Amber Giauque Callender and her dog, Whiskey, look like they may be planning something. (Photo by Brooke Trexler Photography)

JVA’s New Director of Strategic and Business Planning Creates the Right Environment for Sharing

 By Sandy Wiegand, Copyeditor and Writer at Joining Vision and Action

JVA’s new director of strategic and business planning, Amber Giauque Callender, has held some pretty high-level executive positions in the Denver area. She has served as the executive director of Denver’s Road Home—having been chosen by three Denver mayors to direct Denver’s 10-year plan to end homelessness. She has also held several prominent positions with Denver Public Schools, as well as with the Mayor’s Office, where her roles included advising then-Mayor Hickenlooper and senior staff on all neighborhood, legislative and council district matters.

Denver’s Road Home Givers Summit

Amber also joined other members of the JVA team in partnering with Denver’s Road Home to facilitate last week’s Givers Summit. Read about the summit in Denverite.

So, which achievement is she most proud of? Well, none of those, really, she says.

Three days after graduating from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Amber began working for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) as a community organizer. ACORN encouraged each of the neighborhoods it worked with to decide as a group on the most important change residents could work to implement in their communities. Amber initially worked with the Montbello neighborhood. For its residents, the goal was a traffic light at a particularly dangerous intersection.

“After all of these years of executive positions,” Amber says, “I am most proud of helping residents decide on the most important focus they had, and getting that traffic light.”

(Professionally, anyway. Amber is quick to note that her two teenagers are truly the biggest source of pride in her life.)

Getting folks to speak up

What made the Montbello traffic light such a memorable experience for Amber? Perhaps it was then that she first recognized a particular talent she had for supporting even reluctant stakeholders to participate in decision-making. Amber says she got into strategic and business planning “by accident and necessity.” But she came to love “learning to navigate various voices, especially those who are unlikely to speak up.”

“At different roles in my life, it’s either been my role to bring people to the table or to make sure that the voices at the table are counted,” she explains. “I feel like I am fortunate that I can do both now.”

“I enjoy working alongside people who don’t have much confidence to feel comfortable in a setting with every other stakeholder and do strategic planning even in the most uncomfortable of settings,” she adds. “So people can say ‘I am safe in this room, and my voice does matter—and I am continually reminded that my voice matters.’”

What’s more, Amber appreciates the impact of planning.

“A cohesive road map is one of the most important things groups of people can do,” she advises. “Lots of people get overwhelmed by processes, but if you have people around you that keep you organized, you can get through it. I love being able to see the big picture and not be overwhelmed by it, having the skill set to divide up projects and handle them in chunks—helping people see what’s possible.”

Amber feels that her role as a certified life coach, through her business, Anchor Wellness, has helped her hone her coaching skills even more.

Community ties

Amber’s interest in grassroots engagement has extended to her involvement over the years with a variety of local organizations, including membership on several boards of directors. Although she recently left its board because of time constraints, one organization that’s close to her heart is Re:Vision. It’s based in Westwood, where Amber was born and where her family lived for generations.

“I understand the issues around gentrification and the changes in the community, and I am really proud of that organization for putting their best foot forward to try to work through some of these issues,” Amber notes.

Think you could use some of Amber and the rest of the JVA team’s expert assistance in engaging a broad range of stakeholders in planning? Reach out and tell us about your needs!