Q&A with Ashley Sharp of Dwell with Dignity

About the company: Dwell with Dignity has a mission to help families and communities escape poverty, homelessness, and social injustice through design; one household, one gathering space, and one marketplace at a time. It partners with local social services agencies that have programs in place to take families from homelessness and poverty to self-sufficiency.

About the honoree: Sharp believes that collaboration is the key opportunity for nonprofits in DFW that could bring about the greatest positive change.

“North Texas is home to thousands of nonprofits, yet many are providing duplicate services and creating redundancies in the industry through a lack of open communication and unwilling cooperation,” she said. “Simply put, we exist in silos, and rarely venture out to see how other organizations might be getting it right for fear of having to examine our own procedures and values and quite possibly admit that we haven’t been performing up to our potential.

But Sharp said it doesn’t simply fall on nonprofits for the collaboration.

“Our cities, our corporations, and our nonprofits must work together if we want to achieve any kind of last change. We need to encourage specialization, reduce competition for narrow funding pools, promote social enterprises, and operate in a realm where each organization is maxing out its own efficiencies for social good. That is a true collaboration, and that will create true change.”

Can you recall THE moment you decided what you wanted to do professionally? What happened?

I had the privilege of working for an incredibly well-esteemed art museum for six years early on in my career — it was a stunning setting to go to work in daily. … However, throughout this time, I was also personally living a life that was unsustainable. I was making roughly $40,000 a year, being asked to work directly with patrons making $4,000,000 a year. As such, my spending was unreasonable and my worldview was being skewed, until I made the conscious decision to join a civic group called the Mayor’s Star Council and get more involved in the city.

This opened my eyes to the systemic issues facing our community — food deserts, poverty, homelessness — all of which were in stark contrast to the beautiful bubble I had created around myself. I got involved in refugee services and worked at a transitional shelter, and eventually found myself with the opportunity to serve with Dwell with Dignity, finding my calling and purpose. This was my aha moment- knowing that I could marry together art, design, and aesthetics while providing life-changing basic human services that together create the environment for families and communities to thrive and achieve self-sufficiency.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

Like most, the pandemic changed how Dwell with Dignity operated to our very core. Suddenly, in the span of less than a week, we were unable to provide our basic core service- going into family homes and utilizing human capital to bring transformational design to each individual in the household. However, we also found our greatest growth opportunity through this — with entire nonprofit teams sheltering in place, we had the space to go into nonprofit and community campuses who had asked us to transform their rooms to bring our gift of design to their clients and employees. Suddenly, we were booming — going from 180 individuals to upwards of 7,000 with this new program that came to us all because of the constraints of the pandemic. We hired a Community Projects Designer just a few months ago to dedicate more of our energy to these amazing projects and improving client and staff retention for our community partners.

How important is diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce to your company’s success and how do you keep that at the forefront coming out of the pandemic?

As the daughter of a Haitian immigrant, diversity is at the core of my daily life. At Dwell with Dignity, our clients at 77% African American, 20% Hispanic, and 3% Caucasian. As such, we strive to create a workplace that is internally representative of our external clients. Our board, staff, and volunteer base is composed of individuals boasting a wide range of diversity including socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, learning and cognitive differences, racial origin, and so much more. We believe a diverse workplace is a successful workplace, and we thrive on creating an authentic environment where everyone feels welcome and heard.


2021 revenue: $1,100,000

Number of employees: 10

Website: dwellwithdignity.org

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