Hub’s community leadership coaching?
BP: To me, our community leadership coaching programs are the heart and soul of the work done at The Hub. As West Virginians, it is no secret that we don’t like it when outsiders come in and tell us what to do. And who can blame us? That’s why I have such an enthusiasm to see all the great work that our Community Coaches are doing. They realize that the people who know and love these communities are the thing most crucial to their revitalization, and they work hand-in-hand with these people to help them produce their shared vision of their future. By helping these communities to grow their own ability to produce change, they help create a better West Virginia.
ST: When did you first become interested in policy work? What sparked that interest for you?
BP: I first became interested in policy at a very young age, but I really didn’t really realize that it was a viable career path at the time. I was always very involved with student governments and making improvements to the systems in front of me, but I was never exposed to people who were doing the work day-in and day-out. I started college as a biology major thinking that I would go to medical school and do the stuff that I was really interested in during my free time. Once I realized that it was something that I could do full time, there was no going back. I think what really sparked my interest in working in policy was the fact that everyday people can make a difference in their communities and are able to elevate problems they see in their lives to people in positions of power. As I was more exposed to this world, I noticed so many different people working toward goals that fit into a larger conversation. Anyone who wants to improve their communities is able to contribute their part to create a greater whole, and that is something that inspires me to do this work.
ST: What motivates you in the work that you are doing? Why does policy work matter to you?
BP: What motivates me to do the work is an ongoing desire to contribute in whatever small way I can to the betterment of the lives of the people around me. I’ve always had a knack for the more mundane parts of policy work like data analysis and legal research, but being able to convey that information to those who are impacted by it and to those who have the ability to enact change, to me, is the most rewarding part. A lot of the time, identifying problems in the systems around us is extremely difficult, and oftentimes it is even harder to demonstrate that on paper. Policy work matters to me because for many people starting the process of eliminating problems we see in our communities is burdensome and we may not know where to start. Working in policy lets me pull back the curtain to show others how the system around them works and how it can be changed.
ST: How have you seen policy work touch the lives of communities around you?
BP: What a lot of people don’t realize is that policy work has the ability to touch the lives of everyone in a community. Your city’s new ordinance to create more sidewalks may be part of an organization’s national strategy to increase the walkability of communities to improve business and development. Your state’s transportation agency may be adding more crosswalks downtown because a group of community leaders demonstrated that traffic patterns were detrimental to public safety during dinner rushes. I am lucky to be a professional who works in policy, but policy work is often done best when the people who care deeply about an issue in their communities realize they are always part of a larger conversation.