Mandel Foundation programs train community leaders and CDCs
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Mandel Foundation programs train community leaders and CDCs

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation’s mission is to help people and communities thrive as inclusive, compassionate, and democratic societies and to improve the quality of life in Cleveland’s neighborhoods.

As part of this mission, the foundation has hosted the Neighborhood Leadership Development Program (NLDP) for 17 years to identify community leaders seeking to bring positive change to their neighborhoods.

Founded by former Cleveland Mayor Michael White and the Mandel Foundation in 2006, the NLDP identifies committed and passionate community leaders who have improved their neighborhoods and are looking to expand their leadership roles to continue that momentum throughout the region. Through training, participants are able to take a holistic approach to improving their neighborhood leadership.

CDCLP Sessions, “Who You Are Is How You Lead” with Scott Allen, dedicated to learning about the many different leadership stylesCDCLP Sessions, “Who You Are Is How You Lead” with Scott Allen, dedicated to learning about the many different leadership styles“People who apply to the program already have a project they’re working on or are thinking about starting one,” says Sandra Kuluk, NLDP program administrator. “Someone might want to start a girls’ group, but they just don’t have the leadership skills to do it. They have to learn a lot before they can do it. (A lot) of them want to start their own 501(c)(3), so they come to learn how to run a program like that.”

The NLDP program was so successful that three years ago, Program Director White and the Mandel Foundation launched a second leadership model designed specifically for Community Development Corporations (CDCs) in 2021: the Community Development Corporation Leadership Program (CDCLP).

The CDCLP also focuses on developing leadership skills, but also helps leaders run an effective CDC and engage equitably in the community. After completing the program, graduates are eligible to apply for CDCLP grants.

The cohort of participants each year ranges from 12 to 20 participants, and CDCLP has graduated 54 leaders in its first three cohorts, says CDCLP Deputy Program Director Jillian Svala.

“We had (everyone) from the CEO to the board members, to the board chairs and coordinators,” she said. “The project is designed to be both vertical and horizontal.”

Svala says nearly every CDC in Cleveland has followed the program, from Northwest Neighborhoods and Jefferson-Puritas West Park, to Midtown Cleveland and St. Clair Superior, to Union Miles and Famicos Foundation, to Slavic Village Development.

Applications are open for the fourth cohort, which is set to begin August 29, and Svala adds that suburban CDCs are also encouraged to apply.

CDCLP tango class held at the beginning of the year to relax everyone and learn a little more about their leadership styleCDCLP tango class held at the beginning of the year to relax everyone and learn a little more about their leadership style“The goal, as we always say, is to cover the CDC land – like Sherwin-Williams, paint it – we would love that,” she jokes. “We want every community development corporation that works in Cleveland to be here.”

Each cohort completes a 14-session, 10-month leadership training program designed to enhance the specific skills of current CDC leaders. Each session of the program lasts all day.

Additionally, Svala says participants work with CDCLP coaches to ensure what they learn in the sessions is applied in their day-to-day operations.

“It’s a very busy day,” she says. “It’s like getting a master’s degree, but all in a limited time frame of 10 months – and I only say this because I’ve done a master’s program myself – and then going through it, I’m like, ‘Wow, this is intense.’ And we’ve had graduates repeat that.”

Although cohorts meet twice a month throughout the 10-month program, Svala says those who go through the program say it’s worth it.

“Every single one of them, especially the CEOs, said to me, ‘It was really hard to get me into this position, but I would do it three times over because it was the one time or two a month I could disconnect and focus on myself and our organization,’” she boasts. “They told me how much it benefited them.”

Those interested in the fourth cohort can apply online. For more information, call (216) 776-6172 or email CDCLP. The deadline is Friday, August 2.

Applications for the 17th NLDP cohort are due by Wednesday, August 14.