Leadership Training Funded by Community Supports Affordable Housing AND Sustainability

ocfa_hrb_mg_2016With community support provided through One Call for All (OCFA), the EMERGE Leadership Project was able to offer Michael Gorham, Chair of the Housing Resources Bainbridge (HRB) board of directors (see photo), a full scholarship for training and mentoring support this past year. The intent of the scholarship is to help designers be more effective in their efforts to create affordable housing incorporating all three aspects of sustainability: environmental protection, economic vitality, and social equity.

With a full training and mentoring scholarship, Michael was able to attend the EMERGE Leadership Weekend intensive at Islandwood in early 2016, while completing an architectural internship on Bainbridge Island. At the time he was just beginning his tenure as Chair of the HRB board.

“The retreat was just in time,” says Michael, “as when I returned to the office, our Executive Director had stepped down. I had to put my leadership training to work helping find a new Director, and in the meantime figuring out what to delegate and what to do myself. With the help of mentors (something the EMERGE training encourages) I found some creative ways to tap into community resources, people who couldn’t commit to full participation on the board but could offer skills on an ad hoc basis.”  At the same time, Michael has been instrumental in streamlining board processes to ensure time is used most effectively.

While all this was happening, Michael was also putting in 40 hour weeks at Wenzlau Architects, where he is now installed as a licensed architect.  The EMERGE Leadership Workshop helped here too.  “The EMERGE Faculty, all long-time leaders themselves, modeled the self-care aspect of leadership. With communal meals, time to reflect, and even yoga as part of the program, it became clear that my tendency to take on more and more had to be balanced with taking care of myself, or I wouldn’t be doing anyone any good.”

In addition to helping Michael do a better job of leading the HRB board and taking care of himself, participating in EMERGE has other benefits that lend themselves directly to enhancing the sustainability of the built environment in affordable housing on Bainbridge Island. In particular, Michael appreciates the networking opportunities with other EMERGE alumni who can offer a variety of experiences and design skill sets.  For example, he’s partnered with fellow “Emerger” Walker Leiser of Portland (BuildingBlu) on projects that could benefit from Walker’s green infrastructure expertise.

Other aspects of the EMERGE Leadership Workshop that Michael feels will help him with his work for the HRB board and his professional career include “the focus on finding the place where the client’s values and the ideals of sustainability converge. Too often,” Michael says, “sustainability is shot down as a ‘partisan agenda’ when really it’s not.”   EMERGE Leadership training helps Michael see opportunities for finding the common purpose and work towards a principled result rather than get stuck on specific techniques.  This comes in handy in a world where affordable housing is frequently pitted against other social goods.

OCFA_LogoRGB_TM2014OCFA is an umbrella organization providing funding to over 100 essential Bainbridge Island 501c3 non-profits. The organization raises funds through an annual Island-wide mailing marked by the arrival of the OCFA Red Envelope in community mailboxes.  With community support through One Call for All, the EMERGE Leadership Project plans to continue providing leadership development and support to non-profits working for social justice in the built environment. Please consider contributing to the EMERGE Leadership Project a 501c3 charitable project.  HRB is on the OCFA’s giving list as well.

Special event: Kathleen O’Brien will be speaking at the Housing Resources Bainbridge Island Breakfast Fundraiser, Thursday, October 20thLearn more.