PUBLISHED: 5:49 PM on Wednesday, October 24, 2007
New program aims to create network of civic minded leaders
The number of nonprofits across the country has tripled over the last two decades. As government services are curtailed, communities are counting on these groups do more, whether it is finding shelter for the homeless, providing protection or educating children.

At the same time the nonprofit sector is growing and being asked to boost its services, it faces a dearth of leaders. Nonprofit groups will require 640,000 new senior executives over the next two decades, according to a 2006 study by the Bridgespan Group, a Boston-based consulting firm focusing on nonprofit management.

The Capital City is no different. The City and Borough of Juneau alone has about 20 vacancies on its volunteer boards and commissions.

United Way of Southeast Alaska hopes to address that need with its new training program that prepares individuals to serve on nonprofit boards. The program starts early next year and aims to build a regional network of community leaders. It's modeled on an Anchorage initiative that's been named one of the best in the nation.

Leadership Juneau is designed to introduce, promote and build leadership skills. It's also supposed to boost awareness of issues facing Juneau and encourage community service.

The program grew out of a community needs study conducted in 2005, according to Brenda Hewitt, president of United Way Southeast Alaska.

"One of the items in that community assessment identified the need for more leadership-more skilled leadership-in Juneau. We're talking about being on boards and commissions as well as elected leaders and formalized leaders," she said.

Leadership Anchorage enrolled its first participants 11 years ago. Since then about 200 people have attended. James MacKenzie is its director. He said a key component involves participants identifying and solving a problem. Last year three people without filmmaking experience produced a documentary on racism.

"One of the biggest projects that really had an impact was a documentary called 'Anchorage Is Our Home.' The video allows people from different parts of our community to talk about their experience as someone from an ethnic minority," MacKenzie said.

The documentary is currently being used in the Anchorage public school system.

Anchorage Democratic Senator Bill Wielechowski attended the Leadership Anchorage program five years ago, before he was elected to the state senate. He said the program gave him skills and experience that benefit him today.

"One of the reasons I got involved was that I was a leader in my local community council and people suggested that I do it. I hadn't heard of it, but applied and was accepted and it turned out to be a great challenge," he said.

Wielechowski worked with a couple of other participants to develop a communications plan for Alaska 2020, a non-profit focused on developing new fiscal priorities for the state. He also was paired with a mentor, a graduate of the previous year's program, who offered ideas on improving leadership skills.

Scott Ciambor is running the inaugural Leadership Juneau effort. He said it is designed to create a roster of civic leaders for the Capital City region. For the first class, United Way is looking for 25-30 participants. They can be adults of any age, but must be interested in leadership and working on community problems. Sessions will focus on conflict resolution, community negotiations and ethics. They will take place over a six month period and mostly will be scheduled outside of work hours. Applications are due in December. The program starts in January. More information is on the agency's Web site at