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Most Creative People

Grindr For Equality's Director On How To Infuse Your Work With Meaning

Jack Harrison-Quintana employs old-school methods like actual face time to lead Grindr's platform for LGBT health and human rights advocacy.

[Illustration: Lisk Feng]

The Grindr dating app has been helping men seeking men connect IRL since 2009. Now, the company has gotten serious about connecting its users with resources beyond a local hookup. The Grindr for Equality (G4E) initiative hijacks the app’s messaging system to amplify the work of LGBT health and human rights advocates around the world. We asked G4E director Jack Harrison-Quintana to give us a peek behind the curtain of his creative process. Here, he shares how hotel bars, an old-school planner, and daily meditation help him work smarter and create life-changing programming for 7 million gay, bisexual, and trans users worldwide.

Fast Company: Describe your creative process in three words.
Jack Harrison-Quintana: Relational. Spiritual. Movement-driven.

Of course, now you have to elaborate.
One of the key concepts that drives my work is relational organizing. My biggest inspirations have been women of color feminists like Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, Audre Lorde, Sylvia Rivera, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, my sisters, Kathleen Harrison and Olivia Harrison, and my mom.

From them and from my own mentor—longtime lesbian activist Jaime Grant—I’ve learned that the most powerful and creative projects are born when activists love each other deeply and give birth to the work collectively. That’s why I situate myself within movement and am always seeking to spend time learning from other activists and taking time before trying to add my own value to the equation.

In terms of productivity, I have partially implemented the system laid out in David Allen’s Getting Things Done, although for me it’s also been filtered through C.G.P. Grey, an educational filmmaker who discusses his own process in the bi-weekly podcast Cortex. I swear by my analogue planner, which I reorder every year from Planner Pad. I’ve tried all the digital options out there and, for me, there’s nothing as satisfying as the tactile sensation of striking through a physical to-do list. I use the Simply Being app for guided meditations every morning to center myself, and I almost always come out clear about my priorities for the day.

And finally, there’s The Genie Within by Harry W. Carpenter. It’s one of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read. Its core teachings show up all over the spiritual self-help genre, but I love Carpenter’s unapologetic combining of science and mysticism. His key message is to lean in to what your unconscious is telling you. He goes so far as to suggest that you can assign tasks to your unconscious and let it work in the background while you go about the business of living. I have used this tactic to prepare speeches and work through thorny issues in upcoming campaigns to great effect.

What does a typical day look like for you?
One of my favorite things about this job is that there are no "typical days." Last week I spent a couple of days sitting in a café in Istanbul with a small group of interlocutors from the Middle East and North Africa processing survey data we collected through Grindr to create one of the first large-scale surveys of gay and bi voices from the region. Next week, I’ll be presenting at ILGA Oceania in Wellington, New Zealand, about the potential for Grindr to distribute health messaging across the island nations of the South Pacific. And today, I’m meeting with the League of United Latin American Citizens to work through how to improve our trilingual outreach to U.S. Latinos.

What’s your strategy for connecting with current and prospective partners to bring into Grindr For Equality?
I think one of the reasons Grindr’s founder Joel Simkhai hired me was that I’ve been so deeply involved in these social movements for the last decade. That means I came in the door with a lot of the key relationships I needed to make Grindr for Equality successful. But for new folks, my key strategy is to attend a lot of conferences. A lesbian elder I used to work with named Sue Hyde who runs Creating Change, the largest LGBT rights conference in the U.S., has always said that the most important things that happen at conferences take place in the halls between sessions and at the hotel bar after hours. And I have found that to be entirely true. For me, spending time in person with my partners, whether they’re people I’ve known for years or new folks I’m just getting to know, is what greases the wheels for us to be able to work together by Skype and email for the rest of the year.

What do you want your legacy to be?
Joy is the thing I value most, and my goal is for everything I do to increase the amount of joy in the world. I have taken on the professional work that brings me the most joy personally and will hopefully allow lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people to elevate their own joy.

A version of this article appeared in the June 2016 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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