Introducing District Hall’s New Director, Becky Donner!
It’s the season of change! We’ve gone through many transitions, and we are so excited to announce that our very own Becky Donner has stepped into the role of Director at District Hall! We think she’s the coolest person ever, and we want you to get to know her a bit better. (But no stealing. She’s ours.)
First of all, where can we find you on Twitter?
Follow me at @bexdonner!
Tell us a little about yourself!
Sure! My name is Becky Donner and I’m the Director here at District Hall. I’ve been part of the Venture Café Foundation team and working in this amazing little building for almost a year now. I started here in October 2015 as Program Manager, coordinating marketing, events, and operations, and just moved into this new leadership position a few weeks ago. Going forward, I’ll be overseeing the building operations, partnerships, community engagement, and also our staff here at District Hall.
Outside of my work at District Hall, I run a volunteer group called Code for Boston, a local civic technology group affiliated with the national non-profit Code for America.
What are you most excited about in this new role?
District Hall is an incredible space. Since we opened in 2013, we’ve been figuring out the operational processes of running such a high-impact, high-volume, mission-oriented building with a small team, and have had a steep learning curve. Now that we’ve started to hit our stride, there’s a tremendous opportunity to focus on creative partnerships, fun updates to the space, community engagement, and really on how we can make this building and our programming a true hub and resource for Boston’s innovation community — which is what I plan to focus on going forward, and I couldn’t be more excited. I want to continue to further our mission and grow our community — all while keeping this wonderful little building weird.
What’s your favorite thing about District Hall?
I love walking into the building in the morning knowing that every day in this building is different. We have such a wide variety of events, clients, and programs that happen here. Even in our public space in the Lounge, every day is different, and it’s exciting to be working in a place that’s always buzzing with new ideas. It means there’s always a new project, a new conversation, or a new idea to work on, and it keeps me on my toes.
Being a part of the Venture Cafe network is fantastic too – between the programming at our sister site, the Roxbury Innovation Center, Venture Cafe Thursdays at the CIC, StartHub, and our global partners, it’s a really exciting time to be part of this community.
How long have you lived in Boston? Why did you move here?
I moved here in 2012, so I’ve been here for a few years now. I moved here because I had work experience here, family close by, and because I wanted to be a part of the community — Boston’s really an amazing place. To be such a (relatively) small city and also a world leader in so many different fields is incredible. There’s a real sense of creativity and community here. All the green space, public art, and beaches are a plus too!
Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I went to Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, New York. I studied psychology and sociology with a minor in metalsmithing – a classic liberal arts education!
How do you explain to your parents what you do?
Ha! That’s a good question. I tell them that I run a not-for-profit civic center that has a free, public workspace, donated over $1 million of space back to the community in 2015 alone (and that in 2016 we’re on track to exceed that), and is a resource for anyone with an idea. As well as our public space, we run free mentoring and office hours, workshops, have a public calendar, and act as a community hub for the innovation and entrepreneurial community here in Boston.
What kind of impact do you want to make on the world?
My passion is fostering community engagement and creative communities — both physical and digital — for positive social change. Given the right resources, a single individual with an idea can have a profound impact on their community. That’s why I’m so excited about my role at District Hall — by engaging individuals and providing support for their ideas, we can have a profound impact on the community at large.
Tell us about a project that you’re excited about right now.
It’s hard to choose just one, but I’m really excited about our Café Nights program here at District Hall. We’re hosting big community events, called Café Nights, with free office hours, workshops, info tables, and networking — all with the goal of bringing the innovation community together to learn from each other, work together, and share best practices. It’s been a fantastic way to bring our different partners together, and we’re looking forward to continuing to shape them to be the best resource (and most engaging!) as they can be. Check them out here!
I’m also excited about some capital improvements projects we’re working on right now. We’re looking into some operational upgrades (think more storage, new furniture, etc.) but also into some creative things like signage, artwork, etc. — more info to come, but get ready for some exciting changes here at District Hall!
What’s your definition of ‘innovation’?
This is a great question, and one that gets asked a lot. Innovation should be an inclusive concept. Really, anyone with a new idea to an existing problem is an innovator. I like to think of innovation as applied creativity. The mission of the Venture Café Foundation and District Hall is to provide resources for anyone with an idea so that they can make it a reality — which is what innovation is all about.
What are you reading right now?
Right now I’m reading The Metropolitan Revolution by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s been recommended to me by a few people and has been on my list for a while, and I’m finally getting around to it.
Favorite thing to do in Boston?
That’s a tough one! I love walking along the waterfront, all the museums here (particularly the Gardner), kayaking on the Charles, and checking out the food scene here. There’s so much to do in this city, it’s tough to choose!
Coffee or tea?
Tea, definitely. I love a good coffee, but I’m half English so tea will always be my go-to.