At a point in time where the election cycle invites everyone and their brother to “throw their hat in the ring,” Americans constantly jabber about which candidates might have the biggest national impact. What is overlooked is that local leaders are the ones who make the greatest impact in our daily lives.
Cheryl Dorsey insists that local communities must pay attention to their own leaders in order to thrive:
It’s imperative that the investment community and others support these entrepreneurs in the communities where they work. Markets are places where value is created. These social entrepreneurs look at disadvantaged youth, dilapidated houses, low-income neighborhoods and under-performing educational systems, and they see how they can create more value. We must change the climate for these leaders so they can put solutions into practice and to build markets where others ignore them. We need to build the investment and support system to help them go further, faster.
Small towns, poor urban areas, and other under-served places are often overlooked or outright dismissed by investors as risky investments. Dorsey says that there are those, however, who have a vision for these places, and we must support them.
Too often the business sector ignores underserved communities because of a perception that their business cannot thrive in these locations. However, where some investors look at all the negatives associated with doing business in these areas, others see it as an opportunity to fill a void. These leaders – the ones who see value and promise where others see trouble and decay – are important agents to create real and lasting change.
What do these leaders have that others don’t? Dorsey says it is “lived experience.” These places are their homes. They know the people, the issues, what has worked, what hasn’t. Their experience, combined with their entrepreneurial vision, makes them the perfect partners for investors.
One such leader is Mario Jovan Shaw. Shaw, from Charlotte, N. C. sees a city where black youth, especially males, lack mature and successful role models. This impacts education: far too many young black males do not finish high school. Shaw’s organization, Profound Gentlemen, works to not only educate black youth, but create black leaders.
Through a cohort experience, tailored development, and continuing opportunities, Profound Gentlemen shapes black males who redefine the image of urban education. Profound Gentlemen’s end goal is to match the percentage of black male educators to young black boys in urban education while giving them more positive images and opportunities to pursue their purpose.
Shaw’s nonprofit is one way that local communities can invest in themselves, partnering with volunteers, business leaders and politicians to create a solid platform for positive change in areas that might otherwise be neglected.