Leadership Pipeline project with Co.act Detroit is not just a one-time project. It is the start of a bigger wave of change in the Detroit community, a healthy conversation to create a diverse and sustainable nonprofit ecosystem. How are we starting this ambitious journey? Why does this matter?
Our work starts based on the assumption made by Co.act from their many connections and interactions with nonprofit leaders: too many leaders are leaving the nonprofit sector. Stemming from this observed trend, our project was formed for Co.act to understand better the nonprofit ecosystem, particularly leadership development and sustainability. In doing so, the project can be divided into three distinct phases. The first is research. Covering subjects such as burnout, leaders of color, and nonprofit organizational models, we hope to understand the trend's relevant explanations. Michael and I are also researching leadership qualities/skills and existing programs for nonprofit staff of all levels within the organization to overcome any barriers to becoming or maintaining leadership positions. The second is the interview. We understand the limitations of our research which is mostly based on scholarly articles that are not specific to Southeast Michigan—the community that Co.act is serving. Interviewing different nonprofit stakeholders (e.g. retiring leaders, search firms, philanthropies) mostly in Southeast Michigan, we want to get more personal, diverse, rich insights into the topic. The third is the summary of findings and recommendations. This is the most important deliverable as it will provide guidance for the rest of the Co.act members to decide what their next steps should be.
What all this work would lead to is beyond imagination. After all, we are just ending our first phase. However, there are several direct impacts that we hope to contribute to the nonprofit sector in Southeast Michigan through our recommendations at the end.
- More diverse leaders with more equal and supportive working environments and experiences. We desire our project to foster conversations and real actions for DEI within nonprofits.
- Sustainable, internal leadership pipeline. This includes an inclusive, procedural succession plan, stronger leadership development, and possibly new nonprofit organizational models. Co.act may support this big shift through innovative programs and enriching resources.
- An environment that promotes the personal well-being of leaders and staff of all levels. Co.act may support this cultural shift by hosting dialogues involving all stakeholders within the sector, not just the leaders themselves, since the issue of burnout is often structural and beyond the individual’s will.