July Brown Bag – Expanding Networks and Opportunities:

By Madhavi Reddy & Aaron Goodman

CDAD Brown Bag lunches occur every other month and each focuses on a topic of particular interest to Detroit’s community development and neighborhood-based organizations.  These sessions offer CDAD members an opportunity for informal peer-to-peer learning and dialogue with invited experts on a specific topic of discussion.

The topic for the  July 22 Brown Bag was Expanding Networks and Opportunities:  Part II in a series of Racial Equity in Community Development.  CDAD members learned from the experiences of several organizations and engaged in a conversation about the need to view community development work through the lens of equity.  The group explored concepts such as increasing access to job opportunities in community development and working to develop our capacity to create an industry that is reflective of the communities we serve.  The conversation was open and honest as participants discussed how some of our practices exclude different voices and experiences from the work of revitalizing and building up their neighborhoods.  We talked about the need to develop deliberate policies and practices to build a more inclusive community development industry.

Many thanks to the following invited guests who shared their insight at the July Brown Bag.

Caroline Chambers, Comerica Bank Corporate Diversity Initiatives
Rosemary Linares, Nonprofit Enterprise at Work (NEW)
Caitlin Manzano & Markyshia Smith, Public Allies Metro Detroit
Sonia Plata, New Detroit

Caroline Chambers from Comerica Bank shared her experience leading the bank’s diversity initiative.  Comerica has 35 diversity teams and each has a budget to achieve their goals.  Comerica engages in diversity work because it is necessary as communities and clients become more and more diverse.  Comerica incentivizes its diversity work through both required and elective trainings and uses a scorecard to measure progress.  Employees are given equal opportunity for growth and advancement in order to ensure advancement and opportunities to participate in decision-making is not limited to a select few or to people from a specific group. Caroline noted that a key component of promoting this work is to force their managers and team-leaders to think beyond their regular “go-to” people in all areas of assignments, projects, and decisions.  Comerica works with minority professionals, women’s development groups and LGBT groups and veterans associations.

Caitlin Mazano and Markyshia Smith from Public Allies Metro Detroit shared some information about this non-profit leadership development program offered through AmeriCorps and UM Dearborn.  The Detroit program began in 2013 and is a 10 month leadership development initiative.  The participants (Allies) are young adults from the communities they will serve.  The program recruits Allies who may be traditionally overlooked due to lack of education or job experiences they.  However, these Individuals have life experience and show the potential and capacity to reflect the Public Allies motto “Everybody Leads”.  Allies are placed in non-profits throughout Detroit and some suburbs to work on capacity building projects for their host organizations while also developing their own leadership potential.    Public Allies Metro Detroit uses an asset based community development model to raise up and support the local communities and the next generation of non-profit leaders in Detroit.  The cohort is diverse and is comprised of 28 leaders from all over the city from various ethno racial, sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds.  The second cohort is launching in October.

Rosemary Linares from Non-Profit Enterprise at Work (NEW) spoke about their capacity building opportunities for non profits.  Rosemary specifically works to foster diversity at the board and organizational level through workshops and trainings.  She has begun a pilot program to help organizations in Detroit, Kalamazoo, and Flint build action plans with goals and measureable outcomes and created an assessment tool to measure best practices in diversity.  After the assessment tool, organizations get a customized workshop based on results along with technical assistance for implementation.  At the conclusion of the pilot, NEW hopes to expand the program statewide.

Sonia Plata of New Detroit highlighted their Metro Detroit Racial Equity Report and their Building Civic Engagement initiative, which is a facilitated discussion with 10-15 people on issues of diversity.  Additionally, New Detroit’s Multicultural Leadership Series is led by people from diverse communities with 30 to 50 participants.  Sonia spoke of the challenge in finding and keeping baseline data related to racial equity and the social determinants of health.  New Detroit hosts an annual event to recognize organizations that are doing diversity work.  She reminded the group that the discussion should broaden beyond the concept of diversity and start to unpack the ideas of race and equity in order to close the gaps faced by communities of color.

The conversation after the presentations centered on a few key ideas including creating safe spaces to raise issues and concerns related to a lack of diversity in community development and how to address and push for greater inclusion.   Another concept discussed was the importance of working with people outside of your comfort zone.  Individuals with different backgrounds have a wealth of knowledge and experience that may benefit the work.  We identified the need for specific tools to engage in diversity work and suggested that CDAD act as a model for tools to use in the community development industry.  All of the participants noted that this Brown Bag cannot be the end of our conversation about diversity in the community development industry.  This event needs to be a springboard for continued dialogue and discussion on diversity and inclusion in the future among CDAD members and organizations across Detroit.

Stay tuned for future opportunities to continue this critical conversation with CDAD!


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