Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are making a meaningful impact in their communities, industries, and around the world.
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Midy Aponte and I am the chief experience officer of Spitfire Strategies, a public interest communications firm that represents international, national, and state foundations and nonprofits that are tackling some of the most prominent issues facing society today, including environmental justice, racial justice, climate change, pay equity, gender equity, education, healthcare reform, immigration, LGBTQ rights, and more.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
I have always oriented my career in the advocacy and social justice space, starting back to when I was an intern in Miami, Florida, where I worked with several dozen states on their youth-led anti-tobacco work in the late 90s and early 2000s through the national anti-tobacco movement, “Truth.” In addition, my career path included working with a firm in Washington, D.C. doing litigation, communication, and crisis communications work for Fortune 500 companies and as a self-employed consultant doing Hispanic outreach and communication strategies for nonprofits and businesses. From there, I was tapped by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to lead the American Latino Heritage Fund, which created and preserved Latino history and heritage as seen through the National Park System. When I left that post in 2014, I came out to Colorado and reconnected with some former colleagues who had joined Spitfire and they asked me to come on board. I did, and started an environment portfolio and eventually grew a Denver office.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
At Spitfire, we look for clients whose values we align with. We have a really strong core foundation where strategy is our North Star – strategy to build a better world and to help our clients ideate what that world is and develop a plan to help them create this better world. We find ourselves in a really critical time and place, with an amazingly smart and talented staff with deep-seated core values and where we all collectively want to provide our clients with the best wisdom, the best strategies, and the best opportunities to help sculpt the world that we want to live in.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
We are at the front end of some really, really big things. Last year, we represented an international account where we worked with the Global Commission on Climate Adaptation, helping with the narrative change and the U.S. strategy behind it around moving from not only addressing and building awareness around climate change but to conversations around what societies would need to do to adapt to a climate change world. How do we restructure our infrastructure? How do we restructure the way that we look at climate finance? How do we get ahead of climate disasters and equip governments and corporations and civil society groups with the know-how to confront the changing environment around us?
We find ourselves on the very front-end of social themes and issues that require us to restructure, rethink, and re-engineer how we’re looking at some of the issues before us that we’ve been looking at for a very long time, but now need to be seen through a different lens.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
I look at my own community and what is needed in my community. I know that I represent a sliver of society, being of Latino heritage, but I know that there are so many communities that really need help and support. I also know that there are communities doing amazing things to move above and beyond on issues and they don’t get the recognition that they deserve. For me, it’s about representing all communities and ensuring they have a voice at the table, and moving all communities forward as a result.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
At Spitfire, our vision is to be a values match with our clients, but also to be a partner with our clients in changing the world. We have a team of people with amazing skill sets and by matching those skill sets with our clients’ vision for a better world, we can help shape what that world could look like and help move us all closer to what that world could be.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
We are living in the most tumultuous time in recent history. We’re facing a threat to democracy right now on all fronts and we see it represented in all the issues that we work on from the environment, voting rights, public health and COVID, etc. The staff in each of our offices in California, Denver, New York, and Washington, D.C., have personally been front and center to these issues and we’ve had to be really creative and conscious about how to keep ourselves mentally healthy. We’re asking how do we give ourselves mental breaks? How do we keep culture strong? What do staff need so that they’re comfortable working at home? What do our Spitfire parents who have young kids doing online learning at home need? There’s so much need and a lot of challenges. We’re focusing on how do we keep Spitfire as a business strong in the face of an economy that is so turbulent and unpredictable and volatile? We’re really learning to stick together and to be compassionate and patient with one another, and see each other as humans not just as coworkers and staff, and giving ourselves permission to be a little bit more vulnerable than maybe we would have been pre-COVID.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
That it is evolving. That the work we do will never be done. For example, we are partnering with clients who are on the front end of giving a name and a voice and leading racial justice and that requires the kind of change that is going to take many generations to unfold. So the one thing that I would want people to know about the work we do is that there is no timeline for this. It’s not formulaic like you do A + B to get C. No, this work requires a mind shift and it’s going to take us a long while but we’ve got to keep at it in order to get ahead of it.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Others can support the work we’re doing by looking inward and being inquisitive about the things we need to adjust and how we are each contributing to this shifting landscape. What do we need to change about ourselves and what do we need to change and restructure about the way we do things? The world that we’re entering into is not going to be the same as it was in 2015, or 2017, or 2019. We’re changing, the world is changing, so we need to really be thoughtful about what our contributions will need to be and what we’re going to need to do to make it a better place for all of us to live.
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