Twenty-four lucky community members in Rohnert Park will have the opportunity to participate in a “Leadership Rohnert Park” program aimed at providing civic, network-building experiences that participants can then use in their own lives, jobs, and communities.
“We feel that Rohnert Park, like many cities, is well-served by having a group of community leaders who are well-informed of the issues and challenges in the community, who have solid leadership skills and who have a network of like-minded folks in the community,” says Don Schwartz, Assistant City Manager of Rohnert Park. “In Rohnert Park there are some signs that we have some room to improve there.”
One sign is that the city sometimes has challenges filling positions on their advisory boards for the city council. There simply are not enough people interested or willing to be civically engaged at that level. Another sign is that Rohnert Park does not have many non-profit organizations for a city of their size.
“Developing a pool of leaders, or folks interested in those roles is a way to build the community’s capacity to support functions like those,” says Schwartz.
The city had a leadership program about twenty years ago and started making a concerted effort to bring it back several years ago. However, lack of funding and a facilitating body stalled the project.
“About four years ago there were a variety of folks interested in creating a new rendition of the program,” says Schwartz. “We didn’t have the financing at that time to pull it off and we needed an organization that could host it and some money to pay for it and we didn’t have that at the time. Despite some great intentions and efforts we never got it off the ground.”
However, in the past year some of the non-guaranteed casino funds (those tied to the financial success of the casino) became available. Leadership Rohnert Park is one program that the city can now afford to offer its residents, including partnering with a leading national, leadership development organization, Coro Northern California, to facilitate the program.
“Coro has a proven record of excellence in local leadership development,” says Darrin Jenkins, City Manager of Rohnert Park. “They created a program for Rohnert Park that builds on their experience and addresses the needs of our community.”
Coro Northern California, a non-profit which has been around for over 75 years, has a mission to “equip people with skills, knowledge, and networks to collaborate and accelerate positive change wherever they are.” The hands-on learning model develops self-awareness, critical thinking, communication, inclusion, collaboration and empowered professionalism.
“At Coro we really see ourselves as a way to bridge across differences,” says Nnenna Ozobia, Director of Training for Coro Northern California. “It’s really about how people can apply the leadership tools that they’ve learned to have more self-awareness around their capacity to lead, and their values around leadership…to really think critically and come from a place of not making assumptions in leadership. We use the word ‘inquiry’ a lot - to come from an inquisitive approach especially when you’re interacting with people different from you – how to limit your bias to get you to facts more than differences.”
The City of Rohnert Park hopes to have participants from all sectors, ages, backgrounds and neighborhoods in the community. The only criteria is that the applicant either lives or works in Rohnert Park and can commit to the eight full days of training.
“Anyone who is interested in sharing their passion either through school, non-profit, work, neighborhood group, sports group, scouting, church, or any other connection to the community is an ideal applicant,” says Jenkins.
“We really believe in leadership not being about a position or a title,” says Ozobia, “but people being able to lead from anywhere and any place. To be able to do that we’re really looking for people who don’t have the same perspectives or backgrounds, but a commitment to being collaborative and to being open to other perspectives. It’s important to have people in these programs who are not only open to collaborate but also want to make a difference in their communities.”
Most training days are held on the third Friday of each month during normal business hours, as well as an initial networking reception and closing graduation ceremony. Training starts in Sept. 2019 and ends in May 2020. Applications are due June 1 and can be found at rpcity.org.
While no specific commitment is required post-training, city officials hope that participants will be inspired to use what they’ve learned and the network they’ve gained to initiate positive change in the community, whether that means serving on a non-profit board, engaging in city leadership, or even just making them more effective in the positions in which they are currently involved.
“I hope individuals interested in giving back to our community feel supported in their leadership development,” says Jenkins. “Post-training, I’d love it if the alumni maintained their relationship network and contributed to the development of the future classes of Leadership Rohnert Park.”