By Holmes, John E.
Nation's Cities Weekly , Vol. 19, No. 30
As a local government official and a nonprofit organization board member, it would be difficult to recount the number of times I've heard someone say "How do we get the membership of this board to reflect the community? The newspaper had an article mentioning our need for new board members, and we have told our friends about these volunteer board vacancies, yet we just can't get appropriate representation! Where are the leaders of our minority community?"
Riverside is not alone in its lack of adequate participation in city boards and commissions end nonprofit agencies by members of the minority or under represented community. The city, for example, has a population which is 26 percent Hispanic. 7 percent Black, 5 percent; Asian and 1 percent Other. Yet. these boards have membership which is 7 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Black, 1.6 percent Asian and 39 percent Other. The numbers are lower in some nonprofit organizations in the community. How do we build buy in and accountability into the governance of the community if we do not have fUll citizen involvement?
Recognizing this need for more involvement, the city of Riverside joined with the United Way of the Inland Valleys to develop and implement a pro-active leadership development program. Spear heading the city's efforts were Mayor Ron Loveridge and Ofelia Valdez Yeager, special assistant to the mayor.
The goals of the program were four-fold:
* To identify, recruit and train members of ethnic, racial and other under-represented groups to become effective, knowledgeable members of boards of United Way of the Inland Valleys and its affiliated agencies, and on public sector commissions.
* To help ensure that the decision-making bodies of United Way, its affiliated agencies, and public sector commissions are made up of people who are representative of their community populations.
* To work in partnership with business and public sector representatives to develop the Project Blueprint Leadership Development Program.
* To provide cultural diversity training for existing members of nonprofit and public sector boards and commissions.
The project received some welcome help from the Telesis Foundation, in the form of a $15,000 grant to hire a coordinator and pay for expenses. The committee was able to hire Vassar Jean Vessup, a graduate student in Social Work at California State University, San Bernardino, as the coordinator.
A planning committee was formed, involving twenty six members from the existing pool in the community of minority board members, nonprofit agency directors, city officials, representatives of the sponsors and members of the local business community. …