Today on the podcast, I’m excited to introduce you all to Nicole Higgins who is the Rally Director at Downtown CREDO. Now, a lot of you might be familiar with CREDO as a coffee shop, but this organization does so much more in our community than just serve Orlandoans coffee. CREDO is an organization working towards creating community impact in multiple ways.

Nicole’s role in the company specifically deals with the local impact CREDO implements, so it was very exciting to have her on the show today to discuss all the ways she gets to contribute and impact the community she lives in. In her role at CREDO, she brings a lot of past experience as a community organizer, and she talks about how much she loves what she does with CREDO. Listen to the episode to find out how Nicole thinks making a local impact in your backyard can be so much more powerful than going elsewhere to enact change. 

1. Downtown CREDO has three areas of focus

Downtown CREDO is more than just a local coffee shop. The mission of Downtown CREDO is all about cultivating networks of people living with meaning and impacts to the community. The company has been in business for about seven years. The concept started when Ben, the owner, moved to Orlando and asked himself how is Orlando different because he is here. He started getting involved with nonprofits in the area and found out what the community needed.

When Ben opened Downtown CREDO, he had a vision of three areas of impact CREDO  would have.“At every level of affluence,” the goal, according to Nicole is, “we’re inviting people into a life of meaning, impact, and community.”

  1. Coffee– CREDO makes most of its programming money from the sale of coffee at one of their four locations. When selecting the coffee to sell and use, they’ve met growers and roasters, and are mindful about where they get their coffee from. They share this with their customers and give them the option to name their price.
  2. Conduit– This is the way they create community and creativity. They currently create programs around education, creative services, and civic engagement. The conduit also has a physical coworking space that brings companies together in a collaborative environment.
  3. Rally– This part of CREDO is specifically geared towards community involvement and concentrates on the local impact in the Central Florida Community.

The Rally programming is broken up into two areas:

  1. Local Impact– This part of the Rally program concentrates on service to the community. A lot of the programming concentrates specifically on the Parramore area. This happens through events, like monthly, local cleanups. They also created programming for a bike rally that has now expanded into an annual parade called Orlando Together.
  2. Rallymakers-  Social enterprise accelerator program. They connect donors who also act as mentors to companies that have a social mission and a revenue stream built into their model.

2. Listening, to what the community needs or wants, is an important aspect in community building

Nicole stressed the importance of her job is to listen to the people in the community she is serving. “There are so many gifts, so many strengths, there’s so much happening in Parramore,” Nicole told me. Part of her job to listen to other people is to think about how CREDO’s mission applies to the work she does. “The steps towards a life of meaning, impact, and community sound so small, they seem silly,” Nicole told me, “but they’re the ones that actually makes a difference.”

Nicole admitted that a parade seems silly, but it’s a way to bring the community together, and that is something the community in Parramore asked for. “The bar is a lot lower than we think it is,” Nicole told me, “it’s all about showing up consistently.”

Because CREDO built relationships and responded to needs, the community knows CREDO is there to help.

3. Nicole brings her experience as a community organizer to her work as Rally Director

Nicole was introduced to community organizing and fell in love with it in her youth. She grew up in a faith community and did a lot of mission work early in her life, which centered on a lot of work in inner cities like New Orleans. As she grew older, she looked forward to doing the hard, community organizing work because it allowed her to see another side of the world outside of her private school bubble.

In those early years, Nicole learned that showing up to help is like building a muscle. To do that, Nicole told me, “you always have to remind yourself of the intention [of the work].”

Now, she has no qualms about not only working in the communities she wants to serve, but also working with her network to get others involved too. Nicole discussed how she approached the Fire Chief about participating in the community parade. She also inviting him to a pointed discussion about our community’s need for roads and infrastructure that was historically meant to divide our city.

To conquer her fear of asking for things from influential people in the community, Nicole reminds herself that it’s not about her, but the community she is serving. She knows that she has spent enough time learning and listening to the residents that she feels confident enough to ask for the things the community needs from the leaders that are able to help.

“I’m really excited about what I get to do. I get to make friends with people, and I get to build things,” she told me.

4. Changing the world starts in your own backyard

While in college, Nicole was still going on trips all over the nation to help disadvantaged people. She found her calling by majoring in Intercultural Studies and Urban Development. She then took a summer internship with an organization called CLUE that fights for workers’ rights around the country.

Through her internship, Nicole realized she wanted to be a community organizer for a living. She also learned during that internship to think about questions like “how to keep the integrity of the community that already exists,” and “how to implement ideas back into your own community.”

That experience made Nicole realize that she didn’t need to travel all over the country to make an impact in a significant way. When the opportunity at CREDO arose, Nicole knew that was the right place for her to be.

Nicole also recognized that there is a need for all types of people. Of course, community organizers who are doing the grassroots work is important. However, Nicole stressed to me that having people in positions of power who are willing to fund efforts is important too. We need all types in the community to make a real difference.

5. Recognize the role humanity plays in your everyday life, and become a more empathetic person

Nicole knows it’s difficult for the average person to be able to go out and do everything, and that it can be overwhelming to decide how to act. Her advice for creating space for impact in your everyday life? Nicole says it’s being more mindful about the ways we consume products, and to recognize how there are many different humans on varying levels that go into the things we consume.

“I can’t fix all the problems, but I can recognize all the people that go into the process of the thing I’m consuming,” Nicole told me about how she looks at her consumption, “it’s that little shift in how you see people.”

On a larger level, Nicole says that is all comes down to one philosophy she learned from her family: “Just be a nice person,” she told me, “it’s a lifestyle choice.”

About Nicole Higgins

Nicole Higgins currently serves as the Rally Director for Downtown CREDO, a nonprofit in Orlando, Florida that is dedicated to improving the quality of lives by building networks of people living with meaning, impact, and community. She began her time at CREDO in 2012, serving as the Coffee Director for the nonprofit’s name-your-price coffee shop. She currently manages the organization’s formal community partnerships and its social enterprise accelerator, Rally Makers, LLC.

Her work at CREDO brought her back to her hometown Orlando after some time working in several nonprofits in both Washington, DC and Los Angeles, California. Her professional experience in these places included work with community organizing, nonprofit administration, and outreach; and in all of them she has found the secret ingredient to sustaining community transformation: sharing meals together.


Links from the Show:

Visit Downtown CREDO’s Website
Like Downtown CREDO on Facebook
Follow Downtown CREDO on Instagram
Follow Downtown CREDO on Twitter
Follow Nicole on Twitter
Follow Nicole on Instagram