Voice of Mpact

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What Is The Voice of MPACT?

Dear Memphis, After months of work by our staff and countless volunteers, we proudly present to you The Voice of MPACT. MPACT is dedicated to engaging and supporting Memphis’ diverse, creative generation of young professionals. Our goal is to connect these awesome folks to each other and help build Memphis into a City of Choice for young professionals. To us, the next logical step was to ask YPs what they really wanted in their city and to our surprise, we were the first to ask. Thus we embarked on what we believe to be the nation’s largest grassroots survey of young professionals. It was a blast, and everyone was totally excited and supportive. In these pages you will find the thoughts, ideas, and suggestions of more than 1,500 respondents. Some responses are very insightful while others are a little more edgy, funny, or downright strange. In the end, Memphis’ young professionals want many of the same things all Memphians want-a city that provides quality jobs and professional opportunities, a community that is supportive of creativity and entrepreneurialism, a culture that rejoices in our diversity instead of wielding it as a weapon, and a local government that values its citizens and truly works, keeping our best interests in mind and at heart. Together we can achieve anything we set our minds to. MPACT is proud of our city, and we hope to inspire that same pride in others. Everything in here is achievable, and we’re excited about working with you to make Memphis the best it can be.

The Voice of MPACT is a 3-phase nonpartisan project launched by MPACT Memphis in July of 2009 to discover where Memphis’ young professionals stand on a wide range of topics and issues.


Phase 3: Continuing our grassroots

Phase 1: We created a 36 question online-only survey which included a combination of multiple choice, rating and short answer questions. The topics ranged from lifestyle and attitude to questions about city government. After collecting more than 550 responses, we analyzed the data to identify further “drill down” topics. Phase 2: Based on the data analysis, we created six additional “mini” surveys, which were distributed online, at our more than 150 events and around the city. Once we had collected over 1,000 responses to the mini surveys, we closed January 1, 2010 and went to work figuring out what exactly Memphis’ young professionals had to say.

approach, we hired a University of Memphis graduate student to help us analyze the data, as well as a graphic design undergraduate student from the Memphis College of Art to help us make all of the information visually-appealing. The Voice of MPACT’s compiled results will serve as a blueprint to to develop an action plan which will allow MPACT and our members to better engage, connect, create, and make the most of Memphis.

Why Does it Matter To Memphis? Young professionals are the future of Memphis. They can drive up to 58% of the economy and they are essential to improving it. The presence of a vibrant young professional community is one of the most important indicators of a city’s success. Yet, no one has ever asked them what they want and as a result, Memphis isn’t catering to their needs. When students graduate, they aren’t looking for jobs in Memphis, but instead are leaving for better job opportunities.

The Voice of MPACT asked the questions that needed to be asked about the topics that matter to young professionals. By figuring out what we want in our city, we can all work together to build Memphis into a City of Choice that will not only attract new talent, but better develop and retain the amazing young professionals who call our fair city home.

Who is a Young Professional? Our survey responses covered everyone 18 years and older but we concentrated primarily on those respondents who were 25-34 and possessed at least a bachelor’s degree. They are every color, background, ethnicity, industry, and family composition. They live in every zip code (they probably live next door to you) and they are on their way up the professional ladder. They are accountants, teachers, writers, architects, engineers, entrepreneurs, managers, and just about everything in between. They volunteer and are more involved than any other demographic.

About MPACT Memphis MPACT Memphis engages and supports today’s diverse, creative generation of young professionals who want to connect with each other and contribute their unique talents to the community. Our vision is to be a forward-thinking, action-oriented driving force in the recruitment, retention and engagement of a diverse and creative generation of young professionals, for the economic and cultural development of Memphis. MPACT is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit founded in 2001 by a group of emerging Memphis leaders who saw a vast untapped resource in the city’s growing population of those under 40. Over the past nine years, the members of MPACT Memphis have completed a long list of projects, events and campaigns to foster a new level of social, civic and cultural engagement among young professionals in our community. MPACT is a national model for similar efforts and a recognized entity within the community. Its approximately 700 members participate in countless MPACT events and activities.




Male 56%

Caucasian 72%

18-24 14%

Female 43%

African-American 19%

25-34 58%

Prefer Not to Say 1%

Prefer Not to Say 3%

35-44 28%

Other 2% Multi-racial/ Indian Hispanic/Asian Each 1% or less

Length of Time in Memphis

Top Three Zipcodes

Less than 1 years 8%


1-2 10%

38104 38111

3-5 16% 6-10 13% 10+ 37% all my life 16%

About The Data The data is based on over 1,200 young professional unique respondents. Surveys were conducted online, at every MPACT event (often over 10 per month) and at pretty much any other event or festival we could fit into our schedule. Running almost entirely on a volunteer basis, aside from a small paid staff of two, we physically and mentally put out every effort to gather a diverse data set. For more information about demographics, please see the next page.

The Majority at a Glance Individual Income (annual) 81% earned$75,000 or less Employment 83% Employed full-time Marital Status 50% Single, unmarried # of Children 71% have no children Residence 55% own their residence


Shelby County Total Population


Total # of YPs

111,666 (12%)

African-American YPs


Caucasian YPs


Other YPs

5,124 (13%)

(17%) (71%)

MPACT Memphis


Total Membership

(35%) 239

African-American YPs

(58%) 398

Caucasian YPs

(9%) 51

Other YPs

These percentages were based on ACS PUMS data for Shelby County in 2008. http://factfinder.census.gov/home/en/acs_pums_2008_1yr.html for information regarding American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample. In Shelby County, this sample consisted of 8,043 records.

“More walkable/bikeable neighborhoods in the downtown/midtown core. I’d like to reduce my reliance on driving, but perceptions of safety prevent that. And it seems the suburbs get the best grocery stores and other retail hubs ... I know I would walk more to do errands if I felt it was safe to walk to good retailers. I’d also rely on public transit more for the same reasons. I know there are some great efforts being done on recycling, local sourcing, and energy efficiency -- keep that up, Memphis!” -Female, Caucasian, 25-34

It’s no secret-it isn’t easy being green. In this section, YPs shared their thoughts and ideas about greening Memphis. We asked young professionals to rank the issues most important to them and those we should focus on first. We also asked YPs about their favorite green spot in Memphis (there are lots to choose from!). We looked at general perceptions about Memphis as a green city. By asking these questions, we aimed to paint an accurate picture of what Memphis’ current and future “greenscape” looks like through the eyes of a young professional .

[What should we do to make Memphis more environmentally friendly?] “Provide recycling bin pick-up & weekly trash service; have a recycle center in each area of the city that takes ALL recyclables� -Male, African-American, 25-34em

Community is all about feeling connected. We asked questions to find out how connected young professionals felt in Memphis and why. Many of the answers were those that usually come to mind: family, friends, school and careers but we also saw some interesting answers such as music and food, a reflection of the strong “uniquely Memphis” culture. Primarily open-ended responses, this area of the surveys provided plenty of room for insightful comments. We’ve tried to share as many as possible on the next two pages.


“[I live in Memphis because of] the rich, and largely untapped creative energy the citizens of Memphis has. I also love that its fairly easy to get an audience with decision makers, leaders through mediums such as MPACT and other leadership outlets.” -Female, African-American, 25-34 “[I feel connected because of] character. So many different aspects - people, food, arts, sports, music, faiths, perspectives. Everything. It just encourages and inspires me every day.”

-Male, Caucasian, 25-34

“[Memphis is] a mid-south city with a lot of history both culturally and demographically. There is an overwhelming amount of opportunity in this city; however, there is also a pervasive negativity due to the history of Memphis that overpowers the optimism.”

-Female, Asian, 25-34

“I lived here for two years, moved to DC for a job, and then decided I WANTED to come BACK to Memphis. Lots of people are surprised to hear that. There’s a ton that can be made better in this city, but I am perpetually inspired by all of the people working to do so... and I love how tangible the impact of positive work is here.” -Female, Caucasian, 25-34

The results are clear: the #1 concern of young professionals in Memphis is jobs, jobs and more jobs. While, according to our results, they believe there are plenty of activities for young professionals and a closeknit professional community in Memphis, the majority don’t believe Memphis offers plenty of good job opportunities and 70% are considering leaving for better job opportunities elsewhere. These are startling statistics. Respondents also shared their thoughts on the best ways to network in Memphis and provided some tips on what employers can do to enhance the employee work experience. So, for all you employers (big and small): listen up!

“Networking with purpose. We’re all so talented and connected but we rarely showcase ourselves.”

-Female, African-American, 35-44

“Events that focus on meeting and interacting with people who are outside of the group that you brought with you. Too many times, everyone stands around in separate groups of three or four people.”

-Female, Caucasian 25-34

“Because everyone wants to believe that the grass is greener somewhere else. Experience and wisdom shows us that every city has problems. As citizens we have a choice to either engage to make change or wish we were somewhere else. Looks like half of us are here to engage and half of us want to believe in greener grass.”

“... I am leaving for the opportunity of furthering my career in a direction that is not available in Memphis. Memphis lacks major opportunities for young people leaving college and furthermore lacks the quality of life of people in other major cities. The only thing that makes living in Memphis bearable is living in Midtown”

-Male, Caucasian, 18-24

-Male, Caucasian, 25-34

Without enlisting Batman’s help...

“[To lower crime] Start young: providing safe after-school activities that build self-confidence (i.e. sports, theatre, the arts or even assistance with their homework) keeping the youth off the streets and engaged with education and their community”

-Male, Caucasian, 18-24

Our City and Government Survey was so large, we had to split it into two sections “In the Bluff City” and “We Want You to Read This.” In the Bluff City covers safety, crime and city pride. These results were quite interesting in that YPs are proud of their city, but only about half of them feel safe in their city. Please remember: the vast majority of these surveys were gathered in September and October of 2009.

“I am most proud of the people making efforts to make a difference in the community, big or small. I am least proud of the people that accept the status quo. You cannot ignore problems and expect them to go away...”

-Male, African-American, 18-24

“Most: diversity, music Least: crime, politics, education”

-Male, Caucasian, 35-44

“Most= our heritage, the cool things we have going on here- Kroc center, Church Health Center, etc. etc. There is a lot of good that people don’t talk about. Least= our poor reputation, caused mostly by our civic leaders and the inability of city and county residents to work together.” -Female, Caucasian, 25-34


Overwhelmingly, education is what most young professionals believe we should improve upon to build a better Memphis. In fact, the majority of respondents from all age groups agreed on this. The data also explains how YPs feel about taxes and government services as well as the cost of living in Memphis and the role of government in relation to citizen’s interests. Again, please remember-the vast majority of these surveys were gathered in September and October of 2009.

“That’s a toss. Our school system, transportation, roads, public services... pick one.”

-Male, Hispanic/Latino, 35-44

The younger the generation, the more tech-savvy. Naturally YPs had a lot to say about the current technological state and advancement of Memphis. The majority don’t consider Memphis high-tech or techfriendly, both separate but equal qualities in a prosperous 21st century city. Almost all of the YPs believe Memphis simply doesn’t offer enough high-tech jobs at all. Creating these jobs is crucial to the development of the city. Once again, YPs listed education as a popular solution to advancing Memphis’ technical skills.

[What can we do to increase the number of high tech jobs?]: “Support entrepreneurship in meaningful ways. Creative class and high tech jobs need to be cultivated and nurtured from within our city -- while teleporting would be nice that is not as feasible here.”


-Male, Caucasian, 25-34 [What can we do to increase the number of high tech jobs?]: “Graduate and/or recruit more young professionals who can fill those jobs. Employers won’t come here unless there are qualified employees available” -Female, Caucasian, 25-34

Race is a difficult issue, especially in Memphis but we weren’t afraid to go there and YPs weren’t afraid to answer. Nearly ¾ of all respondents don’t believe all races are treated equally and fairly in Memphis. A large number of YPs, nearly half, interact with a group in which they are the minority on a daily basis. The most diverse area of town according to YPs, is Midtown. They believe organizations like MPACT and Leadership Memphis offer a diverse membership and they offered insightful views as to ways to increase equality among all races in Memphis. Education, once again, was the #1 solution listed by YPs to increase equality.

“Equal access to a good education” “I think fellowship between the churches is a start. The next thing is to teach people to be more tolerant to the differences of others.”

-Female, Caucasian, 35-44

“Exposure. Being exposed to all different types of people gives a person the opportunity to experience that we all are really not that different from one another. To accelerate this exposure, more community events need to be held that appeal to not only people from different races but also different cultures, religions and life-styles.”

-Male, Multiracial, 35-44 -Male, AfricanAmerican, 18-24

This section takes a look at YPs’ thoughts and feelings about themselves and in relation to Memphis. It also touches on their day to day behaviors. We examined everything from community and belonging to leadership and opportunity. Interestingly, the same things that YPs love about Memphis (diversity, for example) are also some of the things they would change (race relations). It also appears that the younger the YP, the less likely they are to stay in Memphis for an extended period of time. This reinforces the need to focus on talent retention when 38% of 18-24-year-olds say it’s not at all likely they will be in Memphis in 10 years. [What makes Memphis unique?] “Memphis has a strong presence in a variety of areas: music, art, and athletics, to name a few. Also, it seems as if each little “community” within Memphis has a claim to fame: Midtown is artsy and eclectic, Downtown is business and entertainment-oriented, etc.”

-Female, Caucasian, 18-24

“I’d make moves to provide more accessibility to things like good, low cost health care, effective and convenient transportation, fair living and wage employment, job training, excellent K-12 education for all districts, and community education. i’d try to build bridges in the community that fill the gap created by racism and racial tension.”

-Female, African-American, 25-34

“The unacceptable gap in education, income and jobs which feeds the real and perceived crime issue. Better relations on the whole would be vastly improved with successfully executed educational programs.” -Male, Caucasian, 25-34

“Memphis has an inferiority complex. People who live in Memphis need to start being positive about Memphis.” -Female, Caucasian, 25-34

All the data in the world won’t do us a lick of good unless we take action. We’re sure you’ve already thought of several organizations or individuals who are addressing some of the issues we raised. Common Ground is building a new landscape of race relations. Shelby Farms, Project Green Fork and Greater Memphis Greenline are full steam a head on the green front. In fact, there are too many great organizations and people to fit on this page! There’s absolutely no need to reinvent the wheel. At MPACT, we believe the most effective catalyst for change is collaboration. Our first action step is to identify those who are already working on the issues raised. We will build partnerships to directly engage our young professionals in the civic efforts that mean the most to them. There are certain areas in which MPACT is not in a position to take action. To our elected officials - it’s up to you to rebuild our confidence and our faith in you. To employers, trade groups and chambers of commerce – we trust you to find innovative ways to create and maintain quality jobs that will attract young talent. We will focus on a few key areas in which MPACT can make a difference. MPACT will actively work to create change in some areas, provide support, energy and human capital for other issues, and trust the rest will be handled by those who are best suited for the task. We will revisit these key indicators every year or so, just to see how we’re doing. So, come collaborate with us, and let’s build Memphis into the city we all know it can be. We understand if you can’t participate directly. We also accept cash, check, Visa or Mastercard in lieu of human investment. (Hey, we might be passionate but we still have to pay the light bill.) MPACT is the voice of young professionals and we believe in our ability to achieve positive change. Will you join us?

Thank you so much to everyone who made this possible! MemphisED, The Memphis Flyer, Darrell Cobbins, a founder of MPACT Memphis and the mastermind behind the original idea of The Voice of MPACT, our Board of Advisors and Board of Directors, Sarah Petschonek- University of Memphis Graduate Student who helped us analyze/make sense of all the data (and just Excel in general), Kyle Scott- Memphis College of Art student whose talent and gift made the design of this publication possible, Qaaim Goodwin- Memphis College of Art student who helped us design an create all of the promotional materials for The Voice of MPACT and really helped get the campaign off the ground- Laura and Tom Logue of Message Factors, for offering their expert advice in the field of data and research, all the MPACT Members who patiently and willingly took survey after survey at each of our events, Tom Jones from Smart City Consulting for his wisdom and advice, Hilton Hotels, The Peabody Memphis, Charlotte Fine Jewelry of Memphis, South of Beale and Klein Fitness for donating such amazing incentive prizes, all the nonprofits, organizations, companies and individuals who passed out our survey or who took and/or promoted our surveys, every person in the Twitter/Facebook world who helped spread the word via social media, YOU! Thank you to every single one of you who we stalked on the street or through the web, for taking our long and short surveys - your support means the world to us. YOU ROCK!

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