Becky Daggett has been a volunteer leader in the Flagstaff community since she was an eleven year old organizing fundraisers for the Humane Society. After a career that spans the sectors of art, economic development, environment, education, and politics, Becky is now running for City Council in 2020. We discuss her experience as an ongoing volunteer at an elementary school, her perspective on serving across sectors, the concept of network weaving, the role of the arts in community building, and her inspiration to run for political office.
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For a full transcript of the episode, read below:
00:06 Speaker 1: This is Do Good, Be Good. The show about helpful people and the challenges they face in trying to do good. Your host is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, a career do-gooder who also loves craft beer and a good hard tackle in rugby. Sharon speaks to everyday people about why they do good and what it means to be good.
00:27 Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom: Hello, I’m your host, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. My guest today is Becky Daggett. Becky directed the very first show that I ever got to have a role in, at our local community theater, Theatrikos. You’ve been hearing a lot about Theatrikos since my last guest was Michael Rulon. Becky and Michael were also co-directors of the last show that I got to be a part of, Legend of Georgia McBride, and I just love volunteering with Becky, especially at the theater. I’ve also known her through various different organizations. As you’ll hear in this episode, Becky has been involved across the spectrum of different types of organizations in our community here in Flagstaff, Arizona. We will talk about it, but in case it’s unclear, Becky Daggett is currently running for elected office as City Council member for Flagstaff, Arizona. She has previously worked in nonprofit leadership for organizations such as Friends of Flagstaff’s Future, Flagstaff Family Food Center, Flagstaff Arts Council. She was also the executive director of the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, which is a public charter school that we talked about way back in Episode 16 with Deidre Crawley. Currently, Becky is the manager of a campaign called Outlaw Dirty Money, which is working to add a constitutional amendment to the 2020 ballot in Arizona.
01:52 ST: You can see why I wanted to interview her. So let’s jump into it. As with many of my guests, I started by asking her if she was an active helper as a kid.
02:04 Becky Daggett: We would do odd jobs for people. Well, actually, we went door-to-door and we offered to do odd jobs, and I think people gave us money just to make us go away.
02:16 ST: Just to clarify, you were doing odd jobs in order to then earn money to give to the Humane Society?
02:22 BD: Correct.
02:23 ST: Nice, we did something similar in college, which we called… Which I came up with, called Rent-A-Rugger.
02:29 BD: Yeah?
02:30 ST: ‘Cause I played rugby in college. And so that was our fundraising strategy, was we made ourselves available to clean out people’s garages and pick up firewood and do other things.
02:41 BD: And did they take you up on it, or did they just give you money?
02:44 ST: They did, because, unlike a precocious child, we were 20, very strong young women who were capable of doing lots of heavy labor.
02:53 BD: Yeah, I was just cute. My mom took me into the Humane Society to give them the money that we raised, and they thought it was so cute that their community outreach person… They used to have, and I don’t know if they still do, but they used to have a weekly television show called Pets On Parade, and they had me come on that with a huge check that they made, and I gave it to her on air on pets on parade.
03:21 ST: That’s amazing.
03:21 BD: Yeah, that was kind of… It was unexpected. I just thought I’d be raising money and give it to them.
03:29 ST: Did it affect how you felt about doing good when you became a promotional opportunity?
03:41 BD: [laughter] I didn’t really… I don’t know that it even really phased me, because this friend of mine, I called her Maychon, her name is Mary, and she grew up in Flagstaff. We did all kinds of things to raise money for different causes, when we were both in middle school. We started a dance studio in our garage in Mountain Air and taught tap and ballet and jazz to little children. And muscular dystrophy. Wallace and Ladmo was a show, they would have kids do carnivals and do different things to raise money to research muscular dystrophy, and we would hold carnivals.
04:30 ST: You weren’t just looking for your next chance to be on TV? [chuckle]
04:34 BD: No. No, no, no. Well, I did go on the Wallace and Ladmo Show twice, but that wasn’t why I did it. I promise you. [laughter] In fact, I was really uncomfortable being on TV. Now I’m all self-conscious and I think my face is getting red.
04:57 ST: I was gonna say, are you just remembering now that you were self-conscious?
05:03 ST: Well, I’s interesting, ’cause I was actually just recently talking to some college students about what it meant to do good, and can companies do good? If the company is getting good brand recognition out of it, does it still count as doing good? Are there any ethical concerns about having them come and do some charity work and then using it to promote their brand. And it was fascinating, ’cause the kids definitely split half down the middle around which ones were like, “If it’s good then it’s good. And we might as well get people to use whatever resources they have, as long as the outcome is good. The ends justify the means”. And then others were like, “No, if it’s not coming from a fully authentic place of doing good with no extra incentives then, poison the well of goodness.”
06:00 BD: It’s interesting. I worked for Flagstaff Family Food Center and Kenny Construction gives, I don’t know if they still do, but they used to give their employees a couple of hours off a week to go and volunteer. From the standpoint of the food center, I feel like we took advantage of that. Not take advantage, but I would take their picture and we would talk about them on social media but I’m confident that that’s not why…
06:31 ST: You would leverage that opportunity. [chuckle]
06:33 BD: Exactly, exactly. But I know that their employees went there because they just believed in the cause and they enjoyed volunteering there. But the big corporate events where everyone’s wearing the t-shirt and they’re…
06:48 ST: And they’re paying the wall for the 12th time.
06:50 BD: I think photo-op opportunities are… That gets into the questionable range.
06:56 ST: I wasn’t really thinking that 12-year-old you was…
07:00 ST: Just to clarify.
07:01 BD: I know, I come on this podcast and then I’m defending all of my…
07:03 ST: Publicity hound.
07:04 BD: Adolescent. [chuckle]
07:06 ST: It was all for this future run for City Council.
07:10 BD: I gotta find that video.
07:14 ST: Though I am curious about the fact that it had to do with animals, and I know that seems like it’s been a consistent thread of things that you’ve had a passion for. So, do you remember how your awareness or care for helping the critters originated?
07:29 BD: I think it was a mixture of my natural personality and just what I was drawn to, and my mom had a big heart. And I would often come home with stray dogs, cats. I know she wasn’t excited about that but she would help me find a home for them, or sometimes we kept them.
07:50 ST: It’s interesting, ’cause I find that a lot of the people who have learned to help in some way, to them it’s like, “Well what else could I have done? Like, I had to do something”. And then, it’s interesting when you do find people who found a way to not help in that way. [chuckle] Like even with you bringing home the strays, like I had a cat that I was feeding at the bus stop, it was a stray cat. But we left it there. [chuckle] We kept beating it at the bus stop and then eventually it started literally following me home. It would walk from the bus stop to my house, and then we were allowed to start feeding it in the garage. And then… [chuckle]
08:32 BD: Did you keep it?
08:33 ST: It eventually moved in in retirement, with its partner. So we had Lucky and then Oreo. But it was definitely… There were years and years there where it still was an outdoor stray cat, but we were one of the people feeding it in the neighborhood.
08:52 BD: Interesting. When I would come up to Flagstaff on the weekends and my friend Machon was here, we would get together and roam the streets and the forests of Mountain Air and we were like the pied pipers of dogs, because we would just gather this bunch of dogs behind us, and we would… And the dogs would like hang out at my house over the weekend, I don’t know where their people were, but there was one dog named Yorick, I even remember his name, who would show up at my house on the weekends, waiting for Machon and I to get there and play with him.
09:32 ST: Was that a name you gave him or did he have a tag so he had a…
09:33 BD: No. Yeah. Well, I don’t know that he had a tag. I think that some other neighborhood kid just told us his name was Yorick. So, maybe his name was Yorick, I don’t know.
09:46 ST: He was known as Yorick, to some of us.
09:52 ST: So, your mom wasn’t the one bringing the pets into the house?
09:55 BD: Uh-uh.
09:57 ST: You were the Pied Piper of pets.
10:00 BD: Yes.
10:00 ST: But she was the pushover who let you keep them.
10:04 BD: Yes. Yes. Yeah, my mom was very sweet that way. My mom was a softy when it came to hard-luck cases.
10:16 ST: Were there other ways that that showed up in your life growing up?
10:21 BD: Yes. She was the person who other people in the neighborhood came to when there was a problem. I remember one of my neighbors, some young woman that they knew, showed up at their house. She had run away from home, and I can’t even remember where she lived, but I remember my mom taking her shopping for clothes and then buying her a bus ticket back to where she had run away from. I don’t even know how my mom came in contact with that young woman, I guess the neighbor said, “Hey, she showed up at our house,” or, I don’t know. So, yeah, my mom was a big softy in that way.
11:01 ST: So, switching gears for a minute, in the last, let’s say, five years, ’cause I know you are involved in so many different things. What are one or two of the things that you feel like you’ve gotten the most joy out of being involved in?
11:17 BD: For the past couple of years, and currently, I read to kids at Killip Elementary, and I would say that that is the thing that brings me joy. Man, like laughing with a classroom full of kids, I think that’s the best thing ever.
11:38 ST: Are there any particular moments that stand out to you from that?
11:42 BD: Yeah, there’s one just the other day. I have this book called The Book With No Words.
11:47 ST: I love it.
11:48 BD: I mean, The Book With No Pictures. Yeah. So, it makes you say all kinds of funny things and make faces. And I was reading it to a first grade class, and they were on the ground rolling around laughing. And one little kid, who must have heard this, said to him many times, said, “This is getting out of hand”, as he’s giggling. Like, “That’s right, it is getting out of hand. It’s a awesome.”
12:14 ST: “And I’m letting it”.
12:14 ST: “I’m taking it up to 11”.
12:21 ST: Was there anything in reading to kids that came up that surprised you?
12:25 BD: Looking back, I don’t know why it surprised me but I would, at the end of each semester, I would purchase a bunch of books, a selection of books and then let the kids select one for themselves to take home, and discovered that for a lot of the kids that they didn’t have books at home. And so this might be their first and only book that they’re taking home, and that surprised me. And also how excited they were to get a book. I remember this one little girl just clutched it to her chest and said, “This is for me and I get to keep it?” And I was just like, “Oh, I’m gonna cry. I gotta go.”
13:08 ST: So, I’m curious, because you have a unique perspective having worked in different issue areas. So, having done things with animals, with the environment, with humans, both kids and adults, in the political realm. What am I missing here? [chuckle] All the other things. Oh, and in the arts. And in the arts.
13:34 BD: Oh, yeah, there’s that.
13:35 ST: Yes. So I’m curious because I think of those particularly from a volunteering’s perspective, or from a trying to recruit other people to get involved perspective, as being quite different in a lot of ways, I’m curious what you see as the similarities and the differences when you’re in these different sectors.
13:57 BD: Well, I think a common thread might be just caring, just caring. So, through my work with Friends of Flagstaff’s future, caring about special open areas that were really in danger of being sold and developed and the care about the urban trail system and what that lends to this community. So, with growth management, just recognizing that without some kind of planning and just left to itself, a place that you love can become unrecognizable if you are not working to keep it something that you love and recognize. And then I went to the city and worked in economic development, I had always been a supporter of local businesses. And so to get to know… I mean, that was so exciting, to get to know what was inside some of the buildings in town. So, not retail stores but other businesses that are doing other things that I had no idea that they were doing. And meeting these people who started these companies from the ground up and who were employing people, and so caring about their future and caring that they were able to stay in business and hopefully grow.
15:24 BD: I think it doesn’t automatically make sense but somehow I made it make sense. Then I go into education and work with teenagers and run a school which was so completely different than anything I had done before. It’s like non-profit management on steroids. From there to the Flagstaff Family Food Center and the Flagstaff Arts Council, Grand Canyon Trust. A common theme is that everything that I did was in service to what I saw as a higher purpose, something that I really believed in. I don’t think, since I’ve been a teenager that I’ve had a job where it was just a job and I just went in and I did my job and I went home. I’ve often wished for a job like that, that I could just leave at the office door and then come home and not think about it but…
16:24 ST: But you wouldn’t be.
16:26 BD: No, I’ve just never been drawn.
16:27 ST: Even if, like, organized the thing on the side. [chuckle]
16:31 BD: I’ve never been drawn to stuff that I don’t feel passionate about.
16:36 ST: Yeah.
16:36 BD: Yeah, if I had a coffee shop, I would have kittens in it. Which I’ve thought about often.
16:43 ST: [chuckle] There was a whole movement for a while when social enterprises was really picking up as a trend, where libraries were getting coffee shops that were a social enterprise to help get people in job skills and do other things.
16:56 BD: I could see me doing something like that.
16:58 ST: Yeah. Well it’s interesting, because here I am going back into the silos and telling you that all of these are separate entities, and yet it’s not really how I think of it. I think of always from the community as a connected whole. I love this term and I’d love to study it more, of the idea of network weaving. How do we intentionally weave and strengthen the weave of the networks that create the fabric of the community?
17:26 BD: Oh, I love that.
17:27 ST: Yeah.
17:28 BD: Where did you first hear that?
17:29 ST: I don’t know, but I follow I think a LinkedIn page on network weaving and I’ve read a couple of books about it. It kind of is also related to the asset-based community development movement. It also relates to this tech term of “the network effect,” which is like if you’re trying to start a social network online or even just a software business. Your value, and in their case they’re thinking the actual for-profit value of the company increases the greater the network is and the more connected nodes within the network. So like a new… That’s why it’s so hard now to have a new social media platform actually gain any strength, is because we have certain ones that have become entrenched and we may not like them all that well but they have the volume and the connectedness that makes the network valuable. But I think that’s fascinating from the community building side too. If you were thinking of the same thing of trying to create the network effect of, how do we intentionally connect all these different non-profits and community entities in a way that strengthens the overall whole and increases the overall value?
18:52 BD: I love that. You’re blowing my mind. [chuckle]
19:01 ST: Just a quick break to remind you that the show notes for today’s episode are available at dogoodbegoodshow.com, including a full transcript of the episode and links to anything that we’ve mentioned today. You can also join the conversation about the show in our Facebook page, facebook.com/dogoodbegoodshow. If you have questions or suggestions for me about how to improve the show or possible guests, you can contact me directly at email@example.com, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. As we rejoin the conversation, we transition to talking about how Becky’s varied career inspired her to run for political office.
19:48 ST: Is that part of why you decided to run for office, because of your experience in these various places? And then how does that impact what you’re hoping to do and what kind of change you’re hoping to effect as a elected official?
20:04 BD: It definitely did. I just started thinking about all the different things that I’ve been involved in and all the ways that I think that the city needs more attention paid to it. And then also currently I’m working for Outlaw Dirty Money. And so being back involved in politics and how I love it, I thought, “Maybe I should run.” Because I never thought that I would run, because I was always the person who was pushing the elected person to get something done and I just never thought that I wanted to be that person on the other side. But now I know that I have all of these skills from all these different areas and I see the community from a 360 vantage point and can take all of those perspectives into consideration when making policy.
21:08 ST: So, pivoting slightly, partly ’cause I was just listening to a podcast about creative place making, and since you worked with the arts and you have your involvement with theater, I’m curious how you see the space for arts and cultural organizations being part of things like economic development and responding to climate change.
21:33 BD: It’s like you read my website.
21:37 ST: I actually didn’t.
21:41 BD: Whether people know me or don’t know me, let me say this, I’m a huge supporter of arts and culture of all types, for all ages, in all its forms. Also, having been in economic development and always having that mindset of, “How can we creatively do economic development? Not like it’s done in other places, maybe taking good ideas from other places, but how can we do it creatively here?” And I really think we’re missing an opportunity to use arts and culture as an economic tool, because it’s already demonstrated itself to be an economic driver, we just don’t recognize it as that. We tend to see arts and culture as kind of a frivolous afterthought, or like the icing on the cake. And I think that Flagstaff is positioned to make it a focal point for economic development efforts.
22:45 ST: Yeah. On the podcast I was listening to where they interviewed one of the people who works at ArtPlace, which is a program I’ve followed for a while, but they were talking about a city that had created an Artist-in-Residence position within the city government. And the Artists-in-Residence was brought in to all different types of meetings and project planning they were doing, to basically just see if there was a way they could lend their artistic perspective to it. And one of the ones that they ended up doing was that they were struggling of getting enough community input on things like planning and zoning, and just general, “Where should we put a street?”, that kind of stuff. And they always… You typically do all the same things, you send out an electronic survey, you maybe have a public meeting that the same five people attend.
23:40 ST: And they’re tired of it and they’re like, “We’re not actually hearing from the people who will be affected by this.” So she came up with this idea that they converted an old truck into a popsicle truck and took it out to the neighborhoods that were gonna be affected. And they had literal popsicles, they weren’t bait and switching people.
24:01 ST: So people got popsicles, but while they had the popsicle they said, “Would you mind answering just these three questions about a project that’s coming to your neighborhood?” And so it was a chance for them to have this positive interaction with people in the community.
24:15 BD: And connect with people, possibly for the longer term, that they hadn’t been connecting with.
24:21 ST: And if it’s a popsicle you could literally print the website or something on the popsicle stick. So if they wanted to… [chuckle]
24:28 BD: That is awesome.
24:28 ST: Keep involved they would know where to go.
24:31 BD: Oh, I love that.
24:31 ST: I know, right? That got me all energized again just thinking about, “There’s so many creative possibilities that we’re not even thinking about.” Is there anything in particular from either your work with the Arts Council or your volunteering in theater where you directly got an idea or took a method that works in that space and brought it into a completely different space?
24:57 BD: I was invited to direct a couple of mini performances at a criminal justice conference. So these were judges and police officers and probation officers, it was just a mix of people. And a writer met with individuals in our community who had had some interaction with the criminal justice system, and she wrote short plays based on their experiences. So then what I did was I found actors to come in and play those parts. And the people in the audience didn’t know that they were actors, until we eventually told them. But they just got up and talked about a reason why maybe they offended a second time or something that they learned after being incarcerated, or just something about their life that led them to have that interaction with criminal justice. I know that at least for the people that I heard from at that conference, it was really impactful.
26:09 ST: That’s awesome. I kind of wanna steal that idea for another event I’m doing in May.
26:14 BD: Go ahead. I didn’t come up with it.
26:16 ST: Well, I was actually already thinking something similar. I’ve been thinking about like, “How do I not only give people an experience but also reflect back to them what’s happening in their own organization or with the people they work with, that they might not be seeing?” Or the power dynamics create a situation, which it sounds like that was happening in the criminal justice scenario. They never would have necessarily gotten to hear those words in that way if you had asked people to come in and tell it directly, whereas because you had this layer of filter in between and you were able to then have actors come in, there isn’t that actual power dynamic happening.
27:00 BD: Yes.
27:00 ST: Yeah. And there weren’t risks to the people.
27:02 BD: Right. No one ever knew.
27:03 ST: And that would happen in a large organization too, where they say they wanna know how the frontline employees feel about this new direction they’re going in as an organization, but it’s so hard for them to get an actual accurate hearing of that because it’s like that old organizational science thing where people are affected… People who are being observed are affected by the fact they’re being observed, so you can’t get the actual information. Does that make sense?
27:35 BD: Yes. Absolutely.
27:36 ST: Okay.
27:37 BD: And you know what, you’re kind of describing and I did a workshop, I took a workshop, at Theatrikos taught by Moan Hen’s mom, who is world-renowned in Playback Theatre. And essentially what that is, well, what this workshop is, I’m no expert in this, but what we would do is describe events in our lives to another person or to a group, and it didn’t have to be an emotional experience. It could be, “I went to the store and this is what happened.” And then we would do exercises to play that back to the person. And it got emotional because… Well, just the stories that people were telling, even if on the face they didn’t seem that emotional, I think seeing it played back to them, seeing someone else play out your story was very impactful.
28:39 ST: The podcast is called “Do Good, Be Good”, what does it mean to you to be good?
28:44 BD: Just to be kind, and to have good motives. To live your life in a way where you’re not trying to get one over on someone, you’re just living your life out to help other people and to enjoy your life so that you can demonstrate to other people some joy in life.
29:10 ST: I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Becky. Thank you for listening to “Do Good, Be Good”. For show notes on all of our episodes visit dogoodbegoodshow.com. Thank you, Becky, for coming to my home studio to record and share your story. Today’s episode was edited, produced, and everything else by me, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. Don’t forget you can always subscribe for free to this show in any podcast app of choice, be that Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, any of them that you like. You can just click the button to subscribe and you’ll get each episode as soon as it is released. Music in this episode is Bathed in Fine Dust by Andy G. Cohen, released under Creative Commons Attribution International License, and discovered in the Free Music Archive. Until next week, this is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom signing off.