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Image of Roseli Ilano
Oct 5th, 2021

The Rise of the Community Leader - Meet Roseli Ilano

  • The Uncommon Team

    The Uncommon Team


Community leaders have a lot in common, like their enthusiasm for teaching and learning, and a passion for building meaningful relationships within and across communities. As community leaders, their goals are similar, but their paths to community leadership are surprisingly diverse and often surprisingly...surprising.

Our series, "The Rise of the Community Leader," celebrates these uncommon paths, the people who took them, and what they learned along the way. Want to connect with more community leaders like them? Join Uncommon.

Meet Roseli Ilano, Director of Community + Partnerships at Pop-Up Magazine.

How did you get your start in community?

My first job out of college was as a community organizer. It's where I learned the foundational skills I bring with me in everything I do: how to listen deeply to people's needs, how to bring different stakeholders together under a shared mission, how to cultivate meaningful relationships and build a collective. Most importantly, it ingrained the importance of always showing up with integrity.

Tell us about the community you currently lead.

Pop-Up Magazine is a live magazine, a multimedia storytelling spectacle performed onstage for tens of thousands of people at grand, historic venues across North America. We're dedicated to finding true stories people have never heard and telling them in unforgettable ways. Contributors present with sound, illustration, animation, film, and photography all mixed together, and an original score performed onstage. And, excitingly, we just announced our Fall 2021 Issue tour, which will take us to Oakland, LA, NYC, and DC with an amazing cast of contributors including TV writer Cord Jefferson, artist and author Chanel Miller, Fruit of the Drunken Tree author Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Pulitzer-Prize winning writer Ian Urbina, and many others.

We have a passionate community of supporters who feel connected to the human-centered journalism we produce and join our membership program, produce their own hyper-local events through our program Pop-Up Zine, or create their own ways of coming together around our touring show. I love seeing how our community is inspired in organic ways to organize their own happy-hours, watch parties and team outings. (I have also witnessed many first dates organized around our show, so I'm happy to be in the business of love!). In my role, I have also cultivated a community of partner organizations and educational institutions that span the arts, journalism, culture, non-profits, and youth to help make our work more diverse and inclusive.

What’s a key piece of advice you wish you would have had when starting your community career?

It can be temping to want to fit in. When you feel that urge, ask yourself how you can step into any space as your authentic self.

Investment in community is growing. Where do you see it in 5-10 years?

Organizations are seeing the importance of genuine and authentic connection. When I first started in the field, the work was referred to as "outreach." Then people realized that was one-directional, and the terminology evolved to community "engagement" to reflect both sides of the equation. It's exciting to see how this work is continuing to evolve by putting people first and creating the conditions for a shared sense of belonging. I believe that sentiment will only grow.

What's your favorite part about working in community?

So many aspects of our society are extractive: taking natural resources, taking precious time, building walls and barriers. My favorite part about working in community is that it is the antipode to that, it is generative. It generates meaningful relationships, it generates inspiration and ideas, it generates the impetus for individuals to come together as a collective. It's a small seed in the right direction.

And now some fun questions we ask our Roomies when they join the team 🙂

Favorite emoji?


Favorite good TV Show?

I May Destroy You

Next travel bucket list items to check off?

The souks in Morocco

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Roseli! We're so appreciative of you being a generative part of our community. 🙂

We're continually looking to highlight community leaders, voices, and stories—if there's someone you'd like to nominate to share theirs, let us know. See you in Uncommon!