Director of External Affairs, Denver Economic Development & Opportunity
As the son of an immigrant and a refugee, Will Chan brings a unique and important perspective to his job as Deputy Director for the Mayor’s Office of the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative. “Will’s many attributes and characteristics together contribute to his ability to use all his talents to positively impact services provided to Denver’s most vulnerable communities,” colleague Clay Harmon says. “His sensitivity to the issues and needs of this population, together with his perseverance and empathy when it comes to providing access to this vulnerable community, propel him to serve at the best of his ability every day.”
Chan has incorporated social equity practices into city processes as a new norm with pilot programs that have leveraged large-scale citywide projects for local impacts. From pairing Latinas in North Denver with mentorship opportunities, to developing workshops showcasing small immigrant businesses in interactive events, to launching signature place-making programs in the arts to strengthen diverse communities. Chan’s ability to authentically engage, respond and meet communities where they are, and working with specialized, diverse audiences ensures that government’s changing role matches the needs of a changing cityscape. The key to it all, he says – get out of your own way. “If you truly want to achieve a personal success or outcome, you have to let go of your ego. Oftentimes, you could be the biggest barrier to achieving a goal.”
Chan’s community service commitment runs deep, including work with Denver Public Schools’ Bond and Mill Oversight Committee; chairing the Denver County Cultural Council with the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, distributing tax-funded grants to smaller arts organizations in Denver and the seven-county metro area; and an appointment to former President Obama’s White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, where he led outreach activities in six Western states to educate, engage, and empower young leaders in education, mental health, pathways to public service, and immigration.
Chan received the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts EY Next Generation Leadership Award for his work with the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District that reshaped the local creative industry through more equitable funding models. He also was honored with the Library Journal Mover and Shaker Award for Community Building for creative use of library space.