Connecting for Change: press
Check out the full Marion Institute Blog!
By ROBERT BARBOZA, Editor
May 30, 2012
DARTMOUTH — Since 2005, Leadership SouthCoast (LSC) has been on a mission to provide the region with an ongoing source of diverse leaders from all walks of life who are committed to serving as catalysts for positive changes in the quality of life for the SouthCoast.
Each year, the non-profit guides a group of up to 30 acknowledged and aspiring leaders through a thought-provoking, nine-month community leadership program consisting of a one-day retreat and eight monthly full-day sessions. Class members are also asked to form teams and complete a group project during the program year that would benefit individual communities or the region as a whole.
This year, rather than selecting projects from a list of identified long-standing regional social, health, or economic issues, the LSC's Class of 2012 was asked to sign up for a team project that would address one of the topics on a list of ideas solicited from the communities they represent.
"For the first time, we solicited Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from community organizations, seeking suggestions for projects they needed help with," LSC Director Michael Metzler said at the May 24 presentation session for group projects by this year's class.
"We got an overwhelming response," he told the LSC directors, alumni, and a few potential recruits for next year's class on hand to hear the presentations at the Advanced Technology & Manufacturing Center in Fall River.
"It was great that we got 14 proposals; while we couldn't do all of them, we picked five worthy projects for this year's class to work on," Metzler explained.
Those RFPs not chosen for student projects were distributed to LSC's list of almost 150 alumni, seeking volunteers to help petitioning organizations with their needs; a number of graduates stepped up to assist those groups in some way.
The first project undertaken by this year's class focused on taking community involvement from theory to practice in New Bedford's under-performing public schools, which have often been in local newspaper headlines in the past year.
Initiated by the Inter-Faith Council of Greater New Bedford to help it promote more community support for troubled schools, the project sought to identify "best practices" for using volunteers in schools that could be applied city-wide, said team member Lisa Aldrich, a local Certified Public Accountant.
Her team studied the volunteer model employed by the Falmouth school system, which has a staffer coordinating the efforts of over 100 volunteers and an annual budget of $150,000 coming from the school department and private fund-raising. The team also visited seven city schools, interviewing principals to determine how volunteers are currently used to support academics and extracurricular activities.
The team found some city schools actively encourage volunteers — ranging from older students tutoring younger ones, to parents and senior citizens — while others have no active volunteers at all. They also found "little coordination" between schools for sharing best practices, Aldrich said.
LSC Chairman Rev. David Lima has met with Mayor Jon Mitchell to talk about using the Falmouth model and the team's findings to help develop a city-wide school volunteer program, and obtained a commitment from the mayor to try to provide some municipal funding for such a program, Aldrich indicated.
She was assisted in the group's presentation by team member Gregory Barnes, budget & finance director for the Town of Dartmouth, who noted the interviews of principals showed "some are more open to change than others," and a formal system-wide volunteer program could help promote greater use of volunteers and more community involvement.
LSC class member Suzanne Cardello, owner of Somerset AutoCenter, presented the results of a project called "Investing in Human Capital" which sought to identify the "life skills" needed to help out-of-work South Coast residents more employable in a tough job market.
Her team developed a program for a seminar on resume preparation, interviewing skills, making a good impression during interviews, and the importance of knowing what's in the personal credit report which many prospective employers now check to learn more about job applicants.
The seminar was recently presented at the Fall River Career Center, and proved to be very successful for attendees, Cardello noted. The Career Center has invited the group to return for another session, she said.
The positive response from both job seekers and officials at the Career Center was very rewarding for team members, and reinforced the goals of LSC class members, Cardello suggested. "We all want the best for the region... that's why we're here," she noted.
BankFive business banking officer Joseph Borges, Downtown New Bedford executive director Diane Arsenault, and People, Inc. communications director Pam O'Neill presented the findings of the LSC team that worked on the Schwartz Center's "inclusionary project" — a plan to encourage community organizations to be more welcoming to children with disabilities.
The team meet with the staff of the Dartmouth school, gauged parent interest in various activities ranging from sport and recreational opportunities to scouting, and developed a list of community groups that might be interested in providing inclusionary opportunities for children with disabilities in their programs, Borges explained.
Informational brochures were developed to explain how the center would help "community partners" accommodate handicapped children, adopt suitable inclusionary activities, and train their staffs to deal with potential problems, Arsenault said.
"There's a lot of groundwork to be done before this program can be undertaken," but the center has hired a part-time person to help coordinate with community partners, an important "first step" in implementing the team's project, she noted.
Glenn Oliveira, director of the Marion Institute's annual Connecting for Change Conference, described how his team will be helping the institute promote wider participation for this year's event, and encourage more SouthCoast residents, neighborhood groups, and businesses to get actively involved in learning how to create "deep and positive change" in the region.
The team developed ideas for organizing community events to promote more involvement in the environmental, health and social issues addressed at the conference; to help nurses get continuing education credits for attending seminars and focus sessions; and trying to get related materials approved to help participating educators earn professional development points (PDPs).
The Old Rochester Regional school district has expressed an interest in helping develop a model for involving their science and health education staff in conference programs and events qualifying for PDPs, another team member noted. That model could then be provided to other school systems in the region.
The final team giving a project report included presenters Lara Stone, a consultant and Dartmouth Select Board member; Coastal Commercial Real Estate sales director Chad Brubaker; and Jamie Jaquart, assistant director of the UMass Dartmouth Office of Campus & Community Sustainability. Their team's mission was to help Leadership SouthCoast assess what impact its alumni are having on the region, and how the organization's marketing, recruitment and curriculum improvement goals could be best addressed in the future.
The team also included Dartmouth resident Stephen Mitchell, a business development specialist for The Sylvia Group; recent Bishop Stang graduate Jeff Pelletier, a program manager for Executives Without Borders; and Mechanics Cooperative Bank branch manager Maria Rego. They worked closely with LSC board member Dr. Michael Goodman and his UMass Dartmouth graduate level social policy class on a comprehensive survey of LSC alumni and their level of community involvement before and after taking part in the leadership program.
The effort also included researching the best practices employed by other leadership development organizations across the country, and how the successes of those more established organizations could be adopted by the growing LSC, Stone said.
Brubaker outlined how improvements to the LSC web site could be used to allow affiliated SouthCoast groups to reach out to LSC graduates for job recruitment, volunteer opportunities, and service on boards of directors.
Better marketing of the benefits of the LSC program to participants and community organizations is a key goal for the future, the team indicated.
"We have leaders who participate (in the program) and go on to do incredible things in their communities; we have to market that," Stone suggested.
(Editor's note: Mr. Barboza is a member of the Leadership South Coast Board of Directors, and a graduate of the Class of 2008.)
By DON CUDDY
October 22, 2010 12:00 AM
NEW BEDFORD — The annual Bioneers by the Bay conference, sponsored by the Marion Institute, comes to downtown New Bedford starting today, and organizers have been working around the clock to ensure everything is in place.
"This is a lot for a small team to put on, and this is our biggest year yet, so I'm kind of holding my breath," said Marion Institute Executive Director Desa Van Laarhoven, who works year-round to plan the conference. "But it's exciting to be a part of this and be able to affect people in a positive way."
The Bioneers' stated mission is to develop innovative solutions to environmental problems, as well as working to promote social justice. This is the sixth year the conference has been held in SouthCoast and its third year downtown.
By Curt Brown
October 25, 2010 12:00 AM
NEW BEDFORD — Humanitarian Greg Mortenson wrapped up the Marion Institute's sixth Bioneers by the Bay conference Sunday with an inspiring message about the need to increase educational opportunities globally.
The 53-year-old Mortenson, co-author of The New York Times' bestseller "Three Cups of Tea" and co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute, which has established 131 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, brought his positive message of hope and sustainability to about 250 people at the Zeiteron Theater.
"There's no problem we can't solve," he said, adding that the hope for sustainability and change lies with children.
Through his Pennies For Peace program, which collects pennies from schoolchildren, the Central Asia Institute has built schools for 58,000 children, including 44,000 girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
NEW BEDFORD — Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea,” Annie Leonard producer of “Story of Stuff,” and Van Jones, pioneer in human rights and the clean-energy economy will lead the list of speakers for the Sixth Annual “Connecting for Change: A Bioneers by the Bay Conference.”
The conference, to be held in downtown New Bedford, runs from Oct. 22-24 and is sponsored by the Marion Institute. Organizers said the three-day event is a “solutions-based gathering that brings together a diverse audience to create deep and positive change in their communities.”
“When we get in touch with the fact that we are all connected, and that we all have a critical role to create deep love, justice and sustainability in the world as well as in our own lives, we see the urgent need to connect for change,” said Desa VanLaarhoven, executive director of the Marion Institute. “When we build bridges from local leaders — and that's all of us — to other leaders from around the world, we inspire each other to do just that.”
Free opening event to feature Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) new film ACID TEST and former pro-basketball player turned urban farmer Will Allen New Bedford, MA – October 7, 2009 – With the Obama Administration focused on creating a thriving green economy, the environmental movement is gathering at Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change (www.connectingforchange.org) to urge increased personal and civic action for a more sustainable and equitable world. The conference will take place October 22 - 25 at the Zeiterion Theatre and other venues in historic downtown New Bedford.
NEW BEDFORD — A film and lecture investigating what ocean acidification could mean for sea scallops that make this city the nation's most valuable fishing port will start next week's Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change.
The conference, a yearly gathering of environmental and social justice advocates, will convene in downtown New Bedford for three days of lectures, workshops, exhibits and an action event aimed at curbing global warming. The conference, which is sponsored by the Marion Institute, will be held at various downtown venues Friday through Sunday, Oct. 23-25.
Standard Times Article by Becky W. Evans
- 1 of 2