Partnerships for Community Progress: Growing Strong!
By Bob Rosenfeld
2001, Mayor William A. Johnson appointed a Commission
on Race and Ethnicity and charged them with the task
of eliminating racism in the community. To tackle this
problem, a diverse group of business, community, and
religious leaders teamed with Bob Rosenfeld and several
other commission members, including Rev. Kenneth Dean
from the Mayor's office, got together to design, develop,
and implement Biracial Partnerships for Community Progress.
The purpose of the program, which matched 160 business
and civic leaders of different races and ethnic groups,
was to break down the racial misunderstandings within
the Greater Rochester community and to create the genesis
of a prejudice-free community by 2010.
distinguishes Biracial Partnerships from other diversity
Three features distinguish Biracial Partnerships for
Community Progress from other diversity training or
race relations programs.
is the length of the relationships. The partners commit
to meeting 16 times over the course of a year, for coffee,
a meal, a movie, or some other informal social activity.
These meetings are supplemented by seven cluster group
meetings of ten to twelve partners, where a particular
program theme is discussed, and racial and ethnic issues
can be shared. Each cluster group had a trained coach
to guide and assist the process. There are also two
large group meetings -- one at the beginning of the
year, and a final meeting at the end of the year where
all participants celebrate their new friendships and
new understanding of the community's racial issues.
second, and perhaps most important feature, is the depth
of the relationship. In addition to establishing one-on-one
relationships, this program offers special communication
tools designed to help partners understand each other
on a deeper level. This understanding helps to establish
trust, and as it builds between the partners, true change
can take place.
third feature is that the program begins with community
leaders and change makers. This helps garner support
for the program to be rolled out to the entire Rochester
of Phase I
The results of Phase 1 were impressive -- 140 individuals,
or 82%, of the participants completed the program. Even
more impressive, the final evaluation forms indicated
that all participants experienced some positive outcome.
While some saw small changes in their lives, others
believed the program was life-changing.
of the partners involved their families in their friendship,
and these relationships expanded to include shared birthdays,
holidays, weddings and funerals. And because participants
were community leaders, the partnerships sometimes reached
even farther to affect change in the broader community.
of the partnerships have pooled their collective resources
to initiate programs in the Rochester area. Danny Wegman,
(l) President of Wegmans Food Markets, and his partner,
Rochester City Councilman Wade Norwood, (r) continued
to meet in their cluster group. Everyone in this group
has an interest in educating Rochester City School District
students and improving their lives. Norwood envisions
a future Rochester where everyone in the community can
partner across racial lines. "The results are spectacular."
says Wegman. "If you want to change your mind,
you've got to have a different kind of experience. This
program does that."
II addresses racial and religious stereotypes
In 2002, Mayor Johnson recommended that the Biracial
Partnerships Program be offered to Muslims and non-Muslims
to address religious misunderstandings. Phase II used
the same format to break down racial and religious stereotypes
generated by the tragic terrorist attack on September
Completion of Phase III and plans for Phase IV
This month, the Biracial Partnerships Program celebrates
the completion of Phase III. The process to help bridge
and link the diverse racial and cultural elements in
our community is underway.
this is just the beginning! Plans are in the works to
kick off Phase IV in early 2005 for 500 people, and
to increase that number to 1000 the following year.
Eventually, the structure will be in place for thousands
more Rochesterians to take the Biracial Partnerships
a model for Greensboro NC
Meanwhile, as Rochester continues its own journey to
a prejudice-free community, it serves as a model for
another city almost a thousand miles away. It all started
in April of 2004, when Idea Connections CEO Bob Rosenfeld
gave a keynote address at the Center for Creative Leadership
in Greensboro, NC. He spoke about the program his firm
helped to create for the City of Rochester... Two of
the guests saw its application to Greensboro. They first
approached the Greensboro Mayor and then contacted Idea
Connections about implementing the Biracial Partnership
Program in their city.
April of this year Greensboro Mayor Keith Holiday, and
Shirley Frye of the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation, traveled
to Rochester to meet Mayor Johnson and other leaders
who participated in Rochester's Biracial Partnership
Program. In Mayor Holliday's words, "We left fired
up!" The next step was to approach their city council.
They unanimously agreed to move forward.
is a little larger than Rochester, and like Rochester,
its population is about half people of color and half
white. Greensboro's refugee population represents 80
different nations. In 2008 Greensboro will mark its
bicentennial and between now and then the city wants
to improve the communication and trust among its diverse
community members. In 2005 Greensboro will start its
third century by planting the seeds of trust and lay
the foundation for a more inclusive community.
officials held a press conference on September 13, 2004,
announcing the City's decision to implement the Mosaic
Partnerships Program over the course of the next three
years. (Mosaic Partnerships is the name of the program
outside of Rochester). Rochester's Mayor Johnson and
his assistant, Rev. Kenneth Dean, were invited to join
Greensboro's Mayor Holliday to field questions about
the process and results in Rochester. This exchange
generated articles in newspapers around the South, including
Florida and Louisiana. Other cities have since contacted
Idea Connections to find out about implementing a program
in their areas.
Greensboro Bicentennial Mosaic Partnership Program kicks
off on Thursday November 18th, 2004 with 180 people
and is being funded by a consortium of local foundations.
This is the model Idea Connections embraces and hopes
to use for Phase IV of the Rochester Biracial Partnerships
for Community Progress.
To help realize the dream of establishing Rochester
as a prejudice-free zone, a non-profit organization,
Odyssey of Humanity, has been formed to raise funds
and implement the program. If you or your organization
is interested in making a tax-deductible financial or
in-kind contribution to Phase IV of the Rochester Biracial
Partnerships for Community Progress program, please
contact Miguel Rivera, Treasurer of Odyssey of Humanity,
at 585-967-6193. New partners are also being actively
pursued. If you or your company would like to participate,
please contact board member Charlotte Clarke at 585-305-1148.