For Miles Dickson, community development means global policy reform.
“Philanthropy is a deeply personal thing for people,” says Miles Dickson. He should know. Dickson made the decision to turn his back on a law career and opt for a job trying to improve the lives of others. His tough choice paid off and he rose to the top of the philanthropic community during the two years he spent at the Moonridge Group, a consulting firm that helps individuals, corporations, and nonprofit organizations maximize their charitable resources and investment incomes. “The best thing for me,” he says of his time at Moonridge, which social entrepreneur Julie Murray conceived and invited Dickson to co-found with her in 2011, “was the ability to advance the conversation about strategic philosophy.”
But he recently decided to walk away from that job, too. The impetus? A strong desire to again go in a new direction, in order to honor his deep connection with the city his family has called home since the 1930s. “My grandparents came to Las Vegas during the Great Depression and were extremely poor,” he says. “For a long time Las Vegas has been a place of great opportunity, but it’s also been a place of great challenge for people.”
Dickson is now expanding into consulting work focused on social policy and programs, especially in the areas of education reform and community and economic development. “In Southern Nevada,” he says, “there is a huge opportunity to increase the resources available to create social progress.” But while the opportunities may be here, “Las Vegas is a difficult place to accelerate forward when most of the young people, especially the intelligent, ambitious ones, decide to leave.”
But Dickson is dedicated to Vegas. His impressive Rolodex of power players—along with his top-notch experience and a long list of past successes, including raising $5.3 million for Cirque du Soleil’s groundbreaking One Night for One Drop event last March—will come in handy in his new venture, even if, as he says, “philanthropy is just a tool” in a wider array of skills he will need to utilize.
Unlike in other parts of the country, Dickson’s age (he turns 29 in January) is anything but a hindrance to achieving his lofty new goals. “We have very little hierarchy here,” he says of his hometown. “The thing that’s extraordinary is that I have the opportunity, even though I’m very young, to sit at the table with CEOs of the biggest companies in this city.”
Still, Dickson says he has a sizable job ahead if he wants to create true change in Las Vegas: “We don’t have a few things we need to do; we have a dozen. The biggest challenge for us is determining what has to come first.” Once that’s decided, he says, “Everybody’s just a phone call or two away.”