recity network

The Power of Partnership: The Helius Foundation


At ReCity Network, we’re all about collaboration. We’re not just a coworking facility or event space, and we’re not just rewriting the story of our city—we’re doing all of this together. Continuing our series on the power of partnership, we turn our attention to The Helius Foundation and the many partnerships Executive Director Geraud Staton has formed within the ReCity Network.

The story of Helius and its partnerships illustrates how building a network within a network can power social entrepreneurship and community development. Helius provides free training, mentoring, and coaching for necessity-driven entrepreneurs (NDEs).

Officially, about 14 percent of entrepreneurs are NDEs, but this statistic only includes registered businesses. “Probably 90% of the people I’ve worked with don’t have registered businesses, so I suspect the numbers are much higher,” said Staton. “There are a surprising number of entrepreneurs in communities like Northeast Central Durham doing their ‘side hustle’ to supplement their income,” he said. Helius’ goal is to take what often starts as a side business and turn it into a fair living wage—or even more.

When people in underserved communities are asked what their community needs to thrive, the overwhelming answer is “jobs.” Most people are thinking in terms of a huge company moving into the community and bringing thousands of jobs, but Staton has a better solution. “People have ideas,” he said. “But they don’t even know that they can achieve their dreams, much less have the tools to know how. If we can help entrepreneurs dream big and achieve those dreams, they can also offer employment to the community and allow people to do something they love, something they believe in—more than just a job.”

Helius is just 18 months old and already working with 28 NDEs, but they’re not doing it alone. They’re currently partnering with three ReCity members: REAL Durham, StepUp Durham, and Partners for Youth Opportunity. Armed with the belief that non-profits are stronger together, Staton pointed out that trust is not always easy to come by with the communities that they serve. “People are naturally skeptical,” he said. “So, if I can partner with an organization that’s already built that trust, they’re able to transfer that trust to my organization, and vice versa.”

Helius serves as an ally to REAL Durham clients looking to become financially stable through entrepreneurship. Camryn Smith, program coordinator for Real Durham, sees Helius as a resource to help her clients get out of poverty through entrepreneurship, and Helius sees her as a source of credibility for its organization in the communities where Helius serves.

With StepUp Durham, Executive Director Syretta Hill and her team identify clients in their program who are better suited to becoming entrepreneurs than pursuing traditional employment—StepUp’s core mission—and refer them to Helius for a matching solution set.

With Partnership for Youth Opportunity, Staton has seen the benefits of working with other non-profit leaders to strengthen and stabilize Helius Foundation for a sustainable future in Durham. PYO Executive Director Julie Wells has served as a coach to Staton on operation issues for non-profits and has referred Helius a paid intern for this summer.

“All three of our ReCity partners—REAL Durham, StepUp Durham, and Partners for Youth Opportunity—have been crucial to our development at Helius, both with the clients we serve and internally with developing our operational integrity and long-term focus,” added Staton.

Building on this shared trust has allowed Helius to shore up and expand its programs. In addition to mentoring NDEs, they’re also offering micro loans to their clients, hosting business networking events, and working with children to instill the entrepreneurial spirit at an early age.

Staton’s advice to ReCity members is to fully take advantage of everything ReCity has to offer. With ReCity being at 100 percent capacity and soon to add more, there are a lot of resources available. “There are people to ask about practically everything. Just do it,” Staton said. “To fully take advantage of your ReCity membership, you have to fully take advantage of all the resources here, including the leaders of ReCity itself, Rob Shields and Tucker Stevens. Everyone here is great to work with as we build for a better future.”

For more information on Helius Foundation and its growing impact on necessity-driven entrepreneurs in Durham, visit their website at

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The Power of Partnership: Partners for Youth Opportunity and StepUp Durham

At ReCity Network, we’re all about collaboration. We’re not just a coworking facility or event space, and we’re not just rewriting the story of our city—we’re doing all of this together. This is the first of many stories we’re telling on our blog about ReCity members coming together to face challenges in our community. These stories demonstrate the power of partnering with other ReCity members to provide layered services and have a deeper impact on the people of Durham.

Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO) and StepUp Durham are two ReCity partner organizations that came here with the right mindset of being collaborative and seeing how they could make a bigger impact on their clients through working together. They’ve also found that, by partnering together, they can help their donors make a bigger impact with their money. Every dollar that a donor gives goes further, impacting the missions of multiple organizations. Working as partners doesn’t dilute the impact of donor dollars, it actually makes that impact grow. “StepUp Durham has only been around for 18 months, but we wanted to have a collective impact quickly,” said Syretta Hill, executive director of StepUp Durham. “ReCity helps us do that. We’re able to build relationships and deepen partnerships organically and in an authentic way.”

The problems that our partners are trying to solve are all intertwined—housing, food, employment, education. Any one of them alone is big. PYO and StepUp have made a conscious effort to keep their scope small and serve, say, 100 people well rather than 500 poorly. By keeping their scope small, they’re able to tackle solving several big problems. Providing people with multiple layers of support allows them to become more self-sufficient and grow into a positive contributor to the community. Every win that organizations create together turns into a give-back to the community.

Partnership also has a positive impact on the organizations themselves. By being as effective as possible, even with a limited number of clients, the executive directors are able to firm up their programming, stabilize their organizations, and focus on bringing in donations to sustain and hopefully grow their missions. “We can achieve better results and have a deeper impact if we’re hyper-focused,” said Julie Wells, executive director of PYO. “When we provide comprehensive services through our partnerships, we can solve several issues for our clients.”

PYO and StepUp now have multiple programs they’re working on together. One is the Career Academy, a two-week work training program. Previously, StepUp had targeted this program toward their adult population, but they’ve now translated the program and are delivering training to PYO’s youth population as well. Another partnership program they’re providing is called Step2—a longer, nine-month program focused on helping people develop stability in many areas of their lives. This program is similar to PYO’s comprehensive model, but is tailored for adults. The two organizations are also currently working on other joint initiatives, including a program to tackle the effects of incarceration on family members—a common problem in Durham and many other cities.

Both Julie and Syretta agreed that for ReCity partners to get the most out of their membership, they need to be partnering with other organizations. Their advice is to know yourself well enough to know your gaps and look for ways to collaborate authentically with others. Partnering with other organizations can make you look unique and different, and you should be leveraging that. If you’ve been here a number of months and haven’t formed any partnerships, it’s time to get started!

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Durham Chamber, ReCity Network Join Forces for Economic, Social Impact

Emerging social impact hub forms strategic partnership with economic development leader


(DURHAM, NC) The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, a bold, dynamic organization supporting the needs of businesses, non-profits, and government agencies, and ReCity Network, an emerging hub for social impact with non-profits, faith-based organizations, and mission-driven businesses, announce a new strategic partnership to build on the Bull City’s record of economic success and drive next-generation leadership.

Under the terms of the agreement, ReCity Network joins dozens of leading organizations as a member of the Chamber 2.0 key investor group, part of a Durham Chamber strategic initiative to shape the city’s future for sustained economic development through shared vision, shared ideas, creation of business opportunities, and solving statewide problems.

In addition, ReCity Network will begin hosting multiple Durham Chamber meetings and events at its 12,000-square-foot co-working, meeting, and event space located near the intersection of Broadway and Mangum Streets in downtown Durham. Events will be selected by ReCity and Durham Chamber leadership in an effort to promote collaboration among the organizations and their respective members, as the two groups focus on social entrepreneurship, impact, and innovation.

ReCity Network and the Durham Chamber will also cross-promote events and initiatives to their respective member bases.

According to Rob Shields, founding Executive Director of ReCity Network, the Durham Chamber strategic partnership is not just a big win for the emerging social impact hub, but for the city itself. “The Durham Chamber has, over the last decade, set the gold standard for collaboration and innovation for local economic development associations,” said Shields. “The leadership team at the chamber is known for being flexible and attentive to the needs of all stakeholders, including our core constituents of non-profits, churches, and mission-driven organizations. We are very proud to join forces with the Durham Chamber and build a future of shared success for all who call Durham home.”

Geoff Durham, President and CEO of the Durham Chamber, believes that ReCity has a big role to play in defining Durham’s future in positive ways. “The ReCity Network represents the very best of what Durham has to offer,” said Sternberg. “Within a matter of months, dozens of mission-driven organizations have coalesced with this organization, the impact has been both immediate and widespread for community empowerment. We believe that the more citizens share in the success enjoyed by Durham’s entrepreneurial and corporate communities, the greater we all will benefit.”

About ReCity Network
Founded in 2016, ReCity Network is Durham’s hub for social impact. More than three dozen non-profits, faith-based organizations, and mission-driven businesses call the ReCity Network’s 12,000-square-foot home for co-working, meetings, and events aimed at fostering collaboration and sparking innovation that defines a new era of shared success among all residents of the Bull City.

About the Durham Chamber
The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce is a member-driven organization that serves members by helping to create and sustain a healthy economic climate. Established in 1906, the Chamber has been an integral part of the Durham community for more than 100 years. Businesses, organizations, and agencies who choose to be a part of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce do so because it is a thriving, pro-active business leadership organization.

Media Contacts:

ReCity Network: Rob Shields, Executive Director
Phone: 919-368-2513

Durham Chamber: Myra Wooten, Director of Public Relations and Communications
Phone: 919-328-8722

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Race & the City: ReCity Network Hosts Forum with Sho Baraka, Durham Community Leaders

A packed house of nearly 150 attendees from many walks of life joined ReCity Network last Thursday for “Race & the City,” an intense, uplifting evening discussing race relations in Durham and the nation. The event featured a diverse panel of community leaders, including: Perry Tankard, associate pastor of Grace Park Church; Reynolds Chapman, executive director of DurhamCares; Camryn Smith, program coordinator for REAL Durham; and Miriam Valle, director of operations at Partners for Youth Opportunity. Maliek Blade, diversity coordinator for event sponsor Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, led the panel in discussion.

A visual presentation set the stage for the evening’s events, hitting attendees squarely with a variety of statistics illustrating disparate treatment and outcomes among racial communities in Durham and the United States:

  • In Durham, if you are black, you are 4.5x more likely to be searched after a traffic violation than if you are white.

  • White applicants with a felony conviction are more likely to be hired than a black applicant with no criminal history.

  • White families hold 90% of the national wealth. Latinos hold 2.3%. Black families hold 2.6%.

The evening kicked off with local minister and DJ Perry Tankard interviewing influential Christian hip-hop artist and panelist, Sho Baraka. During the interview, Baraka walked the crowd through his own spiritual journey and coming-of-age story as an activist for both the black community and the evangelical church in America. “I never wanted to be a Christian rapper,” said Baraka. “But the Lord gifted me in the area of communication, so I used it to reach people like me with an identity crisis.”

The panel engaged in a deep discussion of the issues of oppression and experiencing what Martin Luther King called the “beloved community.” From a white perspective, panelist Reynolds Chapman pointed out, “It’s easy for white people to not have to deal with issues like politics and race. But we’re the ones doing the oppressing. If we don’t have conversations, oppression will continue.” The sentiment was echoed by panelist Perry Tankard with, “A lot of oppression happens without people even realizing it. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, a lot of the problems can break down.”

Some of the more powerful testimony of the evening came from a pair of women on the panel, Miriam Valle and Camryn Smith. As a Mexican-American who came to the U.S. at age four, Valle remarked on how surprised she was to learn from Sho how similar they are. “I felt invisible so many times,” said Valle. “Sometimes people ask offensive questions due to lack of knowledge.” Fighting back tears, Valle eloquently described the social effort required by state of “otherness” felt by Hispanic-Americans in 2017 by saying, “I’ve learned to talk to people so they can learn who I am, what my culture represents.”

Smith issued an emphatic call, rousing the crowd to action, saying, “Relationships ain’t gonna cut it.” She eloquently summarized the emotion of the evening by reminding the crowd that “We are all created in the image of God. Until we can begin to have shared analysis and transfer of power, nothing will change.”

The ReCity Network thanks our panelists, community members, and our special guest, Sho Baraka, for contributing to a game-changing event in our city. The evening’s discussion served as a powerful reminder of ReCity’s mission to develop trust, learn each other’s stories, and collaborate to rewrite the story of our city.

Be sure to check out WRAL's coverage of our event as well.

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