In this recurring section of our blog, we regularly feature some of the work of our members with the hopes that the profile might inspire some new connections, ideas, and community building. If you’re a Thread STL member and interested in being a future Member Snapshot, drop us a line at

Jessica Wernli is a Program Manager at Social Innovation STL, overseeing the projects related to organizational capacity building. Social Innovation STL forges bold and innovative programs, organizations, and collective efforts for a more inclusive, healthy, and just St. Louis.

Member Name: Jessica Wernli

Title: Program Manager

Name of partnership, coalition, or collective impact effort: There is no official name for the collective effort yet, but it’s purpose is to build the capacity of small, grassroots organizations.

What is your effort trying to achieve? The capacity-building effort is intentionally focused on underrepresented organizations. The effort is designed to bring stakeholders together to create an infrastructure of support that enhances the targeted organizations’ impact on the communities they serve and aids in the organizations’ sustainability.

How did you first get involved with your effort? What drew you in? As I was exploring the current landscape of capacity building for community benefits organizations (CBOs) in the STL region, I realized a lack of coordination and collaboration in building a lasting support system for CBOs.

When your friends or family find out you do this work, what do they say or ask? Interesting…

What do you think will change most about your effort in the next five years? I hope that we will have shared language around capacity building and that we will shift the region’s focus to groups who typically get looked over for funding and other resources and supports. I also hope that we find more creative ways to collaboratively support organizations doing good work in our region such as sharing time, talents, and resources with one another.

What are some of your strongest beliefs that support the work you do or your approach to it? I am pro- “trickle up” approach. As with most things, capacity building has generally taken on a trickle down approach – reach the mid range to larger organizations and smaller organizations will benefit. I believe that when we start with the hardest-to-reach/resource groups, we will all benefit.

If there was one piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out in a role similar to yours as a partnership/coalition facilitator, what would it be? Relationships, relationships, relationships. Also, do your homework. Don’t jump in thinking that you have the answers. Meet with individuals to gain their insight. Make sure they own the work and co-create with them.

What do you do when you’re not working? I like to enjoy the arts. From Shakespeare in the Park, to the Muny, to open mic nights.

What’s the best way for other Thread STL members to contact you?

What’s the best way for other Thread STL members to learn more about your effort? Send an email, or visit our website: