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Inter-Sector Partnerships—Campus-Style

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Stephanie South

On a Friday afternoon in early February, while many college students were getting ready to head to the mountains for some quality time on the slopes, a select group of them from 11 different colleges and universities across Colorado were pursuing nonprofit leadership. And a team of El Pomar Foundation Fellows, led by first-year Fellow Libbey Davis, spent their weekend exposing them to skills and resources that will make the students better leaders and public servants upon graduation.

The Student Leadership Experience, commonly referred to as SLE around the Foundation, hosted its second of three Scholar Weekends in Denver on February 4-5. In keeping with the theme for the 2010-2011 academic year—“Breaking the Bubble: Building Sustainable Relationships through Leadership and Collaboration”—this weekend focused on how nonprofits can be even more successful when organizations choose to cross sector lines.

The SLE team put together a panel of speakers dedicated to this kind of collaboration; these professionals spoke to the scholars about the work it has allowed them to do.

Dan Mondragon is the development director of Work Options for Women, a 501(c)(3) that helps unemployed women gain the confidence and skills to hold stable jobs in the food service industry. Dan described his organization as having a double bottom line—it both brings in revenue and works toward advancing social justice.  He spoke to Scholars about how he has managed to find a way combine a for-profit model with a non-profit mission.

Nathan Wannlund, a vice president at Young Americans Center for Financial Education, is part of a team of financial experts dedicated to developing the financial literacy of young people. He talked about how the work being done at YACFE exemplifies how business and nonprofits can come together to create a successful educational program.

And co-founder and principal partner of InterSector Partners, L3C, Caryn Capriccioso, told scholars about her efforts to build an organization dedicated to helping nonprofits become more sustainable, for-profits to become more socially responsible, and government agencies to support both in their communities.

“We thought it was important to provide the Scholars with a broad understanding of what opportunities are available to them in their future career paths and assure them that nonprofit work is not a limiting field,” said Davis, who was overseeing her second retreat as SLE director. “Increased collaboration and integration across sector lines continue to infuse the nonprofit sector with creativity and innovation.”

On day two, the students had the opportunity to hear from more men and women who had turned their passions toward helping organizations that make a huge difference in the lives of others.

A visit to SAME (So All May Eat) Café—be sure to check back in the upcoming weeks to hear more about this innovative twist on feeding the hungry—was followed by a creative workshop hosted by staff of Art from Ashes, a 501(c)(3) that empowers struggling youth by providing creative programs that facilitate health and hope through expression, connection, and transformation. Scholars and SLE staff were given the opportunity to try their hand at writing “slam poetry” at the workshop. The exercise clearly illustrated the effect this program can have on at-risk youth. The weekend wrapped up with a presentation on grantmaking and a chance for Scholars to gain hands-on experience in the field.

Davis observed: “The weekend combined knowledgeable and interesting speakers with interactive learning experiences. I have already received feedback from the Scholars indicating that they appreciated the opportunity to hear about different types of nonprofits and to see other organizations in action. I was very pleased with the level of engagement and enthusiasm that the Scholars showed throughout the weekend.”