March 25, 2014
Expanding My Horizons, Right Here in Cincinnati

This past year I’ve been part of Leadership Cincinnati, a 10-month community leadership program sponsored by the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce that focuses on exposing professionals like me to various sectors of our economy (or community), including government, education, health, economic development, diversity, justice, and the arts. By concentrating on how leadership plays a role in these sectors, Leadership Cincinnati helps us develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to assume greater responsibility for leading the Cincinnati region in the future. The experience so far has been extraordinary.

Through “deep dives,” we learn about local issues through more active engagement, rather than simply reading about them. ┬áThis experiential learning includes everything from a ride-along with a Cincinnati Police Department officer and walking through an economic development site with business owners and the developer to having dinner with a working-class Hispanic family and visiting a public daycare program in an impoverished neighborhood.

Another facet of the program partners us with a small team of our classmates on a specific project to help the community. My team’s project is The 2014 Teen Week and Teen Summit, scheduled for this October. In partnership with Cincinnati City Council, we will present Cincinnati’s 1st Annual Teen Week, designed to give our city’s future leaders the opportunity to experience what it feels like to be in charge of the day-to-day operations of our city.

Along with exposing students to many of the possibilities our region has to offer in government, we give them a chance to view some of the businesses and corporations that help our region to thrive. Because workforce development is a key focus of my work in the Community Development Department, I thought this project was a perfect fit with my role at the Fed.

Here’s how: From outreach the Cleveland Fed’s Community Development team has conducted, we learned that students, teachers, guidance counselors, and parents need better, more specific information and data about careers and different pathways to embark on these careers—and that info needs to be disseminated earlier. In fact, we have discovered that career discussions should begin earlier than high school age. I plan to apply this finding in our Leadership Cincinnati project, in which we are hoping to reach younger students about possible career choices for their future success.

Leadership Cincinnati is a highly competitive program. Each year city leaders strive to assemble a class that reflects the diversity in the community. Each class comprises 54 members, 27 men and 27 women, who represent large corporations, mid-sized companies, and entrepreneurs, as well as not-for-profits and government. I was honored to be chosen for Class 37.

Since September, when we began the program, I have:

  • Learned about local city, county, and regional governments.
  • Spent a day at a hospital learning about issues in the health care field through the eyes of patients with diabetes.
  • Ridden along with a Cincinnati police officer in the Evanston community. I also toured the jail and watched a court proceeding.
  • Visited Clifton, a neighborhood going through revitalization, and met with small business owners there to learn about the challenges they face.
  • Visited a mosque to learn more about diversity and inclusion from a variety of groups and people.

These experiences have been eye opening; they have allowed me to see topics and issues from a different perspective.

There are three months left in the program; we graduate in June. The experience has meant a lot of extra work, but I will be sad when it is completed. I have been exposed to new ideas and concepts and my horizons have expanded. This broadening of my world view was a goal of mine in entering the program. The extra bonus is the new friends and relationships I now have by being a member of Class 37.

Bonnie Blankenship
Bonnie Blankenship
Senior Policy Analyst
Bonnie, working from the Cincinnati office, conducts outreach and policy analysis on current and emerging issues. She provides information and technical assistance to financial institutions, community-based organizations, and government entities relevant to the Fourth District. (bio)