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Francesca Martin: Inspiring & inspired by people

Francesca’s passion for what she loves is evident in everything she does. She creates delicious food to share at Groundwork that is always accompanied with a scannable link to detailed descriptions of the history of the food. She does work for others in her community, from helping people navigate the many complicated aspects of running non-profits, to donating to the New Bedford community fridge. She has even traveled to help friends move from one home to another, and she is always ready to lend a helping hand. Francesca’s passion extends from food to books to social justice, and beyond. She is a wealth of knowledge and a joy to be around. Read on to learn more about what Francesca does and what inspires her, in her own words.

What is your profession?

My current professional role is as a consultant, with my focus being on mission-based entities and, even more specifically, working with organizations in the community development space. That includes nonprofit housing developers or community (or neighborhood) based social service organizations, as examples. 

Most of my work is directed at supporting organizations that serve communities and constituencies that have been historically marginalized or excluded from social and economic opportunity. And my services also have become more focused over the past few years, really providing organizational development and planning support to these mission oriented organizations, such as strategic planning, support during leadership transitions, and resource (including funding) development.

Describe a typical work day for you.

Not sure there is such a thing! As a self-employed consultant, it’s pretty accurate to say that each day is relatively unique. Sure, I am involved in similar types of activities – talking to people, remote project activity – but the specifics of what I’m doing and the timing and scope of what I am doing does vary. Which is also what I like about working this way – it certainly sustains my interest and helps me to stay engaged in this work by having such a mix of things that I have deeper knowledge of and other projects that involve learning about or tapping into new knowledge and/or skills.

But I will say that a typical day involves a mix of desk/project work (in the morning); time outdoors in the afternoon, usually in the form of a walk in the woods or at the beach; and some time organizing my ‘to do’ list for the next day(s) or week. And my days also include time for meal planning and preparation, which is something that my wife and I share – we both love to cook!

What’s the biggest challenge you face at your job?

One of the biggest challenges, as someone who is self-employed and usually working remotely, is to sustain a high level of focus (I can so easily distract myself!), and to sometimes manage time given the ebbs and flows of project activities. But these same challenges also provide me with opportunities to explore new or different ways of organizing what I do. 

For example, the first challenge is what prompted me to begin to explore coworking communities/spaces when they were first coming out in my community (at the time, in CT) at the same time I was starting my business. 

Do you have a morning routine?

Morning is my best time! I start my day with a routine that combines making coffee (French Press) and doing a brief (10 min) warm-up routine called Qi Gong (“chee” “gong”); this is a set of (varied) exercises that comes from ancient Chinese practices supporting mind-body-spirit health. I follow this with a quick survey of news before taking a look at my calendar for the day. One change to my routine that happened a few years ago was to shift to eating 2 meals a day, and so eating breakfast later in the morning, which gives me a different frame to use in organizing my day’s activities.

What are your favorite productivity tips or hacks?

For me, “old school” is the new school!
Lists, all forms and fashions; and my calendar, sharpening my focus on time as an important part of my daily decision-making.

And coming to Groundwork on a weekly basis helps me to structure some tasks that really benefit from greater focus (and fewer distractions!)

What do you listen to during the day?

A mix of podcasts and music (Spotify). Podcasts as brief energy-boosts mid-day, with a mix that includes food-centered explorations of African American foodways and other global/indigenous food journeys. Music to fill in the spaces when I need more focus, and often this is a journey through jazz and its ever-expanding music-making thanks to lots of unbelievable new talent – old, new, rediscovered, newly uncovered, etc.

How do you benefit from using a coworking space?

Lots of ways, but let me highlight the two benefits that keep me coming back: first, a well-supported and welcoming space that offers me an alternative to my at-home office space, and which does make it easier for me to get a deeper level of focus on my projects and activities; and second, the Community (definitely with a capital C!), connecting me with coworkers, colleagues, friends bringing their experiences, differences, interests and enjoyments. So out of that, for example, has come the book club, which is one of my ‘don’t miss’ events and that always involves great conversations and perspectives out of the shared journey of reading a book. 

What’s in your digital toolbox? (Favorite apps, hardware, etc.)

I’m a Macbook (and Iphone) super-fan from graduate school days. I did step out to the “other side” however when I recently purchased a Chromebook. 

One substitution that I never would have predicted – I’ve been a committed amateur photographer for most of my life. I’ve taken photography classes, used to develop my own film/prints in darkrooms (at school), and used to have the expensive cameras with all the different lenses, etc. Fast forward to now…my Iphone (13) is my camera! And the quality of photographs is, remarkably, comparable. And it means that I can always have my ‘camera’ with me.

What is the best part of your day?

Quittin’ time! :) 

Setting the work aside, closing the laptop, putting the lists down, stepping away from my desk/work space. This can be around mid-day (when I’ve got my focus and my calendar well-coordinated) on some days – and giving me time to get in some good outdoors time, which is one of the things that feeds my spirit, in addition to the health benefits of this as one of my best forms of self-care.

What inspires you?

People. And finding new ways to meet and connect with people; to get to know people from life experiences or places or perspectives that are new (to me) and different. That inspires me! Through a Groundwork connection – the New Bedford Food Tour – I met a community of people that go rowing on a regular basis in Clark’s Cove and Buzzards Bay; and for some, this is connected to Azorean whaling and rowing/sailing practices. Some of my best mornings this past summer were spent watching the sunrise from that rowboat in Clark’s Cove!