The Rider-Pool Foundation

Rider-Pool Foundation Collective Impact Program Graduates Sixth Class of Local Leaders

In July of 2020, 12 community leaders completed the 2019-20 Collective Impact Fellowship Program through The Rider-Pool Foundation.

The Foundation created the program in 2014 to address and measurably improve complex quality of life challenges within neighborhoods surrounding the Allentown downtown Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) through a new system of not-for-profit leadership.

“Six years ago, we asked community leaders for advice regarding improved quality of life in the Lehigh Valley,” Edward Meehan, Executive Director, The Rider-Pool Foundation, explained. “We resoundingly heard the need for development of the next generation of not-for-profit leaders combined with a desire for leaders to work together across sectors including health, housing, youth programs, and education. We also heard the desire for diversity of leadership in the social sector.”

To date, 63 Collective Impact Fellows have completed the program and are working in neighborhoods surrounding the NIZ and across the Lehigh Valley.

The 2020 Graduated Fellows are:

  • Nate Boateng, Project Analyst, Network Transformation, Department of Community Health, Lehigh Valley Health Network
  • Karim Brown, School Parent Liaison Facilitator, Office of Equity and Accountability, Family and Community Engagement, Allentown School District
  • Milagros Canales, Community Liaison for Jordan Heights
  • David Fagerstrom, President/CEO, Greater Valley YMCA
  • Daniel Farrell, Executive Director, Allentown Housing Authority
  • Sandra Genzel, Director of Program Operations, Head Start/Early Head Start of the Lehigh Valley Pre-K Counts, Community Services for Children, Inc.
  • Christopher Kocher, President, Wildlands Conservancy, Inc.
  • Lisa Liddington, Program Director, School-Based Health and John Van Brakle Child Advocacy Center, Lehigh Valley Health Network
  • Eric Lightman, Executive Director, Jewish Community Center of the Lehigh Valley
  • Sam Mullay, Youth Mentor
  • Laura Savenelli, Assistant Director, Impact Operations, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley
  • Kimberly Velez, Director of Brand and Marketing Strategy, Worley

The Collective Impact Fellowship is an intensive nine-month program that brings together not-for-profit and other community leaders representing multiple sectors with a stake in community improvement. The Fellows receive 120 hours of training from national experts in effective project design and evaluation, application of collective impact strategies, and innovative capacity building. These new skills can be used to address complex community issues and develop stronger cross-sector partnerships.

In 2020, the program, which is normally held through in-person training sessions, adjusted delivery to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ronald Dendas, Program Officer, The Rider-Pool Foundation, said the group initially took a brief hiatus from the schedule in March to allow participants to adjust to the quarantine and new work arrangements. After that, the Foundation contacted the class to determine their status and ability to continue the program.

“The members of this cohort said they missed the camaraderie and involvement with the Fellowship and wanted to continue.” Dendas said. “We appreciated their flexibility and were impressed with their determination to finish at a time when they could have easily said it was not feasible.”

In response, national experts on the Fellowship faculty prepared virtual workshops and Fellows were offered extra hours of individual coaching to meet the intended learning outcomes of the program.

The first session after the mandatory statewide shut-down was focused on how to pivot in times of crisis. Another subsequent session on innovation led to a full discussion wrapped around organizational reaction to the COVID crisis.

An added result of the program this year was the interconnectedness of current and past Fellows working on immediate, related challenges in Allentown. “We saw a working link grow for those addressing learning centers, shifting to online instruction and summer camps; or complete shifts in service delivery such as food distribution,” Dendas said. “This is where the intent of cross-sector partnerships rises to the surface in a very tangible way. The trust built between a small, intentional group allows quick action when it is needed.”

While the program lost some of its interpersonal edge, it is interesting to note feedback from the Fellows stated they appreciated the positive nature of their training this spring and the break it offered from working in crisis. They reported a calming effect on their own work. “The Fellowship has had, and will continue to have, a multiplier effect on leadership, effectiveness and results,” Meehan said while congratulating the sixth class.

The Rider-Pool Foundation Collective Impact Fellowship Program is now in planning stages for its next class in the fall of 2020. Additional support for the program is provided by The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust.

The Rider-Pool Foundation’s intent is to serve as a means to improve the quality of life in the community, to build on the community’s strengths and add to its vitality, and to increase the capacity of the community to serve the needs of all its citizens. The Trustees of The Foundation have carried forth Dorothy Rider Pool’s wishes and are particularly sensitive to her interests in education, disadvantaged children, and the development of future leadership in our society.