Mandel Foundation programs train community and CDC leaders

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 that mission, for the past 17 years the foundation has organized the Neighborhood Leadership Development Program (NLDP) to identify community leaders seeking to make positive changes in their neighborhoods.

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

CDCLP Sessions, “Who You Are Is How You Lead” with Scott Allen, dedicated to learning about different leadership styles“People who apply to the program already have a project they’re working on or a plan to create one,” says NLDP Program Manager Sandra Kuluk. “Maybe someone wants to start a youth group for girls, but they don’t have the leadership skills to do that. They need to learn a lot before they do that. (Many) of them want to start their own 501(c)(3) organizations, so they come to learn how to run a program like that.”

The NLDP program has been 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).

CDCLP also focuses on developing leadership skills, but also helps leaders manage a successful CDC and achieve equitable community engagement. 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 Assistant Program Director Jillian Svala.

“We have had everyone involved, from the CEO, the board members and chairs to the coordinators,” he says. “It is designed to be both vertical and horizontal.

Svala says nearly every CDC in Cleveland has gone through 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 now open for the fourth cohort, which begins Aug. 29, and Svala adds that suburban CDCs can also apply.

CDCLP Tango class held at the beginning of the year to relax everyone and learn a little about their leadership style.“The goal, as we always say, is to cover the CDC ground, like Sherwin-Williams, covering the ground with paint; we would love to do that,” he jokes. “We want all the Community Development Corporations that work in, within and around us here in Cleveland.”

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

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

“It’s a very intense day,” she says. “It’s like getting a master’s degree, but in a limited time frame of 10 months (and I say that because I’ve been through a master’s program myself). And after going through this, I thought, ‘Wow, this is intense. ’ And we’ve had graduates who have repeated that.”

While cohorts meet twice a month over the 10-month duration of the program, Svala says those who participate in the program say it’s worth it.

“Every single one of them, especially the CEOs, have said, ‘It was really hard to get me to sit in this chair, but I would do it again, three times, because it was the one or two times a month where I could just switch off and focus on myself and our organization,’” she boasts. “They share how beneficial it was for 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.