Following completion of an intensive, 10-week seminar to build their civic-leadership capacity, members of the Fall class of the nonpartisan Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy are now planning their next steps toward public service in Arizona at the state level. In time, expectations include some running for public office, while others will choose to pursue roles as policy advisors, state-agency officials, or members of critical state boards and commissions.
The Flinn-Brown Fellows, who devoted 12 daylong sessions to enhancing their civic-leadership capacity and studying key public-policy issues that affect Arizona, are now being matched with advisers who are themselves seasoned leaders. The Fellows will consult with these advisers as they begin to apply the knowledge they gained and consider their next moves as civic leaders.
Tony Gonzales, a Flagstaff attorney, said that participating in the Academy has reinvigorated the desire he had as a young college graduate to pursue direct involvement in civic leadership.
“Ten years later, I was still helping candidates run for office, but I had lost some of my passion,” Gonzales said. “The Academy made me realize that people like me, with children, careers, and other obligations, can become politically active in their communities and across the state. I realized that I am part of a generation that needs to be active in the civic-leadership arena.”
The 26 Flinn-Brown Fellows in the Academy’s Fall class represent many Arizona regions, professional backgrounds, and perspectives. Among them are small-business owners, nonprofit executives, local elected officials, and numerous experts on particular public-policy issues, including economic development, K-12 education, and natural-resources development.
“The Academy convinced me that it is urgent to gather people together to address Arizona’s future,” said Doug Von Gausig, mayor of Clarkdale. “It was clear during our classes that the Fellows of this Academy are exactly the sort who are interested in solving our challenges. Only when more likeminded people begin to serve will we be capable not only of solving our current problems, but advancing with prosperity and dignity into the coming years.”
Each session of the Academy seminar focused on a specific topic, such as the state budget, higher education, human services, and immigration. Dozens of veteran lawmakers, business and nonprofit leaders, state agency heads, and policy experts provided facts, figures, and perspectives on the issues and shared some of the lessons they had learned working at the state level.
“Leaders inspire others to take action and go in a direction they might not otherwise have gone alone,” said Beatriz Rendón, Arizona State University associate vice president and CEO of ASU Preparatory Academy. “Insurmountable challenges seem achievable when you are working alongside others that share your passion and are committed to making a difference.”
Nancy Welch, director of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership, which administers the Flinn-Brown Academy, cited the potential for the Flinn-Brown Fellows to become significant contributors to Arizona’s realization of its potential.
“Today we have 51 individuals who have participated in the Academy, learning the essential details of critical issues that confront Arizona, how those issues are intertwined, and what real-world challenges stand in the way of addressing them,” Welch said. “A year from now, we expect to have 100 alumni Fellows who will bring a wide variety of perspectives and experience to state-level public service.”
The Academy is one of three core components of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership, created in 2010 by the Flinn Foundation and the Thomas R. Brown Foundations, respectively based in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz. Sponsored by both foundations, the Center is operated by the Flinn Foundation under the guidance of the Center’s Leadership Council.
Other components of the Center include the Arizona Civic Leadership Collaborative, established to leverage and expand the efforts of local civic-leadership programs throughout the state, and a Communication and Outreach program designed to inform organizations and individuals about the importance of civic leadership and increase civic engagement among Arizonans.
The Spring 2012 Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy class will be held beginning in March. The selection process, which began with the submission of formal application portfolios, is now underway.