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Meet McKenzie Wren of Culture on Purpose in Intown

Today we’d like to introduce you to McKenzie Wren.

McKenzie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a facilitator who honors the power of community and the ability of people to listen deeply to each other. I believe that community is wherever people gather: a meeting, a neighborhood, an organization, a faith-based institution or simply a group of people coming together around a common vision.

I was director of a multicultural community center located in Clarkston, GA – known as the most diverse square mile in the US – for 6 years. During my years there, I was introduced to different facilitation techniques that helped bring groups of very different kinds of people together. With my background in community building, public health, community development and anthropology, I became enamored of the work of creating brave or courageous conversations for people to talk about difficult topics like race, gender and sexual orientation, interfaith work and yes, even politics! With the support and encouragement of some fabulous mentors, I became trained in a variety of facilitation techniques which I used in my work as executive director. When it was time for me to leave the community center, I realized that I wanted to do more than anything else was help people have the conversations they need to have in order to move forward in work, life and community. In January 2016, I officially launched my own business. For the last three years, I have been helping schools, non-profits and community groups develop culture on purpose – inclusive and respectful environments that work for everyone. My motto is that it’s all about communication and I also sincerely believe that the wisdom is already in the room – all I do is help people come together in ways where they can listen deeply to each other.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
In certain respects it has been so smooth – work flowed my way from the very beginning as I am fortunate to have a wide network of contacts. It’s been an unbelievable journey. On the other hand, launching a business as an independent practitioner is always fraught with fears, doubts and a steep learning curve! Even though, I thought I knew what I was doing, the actual doing of it is always different! The stakes were high for me as I had to continue supporting my family as I grew my business so I did not have the luxury of slow development. I was fortunate to hire an incredible coach and to meet some amazing women with whom I formed a master mind group. We have been with each other for three years and have all helped each other grow. I have met so many amazing people over these short years who have believed in me and helped me with contacts, referrals and different kinds of support.

Culture on Purpose – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I help people have the difficult conversations about things that often keep us separate. I am fiercely committed to social justice and creating cultures that work for all people. Much of my work revolves around equity and inclusion and helping people talk about race and/or sexual orientation. I am known for my compassion, my empathy and my ability to help people hear each other. I believe my ability to help people move forward and not get stuck in guilt, shame, or anger is what sets me apart. I am proud of being a voice for increased human interaction and connection in these incredibly polarized times. My work is a mixture of training and facilitation – sometimes we have to fill in history and background and sometimes we just need to share our stories. I help groups identify what they most need to move forward.

I also teach a class on community engagement to public health students at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory. I and my teaching partner are deeply committed to helping new public health professionals learn how to do with community – not to or for. We help them understand their position and their identities and how to enter communities with a deep sense of curiosity and humility.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success to me is having a workload and income that supports my home and family life and brings good in the world. I am deeply committed to helping the world be a better place and I believe in the ability of humans to co-create that with me. Success is knowing that I have helped people listen deeply to each other and to begin to create new ways of coming together.

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