The GHCC Blog Team recently caught up with Douglass Austin of UPD Consulting to talk about the benefits of city living, understanding community needs, and the importance of good beer and strong neighborhoods.
Can you please tell us a bit about UPD Consulting?
UPD Consulting is a Baltimore-based, minority-owned public sector management consulting firm that helps public sector agencies including local governments, school districts, state education agencies, and non-profits, transform into organizations that manage performance for better outcomes.
Cool! What do you love most about working in Baltimore?
We’re city people. Most of our Baltimore-based staff live in the city. And most of our staff around the country also live in cities, not the surrounding suburbs. When we looked for a new building, our main constraint was it be in Baltimore City. I think that’s one of the reasons we relate so well to our clients who are typically urban governments or school systems. We like being a part of a neighborhood, being able to walk to get lunch or after-work cocktails. The fact that we’re now part of an older Baltimore community with lots of different things going on—instead of a sterile business park—is very appealing.
We agree wholeheartedly! So why did you choose to sponsor the 1st Annual Oktoberfest Fundraiser to support the 29th Street Community Center?
It was kind of a no-brainer for us. We want to be a supportive and contributing member of this community, and we have sought out ways to help make this a stronger neighborhood (like the pro bono project we did for Margaret Brent Elementary/Middles School). And then there’s the beer. We’re BIG beer fans at UPD. Two of our staff members—including our Office Manager—are serious home brewers. And really good beer is featured at our own “First Thursday” happy hours we host for staff, family and friends. So, when the opportunity arose to sponsor the 29th Street Community Center’s Oktoberfest, we couldn’t say no!
Can you tell us more about that pro bono project with Margaret Brent?
We are proud of our connection to Margaret Brent,which is across the street from us. When we moved in, we decided we should try to do something “neighborly” as our introduction to the street, so instead of selling our used furniture when we outfitted our new space, we donated it to the school. That led to conversations about what we do—a lot of which has to do with schools and school district performance. And that led to a longer-term pro bono project to help the school get community input on their new principal selection process. We held sessions where the community members gave input on the strengths and weaknesses of the school, key focus areas, and important qualities for a new principal.
You also serve as an Advisory Board member to GHCC – what is your motivation to serve in this role?
Again, it has to do with wanting to stay connected to our neighborhood and to important work that is happening in the city. When I worked for the city’s Housing Department, I was enmeshed in community development work almost every day. But most of UPD’s consulting work is in other cities around the country, so participating on GHCC’s Advisory Board is one way I can stay connected to what’s happening here in my own city.
Thank you, Doug, and UPD Consulting, for sponsoring the 1st Annual Oktoberfest and for being a great example of a community-minded business!