{MINNEAPOLIS-January 20, 2021}-The old adage goes “There is strength in numbers.” Let’s add, “But we’re even stronger with collective buy-in.” That defined one of the themes that emerged during an organized retreat for the African American Leadership Forum that launched their new year, as this bold nonprofit charges into 2022.

Hosted at Sabathani Community Center, which bills itself as “The Heart of South Minneapolis,’’ AALF’s three-day retreat brought renewed enthusiasm to the work the nonprofit has embarked on to revitalize the Twin Cities, in addition to the “lives of African Americans” and others throughout Minnesota.

Any clear approach to the future must reflect on how far one has come. And no matter how you look at it in 2021 AALF had a banner year, highlighted in the opening report by Executive Director Marcus Owens. Over the course of the last twelve months the organization hired eight new team members, conducted a successful leadership conference, “Leadership By Any Means Necessary” and built out infrastructure for its United By Black, Powered By All initiative securing nearly $4.5 million dollars over the next three years.

AALF Conducts Stakeholder Assessment At Its 2022 Retreat

AALF Staff Members Select Stakeholder Groups They’ll Be Assigned to in 2022

Niila Hebert Leading AALF In Discussion Of Team Values

Marcus Owens and Kenneth Scales Join Adora Land Tolefree In A Breakout Group Discussion At AALF Retreat

Throughout 2021 AALF produced a bi-monthly townhall, Black Life Amplified, which offered viewers the latest updates and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The long-running podcast, Black Leadership Re-Defined, aired the entire year as well before signing off at the end of December.

In addition to the new staff, AALF added the Metropolitan Alliance of Connected Communities-MACC HR as its outside human resources partner and moved into an expansive office space in the Loring Park area, all necessary components for AALF’s workforce as it surges forward with collective action. As the pandemic put the clamps on in-person convenings, AALF relied on virtual events to reach its followers and objectives, staging its popular Harvest and Workstream meetups via an online format.

November of last year brought another graduation of AALF’s widely sought-after Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy Fellowship. This cohort carried out annually offers anyone, even working professionals, leadership development training that bolsters their skills through symposiums and focused lessons on leadership. The academy’s alumni reads now like a Who’s Who’s in Twin Cities business.

AALF’s work was recognized nationally as well. It was named the “#1 Black U.S. nonprofit to follow in 2021,” and the “#1 Black-led nonprofit making history in 2021,” by two online news informational outlets that track the work of nonprofit organizations.

Braving the coldest temperatures to hit the Twin Cities in eight years, with the Omicron infection rate surging to an all-time high in the state, the AALF retreat was a chance for personal and organizational self-reflection. The team identified its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) during group and breakout sessions. The retreat featured a two-day presentation from executive leadership coach Christine Pouliot. Pouliot, a nationally recognized change management specialist, worked 30 years as a senior manager with a Fortune 50 company. Her presentation was highlighted by a session in which she challenged the AALF staff to take the pulse of its stakeholders in plotting out the course of its 2022 goals. This boosted the organization in aligning itself on the mission, vision, values, and strategies for the year ahead.

In a gesture met with much satisfaction, the AALF employees were paired with personal career coaches from Twin Cities corporations who’ve volunteered to serve as executive mentors to AALF. Going forward each staff member appointed themselves to serve as accountability partners to various stakeholders within the organization, underscoring the importance of collaboration, in the organization’s objectives.

AALF Staffers Intently Listen In As Career Coach Christine Pouliot Discusses Change Management In The Workplace

AALF Staff Learned Why Change Is Sometimes Necessary, Yet Positive In The Organizational Culture Of A Nonprofit

Centered on the functions of AALF network alignment and network acceleration, with the supporting functions of network amplification and network administration, the organization laid down an aggressive workload for 2022, as it continues on the path of championing solutions in the realms of public safety, employment, economic infrastructure, housing, healthcare and education.

On the final day of the retreat, each AALF staff member, including Owens was charged with the responsibility of devising her and his own 2022 workplan, that fits directly into the organization’s framework overview. AALF knows where it wants to go, and the team’s intentional contributions will help the entire organization get there.

With the federal trial underway for three other officers at the scene of George Floyd’s murder, the Twin Cities is still somewhat simmering. Residents demand change, change now. Although it won’t happen overnight, they should not be made to wait until forever. The African American Leadership Forum has boldly stepped up, committed to being a change agent whom Twin Cities residents and communities across Minnesota can count on. 2022, let’s go!