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YPN5Q: James Delaney


YPN5Q is a weekly Q&A series spotlighting the state’s top young business and civic leaders and creative minds — professionals propelling change through entrepreneurship, the arts, public service, social media, and community involvement.

This week, we hear from James Delaney, the founder of Engine for Social Innovation, an organization that recruits talented future leaders to work in small teams to address the strategic challenges and unrealized opportunities of nonprofits. The Engine model engages corporations’ high-potential employees in skills- and leadership-development while also building the capacity of important nonprofits serving the community.

James Delaney
James Delaney

Name: James Delaney
Age: 36
Residence: Minneapolis
Current job title: Principal
Current employer: Engine for Social Innovation

1. What do like most about your job?
I get to meet and work with some of the most talented leaders and future leaders from marquee corporations and social services organizations around the Twin Cities. Engine seeks to attract the best minds of basically two or three generations to collaborate on projects that help great nonprofits build capacity.

I am really fortune to be at the nexus of all of these great minds coming together to make our community a better place to work and live for everyone.

2. What actions, strategies, networks or professional associations have been most helpful to you in building your career?
This might sound cliché but there is no substitute for hard work.

Because of that work ethic, I was asked to join the founding Board of The LEAD Project, which led to joining the board of directors at YMCA and Free Arts MN (and making life-long friends), which led to being executive director of a nonprofit, which led to starting Engine, which is a dream come true.

Starting Engine is the result of striving to make the most of the opportunities presented to me each step of the way. I also turned off my TV.

3. How do you start each day?
My niece thought it was a good idea to give me a kitten, so my days sometimes start with a small furry alarm clock seeking food.

I usually make waffles; three for me and one for the kitten. Either that or I work out.

4. What do you value most in your friends?
Many of my friends are kinetic, incredibly active and take on challenges and opportunities that others might shy away from. Many of them are starters and builders of things, which is great energy to be around.

They are also very fun and warm people, great celebrators and appreciators of things. Someone is always concocting a reason for us to get together to do something fun. But nothing is more important than knowing my friends are always there for me… always.

5. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
The ability to sneeze with my eyes open. What if something amazing happens at that split second and you miss it because of dust? What a dumb reason to miss a homerun or the last second of a great movie.

Really though, the ability to fly. I lived in a city where I didn’t have to have a car and it was glorious to not have to drive everywhere.

To nominate a young professional for “YPN5Q,” email with the nominee’s full name, employer or contact info, and one or two brief sentences supporting your nomination.

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