Welcome to our blog series, Changemaker Profiles! Each week, we will profile one outstanding social changemaker from the JVA client community. By sharing the stories of some of the incredible people we get to work with every day, each accomplishing extraordinary work in nonprofits, government and social enterprise, we hope we will bring a little light and inspiration to your Mondays!

Laurel Delmonico works for the City and County of Denver’s Department of Environmental Health as a contract manager. With five years’ prior experience working in the city’s budget and management office, Laurel discovered her passion for the issue of paid family and medical leave. Her vision of the future is that as a society, we invest in and care for the well-being of families—and her mission of social change is clear: achieve paid family and medical leave for all city employees by 2018.

1. Tell us about you and the social change you are trying to achieve within the structure of a government agency (e.g., family leave).

“Prior to my current role, I was in the city’s budget and management office for five years and served as the city’s grant administrator. In that role, I began a paid family and medical leave analysis project, which I continue to work on today. The goal of the analysis is to implement a paid family and medical leave benefit for city employees by 2018. That is the social change I am trying to achieve.”

2. What keeps you inspired and going when things get tough?

“What has kept me inspired is thinking about all of the new mothers who had to come back to work sooner than the 12 weeks allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) because they couldn’t afford to take leave without pay, or the employee who burned through their accumulated leave time caring for their dad, who then has to take leave without pay, or take less time off entirely, to care for their ailing mom. I am inspired thinking about the leadership role the city of Denver can play locally, regionally and nationally in implementing this type of benefit. It has the potential to have an enormous impact on our employees and their families.”

3. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to innovate within government?

“Small innovations can make a huge difference in government. Start small, focus on one thing at a time, and on things within your sphere of influence. When contemplating a larger innovation, don’t be discouraged by slow, incremental change. Big changes take time and progress can come in fits and starts. If you’re in the innovation business, look around you and embrace the likely and unlikely supporters. Talk to the opposition; find out what they care about, and use that information to make your innovation better. Do your homework, know the numbers, and when the window of opportunity presents, take advantage!”

4. What book do you recommend to everyone you meet and why? OR What book is on your to-read list and why?

“The only book I recommend routinely is Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Natural Childbirth. I buy it for all of my pregnant friends and recommend it to anyone who is having a baby. One of my favorite Ina May quotes is, “When we as a society begin to value mothers as the givers and supporters of life, then we will see social change in ways that matter.” I feel like my work on paid family and medical leave really ties into this, except it’s not just about the mother, it’s about the family unit, and giving families the time they need when a new life enters, a life comes to an end or when a family member is sick and needs care. If we, as a society, as employers, can provide paid time off for those reasons, then we will see meaningful social change.”

5. How have you worked with JVA, and how has that helped your organization?

“JVA has been the city’s grantwriting consultant for over five years and has been a steadfast strategic partner for our grant program. Without JVA, I’m convinced the city’s grant program would not be where it is today. They have met us where we are and matured and evolved with us over the life of our partnership, and I’m enthusiastically confident about where we’ll go together next! I especially want to recognize Amanda Roberts at JVA, who wrote the Department of Labor grant application that is funding the current phase of paid family and medical leave analysis, which was a huge help.”

6. What else would you want to share with us that we haven’t asked?

“I feel strongly that inclusivity is key to social innovation. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, and when you take that attitude, you tend to celebrate the small wins and recognize that your contributions will ultimately become the stepping-stone for the next person’s innovation. We are all in this together, and the paid family and medical leave effort would not be where it is today without the large and small contributions from so many others.”

More Changemaker Profiles to come!