By Todd Cohen
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Helping established and emerging leaders give back to the community by learning to work together and find new ways of making change happen is the focus of Leadership Winston-Salem as it gears up for its 21st class after a year of planning.
“Our mission is to educate, connect and energize leaders to serve and improve the community,” says Jo Ellen Carson, a former consultant and Wachovia executive who joined the group in June as executive director.
The group has been recruiting up to 50 leaders to participate in an eight-month session that begins in December and will feature a day-long class each month, beginning with an overnight retreat at Graylyn Conference Center.
After looking at past and future economic, arts and cultural trends in the community, participants will focus on topics ranging from human relations, education, social services and health care to government, criminal justice and public safety.
Community leaders helping to lead those classes will be directed to ask questions of class members and involve them in thinking about how to address real problems and challenges, says Carson, whose consulting work focused on leadership development and capacity-building, and whose jobs at Wachovia included manager of learning and development for the operations and technology division.
The session on government, criminal justice and public safety, for example, will ask class members to make hypothetical decisions about local government budgets in an effort to give participants “a sense of the kinds of tradeoffs that have to be looked at working with limited dollars,” she says.
Starting at the beginning of the course, participants also will be organized into six-member teams, each of which will be responsible for carrying out an “action-learning” project focused on a community-development issue.
Each team will be able to choose a project from a list of proposals that local organizations have been invited to submit.
The projects will be designed to help participants develop hands-on leadership and team-building skills, Carson says, and to find new ways of thinking, doing business and addressing community issues.
“The purpose of action-learning is to stretch people beyond their current ways of thinking,” she says. “So a great deal of emphasis is on inquiry, on looking to new insights, new ways of doing things.”
The kinds of topics organizations are submitting include how to make the community “intergenerational-friendly,” how to develop local support networks for individuals who have aged out of foster care, and how to develop youth leadership in the community.
Chaired by Pat Taylor, general manger of the Winston-Salem Journal, the 24-member board of Leadership Winston-Salem has played a lead role in developing plans for the new class and for raising money, Carson says.
Board members have secured pledges for $115,000, most of it to pay for the coming year’s program and most of it from corporations.
The Winston-Salem Foundation, Sara Lee Corp., BB&T and Wachovia each has made a contribution ranging from $10,000 to $20,000, while Wake Forest University, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Forsyth Medical Center, Allegacy Federal Credit Union, Womble Carlyle, Lowes Foods and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. each contributed $5,000 to $6,000.
For information, visit leadershipws.org, or call 336.773.7116.