Before she was a Wilmington City Councilwoman, Rysheema Dixon was a social entrepreneur.
She began her consulting business, RD Innovative Planning, a decade ago. The social venture provides services for nonprofits and businesses, including workforce development projects, and has taken off over the past few years. Clients include Delaware-facing Pathways to Apprenticeship, Energize Delaware and ChristianaCare, but Dixon’s private-sector work is expanding well beyond Wilmington with a new project with up-and-coming social entrepreneurs in Liberia, something that came together through connections with the Mandela Washington Fellowship while teaching social entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware.
And she’s started an online training school, also focusing on social entrepreneurship.
“One thing that COVID did was bring out the inequities that exist in our communities,” Dixon told Technical.ly. “The reason we explore [workforce development] from the social entrepreneurship side is because of the social component, focusing on how can we solve poverty, hunger, environmental issues, all of those things that we see every day. COVID showcases more of what needs to be done. There were already issues within our communities — it just exacerbated those issues on a higher level. We need more inclusive social entrepreneurs who are thinking more in that realm.”
Before resigning as City Councilwoman At Large in early January, Dixon took on similar social issues in that role. In the last five years, she chaired the Community Development and Urban Planning Committee and the Health, Aging and Disabilities Committee, through which she cofounded the Healthy Communities Subcommittee and created the Healthy Aging Subcommittee. She also served on Public Safety and Cable, Video and Telecommunications Committees.
She spearheaded legislation including adding sexual consent-focused health education into curriculums at public schools, vacant housing legislation and Wilmington’s first disparity study, which will be released in August. The study looks at racial disparities in who is awarded city contracts with an aim to make the process more equitable, especially for Black residents, who make up about 60% of Wilmington’s population.
“It’s not to say that people of other races should not be applying for city contracts,” she noted. “It’s to give an even platform so that everyone has an opportunity to bid on city contracts.”
As of yesterday, I officially resigned from Wilmington City Council to pursue expanding my consulting company nationally and internationally #5yearspublicservice #businessowner #RDgoesInternational @RDIPlanning pic.twitter.com/5TCsg9bEOj
— Hon. Rysheema Dixon (@rysheemadixon) January 7, 2022
When you add in Dixon’s role — currently on hiatus — teaching at UD, her resignation to focus on RD Innovation Planning is really mental health maintenance as much as a business move.
“I had to do some self care awareness for myself, because I am known to burn out,” she said. “I was going into year 10 of the business and realizing that I haven’t been able to focus fully, also just realizing that a lot of the work that I was doing while I was a council member really aligned with the work I’m doing as an individual, and if I want to make the impact that I want to make in our communities I need to be able to spread my wings more.
“Council really is a full-time job. They say it’s part time but it’s really full-time work. Now I can give my full attention [to RD Innovation Planning] and not be doing so many things that I can’t keep my head straight.”