Report date
November 2019
Learning Log

As a nonprofit leader, the experience of having a Bush Fellowship is unlike anything else. Typically, nonprofit organizations do not have the resources to invest in leadership development to the level the fellowship provides. This is through no fault of the nonprofit sector, typically most resources of a nonprofit are used to provide services that advance the organization’s mission. I am grateful that the Bush Foundation has the perspective that investing in the development of leaders is essential to the effectiveness and success of the not-for-profit sector and the communities they serve. For my fellowship, I chose the option of crafting a self-directed program rather than a degree program. This has allowed me to target the resources of the fellowship to advance my vision for my leadership. Two goals of my fellowship are (1) to be more visible as a leader and (2) to develop content expertise in social entrepreneurship. In the past, I have been most comfortable working behind the scenes. Although I have accomplished great things working behind the scenes, I now feel called to be more visible in my leadership in order to have an even greater impact. Here is how i describe myself as I leader. I am a senior leader in nonprofit and philanthropy known for developing strong stakeholder relationships. I am skilled at guiding and implementing change to improve organizational effectiveness to advance the impact of mission-driven organizations. Using best practices, I develop systems that enable staff and stakeholders to increase their success. By ensuring cultural competency across staff and throughout all processes, I increase the success of initiatives especially within diverse communities. I am strategic about leveraging and aligning resources and discerning appropriate investments to maximize social impact. As a people leader, I quickly assess individuals and teams, and strengthens group dynamics. I inspire and organize staff to perform at high levels and advance the mission. Using research and data, I lead strategic planning processes that are transformative. I make data and results accessible to stakeholders, enabling quality assessment, continuous learning and decision-making. Working collaboratively, I develop systems and use technology to ensure alignment of goals across functions in matrix environments. I provide expertise in operations and evaluation to address the complex issues that impact all communities. Being able to speak about myself and my strengths as a leader is critical. However, prior to the fellowship, it was not something I had the space or time to think about.
A second area of my leadership development is studying social entrepreneurship as a mechanism for empowering community members to solve social problems. As part of my self-directed study, I attended Stanford University's School of Business Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship. Part of the curriculum involved training in human-centered design at Stanford’s Human-centered design is an approach to problem solving that starts from the perspective of the people (humans) you are working to provide programs or services to. You might be wondering; how do you solve someone’s problem or provide them effective services without including their perspective? The answer is you can’t. Recently, I was asked to provide thought leadership at a cross sector gathering on community resilience as it relates to climate change. I reluctant at first but was impressed with the organizer's ability to bring people together from various sectors (government, philanthropy, non-profit) to participate. I also decided to participate because of the urgency of addressing the issue of climate change- both stopping actions that are contributing to climate change and developing effective solutions to support communities as they deal with the impact of severe weather events. As we have witnessed, the effects of climate change disproportionately impact low income and communities of color. The agenda primarily consisted of presentations. During the meeting, various government agency staff presented on what their agency can provide after a severe weather event. All the presenters made the point that the scope of the problem is much larger than any one governmental agency or even all of them together can address. The presentation format set up the dynamic of the community representatives focusing on how to access services. While it is important to know how to access resources, supporting and enhancing community resilience requires a much larger, coordinated response. What is needed is a response that utilizes human-centered design strategies to create a process that can be adapted in many communities. I remember watching the news coverage of the response to Hurricane Katrina thinking “Why is FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) so slow in getting resources to those communities?” What I didn’t know at that time is that it isn't FEMA's role is to be the first responders it is to "support first responders". What does that mean for communities? It means we need a proactive process to respond to extreme weather events that includes governmental and other resources as part of the response. There is much to be learned from the response in North Minneapolis after the tornadoes touched down. The people who live and work in the community came together with philanthropy and local government following their lead. Let’s take the lessons learned from North Minneapolis, build on them, and create an approach with communities at the center.