Active citizen, community builder, and connector Amanda Fasenmyer has built solid community in Silicon Valley by cultivating relationships and boosting donations in the nonprofit sector.
The Pennsylvania native recently changed lanes in order to drive growth and strategy at global design, architecture, and planning firm Steinberg Hart, using physical spaces to shape lives in subtle and empowering ways. Here we explore Amanda’s take on the art of cause and effect.
Do you remember the first time you were overtaken by the need to act?
At Gettysburg College, I took a freshman-year seminar on homelessness in America. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I had been exposed to poverty but not overt, visible homelessness. This was the first time that I recognized the scope and scale of the problem and was involved in direct-service solutions through food kitchens, clothing and goods distributions, training programs, and shelters. These experiences taught me that the provision of services must be coupled with pathways for advancement and, most importantly, with access and awareness of opportunities.
What has been your worst big idea?
The mistakes that I’ve made over the past decade have largely occurred when I’ve failed to collaborate and incorporate diverse views and experiences. If I could, I would advise my younger self to solicit a wide range of feedback and generate a shared understanding before making decisions. Tackling the biggest challenges facing society today requires building a broad coalition of stakeholder support, and although the process may be more tedious, it yields better and more equitable results.
What keeps you awake at night, and what helps keep you sane?
If you let all of today’s current challenges keep you awake at night, you will never be rested enough to address them. The most pressing issue on my mind is how to leverage the collective strength of nonprofits, government entities, and businesses to create great places to live, work, and play. Housing costs, traffic congestion, sea level rise, etc. are threatening our sense of community and unique neighborhood identities in the Bay Area, and it’s essential that we solve these problems together. It’s also important to practice self-care so that you can show up ready to work. When I need to relieve stress, I read books or go hiking at Rancho San Antonio Preserve.
What is your approach to problem solving?
Bringing stakeholders together to leverage collective strength means working across sectors. After obtaining my MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School, I became involved in the nonprofit sector and brought together business, individuals, and government stakeholders to find solutions to the biggest challenges facing our cities. Now, in the private sector at Steinberg Hart, I am working to create value for our clients and make a meaningful impact on the communities we serve.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Whether in the office or through my volunteer work, I hope that I’ve created a ripple effect in each organization that I’ve been a part of by sharing innovative ideas, solutions, and understandings across sectors. At the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), I helped raise the necessary funding to develop and advance policy recommendations to improve the quality of life in our urban areas. At Steinberg Hart, I am part of a team and a profession that is designing the physical spaces and truly shaping the experiences and relationships that people have with their environments.
What’s your advice for others who dream of making an impact?
The gamechangers of tomorrow will be systems-thinkers who understand the complexity of an increasingly connected, dynamic world. They will come from every corner of the globe but will have in common the desire, drive, and vision to imagine a better tomorrow. The advice that I would give to those future impact-makers is to understand how to catalyze the forces around them to advance the common good.