By Katie Sobiech
This April, Project Blueprint’s 12th class will graduate since beginning in Summit County in 2002.
The project, part of United Way of Summit County, was designed to encourage local agencies to be more inclusive, responsive and reflective of its culturally diverse community.
“Project Blueprint’s goal is to put African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans who have an interest, on board,” Brenda Cox, Director of Community Impact for United Way, and Project Coordinator for Project Blueprint, said.
“Most times people will recommend and nominate those who they know (to be on a Board of Directors), and (our members) may not have a broad scope of friends and business associates that they can rely on to nominate them, so this gives people an opportunity that may not ever get it,” Cox continued.
Addressing the Problem
There has always been one big issue that’s come to surface when putting together non-profit boards and constructing plans – and that is diversity and not having enough community experience to really know how to help people.
“Many times the agencies and organizations in our community are dealing with opportunities for affecting the lives of the people they are serving, but the agencies do not reflect the communities that they serve. The board members have (lots of) experience and looking in at how things work, but you need people who have the grassroots experience, who have been involved or at least have like experiences to the people that are being served,” Cox explained.
Project Blueprint invites a diverse crowd, many who have a deeper understanding of the cultures being served, to offer insight.
“While everyone has a heart and feels the need to do things – they may not know. Cultural differences sometimes make it difficult for people to relate. It may seem it’s something well-meaning and a well-deserved opportunity, but that might not be what they need initially. It might be something a little more grassroots,” Cox said of those with little to no grassroots experience.
“This will broaden everyone’s horizons. You don’t necessarily know what you don’t know if you haven’t been exposed,” Cox continued.
Training for Success
“It’s a very good program. It provides (an opportunity for) people who are very much interested in being on the boards and committees of non-profits the training tools that can help them feel comfortable and jump right into being involved in the process of what the agencies are doing,” Cox said.
Their members often have rich community experience, yet little or no training.
“Many times when people get on boards they sit quietly hoping no one will call on them because they have no idea what’s going on. The goal of this is to train people and help place them on boards,” Cox explained.
Each week the group goes through a different aspect of board training and strategic planning.
“(We see) how effective they are in listening and communicating, understanding non-profits, financial information and things of that nature,” Cox said.
This prepares them for stepping into the non-profit world.
The Difference Maker
“It’s made a difference and will continue to make a difference in organizations that have a desire to diversify their boards,” Cox said.
For those interested in joining the program, no experience is needed.
“What’s needed is a desire to be involved on boards and committees, because once you go through it, the expectation is that you will find a committee or organization that you’re interested in working in,” Cox said.
For more information on this program and how you can join, please visit: http://www.uwsummit.org/ProjectBlueprint/Project_Blueprint.htm