emory-wire

Making Cities Work for Good

Jordan Stein 12C founded CityMatters to help businesses align with community stakeholders, leverage demographic trends, and grow into new markets.

By Gabe Wardell

Jordan Stein 12C at the 49th Annual St. Gallen Symposium in St. Gallen, Switzerland

Jordan Stein 12C has a passion for cities. As an undergraduate at Emory, he interned in the office of Christine Quinn, then Speaker of New York City Council, and observed the remarkable power city government had to affect change in people’s lives. Realizing that cities are where average citizens feel the impact of policy, after graduation Jordan accepted an offer to work for New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Inspired by his time working for the mayor, Stein committed himself to creating positive change by founding CityMatters—an organization that advises businesses on how to align with community stakeholders, leverage demographic trends, and grow into new markets.

EmoryWire caught up with Jordan to discuss his dedication to philanthropy, the importance of cities in solving global problems, and how Emory inspires his work.

Emory graduates are interested in helping others and making the world a better place. Do you think people come to Emory with these ideals, or is it something that happens on campus?

I had a phenomenal experience at Emory. I couldn’t have asked for a more remarkable group of people, from fellow students, mentors and peers, to faculty, administrators, and staff. People make Emory what it is. I was brought up in a family that was committed to philanthropy. I recognize my good fortune and how I should not take it for granted. I have an obligation to give back to the extent I can, to create an opportunity to level the playing field for someone less fortunate. It’s up to us to do what we can to see to it that people have a fighting shot. For me, my family has been an inspiration, and at Emory I saw opportunities to solve problems right in our own community.

How did this commitment affect your career path?

I’ve always taken an interest in politics and community. It’s been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I got involved in student government, and I even served as president of the Emory Democrats.

What I came away from after working with Mayor Bloomberg, and what I respect tremendously about him is that he does what he thinks is right. He didn’t come from money. Before becoming wildly successful, he worked his way through school. He’s been exceptionally generous giving back to his alma mater [Johns Hopkins University]. He has devoted a tremendous amount of effort through his business and his philanthropic interests to making the world a better place, to trying to provide opportunity in areas of education, public health, arts and culture, and the list goes on. I admire how inextricably linked philanthropy is to all aspects of Mayor Bloomberg’s life.

Tell us about the transition from working for the mayor to launching an enterprise like CityMatters.

CityMatters was founded on the observation that cities are the cradle of innovation, action, and coordination between organizations, businesses, private and public sector investment, start-ups, institutions of higher learning, trade associations—and these entities all need to be laser-focused on the city they call home. It works like a triangle—public sector—city government, private sector—industry, technology, innovation, etc., and non-profits—advocates, service, religious, arts, and philanthropic interests.

Engagement is about more than sponsoring a little league baseball team and getting a photo op to post on Instagram. I believe any organization needs to situate itself in balance with the other sides of the triangle to achieve maximum success. Operating at the intersection of the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors is my passion. 

What advice do you have for recent graduates?

First of all—people are everything. Invest in relationships. What I mean by that is the relationships we make matter. You can work hard, but if you neglect the people around you, you will be a failure.

Second—don’t forget to have fun. It can sound like a throwaway line, but work is work. We’ve all got to make a living. You do have a choice in how you approach it. Bring joy to what you do.

Finally—being purposeful is important. Figure out what matters to you and build them into career. For me, I knew early on that finding ways to help others should be a part of everything I do.

Describe Emory in one word, and explain why.

Opportunity.

At Emory, the possibilities are endless. But you’ve got to speak up, know what you want, and figure out how to get it.

It is important to me to make sure that opportunity continues to be a cornerstone of the Emory experience.

Video: A Personal Appeal for Students in Need

In anticipation of students returning to campus, a social media and crowdfunding campaign is underway to generate interest in and support for something dear to Jordan’s heart: the Emory Student Hardship Fund.

Jordan co-founded the donor-supported initiative to aid Emory students in need because of a crisis or catastrophic event.

Editor's Note: To learn more about the Emory Hardship Fund and Emory's other crowdfunding initiatives, visit the Momentum Campaign.

Gabe Wardell has worked in development at Fugees Family, served as director of group sales and marketing at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and as executive director of the Atlanta Film Festival.