Ally 2010 Stories: PA Silicon Valley

PA Silicon Valley & San Francisco 2010-2011 Allies and Staff

Public Allies Silicon Valley has updated their Facebook Fan page with short Ally stories.  Here’s the latest installment featuring Elizabeth Aigbekaen, who is serving at the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula.

Working with the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula as a College Bound Coordinator, has been such a great learning experience for me. I love the teens that we have, and I enjoy watching them learn and grow. This week we have two exciting events for them to attend that I have been in charge of coordinating for them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Guest blogger | Funny, but sad, but in the end — inspiring

Casey Bridgeford

Today’s guest blogger is Casey Bridgeford, and if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll remember that we introduced him to you back in April in one of our staff Q&As. Casey is a program manager at Public Allies Indianapolis. This post, along with a link to this video, originally appeared in his personal blog, Revenge of the ILLIgans!  The headline sums up how I felt when I saw the video and then read Casey’s post. — DMB

 

Many people are waiting on a “real” leader to step up and solve the problems we are facing. They would argue that our country is standing still, and in some cases sliding backwards because politicians just don’t get it. Some would say that it is because most of our religious leaders are either corrupt or worse — cowards. Even other people would say that greedy businessmen are the problem.

What I believe is that the problem is me. I am the problem. Everyone like me who has passed up on an opportunity to help themselves is the problem. Anyone like me who has overlooked the opportunity to share their extra (knowledge, time, money, strength) is the problem.

The buck doesn’t stop with the politician — it stops with me. It stops with normal people. We are the answer we have been waiting for. Everyone of us who is the problem … is also THE Solution.

For the past 14 months I have been working with a community organization called Public Allies, which operates with the mindset that Everybody Leads. This simply means that everyone brings something to the table. There is no such thing as an extra person. Each person has something to contribute. Most people will contribute their time, talents, and passion, if given the right opportunity and support.

Public Allies gives that support to young adults who have made up their minds that they don’t look like a leader, leadership looks like them.

Without programs like Public Allies, people keep addressing problems the same way. We look for the expert to tell us what our problem is and how they are the only one who is able to fix it for us. Its this kind of thinking that has us stuck on an escalator with no good sense to walk the rest of the way. We are so used to depending on others, that we miss the opportunity to solve our own problems.

So when you wake up and look yourself in the mirror, remember you are looking at The New Face of Leadership!

Speech | What sets Public Allies apart

When people hear that Public Allies is an AmeriCorps program that involves a 10-month service apprenticeship for young adults, they often lump us in with other youth service programs. The list is long and full of amazing groups doing important work; we’re honored to be in their company. But sometimes the lumping tendency does a dis-service to service groups in that it overlooks our distinct differences. At Public Allies, we believe that our inclusive, collaborative definition of leadership is what sets us apart.

That’s why I’m posting the speech below. It was delivered by our CEO, Paul Schmitz, at the plenary session of this year’s annual Independent Sector conference. I think it does a wonderful job expressing Public Allies’ approach to leadership. If you’re thinking of being an Ally, this will help you understand what it’s all about. I hope you find it inspiring and thought-provoking. -DMB

Paul Schmitz

My greatest influence growing up was John Lennon, who said. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together”… I never understood that, either, but he also said. “Think globally, act locally.” And I understand that and it frames how I think about dealing with some of the big global challenges we are facing today.

I think people need to see change where they are to believe that solving bigger problems is possible. If we are to build civil society in an increasingly uncivil culture and solve problems, we must think more from the bottom up.

Steve Heintz, CEO of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, quoted Peter Drucker that in turbulent times, we cannot solve problems today using yesterday’s logic. I would add to that we also can’t solve problems using yesterday’s leadership…

Now let me be clear about that. I am not voicing a rejection, but an invitation for you to make our tables bigger, broader, and more diverse. There is still a seat for you.

At Public Allies we talk about changing the face and practice of leadership, because if you change who is at the proverbial tables, the tables themselves must also change.

By changing the face, I’m saying that we must bring more diverse people and perspectives to our tables. It is imperative. As a sector we fail to do that.

One of my Allies a few years ago was doing her presentation of learning. It is how they demonstrate what they’ve learned at the end of our program. Her supervisor, a boomer and ’60s activist, asked her what his generation of activists and leaders needed to learn that her generation understands. She replied, “Your generation sees diversity as an ideal, something to believe in. We learned that it is an action, something you do.” 

 Our sector believes in diversity very well, but we don’t do diversity well. That must change.

 And if we change who is at the table, the table itself must change. We must think about how to solve problems differently.

Many of our nonprofits here today have grown a lot. We’re serving more people, we’re managing better, we are achieving more outcomes, and we have evidence our programs work. Yet, social problems linger and racial and other disparities have grown. 

In my community, we have had a dramatic increase in youth programs, after-school programs, education organizations, choice schools, charter schools, teaching programs, and all the rest. If I consult their websites, annual reports and funders, they are all meeting lots of outcomes and some have won national awards and recognition for evidence and innovation. But it doesn’t add up. In fact, despite all these “proven” efforts, we continue to have the worst 3rd grade reading scores for African American children.

There is no evidence that the aggregation of evidence-based, control-group-researched, outcome-focused services add up to needle-moving change on important issues. Improved strategy, management, outcomes, and evidence are probably necessary to move the needle, but they are not sufficient.

Perhaps we have to reverse-engineer how we think about solving problems. We need to look at communities where the graduation rate is up 20%, the crime rate cut in half, teen pregnancy down by a third and figure out what added up to produce those results. My hunch is that there were successful programs but that they were combined with political will, organizing, advocacy, community engagement, and community building. Top down solutions don’t work if they don’t engage communities in the solution.

The pendulum has swung over the last 20 years toward an emphasis on nonprofit leadership as management and service as science. What has been lost is the art of service – how we lead, engage, and organize with communities. The science of service may be necessary but it is not sufficient to create real change without the art of service.

So I think that to address these big challenges, we have to get real about how we engage diverse communities so that we can really begin to solve problems closer to home.

Video | Welcome … and get ready!

This video has been making the rounds of the Public Allies network, and we thought we should share it with our Allies2010 friends. In it, Public Allies CEO Paul Schmitz delivers a welcome to the new class of Allies. Depending on which of the 21 cities the Allies serve in, they start their core training any time between late August and mid October.

This was filmed on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which is our Operating Partner in Milwaukee. Paul was conducting a Friday training for the Milwaukee Allies, and he decided it would be a nice opportunity to enlist some help for a rousing cheer. The video includes excerpts from his training session, which is a terrific primer about the Public Allies leadership philosophy.

Enjoy! And maybe you’ll be getting a welcome of your own one day.

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