Being new on the job, I have been focused on getting out into our communities—meeting people, listening and lots of learning, which I love. I’ve met so many engaged, visionary people with provocative ideas about how to strengthen this region and its people.
Senator and two-term Governor of Maine Angus King once remarked that the single most important ingredient for building thriving communities is leadership: the ability to mobilize people and resources to achieve shared goals, to work collaboratively to seize opportunities and adapt in the face of changing conditions. This X factor makes positive things happen in communities.
In my first four months on the job, here are a few examples I’ve come to know that are fine expressions of leadership:
- The decade-long, incremental effort to restore the Hudson Opera House as the cultural centerpiece of its community. The patience and persistence of their longtime executive director, working side by side with the board of directors, just paid off with a significant state grant toward the final restoration of the main theater.
- The inclusive, collaborative leadership of the North East Community Center in Millerton to work side by side with local residents to identify and act on ways to strengthen area communities. Most recently, NECC is seeking to replicate the successful Chore Service program in northwest Connecticut, whose staff offer seniors support for aging in place in their homes and communities.
- The fearless grassroots organizing of a South County resident in recovery from addiction to establish an online community and in-person meetings for people from all perspectives. She wants to help the community understand the root causes of opioid addiction and find solutions to the massive epidemic in our midst.
Common themes of these efforts include risk taking, collaboration and taking a long-term view, since substantive change is hard and takes tireless effort over time to achieve.
I’ve also been thinking about Berkshire Taconic’s leadership, now and in the future. At its core, a community foundation consists of financial resources, relationships, institutional expertise and a strong reputation. Our ability to lead rests in part on how we connect people and resources to strategies, organizations and initiatives advancing a positive vision for the future.
BTCF has experience leveraging its strengths through our existing leadership initiatives. Our Early Childhood Development initiative (the subject of our leadership spotlight) identified two evidence-based strategies and leveraged funding through our area funds and donor advised funds to support nonprofit partners using these strategies throughout our region. HousingUs is a regional coalition working on increasing affordable housing. The coalition has used convening activities to shine a light on this issue, build more awareness and create an urgency to act. And through the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, we help transform the people and organizations that demonstrate leadership and solve problems every day.
We want to do more of this type of work. We know Berkshire Taconic will be a stronger leader when we use data in combination with input from our communities to inform strategy development. Over the course of this year, Berkshire Taconic will conduct a community assessment to better understand the trends and issues affecting our communities. We will be collecting and synthesizing data for this assessment, using existing reports, focus groups and informational interviews with stakeholders, including our donors, civic and nonprofit leaders, and residents. This process is a first step toward sharpening BTCF’s strategic direction, exerting stronger leadership on issues and mobilizing resources to act on the pressing issues facing our region.
We look forward to engaging you through this process, in order to incorporate your views on issues and on the value Berkshire Taconic can bring to help address them. If you want to be in touch with me directly, please feel free to email or call.