On May 30, thirty-one civic and community leaders from the Baltimore region graduated from the Opportunity Fellows program, the eight-month leadership development component of the Opportunity Collaborative. (Many Fellows pictured above, along with program facilitators and BMC staff.) The Fellows had recently completed their capstone project: Community Leaders for a Sustainable Baltimore Region, a paper reflecting on the Fellows program, the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RPSD), and community engagement and implementation of the RPSD moving forward.
The overall Fellows program was designed, planned and faciliated by a team led by team under Griff Hall Strategic Leadership that included Griff Hall, MSB, Wendy Shia, Ed.D, MSW; Karen Pell, Ph.D.; Mildred Brook, MS; and Angela Janas. Participants in the program hailed from four major jurisdictions in the region and included students, neighborhood leaders, government staff, business owners and even a former elected official. The goal of the program was to cultivate a cohort of leaders who can combine their local experience and perspective with the ability and desire to think and act regionally. As much as possible, the Collaborative also wanted the Fellows program also to ensure that the RPSD and its implementation reflect the character, needs and ambitions of the region.
The program included retreats and workshops aimed at helping participants develop an awareness and understanding of the issues and regional dynamics addressed by the Opportunity Collaborative, and how disparities affect our region’s sustainability. Issues explored included transportation, housing, workforce development, economic competitiveness, and community trusteeship. In addition to this learning work, Fellows’ discussion and activities focused on how community-oriented stakeholders could be involved in and influence the inclusive, crosscutting and multijurisdictional effort envisioned in the RPSD.
Once the Fellows program began in October 2014, the Fellows provided an engaged civic and community-based perspective on the Collaborative plans. As a concluding project, the capstone paper provides frank, thoughtful feedback that the Collaborative partners can learn from as the region moves from the intensive three-year federal grant-funded planning process into implementation.