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An Interview with Carly Horne, Community & Economic Development Consultant

Carly Horne joined Fourth Economy + Steer in September 2021, stepping into the role of Consultant for Community & Economic Development. Carly previously worked for companies like EY and American Eagle as an accountant and financial analyst, and is also an experienced entrepreneur, having launched a local business that provided tours of Pittsburgh that focused on storytelling. In addition to her proficiency with numbers, Carly is a strong communicator who enjoys connecting with Fourth Economy clients and helping them use qualitative and quantitative data to find creative solutions to problems.

We asked Carly a few questions about her new role, how it builds on her past personal and professional experiences, and what she’s excited to accomplish at Fourth Economy. We also had to ask the avid tennis player what her favorite Pittsburgh courts are and where she likes to refuel post-match.

You are Fourth Economy’s Consultant for Community & Economic Development! What does that entail? What does your work look like on any given day?

Overall, my role involves working collaboratively with my consultant and client teams to build strategic and actionable development plans. More specifically, my contributions include research, community engagement, and strategy development. At Fourth Economy, we utilize both quantitative and qualitative data to establish a more comprehensive understanding of the problems to be solved and the opportunities to be advanced within the communities we serve. As a Community & Economic Development Consultant, I specialize more in qualitative research and analysis. This includes researching best practices, interviewing subject matter experts, and organizing workshops that engage stakeholders in the strategy development process. This work is done concurrently and in partnership with our team’s quantitative data experts. I enjoy seeing how the quantitative and qualitative analyses play off of one another. Questions or gaps in information that arise on one side of the work can often be answered through research on the other.

You spent the early years of your career in various accounting and financial analyst roles. What skills or knowledge from those earlier jobs do you find yourself using or adapting in your current economic development consulting work?

When I compare my role as a financial analyst to my current work as an economic development consultant, there is a surprising amount of overlap. At a high level, both use the process of gathering, interpreting, and communicating information. Both also use communication tools to coordinate the efforts of many people working toward a common goal.

The financial function of an organization is essential to its operational strategy. Much of my earlier career focused on financial reporting. While this relies heavily on numbers, some might be surprised by the extent of commentary in these reports, which is essential to the interpretation of the data. The commentary provides critical context into the actual operations of the business. It answers questions like “so what?” and “why?” To provide these insights, I needed to research and talk to the people most familiar with the details behind the numbers. Now, instead of reviewing contracts and asking organizational leaders about their planned department initiatives, I’m examining existing and prior development plans and speaking with community members about their lived experiences.

Most importantly, the insights I communicated as a Financial Analyst spurred informed actions across functional areas. Now as Community and Economic Development coordinator, I help synthesize strategic plans developed by community groups and leaders so that, together, they can achieve common goals for a stronger economy. I really enjoy the thrill of a challenge and the even bigger thrill of solving one.

In your Fourth Economy team bio, you describe storytelling as a powerful tool for community transformation. What inspired that belief? How have you used storytelling (or seen storytelling used) to drive change?

I once had a teacher who spent the entire first day of class telling a story about the making of a family recipe, a pan of meatloaf. It was an incredibly detailed recollection of every nuanced step in the process, much of which didn’t seem to contribute to the final product. The story ends with the teacher asking his mom why the family makes their meatloaf this way, to which she responds, “because that’s the way we always have.” The teacher’s point in telling my class this story was to remind us to challenge the status quo.

To me, this was an effective use of storytelling, because I’ve continued to remember it after all these years. And while I’m sure I had other thought-provoking first days of class, it’s the only one that I can recall so specifically. It’s also continued to influence my approach to work and life, reminding me to stay curious and consider when tradition and routine serve a good purpose and when they do not.

Effective storytelling adds a dimension that appeals to our human nature and helps us connect ideas to a greater meaning. It uses nuance to articulate complexity. Not only does storytelling help us understand the world around us, it helps us understand ourselves in relation to that world. I believe this deeper, human connection created through storytelling is so important in driving action, and thus change.

What do you hope to accomplish with Fourth Economy this year?

At Fourth Economy, we are tasked with solving all kinds of problems. Whether we’re helping to find new and creative solutions to an emerging trend or a long-standing issue within a community, I’m excited to work together with my team to achieve meaningful results. Most importantly, I look forward to the ongoing opportunity to learn.

You are a tennis player and an avid cook! What’s your favorite court to play on in Pittsburgh, and what is your preferred post-match meal?

I don’t know that I’ve ever answered a “favorite” question with just one answer, and I don’t plan to start now. For those looking to rally, I would highly recommend playing a match at Schenley Park, which provides a lively scene with a variety of park features surrounding the courts. It’s easy to feed off the energy of the nearby disc golfers, soccer players, and other park goers. This really brings out the competitor in me.

Schenley park is a favorite tennis spot with great city views and other athletic amenities.

My post-match meal would be a packed picnic at the overlook, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the courts. It’s a beautiful view of the city and a great spot for a sunset dinner. I also love playing at the Brookline courts and grabbing takeout afterward. I lived there for a few years and continue to brag about all the businesses on “the Boulevard” including Pitaland, Oakhill Post, and Las Palmas to name a few. Yum!


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