“We have a chance to do something good, something bigger than ourselves. These opportunities don’t come along every day. When they do, we must seize them for generations to follow.”
Dr. Steven Holt, Owner at Try Excellence, LLC
When the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project established its Executive Steering Committee (ESC), it needed a strategic advisor with ties to the historic Albina Community, along with a talented facilitator to guide the way. Dr. Steven Holt of Try Excellence, LLC emerged as the perfect fit.
With deep roots and lived experience of Black Portlanders and familiarity with governmental land use processes, his pedigree is custom-built to lead the Executive Steering Committee. But the real magic lies in his strategic approach and facilitation style which centers committee members’ shared humanity.
To long for a home—for permanence—runs in Dr. Holt’s genes. As an eight-year old, his mother lost her home in the Vanport flood. She then lived with her aunt but had to move when Legacy Emmanuel Hospital was built. They settled nearby in Albina only to be displaced again by the construction of I-5.
A busing campaign during Dr. Holt’s childhood led to his own sense of displacement. He straddled two worlds and absorbed limiting, biased beliefs about his own potential. Ultimately, these experiences ignited his passion for human dignity, ethical behavioral practices, and responsible leadership. This led to him being very active in the City as an advocate for community health, wealth and wellness. So when the City of Portland embarked on its neighborhood housing strategy effort, he was asked to participate in a process of community engagement to highlight priorities.
Joan Brown-Kline facilitated the process, and she recognized his potential for community work. One day, over breakfast, she asked him to consider facilitation for a living. He said, “I didn’t know people got paid to do this.” She believed in him, counseled him with the establishment of his business and gave him his first letter of recommendation. He would become the Chair of the Oversight Committee for the North/North East Neighborhood Housing Strategy.
As the principal and owner of Try Excellence, Dr. Holt has stewarded the best of his gifted talents; and with additions of Ericka Warren and Josh Holt to the Try Excellence team, their ability to support businesses, government (local, regional and national), and private industry with strategic advisement, policy and programmatic development to positively shift cultures and center human dignity only continues to climb.
From equity training to community policing, Dr. Holt’s commitment to the responsible action of community influencers, stakeholders and leaders continues to be the motivation for resolving injustices and bringing policy leaders and community organizations together to drive change.
“Creating policy and helping change systems and structures, while being engaged in shifting the narrative of how things happen in the city, is phenomenal to me,” said Dr. Holt. “I believe that Divine timing and the patience of purpose is a testament to the growth we’ve seen.”
Giving credit where its due, Dr. Holt is grateful for the help he received along the way and encourages entrepreneurs and small business owners to be patient and seek advice from others.
“Find someone who can speak to you and give you strategies,” he says to other small business owners. And take the long view: “Vision takes time. Nothing that lasts grows or is established overnight.”