Combining refugee leadership development with community building
LEAD, which stands for Lead, Empower, Advocate, Develop, is a new nine-month leadership development program for refugees beginning new lives in the United States. The LEAD program develops and strengthens leadership skills for refugees, empowers them through the knowledge of their community, teaches advocacy skills, and develops their strategic vision for how they want to apply these skills in their communities, such as by forming a non-profit or starting a small business.
Communities thrive when all members are engaged in making it a better, more responsive environment to the needs of its citizens. Newcomers to the United States may be unfamiliar with formal community systems such as public schools. The absence of a network of people who can open doors, and provide insights and advice on how to be successful, can hinder the integration of new Americans and impede their contributions back to their adoptive communities. LEAD helps illustrate to newcomers how they can contribute to meeting the needs of the communities where they live.
Your support of the International Rescue Committee’s LEAD program through A Community Thrives will further develop the program in Abilene, Texas, enhance the LEAD curriculum, and expand the program to serve refugees and immigrants in the IRC in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Funds raised toward this campaign will help us compete to unlock up to $100,000 of funding from A Community Thrives. Even if we don’t win the grant, your support will help refugees and immigrants served by the IRC in Charlottesville and Abilene to integrate and thrive in their new communities.
Through this project, participants will gain concrete leadership development skills, meet with community leaders, receive mentorship support, and participate in civic engagement activities, such as meeting with elected officials. With your support and that of A Community Thrives, the expanded LEAD program will serve 30 new individuals (15 in Abilene and 15 in Charlottesville), comprised of refugees, asylees, and special immigrant visa holders.
More about the LEAD program
IRC pairs refugee participants with a mentor from the community, usually an individual who works in a profession similar to the participant’s background or interest. During monthly meetings, mentees and mentors discuss leadership challenges, ways to use Steven Covey’s, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to overcome barriers, as well as successes and key learnings.
On each program day (typically one full Saturday per month), LEAD participants tour key institutions in their community such as the local Chamber of Commerce, hear from experts in their fields, and participate in discussions on community needs and solutions.
During the “advocate” session, LEAD participants engage in trainings on storytelling, public speaking, and strength-based messaging in preparation for sharing their experiences as refugees and settling in their new communities in the United States. They also learn the basics of the local, state, and federal government structures to prepare them for how to meet with lawmakers.
During the final “develop” component, LEAD facilitators work with participants to identify their long-term goals, such as working with a nonprofit, starting a small business, pursuing education, running for public office, or other goals they envision. To help participants reach their goals, they write a mission statement, develop a one-year, three-year, and five-year personal strategic action plan, and facilitate a session on developing a business plan. Throughout the program, LEAD facilitators identify connections to additional resources and service opportunities in the community.
What your support will do
Your support will help the IRC to develop the program curriculum and adapt it for the Charlottesville community; form connections with community partners who serve as hosts, speakers, and mentors; and coordinate the program (including applications, logistics, evaluation, etc.). Funds will also support the travel and program implementation costs including food, materials, printing, facilities, etc. LEAD will build relationships across cultural contexts among the participants, build connections with the local community, and ultimately strengthen the Abilene and Charlottesville communities by fostering more informed, empowered, and engaged citizens.
The potential impact of this project reaches far beyond just skills-building and fostering community contributions among these 30 participants. By incubating and testing the LEAD program’s leadership development and community building model and formalizing a detailed curriculum, this model could be adapted in other communities around the U.S.