Connecting the Dots: How Morgan Kennedy Creates Community
Written by Mary Thomas
Morgan Kennedy, Chief Marketing and Growth Officer at Atomic Data and a Founder of the Twin Cities Chapter of Impact100, is bringing women together to create genuine and lasting connections through community.
Community can come in many forms, but one thing is true: it takes persistence and creativity to create genuine and lasting impact and connection.
Morgan Kennedy, Chief Marketing and Growth Officer at Atomic Data, knows this. She and her team are ensuring technology is at the center of togetherness, whether in companies, across distributed workforces or for thousands of people at sports stadiums and entertainment venues across the US. And, as a founder of the Twin Cities Chapter of Impact100, she is building a nonprofit dedicated to bringing women together to transform their communities.
Morgan, congratulations on your new role as Chief Marketing and Growth Officer at Atomic Data! What are you most excited about in this position?
I’m really enthusiastic about the work that we’re doing in relation to sports and large entertainment venues, the idea of community, and the role that technology can play in bringing people together. Technology has a unique power to enhance that experience, especially in moments where people are gathered around big passion points and the things that are meaningful to them.
There’s a term I love: “collective effervescence.” It’s the idea that when we get together, we experience an elevated sense of excitement because we are part of something bigger together. There’s so much technology that facilitates that kind of experience that many people don’t even realize exists, and it can make that collective experience feel more seamless.
There’s a misperception that technology can be an obstacle to connection, but the ways that technology can actually help enhance our experience of the real world is what fascinates me.
When did you realize that community was a passion for you?
For me, it all began with sports, which have been a part of my life from a very early age. Growing up in Colorado, the Broncos were always on the TV, and my grandpa was a big sports fan—he was a Celtics fan. At one point in my life, I was Miss Colorado, and I spent a lot of time in the community. In that role, I was thinking about community needs, and using the platform I had to speak on different topics.
“I have an enduring belief in the importance of acting as a collective, a team, and being aligned to a bigger vision together. Almost all parts of my life and career have been driven by thinking about the role that community and partnerships play in enhancing our memories, driving different experiences, and creating growth.”
Throughout my career, I have worked in the nonprofit sector, in sports, at a big retailer, and in private wealth management. Through all of those different experiences, I started to think about how they offer insight about the roles we each play as individuals, how we act together, and what it means to not just be part of something, but to contribute to it as well.
What is your philosophy when it comes to community and philanthropy?
I recently founded the Twin Cities chapter of Impact100, which is a global organization dedicated to collective giving. I believe that philanthropy and how we support the people and the city around us is something that we are all responsible for, and not something that you wait to do until after retirement.
The idea behind Impact100 is for women in each chapter to come to the table and pool their money to engage in collective grantmaking. When I think about the chapter, it brings to mind the image of women wrapping their arms around and embracing our city.
When we come together, we can imagine what we can do together and really think about how we advance causes that we all feel are important to creating a healthy, vibrant community we are all proud to live in and contribute to making better.
Why did you create the Twin Cities chapter of Impact100?
It all started a year ago, when I started to feel like something was missing in my life. At first, I thought it was about finding new growth opportunities in my professional life, but it was bigger than that.
My mom is a member of the chapter in Houston – she suggested that I join my local chapter so that I could meet other women and reconnect with nonprofits. When I tried to join the local chapter, I found that there wasn’t one! It was important enough for me that I decided to start a chapter to build a community of women dedicated to working and thinking together to give back to the Twin Cities.
I realized that I had been craving depth in my conversations and people in my life who took action based on their convictions, and I found what I had been missing in this chapter. Since starting, we’ve applied for our 501(c)3 in December and announced our board in January. We’re currently in the middle of our first membership drive, and are planning to give the first $100,000 grant next spring.
What has been the most surprising part of founding the chapter?
As we’ve been finding passionate women who want to connect with one another and create impact in the Twin Cities, I’ve noticed that the women drawn to Impact100 share something in common. Women have had a powerful emotional response to joining because they didn’t realize how much they needed this group of women and to focus on the issues and topics they care about in a dedicated way.
We’re also finding that we’re attracting women who are in a state of transition, whether that means they just moved here, are going through a divorce, or are executives trying to find a new sense of passion and connection. For me, I had more mental capacity to think about how I spent my time now that my daughter is older. Other people have little kids, and they’re saying “I want more of me back.” It’s been incredible to see how women come together to do that.
What skills or instincts do you have that enable you to be a connector and “meaning maker”?
I believe that our lives are a series of stories that we tell ourselves. We play the central role in making meaning of the smallest moments or experiences and creating breadth in our life—not just longevity.
A year ago, when I was thinking about what was missing in my life, I challenged myself to think backwards and ask myself, “What would I want people to say about me after the end of my life? What would I want that obituary to look like?” It prompted me to ask the question “How do I build this full, amazing life, backwards?” What I realized is that so much of building that life is how we impact other people.
I started thinking about how to create moments together and being intentional about the connection we give to ourselves and to other people to create that fullness in our lives. That guides a lot of what I do and how I do it. When I think about how to make meaning, one of the things I’m best at is combining people, ideas, and experiences in new, different, and unexpected ways. I’m constantly pulling in ideas or different concepts that aren’t normally related, or introducing people that might not know each other. I’m passionate about seeking out new things, whether it’s through Instagram, reading widely, listening to podcasts, or just meeting all different kinds of people. I really like to be part of the map-making behind the scenes, and it’s how I bring everything to life and connect different dots.
What advice would you give to a Passionado who wants more meaning in their life, but isn’t sure where to start?
For me, it was about getting really clear about what I wanted to be known for. I say that my “why” is to connect people, ideas, and experiences to inspire meaning making. Today, this is something I can say clearly, but it took years to refine over time. Knowing my “why” is an anchor for me in my personal life and in my work. My “why” has allowed me to get really clear on how I spend my time and where I might be overcommitted. It’s helped me to understand how I say no to things. It’s helped me create more space in my life for the things that are most important.
My advice is to write down your “why” and begin to live it. As you start to do that and share it, how you describe your “why” will naturally transform. You’ll get to a place where it resonates and aligns with who you are. Then, it can offer a focused lens for making decisions. When you’re stuck, it’s helpful to ask, “Does this fulfill my purpose?” or “Can I do this in a way that allows me to bring my purpose to the table?”
Sometimes we all have to do things we would prefer not to do, but can you do it in the way that you are best at skills-wise, or that brings you the most joy? Being able to ask those questions and make decisions that align with your “why” creates more fullness as you move forward.
Republished with permission from Passion Collective: https://www.passioncollective.co/passion-stories/shirley-wehland