“By design it’s called an experience, because it is just that. You won’t be able to unsee or un-know what you learn…” – Alexandra Arrington, Director of Community Impact for Justice Initiative
When the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force released their key findings report in March of 2017, it sent shock waves across the Queen City. It explored many truths about social imbalance and opportunity gaps that many Charlotteans had long ignored and were didn’t want to admit.
It’s become an oft-repeated statistic that a 2014 Harvard University study ranked Charlotte last out of a field of 50 major cities in economic mobility. But, the report illustrated many ways that Charlotte was largely divided by race and income. Many initiatives, efforts and conversations exploded from the release of the Task Force report.
One of them was the H: Drive Experience.
Identifying & Empowering Charlotte’s Hidden Leaders
“[D]uring a series of community dialogues for ‘I Dream,’ Opera Carolina’s musical drama based on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it became increasingly apparent that younger, less visible leaders were looking to have a ‘seat at the table’ to help inform solutions related to our city’s issues,” said Arlene Ferebee, senior director for strategic development at Novant Health.
“[M]any of these younger, diverse voices didn’t feel they had access to opportunities for leadership development and to broaden their connections. This became the catalyst for the H: Drive Experience.”
The Task Force report identified social capital as one of the critical factors in addressing the divides in Charlotte. Generating, focusing and applying social capital was one of the hallmarks of the inaugural class of the H: Drive Experience.
The “H” in H: Drive stands for “hidden” since the program was designed to empower individuals in Charlotte who with a high potential for leadership, but who, for one reason or another, had untapped potential.
And, they found them.
The first cohort of 23 participants made a substantial commitment to nine monthly, full-day coaching sessions, groups experiences and interaction with community leaders designed to deepen their commitment to serve the Charlotte community.
Driving Change in the Community and Their Own Lives
The first H: Drive Experience class has become a tight-knit group that continues to work together. And, the program has encouraged them not only to make change in the community, but in their own lives, as well.
“Some have changed roles, taking positions with more responsibility and influence. Many have been sharing their expertise in the larger community to drive awareness and improvements with affordable housing, public health, food infirmaries and social injustices. Others are working to take their own non-profits to the next level,” says Ferebee.
Alexandra Arrington, a member of the inaugural H: Drive Experience class, agrees, “I found the process of going through expertly facilitated moments to look deeply at yourself, to truly and empathically see those around you and to engage in community building for the betterment of Charlotte to be the true value of the experience.”
The first class of H: Drive participants has continued to work together and support each other’s individual efforts after the initial nine-month program ended. Most recently, they met to determine how to divide a $25,000 grant from the Reemprise Fund to a selection of Charlotte nonprofit organizations.
There is no end in sight to their partnership, but it’s time to pass the torch to a new class.
Now, It’s Your Turn
The first year of H: Drive paved the way. Now, It’s time for year two, which will run August 2019-June 2020. Applications are open until June 17.
The second H: Drive Experience program will be similar to the first year, but there are some changes, notably expanding it to 10 sessions. According to Ferebee, program leaders are also looking to “drive more understanding about the principles of Dr. King’s leadership” and work with composer, Douglas Tappin, to “help deepen the program’s connection Dr. King’s leadership approach and to the arts.”
In the end, it’s about giving community young community leaders the tools they need to move Charlotte forward on issues regarding race/ethnicity, economic opportunity, inclusion, and equity.
“I hope each person leaves this program inspired, energized and committed to shaping a bold vision for Charlotte and what our world can be together,” says Jon Davis, H: Drive Experience facilitator and coach and facilitator with the Center for Intentional Leadership.
Apply for the H: Drive Experience Class of 2019
There is no financial cost to participants of H: Drive experience, but class members will be asked to attend full-day coaching sessions. Applications for the second H: Drive Experience class end on June 17.
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