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Farrah Parkes: ‘I have always wanted my work to be about making a difference’

May 20, 2019 Category: FeaturedMediumPeople
Farrah Parkes says she is excited.

The former director of myPLACE and Digital Initiatives for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Adult Education, and a current Bread and Roses Community Foundation board member, Parkes will start at New Century Trust — the 137-year-old private foundation focused on building the economic and political power of women and girls throughout the Greater Philadelphia region —  June 3. She will be the organization’s first full-time executive director.

We caught up with Parkes for a brief Q & A.

Generocity: Why New Century Trust?

Parkes: Gender equity has always been a really important issue for me, and feels ever more urgent these days. For the past decade I’ve consistently had some sort of volunteer role that involved gender justice work. Oddly enough, even though my paid work was in the non-profit sector, I never really envisioned the two coming together. There aren’t a ton of opportunities to do paid gender justice work (at least not in Philly), and none of the positions I’d come across seemed quite right for me until this one came up.

This is an amazing time to be in this role working with a great group of folks on the board as the first full-time executive director. The board had made some big, bold, changes in the past couple of years. They sold the historic building the organization called home for decades and decided to really focus in on funding the movement. As a result, the organization tripled its grantmaking in the past year and is now well-poised to expand its impact by building partnerships and providing other types of support to the movement.

I’m a builder by nature and so forming collaborations and finding new ways to partner with and support the people and organizations working on gender equity issues — particularly at this time in our nation’s history — is something I’m really excited about.

Generocity: Tell us a bit about your professional trajectory.

Parkes: I have always wanted my work to be about making a difference. Besides a painful 10-week internship with a management consulting firm in college, I’ve literally never worked in the for-profit sector.

I have a broad range of interests and a need to be constantly learning so I’ve worked in lots of different areas. Most recently, I’ve been working on adult education, workforce development, and digital inclusion. But I’ve also worked in early childhood education, HIV prevention, and community development. I’ve also had multiple types of roles in non-profits: fundraising, event planning, consulting, research, program administration.

From our Partners

Most recently, I decided to try my hand at local government — which was really interesting and eye-opening. I’m sad that I’m leaving that role before I’ve learned all that there is to learn, but this opportunity at NCT was just too good to pass up.

Generocity: Are you a native Philadelphian? What is your favorite aspect of living here? 

Parkes: I grew up in Jamaica (West Indies, not Queens) and came to Philly to go to Penn. Aside from two years of grad school and a year in New York, I’ve been here ever since.

I love Philly. I especially love the nonprofit and social justice community here. There are tons of amazing people doing such great work with frankly too few resources. I’m really excited to serve this community in a new way.

If you’re reading this and you do work related to social justice for women, girls, trans and non-binary folks, I want to know you. Seriously. There are only so many dollars to give out, but part of my role is to help build and support this community in ways that go beyond grantmaking.

I want to know you, and I want to help. Reach out.

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