Civic Leadership Academy

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The Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy is designed for individuals who are interested in becoming elected officials, policy advisors and government leaders. Learn more about the program from Nancy Welch, Director of the Flinn Foundation’s Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and David Martinez, a graduate of the leadership academy.

Ted Simons: The Flinn-Brown Leadership Academy is an organization that trains people for public service whether it's an elected state position or a seat on a board or a commission. Here to talk about the program is Nancy Welch, president of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership for the Flinn Foundation, and David Martinez, Community Outreach Manager for St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance. He was a member of the Leadership Academy's inaugural class. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us. Give us a better idea of what this academy does, what skills are developed and targeted.

Nancy Welch: Thank you, Ted. The Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy is one part of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership. We're working with Arizonans from across the state from all walks of life who want to be a state level civic leader as an elected official, a member of a board or commission, a state level executive, or a policy advisor. We're helping people acquire the knowledge, skills to go with the commitment they have to serve Arizona. It's a program that includes intensive seminars about our state level issues, it includes a formal mentoring program, and an individual plan and follow-up for state level leadership.

Ted Simons: Are there specific skills, though, that you try to develop? It seems somewhat amorphous, but this is a leadership economy. There is something going on here and targeted.

Nancy Welch: We are very focused on both the facts and figures of the issues Arizona faces and the skills that state-level leaders have told us over decades that they need to get things done, from compromise, to working together, we focus on the skills as well as the knowledge and commitments.

Ted Simons: As far as your experience with the academy in that first class, what were some of the skills? What were you expecting to see and develop, and what wound up happening?

David Martinez: Sure. As one of 25 members in the inaugural class, I had the opportunity to interact with 25 or 24 other experiencally diverse fellows from throughout the state of Arizona, anywhere from myself, having served with the Arizona Students Association, to the mayor of Flagstaff and Globe, through the whole gamut of individuals who brought to the table their different perspectives, and an open mind to see Arizona forward in the next 100 years.

Ted Simons: And there are, what, 12 day-long seminars?

David Martinez: There are. It's quite the spring semester we have jam-packed at the Flinn Foundation. There are great days we get to interact with subject matter experts about state policy issues, and the 25 fellows really engage in a dialogue to talk about these issues.

Ted Simons: Describe a typical day, a seminar day. Do they happen every once every few weeks, once a month, once a week?

David Martinez: A couple times a month, Friday and Saturdays usually starts with the fellows getting to the Flinn Foundation building here in Phoenix, 8:00 in the morning, bright eyed and ready to learn a bit more about how we can improve our state and use our talents and experiences and then further them a bit more. I think that's one of the benefits of the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy, the leaders have a lot of items on their resume, but they really came to the table, listened especially, but then really engaged in this dialogue about these issues.

Ted Simons: Are there ways for the fellows after they hear a seminar, or two, or three that day, to get together, whether in small groups or in big groups among themselves and say, let's thrash this out? What did you hear, no what did you hear? That kind of thing?

Nancy Welch: We see that happening in the seminars themselves, and in many types of groups outside of the seminars. People report back to us that they've been working together to understand further issues, the fellows have recruited one another to work on community projects. So it really creates a new network for all of the fellows.

Ted Simons: Speaking of recruitment, does the economy find people they think would fit? Do people who think they would if it find the academy? And if so, how does that process go, how does that work?

Nancy Welch: We are currently recruiting for our third session, which will be in the spring of 2012. And we are looking for applicants who want to be as I mentioned a state level civic leader, we ask for an application that includes four significant ethic questions, we ask for two endorsements from Arizonans, and we ask for a resume. So we both do a lot of outreach around the state, and we also hope that people find us, because there is a wealth of talent and creativity in Arizona. People can find the application at

Ted Simons: As far as, I know mentoring is a big deal at the academy. Talk to us about how that process works.

David Martinez: Absolutely. The process doesn't end with those 12 sessions. I was teamed up with a great mentor, and we meet periodically to develop my civic engagement plan that I will be implementing, taking the skills learned through the Civic Leadership Academy. What I really am trying to hone in on is that I was just one of six kids from rural southern Arizona, my hometown is Marana, and I'm deeply proud of those roots, and I was the first generation University of Arizona graduate. Having this opportunity even with that vigorous process that Nancy spoke about, I was able to interact with some pretty remarkable state leaders. I think throughout Arizona's history we have seen fantastic leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work that needs to be done to move our state forward and make it better, and working with my mentor I'm certainly doing that.

Ted Simons: It's got to be easy, or easier to have people like David, people that are really passionate about public policy and public service. This is not where you expect someone to come in for the seminars and go off and play golf the rest of their life. These folks are pretty committed to public service, aren't they?

Nancy Welch: They are committed to public service, and we are looking for more Arizonans who are committed to public service. As I mentioned, there are many Arizonans who feel a desire and a need to serve their state. And the Civic Leadership Academy gives them new tools to be able to do that.

Ted Simons: Is there an age limit that you're looking for?

Nancy Welch: No. We have a wide range of ages, we have all kinds of occupations, we have people from northeastern to southwestern Arizona. So we're looking across the state for the best and brightest.

Ted Simons: And basically there's no tests, I would take it, because they are seminars. How do you know guys like David are actually getting something out of this? That it's working for them?

Nancy Welch: We will see that in the future. We will see, as you know the Flinn Foundation has been concerned about Arizona's future for decades, and we are in this for the long haul. We will see the fruits of our labors in the coming decades.

Ted Simons: And, you're ready to go ahead and show them what you learned, huh?

David Martinez: Absolutely. It's a good accountability measure, too, because I feel like I'm a part of the Flinn-Brown family now. So I don't want to let my family members down, and certainly not the people of Arizona

Ted Simons: It sounds like a very interesting program. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizon."

Nancy Welch:Director of the Flinn Foundation's Arizona Center for Civic Leadership; David Martinez:Graduate of Arizona Center for Civic Leadership Academy

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