January 27, 2013

Civic leadership ability can be enhanced. That is the main finding of a Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies (Rutgers University-Newark) study, titled Growing Leaders to Enhance Civil Society: Assessing the Contributions of Leadership Newark.

The study, based on a representative sampling of LN alumni and the two main stakeholder groups found that Leadership Newark (LN), a nonprofit organization devoted to furthering the economic, social, and political growth of the city of Newark NJ, has achieved a strong level of success in preparing individuals in the public, private and non-profit sector for civic leadership.

Now in its fifteenth year, LN provides learning opportunities for present and future leaders through a rich program of classroom seminars and real-world professional partnerships. The organization’s two-year fellowship program promotes team building, decision-making, and developing other key skills for civic leadership.

Leadership Newark alumni reported that “deep engagement” in Newark’s public affairs grew from about 18% before the program to more than 45% after the program, and virtually all alumni experienced at least some increase in their knowledge of and engagement with Newark’s public affairs after completing the program. The alumni also reported significant increases in their social and cultural engagement within Newark, and more than 86% indicated that their engagement would continue over the next ten years.

Additionally, alumni reported that they felt a strong level of growth in their leadership ability and skills. The most significant area of exposure was in the areas of leadership skills such as decision making, teaming building and developing a shared vision for Newark, which reveal how the fellowship program brings diverse talent together and teaches them to collaborate effectively.

Most of this engagement and success can be attributed to the caliber of the people who organize and conduct the LN seminars and community partnership experiences.  The participants are mainly comprised of individuals who come from midlevel and senior management in nonprofit and public sector organizations. A strong majority of the speakers are stakeholders who have highlighted that they spend at least half of their professional time directly helping to create a better future for the city of Newark and its citizens. Thus, their role as instructors and mentors within the confines of the LN program provides invaluable experience and practical knowledge for fellows.

All of these data paint a picture of the LN alumnus as knowledgeable about and engaged in the public, social, and cultural affairs of the City of Newark, and are planning to remain so for the foreseeable future. In conducting the surveys, the Cornwall team also documented the personal stories of numerous alumni and representative stakeholder. Their personal testimonials are, in effect, the most compelling evidence of the positive and lasting contributions of LN to the city of Newark. In the words of Mayor Cory Booker, “There is no question that as a city, Newark is in a far better position than it was before Leadership Newark existed, and that is a great testament to the positive influence of the program and its graduates.”