Opportunities Rising Through Crisis
Updated: May 28
Patrick Robinson, Economic Development Fellow, reflects on the past year and shares his service experience with Black Owned Maine and GPCOG's Resilience Exchange.
Just over a year ago, I was finishing up my undergraduate studies at Dickinson College. Little did I know that when I came down with the flu a week before my spring break and took the Amtrak home a few days early (with a mask on), I wouldn’t see many of my friends for over a year, wear a cap and gown, and celebrate graduation with my family and friends.
But with new challenges come new opportunities. For me, during the beginning of lockdown in New York City, these new opportunities were found on a virtual board of Settlers of Catan, where I’d chat with friends over the phone as we competed against each other. Along with other hobbies, Catan connected me with people that I deeply cared about but didn’t have the time to be close to while I was busy with school.
Having seen my hometown, known for its bustle, grind to a halt due to COVID-19 inspired me to serve in any way possible to help our country recover from the pandemic. That’s where joining the Resilience Corps came into my story! Starting my first job after college in my childhood bedroom was certainly unexpected, but I was ecstatic to be assigned the role of Resilience Exchange Fellow, where I would help expand GPCOG’s Resilience Exchange as well as supporting Black Owned Maine and Portland Buy Local. My time for the next 11 months would be dedicated to promoting economic resilience in the Greater Portland region by supporting small businesses.
In supporting Black Owned Maine, I conduct outreach for the Maine Black Business Pledge – an initiative to get businesses and individuals to “vote with their dollars” and support Black-owned businesses. For example, a grocery store can take the pledge by allocating 10% of their shelf space to products from Black-owned businesses. An individual can take the pledge by allocating 10% of their spending power to Black-owned businesses. My role is to reach out to businesses and consult them on how they can make the pledge fit for their business. Due to the success of this outreach, we are seeing an increase in requests for consultation meetings and an influx of questions. In response, Black Owned Maine recently held an information session for business owners and individuals about the purpose of the Pledge and how one can take it.
Black Owned Maine serves a critical need of the state in advancing racial equity. Maine has been assessed by the Maine Economic Growth Council (MEGC) in 29 indicating categories of societal success, ranging from 8th grade math performance to food security to racial and ethnic income equity. The MEGC asserts that Maine’s performance in racial and ethnic income equity is a key area that needs improvement immediately and should be a statewide priority. In promoting and supporting Black-owned businesses, Black Owned Maine plays a key role in advancing racial and ethnic income equity throughout the state, with 270 businesses and organizations in their directory. In doing so, they promote community and regional resilience, strengthening support for small businesses whose profits are more frequently spent in the region than those of larger corporations.
About Patrick Robinson
Patrick is from New York City and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Dickinson College. Prior to attending Dickinson, he did a year of service with City Year Philadelphia, where he tutored and mentored 7th grade students. He is passionate about community service, advancing equity and working on teams to solve complex problems. In his free time, he loves cooking, watching soccer and listening to podcasts. He is excited to join the Resilience Corps to help communities recover and adapt for a post-pandemic future.