In January 2012, The Center for Leadership Innovation (TCLI) invited 25 nonprofit leaders from Flint’s African American community to an introductory breakfast to update them on four years of engagement with Flint’s Latino nonprofit leadership network. A series of leadership development and capacity building training and on-site technical assistance activities, funded by 3 local foundations, had resulted in meaningful organizational enhancements and significant new advocacy work by the emerging social impact network. The circle of African American nonprofit leaders invited TCLI to expand its Flint-based activities to include African American community-based leaders.

In November 2013, TCLI conducted further outreach with a larger network of Flint-based African American leaders from diverse sectors. TCLI was invited to design and deliver a new Flint African American Leadership Dialogue consisting of conversations, convenings, and a learning tour to leverage and advance the local African American community’s benefit from the new Flint Master City Plan.  The Dialogue, which would produce a draft of a “Flint African American Agenda” would facilitate exploration of the following topics:

  • Visioning a new Flint for the African American community.
  • Incorporating a new ‘intentionality’ in African American asset building.
  • Encouraging grassroots civic engagement and leadership for increased ownership and accountability of desired results.
  • Supporting local constituents and leaders as they build confidence to move forward.
  • Bridging the gap between generations – making way for emerging leadership.
  • More strategic positioning for the Flint African American community in public/private sectors.
  • Understanding local dynamics related to challenges and opportunities.
  • Forming necessary coalitions and partnerships to achieve goals.
  • Advancing advocacy roles.
  • Succession planning to fill the seats of vacant seats of former African American elected and appointed officials.
  • Strengthening the fragile network of neighborhood based community development corporations.
  • Exploring what is working in African American neighborhoods in other Michigan cities of similar size to adapt innovations to the Flint environment.
  • The value of Black-Brown dialogue in Flint.
  • Preparing for Black-Brown dialogue in Flint.
  • Taking a hard look at why these types of efforts have not gained traction in the past.
  • How to build this fabric together.

As a result of this preliminary outreach, TCLI has received a grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation to launch this initiative in Fall 2014 with the core group of local leaders and expanded community engagement.

Beginning January 2015, a core group of 20-25 seasoned and emerging leaders of the Flint community committed their professional and personal resources to participate in a nine-month leadership development experience.  This experience was designed to educate, empower and equip them with character-based and content knowledge, skills, attributes and ethics to improve the quality of life in the African-American community as well as the larger Flint community.  Eleven months following the inception of the program, the evaluation results of the Initiative revealed the following:

Content knowledge.

  • Almost sixty-five percent of the participants described themselves as “proficient” or “expert” in their knowledge of leadership development.1
  • Prior to the Dialogue, forty percent of the leaders described themselves as having “proficient” or “expert” knowledge about conflict resolution.  Today, that percentage has increased to sixty-five percent.2
  • Of particular note with regards to knowledge about community development issues, while 15% described themselves as minimally knowledgeable prior to the training, today none define themselves as such.  In fact, the percentage of those who described themselves as having “proficient” or “expert” knowledge has increased from forty percent to sixty percent, with an additional ten percent defining themselves as “average.”3

Issues Awareness.

  • Twenty-five percent of these leaders strongly agreed and an additional thirty percent agreed that their knowledge of issues impacting the Flint community was greatly increased as a result of their participation in the Dialogue.
  • Equally important, fifty percent of the leaders either strongly agreed or agreed that their knowledge of the issues affecting the African-American community in Flint had increased as a result of their participation in the Dialogue.4

Participation Benefits.

  • Forty percent of the leaders strongly agreed and an additional twenty-five percent agreed that, as a result of their participation in the Dialogue, their leadership skills had improved.
  • This same group representing sixty-five percent of the core group agreed or strongly agreed that they were more likely to assume a leadership role in the groups in which they participated.
  • Sixty percent of the group also said that they were more likely to be involved in community activities and to assume leadership roles.5

1 Questions 1 and 2.  These results and those following were determined from responses to a non-scientific survey of the Steering Committee members of the Flint African-American Leadership Dialogue.  The survey was conducted between October 14 and 21, 2015.  Fourteen of the twenty most active members responded to the survey and the percentages cited are based on these two variables. A copy of the survey results follow this narrative.
2 Question 1 and 2.
3 Questions 1 and 2.
4 Question 5.
5 Question 6.