Friday, September 25, 2009

Have You Done Your Leadership Year?

This is a plug. 'Cause if you can't plug something you truly believe in once in a while, what's a blog for?

Once upon a time, I took a course of study in leadership. The course was a program where I gave one day a month for about 9 months to learning about the way things worked in my new community. The program was called "Leadership Santa Cruz County."

By the time I took the course, I'd already lived for several years in the San Lorenzo Valley, working in Sunnyvale (over the hill in Silicon Valley, as Santa Cruzans put it), and then working in the City of Santa Cruz. But I still felt I didn't really know how things meshed - what forces pushed and pulled things in my community; I still lacked a general sense of how everything that made up living, working, and socializing here was interconnected. I didn't understand the politics or even know who the players (both onstage or behind the scenes) were, or what seemed to motivate them. If I was to spend the rest of my life here, I wanted to know those things. I wanted to contribute and to know whether I would be able to or if I would be, in some circumstances, butting my head against a stone wall.

The Ecosystem

LSCC's program helped with with all of those questions. And in the process, I learned about how nonprofits were a big part of the infrastructure of the community. As essential as the services of fire, police, and health, nonprofits served the community by filling in where services could not and by rounding out the life of the community with art and culture and care for the physical environment in which we all lived.

In other words, the program taught me about my community's ecosystem.

Mutual Support and Connection

I'm competitive in some ways, but I believe co-operation is better for making good things happen. And leadership programs teach mutual support as they reveal the astounding complexity of our local system and the ways in which we are interdependent. Because of my Leadership year, I met people who have helped me to serve my community. I've volunteered my time, knowledge and talents to nonprofits and to local government advisory boards and I've done my best to sustain the connections between them and the local businesses. Because businesses are made up of people, and those people want to help their communities, too.

My Recommendation

So you small nonprofits - if you haven't sent your E.D. or anyone else through your local Leadership program, scrape up the funds and do it. Or talk to the Leadership E.D. and ask about a scholarship or an in-kind. Then make sure that person goes - 100% attendance isn't always possible, but 90 or 80% usually is; you don't get anything out of the program if you don't show up.

At the very least, Google leadership [your city] and take a look at what their program offers. I expect that you'll be as impressed as I was and as encouraged and excited.

Note: Here's what Leadership Santa Cruz County is working on right now: check it out

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