Get to Know Groundwork: Chelsea Kiene, Director of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement

Over the next few weeks, Groundwork Ohio is publishing a “Get to Know Groundwork” series, spotlighting members of our amazing team! This week, we’re getting to know Chelsea Kiene, Groundwork's Director of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement. Chelsea joined the Groundwork team in March 2021.

As Director of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement, Chelsea supports Groundwork Ohio’s policy agenda, research, and advocacy through strategic communications, press outreach, social media, and engagement with diverse stakeholders. Chelsea holds nearly a decade of experience in nonprofit communications, policy research and advocacy, and issue campaigns.

Chelsea Kiene with her fiancé.

Prior to joining Groundwork Ohio, Chelsea worked as the Communications Director at For Our Future Ohio Action Fund, an organization dedicated to issue advocacy and empowering people and local organizations to drive positive change in their communities. Chelsea also previously served as the Senior Media Coordinator at the Center for America Progress (CAP), a policy research and advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. While at CAP, Chelsea oversaw the communications strategy for the organization’s Women’s Initiative, advocating for state and federal policies to support women and families such as paid leave, health care, high-quality child care, and equal pay. Together with the Director of Broadcast Communication, Chelsea helped design and lead dozens of media trainings for policy experts and advocacy organizations, including the National WIC Association.

Chelsea previously interned at The Huffington Post’s Washington D.C. bureau and at Equality Ohio. She graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a B.A. in Strategic Communication and Political Science. Chelsea is passionate about ending hunger and food insecurity and has committed hundreds of volunteer hours with organizations such as the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, D.C. Central Kitchen, and Martha’s Table.

Check out our Q&A with Chelsea to learn more about why she’s a passionate advocate for young children and families in Ohio!

Q: What drew you to early childhood policy research and advocacy? Tell us more about your “why”!

A: From a very early age, my parents instilled in me the importance of being of service to others, giving back to your community, and looking out for your neighbors. I remember the small acts of kindness my parents role modeled for me and my siblings, like my mom organizing a coat drive for kids at my elementary school or my parents taking us to pick out Christmas gifts to donate to children in the community. This really made me value my responsibility – and, in many ways, my privilege – to put my energy toward helping others. As I grew older, I started to gravitate more and more toward issues and causes that serve women, low-income families, and young children.

My “why” became much more personal, though, when my oldest nephew was born. It was the first time in my life where I met a baby who was just minutes old, and I was instantly in love. Holding him for the very first time, the thing I wanted most was for him to have every opportunity to thrive. Watching him and my two young nieces grow up and become their own unique individuals is such an immense source of joy.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received or a lesson that you’ve learned that has helped you in this work?

A: Progress takes time, and setbacks are temporary and can be overcome. Anyone who is a passionate advocate knows that this work can be emotionally, mentally, and even physically exhausting. We’re in it because we care deeply about those whom we are serving, and we firmly believe in a better future. The important thing to remember is that big change doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time, persistence, and often a little humor. Even amid setbacks, just keep showing up.

Q: Groundwork Ohio’s word for 2022 is ELEVATE. What’s your word for 2022?

A: RENEW. I know that I'm not alone in feeling that the pandemic of the past two years has thrown me off balance. My hope for 2022 is that I reestablish my footing by renewing my commitment to my work, my relationships, my community, and myself.

Q: When you aren’t advocating on behalf of young children and families, what do you enjoy doing?

A: Anything that keeps me moving! I love being outdoors, whether it’s walking my dog, hiking, running, gardening, or kayaking. My fiancé and I also enjoy indoor rock climbing together. Also, one of my 2022 resolutions is to spend less time mindlessly scrolling on social media, and more time reading good books! Finally, I really value spending time with my family and closest friends.

Q: Describe a scene from your vision of the future for Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers.

A: In my vision of the future, we live in a society that celebrates caregivers and families with young children not just with words, but in public policy and investment. Parents have access to affordable, high-quality child care; every young child is provided the opportunity to learn in high-quality early learning environments; people in caregiving professions are treated with dignity; every pregnant person, infant, toddler, and young child has access to health care, nourishing food, and safe housing; and no child’s future is written off because of their race, ZIP code, family’s income, disability, religion, or the country they were born in.

Importantly, every child is surrounded by a community of love and support – because it truly takes a village.

Connect with Chelsea on Twitter, LinkedIn, or by email.