This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
There’s something electric and confident about underdogs.
A star quality of underdogs is that they usually know their value before anyone catches a whiff of their revolutionary potential. They build their own ladder with the tools at their disposal. They trust their process. They embrace their brain. They stretch current and create new boundaries.
My initial reaction to the engagement journalist posting with The Salt Lake Tribune’s Innovation Lab was, “Huh, sounds like a job built for my brain.” It was open-ended, encouraged out-of-the-box thinking, and emphasized the power of community relationships to solve big-picture problems. I was invigorated by the idea of shaping something from the ground up outside of the status quo.
As a neurodivergent person, traditional ways of thinking never work out very well for me. I can play the game, and I recognize the game wasn’t made for me. I’ve been inventing ways to communicate the thousands of shifting puzzle pieces in my head for over two decades. I pick apart my own thoughts in attempts to effectively present them to others, when, honestly, I wish people would just adapt to me sometimes.
Because I have good ideas, and I know it, even if I can’t easily explain them in a world not built for my brain.
Innovation is neurodivergent at its core. It’s taking an idea and molding it into something that’s never been done before. Innovation is an underdog with a sense of direction, even if it isn’t noticeable to the public eye.
Utah is growing at a rate it cannot sustain, and I think of the communities most impacted by the stark uptick in the cost of living.
They bear the brunt of poor air quality, scarce water resources, low-paying jobs and high rent prices. Current solutions to these vast issues either exclude the most vulnerable or don’t incorporate their input enough.
I’m a Utah transplant, and I’ve watched this state evolve. I moved here from Salem, Oregon in 2014 to attend the University of Utah, and I was the first person on both sides of my immediate family to ever obtain a degree. I’ve experienced food, gas, and rent prices rise while making $2.15 an hour at a Bountiful restaurant and relying on the generosity of patrons to pay my bills. At one point, I juggled four jobs to survive. It’s not a unique hardship. My mom encountered similar conditions raising me on her own.
To me, one thing is starkly apparent. Utah will never be equitable or liveable for residents if it continues to problem-solve through traditional means. We’ve tried that. And at this rate, I will never be able to own property, breathe clean air or take a swim in one of Utah’s many evaporating lakes.
It’s those experiences that inspired me to drop the LSAT book and pick up journalism. I saw more impact passing the mic to people who had a story to tell, rather than playing within the limits and prices of law school.
The narratives of community members provide a roadmap to the problems we have neglected to address. The underdogs, the misrepresented and underrepresented voices, carry a lot of innovative solutions. A lot of them are already doing the work, some have already found an answer – no matter how micro.
My job as the Innovation Lab producer and engagement reporter is, quite frankly, to direct my attention to the overlooked underdogs who have the brightest ideas and the tightest muzzles.
So, I’m here to listen, collaborate and engage with you. If you’ll let me. And if you will, email me at email@example.com