How Valley Leadership’s Collaboration is Creating Consistency Across Arizona

It was when an alumni survey said it was time to stop “dinking around with little projects and do something bigger” that Dave Brown knew he wanted to take action at Valley Leadership. For Dave, thoughtful leadership requires action and collaboration with those around you, not just being in a position of leadership. Having already seen the power of collaboration through SPACES of Opportunity – a collaboration of nonprofits focused on increasing access to healthy food and access to South Phoenix – Dave and Valley Leadership recognized the value in bringing like-minded organizations together for a common cause. However, Valley Leadership wanted to focus on a different kind of sustainability: sustaining inclusion training in its program.

As a member of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership Collaborative (“The Collaborative”), Valley Leadership is one of several organizations throughout the State focused on developing Arizona’s Leaders. “We had been discussing how we can incorporate more substantive and collaborative work, something with teeth,” Dave said. “Then COVID hit. Then the George Floyd incident happened. It made us realize we needed to be more focused in how we were talking about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” Members of the Collaborative typically would have a racial justice “program day”, a day focused on talking about diversity in leadership and in the community, but there was no specific curriculum around DEI.  The opportunity before the Collaborative was to create a curriculum that would be used across many leadership programs and provide consistency of leader-experience when it came to understanding racial justice. None of the groups were truly sharing a racial justice curriculum. A DEI initiative was a clear opportunity to create a singular curriculum, shared among The Collaborative to ensure all rising leaders were on the same page about the value of DEI.

Enter Teniqua Broughton. “It was Teniqua’s idea to start with an environmental scan about what’s out there, then make sure we are filling the gaps in the DEI conversation,” Dave explained. Teniqua and Dave brought together the Leadership Groups who wanted to make sure that this program truly got off the ground, rather than let it be an idea in a brainstorm. Teniqua built the program herself based on the “Race Forward” model, and her experience as a curriculum-builder and as a leader with the State of Black Arizona (also a member of The Collaborative) meant there was structure from the beginning, the leadership groups could then focus on making the program tailored to all leadership groups, and make sure the program was sustainable.

The core members of this initiative met often to build the program, and continue to meet today. “There will always be minor differences in style, or minor tweaks to match the program, but we want this to be standardized. We want all of our leaders coming out of this program knowing the same topics, the same issues.”

When asked about next steps, Dave had a simple answer: “Get more programs to say yes.” To date, eight leadership programs are using the DEI program. Dave’s goal in the next year is to raise money to get the curriculum even more streamlined, and get 20 programs using the curriculum as a standard practice.” As Dave explained “This kind of collaboration has never been done before, but it’s the kind of collaboration that creates not just a return on investment financially, it’s going to create a return on leadership.”