August 6, 2013

It’s a late Friday evening at a cafe in downtown Newark. A five-member Leadership Newark (LN) Community Leadership Initiative (CLI) team have all rushed from their respective jobs to meet for a late night brainstorm meeting. The various tasks are divided according to personalities, expertise, and interest. The meeting adjourns to meet early the next day to begin the critical parts of their consultant project.

The following day, the members, whose faces read dedication, loyalty, enthusiasm, and exhaustion, meet bright and early at the local elementary school. As the members pass around the coffee and donuts, one member takes the first step to provide a potential solution to the policy question at hand. Another member agrees. Soon, a member with a difference of opinion emerges. A quick yet passionate debate emerges. At last, the team is brought back to the purpose of the Community Leadership Initiative, creating a solution that brings continuous hope to the Newark Renaissance. This scenario best describes what a fellow can expect in year two of the Leadership Newark program.

As part of the two-year intensive public-policy fellowship, Leadership Newark designed the CLI to provide fellows an opportunity to work with local non-profit organizations, schools, and/or government entities to resolve real community needs (Source: Leadership Newark website). Organizations are chosen through a competitive process that generates numbers of proposals seeking to apply the expertise, skill, and energy of Leadership Newark fellows. The selected projects provide community stakeholders confidence in the future outlook of Newark and possibilities to creating lasting benefits to the community.

One great example is Newark Now’s Fathers Now Program. LaVar Young, CEO of Newark Now, submitted a proposal to work with Leadership Newark to request their fellows help create a business plan that would enable and empower participants in their Fathers Now Program find gainful employment regardless of having a criminal record. Newark Now’s challenge was that their current staff needed some assistance with formulating this plan.

Their proposal was accepted. In a testimonial featured in a journal compiled by The Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers University, Young shared the experience of being accepted into the CLI:

“We met three or four times with LN, and gave them an idea of what the program was about. LN then spoke with our graduates and participants. Fathers Now told them what we wanted to see and why we thought it would be helpful for the population we work with. LN took it on from there. Their finished product included: 1) a business plan, 2) a go-to manual on how to get the business started, 3) an overhead costs estimate (how much it would cost to start), and 4) materials marketing. We were impressed with how much they incorporated into the plan.”
As a result of the LN fellows’ efforts, Newark Now was able to present their business plan to the Rutgers and PSE&G Social Innovations Fund. As of July 2012, Newark Now was awarded $82,000 in startup money to get their business concept up and running. With over 300 Leadership Newark Alumni and current fellows, the CLI has catapulted many fellows into continued great accomplishments within the Greater Newark community as well as the state of NJ.

Fellows who’ve continued to make progress for the Greater Newark and state of NJ include NJ Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, class of 2000 whose sponsored bills include the promotion of ethics amongst government officials and minority teacher recruitment; Irene Cooper-Basch, class of 2005, who serves as Executive Officer of Victoria Foundation, whose beneficiaries have included organizations such as Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson, and Union Counties; Anibal Ramos, Jr. , class of 2000, who currently serves as councilman for the North Ward Newark and previously served in various leadership roles at FOCUS Hispanic Community Development Center and became one of the youngest members ever elected to the State Democratic Committee representing Essex County(City of Newark, NJ website), and is running for Mayor of Newark in 2014; and Shavar Jeffries, class of 2003 whose worked in the capacity of associate professor at Seton Hall University’s Law School, Assistant Attorney General Counsel, the Newark Public schools Advisory Board, and is also currently running for Mayor of Newark in 2014. The names aforementioned are a small percentage of 400+ alumni of Leadership Newark creating innovative, intellectual, and inspiring movements that is empowering Newark.

As in the opening example scenario, fellows are selected based their commitment to play a proactive and leadership role in shaping Newark’s future. LN Fellows are also passionate about critical public policy issues such as education, economic development, and crime/public safety, which will be the foundation of our public policy summit on November 2nd, 2013. We anticipate a very substantive, intellectual, and empowering conversation that will lead us to continue making changes. Your participation at the summit will add the necessary voices needed to make progress.
Stay updated on the Leadership Newark Public Policy Summit by checking out the Summit website at and joining our email list on the Leadership Newark website home page. We will continue to announce new developments on our Facebook (leadershipnewark) and Twitter (@leadershipnwk) over the coming months.