Engaging the Community to Drive Collective Success

Na’Tisha Natt was recently named the director of community engagement at Nexus Louisiana — a new role for the organization.

As Nexus Louisiana has grown and pulled all of its resources together under the NexusLA umbrella, the organization is ready to take a more proactive role in the community and is prioritizing community engagement. The new endeavor is designed to reach out into the larger tech startup ecosystem in Louisiana and drive greater involvement between NexusLA and the small businesses in need of our resources.

Natt has big plans for her new role, starting with identifying the needs of the community she’s committed to serve. Here’s how she’s connecting and engaging with the community as the new director of community engagement.

Supporting a Complex Ecosystem

To serve the community, it’s important to have the right perspective. Natt’s background is in community banking and working with organizations like the Small Business Development Center and the Louisiana Housing Corporation. These experiences have helped her understand the complexity of the ecosystem that gives rise to entrepreneurial ventures.

“I was able to gain an appreciation of what was going on in the community and at the local level,” Natt says, “to see the community through a different lens.” Natt saw firsthand how intertwined housing, finance, workforce, and other big-picture needs are for finding success, whether as an individual or a business owner. Without access to each of these vital components as well as quality education, healthcare, and infrastructure, people can’t thrive, businesses can’t grow, and communities become stagnant.

In her new role as director of community engagement, Natt wants to do her part to bring everything full circle to support her community. “That is the perspective that I have now, being back in entrepreneurship — especially in the tech space,” Natt says. “I see how technology plays a critical role in every aspect of our lives and how it can be a conduit for success.”

Bringing Diverse Stakeholders Together

To serve the entire community, Natt is committed to hearing and understanding the needs of every stakeholder group. “It starts with bringing people to the table and making sure that we’re not just hearing the voices that are like ours,” Natt says, “but voices and opinions that are different from ours, so we can understand their unique perspectives.”

Listening to stakeholders in the tech startup ecosystem helps organizations like NexusLA understand where the community isn’t being served and where they can create the greatest impact. “We need to fill the gaps,” Natt says. “We don’t need to be another organization offering duplicative services.”

That starts with gathering input on Nexus Louisiana’s events and programming. Gathering input on existing initiatives has helped Natt understand in which direction the organization can focus their efforts to produce the greatest impact.

“We hosted Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week, and it was great,” Natt says. “But one thing that came out of it is that there was a need for more tech-centric training, and topics around high-growth, obtaining seed capital, recruitment and retention — those growth-oriented topics.” Now, as she works to put together future programming, she continues to gain a deeper understanding about what’s most important to the community she serves.

Natt is staying open-minded about working with other organizations with similar or shared goals, such as the Small Business Development Center. She’s also looking at the blueprints created by other states in the South for empowering local tech startup ecosystems. For example, North Carolina has created huge impact for tech founders.

“We recognize that we don’t have all of the answers,” Natt says. “It’s really important to not just rely on ourselves but to reach out to others to see what works and what doesn’t.”

Checking the Right Boxes

Engaging the community takes much more than hearing new perspectives. Natt knows there can be no real change without taking real action, and she’s ready to jump right in. “I get tired of talking about the same thing over and over again,” Natt says. “It’s about creating actionable steps and then following through.”

Natt plans to listen to key stakeholders, try new programs and make changes to see what has the biggest impact. The new role gives her an opportunity to experiment and find what works in engaging and supporting the tech startup community.

“Because this is a new role, we have the opportunity to create and build it how we envision it to be,” Natt says. That vision includes connecting members of the community with each other and to the vital resources they need to turn their entrepreneurial visions into reality.

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