While politicians wrangle over the national debt and the future solvency of Social Security, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is addressing another consequence of the aging baby-boom generation – the looming retirements of many not-for-profit, health-care leaders.
The foundation, headquartered in Princeton, N.J., is working to train potential replacements around the country, including Kansas City.
As of mid-September, 29 people from the greater Kansas City area were seven months into a 16-month program called the RWJF Ladder to Leadership: Developing the Next Generation of Community Health Leaders.
Robert Wood Johnson reached out to these emerging community-health leaders through a local partner, the Health Forward Foundation.
Like their counterparts in eight other cities, the Kansas Citians are developing their leadership skills by doing.
The group has chosen these challenges on which to work:
- Secondary trauma experienced by care providers,
- Creating a hub for community resources,
- Combating childhood obesity and two related barriers to access to care – navigation and support systems.
Five or six people have volunteered to work on each topic area.
Each team aims to have shown some progress by the time members graduate from the fellowship in June 2012.
Christy Ezzell is a senior project manager at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C., which RWJF has enlisted to execute the Ladder to Leadership program nationwide.
Ezzell came to Kansas City, Mo., for the local group’s February kickoff meeting, at which time the participants selected the topics they wanted to work on. Thus far, the participants have made one of three visits they will take to the Center for Creative Leadership headquarters for training exercises.
Each sub-group has a local sponsor – typically a senior executive in the health-care field – and an “action learning coach” from the Center for Creative Leadership.
Each fellowship is valued at $16,000, and participants said the experience thus far has been quite worthwhile.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” said Lindsay Hummer, director of development at the Kansas City chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. “My peers in my group are phenomenal. Our coach and the local people who are sponsoring us are phenomenal.”
Katie Cronin, director of the medical-legal partnership at Legal Aid of Western Missouri, spoke of the personality and leadership-style assessments she and fellow participants were given as part of the program.
“It’s used to help you understand how you function as a leader within your organization and how your personality traits affect others in your group,” Cronin said.
Ezzell said the participants, among other things, expand their personal networks within the community by virtue of their work on the projects.
“They learn how to resolve problems, and, in the end, they have done something to help the community,” Ezzell said.
When the Kansas City program was announced, Robert Wood Johnson program officer Sallie Petrucci George described the rationale for funding Ladder to Leadership nationwide.
“Nonprofit organizations are a critical part of health care and service delivery in this country, Petrucci George said. “It is important we work with current leaders to build a pipeline of qualified future CEOs and executive directors, so we do not lose the vision and capacity needed to continue to do this work effectively in the future. We are committed to investing in tomorrow’s nonprofit leaders to make sure they receive the training they need to best serve those at-risk communities.”