How to Be a Community Organizer for Change | Mariah McKay


Spokane Mover and Shaker

Ep. 214 - Mariah McKay is an energetic, highly motivated leader focusing on bringing change to the community. Her passion is building independent grassroots power for the common good. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance (SIMBA). She’s an experienced community organizer building independent grassroots power for the common good. One of her passions is housing. With fewer homes available in Spokane, creating new housing options coming to the top of her radar. Haystack Heights is a new type of neighborhood under construction right now. When finished, it will provide permanent housing for 39 families that are taking neighborhood living to new heights. Haystack Heights is quite a bit different from other neighborhoods. Its goal is to bring families closer together, conserve resources and share spaces. In this three-acre development nestled in the South Perry District, families own their own $200,000–$400,000 home, but common spaces like a garden, clubhouse, and maintenance responsibilities are shared. Families have to volunteer a certain amount of hours per year and play an active role in the community’s planning. These homeowners have already been doing that because they’re also the developers of the project. No outside developer oversaw this project. In this episode, Mariah explains how she got into community organizing which has seen her manage communities and support businesses, especially during the pandemic. Listen more about this fascinating woman and learn the difference between nonprofit organizations and businesses when starting and why both have an economic and social impact. You will also learn how to manage your energy and not time to accelerate the strengths you bring to your work as a leader and a visionary.

Key Takeaways:

  • How to be a change-oriented leader by taking the necessary steps towards bringing the change you want to see
  • The purpose of cohousing in bringing together communities that wish to live closely
  • How to manage your energy and not time to accelerate what you bring to your work as a leader and a visionary
  • The power of building an ecosystem where work-life balance is possible

"Seek to serve the greater good, not just ourselves, and as humanity confront the climate crisis." - Mariah McKay

In this episode you’ll discover:

How she got into business organizing for socio-economic, environmental, and economic change [0:35]

How SIMBA is related to B-Corp certification and the importance of the latter for businesses [3:22]

She explains how they help their members especially within the Spokane area to scale up [5:19]

The vast difference between nonprofit organizations and businesses when starting [7:05]

How she used her skills and delegated to scale up and deliver business support during the pandemic [9:36]

The events that led Mariah to political, non-advocacy work, and work in her community [10:40]

She defines cohousing and why it is such a huge piece of community organizing [18:53]

She explains the Terrain Spokane program and its intention in preserving the city’s creative work [27:08]

How the Spokane Shrinking Violet Society supports and builds communities in Spokane [30:16]

Mariah on how she masters skills and strengths as a leader and a professional [32:58]

She explains how she manages her energy to align with her goals and achieve a work-life balance [39:30]

The value of protecting your tender heart and instincts in a highly commercialized world [42:32]


Mariah is the Founder and Executive Director of SIMBA, the Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance, a values-driven business and consumer association organizing to build a more equitable and sustainable regional economy throughout the Inland Northwest. She has 14 years of experience in program development, fundraising, communication, marketing, government relations, and leadership development.  After serving as a community organizer for a statewide advocacy group organizing for racial and economic justice, Mariah worked in public health, promoting active transportation education campaigns. She is building Haystack Heights, the first cohousing community in the Inland Northwest, and is the community manager for Our Natural Homes, a local co-living rental company she owns with her partner Jim.


She started the Spokane Shrinking Violet Society, a women's social cooperative.

Mariah co-founded with four other young people, an arts and culture incubator called Terrain Spokane.

Located in Spokane WA, Terrain is a pioneering non-profit building community and economic opportunity for the artists, makers, and culture creators of the Inland Northwest. They work to ensure these local populations thrive, by creating innovative programming consistently described as the region’s best.

She says, "We aren’t just creating a generation of artists and arts patrons. We are sparking the imagination of every person who walks through our doors to imagine and participate in creating the Spokane we all want to build."


Spokane Co-Housing

Co-Housing Solutions


Shrinking Violet Society


Terrain Spokane


Ivory Matthews

Tiara Tucker

Annamarie Pluhar

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