Lately I’ve been getting feedback like this:

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There are only so many times I can answer the question, “Do you ever sleep?” (yes, a lot) before my response starts to feel disingenuous or coy. I’m going to share here, for the dozen people who care, the most brutally honest answer to the question of, “How you do it?” by showing you, literally, how I [sic] have worked [sic] over the past seven years.

Figuring out how something in the present came to be requires revisiting the past. So I went through my files, photos, and emails created over the same week and a half period (February 5th through 14th) over the last seven (2011–2017) years and, like an Arrival/Memento mashup, will now give you a glimpse of how the sausage is made. …


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Last month something surprising happened: I used the internet to help my community achieve a goal. The formula was pretty simple:

  1. I wrote about a project that preserves the stories of the African-American community, why this matters in the larger story of Portland’s gentrification, and what people could do to help.
  2. I tweeted it. People retweeted it.
  3. This exposure helped to successfully fund the project.

Plain English + community clear call to action = success

I learned two things. First, I discovered that one of the best ways to counter hashtag-propagating “slactivism” is to give readers a concrete job to be done within local, trusted networks. …


Last week I attended two Portland start-up events. You know the kind. We all meet up, eat snacks, and marvel at how lucky we are to live here. The undercurrent of these conversations often seems to be, “Keep fighting the good fight. Let’s keep the Bay at bay.”

Of course by “Bay” I don’t mean the transplants from San Francisco arriving by the truckload. I mean the ethos of disruption that destroys neighborhoods and communities, and leaves rampant gentrification and inequality in its wake.

There are many approaches we can take to stem this tide, but there is one I am asking for your help in supporting today. We can’t imagine Portland’s future without knowing its past. One of the most important stories from Portland’s history is that of Vanport (h/t Wikipedia for much of what follows). …


Three years ago, on October 11, 2012, we launched Switchboard for Reed College, our first community. I was living in Italy. Sean was living in California. We had never met in person. I took a photo of my computer. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was a dream made real. It was, and remains, love made visible.

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We sent an announcement to a few hundred of our earliest supporters. Reading this email now, the thing that blows me away is that this was our very first product announcement and we were not a company. I did not even know what a product announcement was. We just followed our intuition. We were a group of crazy people who built a website out of frustration for a community we cared about. …


Hey, Portland. In case you weren’t following along, here’s what happened:

There was going to be a great event this Thursday celebrating our singularly wonderful startup community. People expressed feelings about that event. The event was canceled. There were more feelings.

[Full stop. No judgement.]

There’s something we’re forgetting. There are five incredible women who were supposed to take the stage to tell stories we needed to hear.

Let’s take a moment to recognize them.

Crystal Beasley makes jeans in 400 sizes and creates local jobs.

James Keller is one of the brightest lights in our community.

Nancy King has helped practically every start-up in town source talent to grow our companies.

Kirsten Golden is the heart of the Portland Incubator Experiment.

Jenny Moede leads a groundbreaking storytelling incubator.

These are the names we should be talking about.

About

Mara Zepeda

Co-founder of Switchboard

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