FUSE is a national nonprofit that partners with local government
Recognizing the value of building local talent, Birmingham will partner with a FUSE executive fellow for one year to develop a comprehensive plan that transitions the Birmingham Strong Service Corps from a COVID-19 response mechanism to a self-sustaining civic institution and talent incubator. Ultimately, the Birmingham Strong Service Corps will act to develop, retain, and enlist local talent to advance social innovation and equity in Birmingham.
The City of Birmingham is home to a diverse resident community, globally renowned historical institutions, vibrant downtown, award-winning food scene and legacy of industrial production and civil rights leadership. Under the leadership of Mayor Woodfin, new innovations, strategies and policies have been ushered in to tackle Birmingham’s top priorities. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit hardest beginning in March 2020, city leaders took bold steps to maintain progress toward economic security, public health, and racial justice.
Birmingham Strong (BhamStrong) is one of those cutting-edge innovations created as a response vehicle to COVID-19. This unique public-private partnership has quickly drawn over $1,500,000 in funding from local government and foundations to support public health and economic resilience in the City of Birmingham. BhamStrong’s vision is that Birmingham’s small businesses and workers are empowered to build a resilient community that overcomes COVID. The organization works through a two-part economic stabilization strategy: fortifying small businesses through emergency loan funding and technical assistance, and empowering workers to meet community needs through the Birmingham Strong Service Corps.
Modeled after the highly-successful Baltimore Corps, the Birmingham Strong Service Corps seeks to temper the crisis-level unemployment that is a repercussion of the pandemic, particularly for low-income and hourly workers. As of April 2020, unemployment claims from the city were up over 900% with up to 90,000 workers at risk of losing their jobs. As an emergency response, the Birmingham Strong Service Corps works to enlist unemployed residents as paid volunteers to assist in COVID-19 response efforts, aiding the City in meeting the diverse, emergent, and quickly changing needs of its community. This includes, but it not limited to, expanding health screenings, isolated housing, and meal preparation and delivery services to citizens. BhamStrong maintains a growing database of Service Corps members and has already placed over 300 residents in paid employment.
Recognizing the need for BhamStrong to endure well beyond its initial charge of COVID-19 response, the City of Birmingham will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive fellow for one year who will develop the program into a self-sustaining civic institution that further empowers local talent in Birmingham. Working in close coordination with the Baltimore Corps leadership team, city officials and critical stakeholders from across Birmingham, the FUSE executive fellow will assist in creating a vision for the future of BhamStrong. Ultimately, the Birmingham Strong Service Corps will act to develop, retain, and enlist local talent to advance social innovation and equity in Birmingham. Through this program, a diverse pipeline of city government leaders will emerge, intended to shape an equitable and inclusive future for all Birmingham residents.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the executive fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE fellow and the host agency.
Starting in the summer of 2020, the FUSE executive fellow will quickly build deep relationships with a wide range of critical stakeholders and ultimately develop a comprehensive plan to transition the Birmingham Strong Service Corps from a COVID-19 response mechanism to a lasting innovation and talent incubator. The executive fellow will ensure a clear, shared vision for the future of BhamStrong and help set the values of the organization’s evolution, partner with City and civic leaders to determine programming, and ultimately operationalize a sustainable enterprise. Key to this will be in-depth research to identify and understand barriers that prevent or discourage traditionally underserved and oppressed populations in Birmingham from accessing workforce opportunities, evaluate best practices for workforce development and training, and work with partners to develop a plan to strategically layer federal, state, local and private funding sources. The plan should offer tangible, equity-focused recommendations for removing or mitigating race or income-related barriers to economic mobility. As part of his or her efforts to form deep connections with community stakeholders, the fellow will engage and partner with philanthropic leaders and corporate organizations to ensure community buy-in and create a cooperative, supportive environment.
By the summer of 2021, the executive fellow will have built the management structure and overseen the implementation of the program, making sure it is as efficient and effective as possible. This will include the following:
Support on-going COVID-19 response campaigns: Aid in continued ‘fire-fighting’ of the pandemic in coordination with local community and city government partners; strengthen BhamStrong’s existing economic recovery and resilience mechanisms.
Analyze and assess the landscape: Conduct a deep landscape analysis and identify potential strategies and best practices; consult with stakeholders to deeply understand the barriers to creating an inclusive workforce and civic talent development strategy–analysis should identify the most affected populations and their most significant barriers.
Develop a comprehensive strategic plan to transition and sustain BhamStrong: Identify and clarify mission, values, and shared vision of the entity in partnership with current BhamStrong leadership and with particular guidance from Baltimore Corps; establish specific strategies in close consultation with city officials, BhamStrong leadership and community groups to build out programming and systems; make recommendations for how internal processes or structures should be managed to enhance efficiency and effectiveness; determine the most effective ways to engage residents at the onset of the talent pipeline building process.
Engage stakeholders to establish deep relationships and buy-in: Demonstrate cross-cultural agility and successfully engage with all relevant stakeholders, particularly residents from underserved neighborhoods and community leaders; work to get buy-in from all stakeholders to ensure that the program is supported and successful; solicit feedback from major stakeholders on strategic plan.
Support long-term implementation: Create the necessary internal and external systems to ensure that strategies are sustainable and successfully implemented; work with stakeholders, the Office of Economic Development, and Baltimore Corps to implement and manage the program; work with city agencies and potential external contractors to ensure the appropriate interim and long-term metrics are in place to monitor progress; support internal and external capacity-building efforts, including hiring administrative staff and personnel for BhamStrong, marketing and promotion, fundraising, general operations, and communications.
- Josh Carpenter, Director of Economic Development, City of Birmingham
- Suzanna Fritzberg, Executive Director, Birmingham Strong, LLC.
- At least 15 years of professional experience in project management, particularly with a strong background in strategic planning
- Entrepreneurial background, with a unique zeal for enterprise and capacity building
- Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
- Excellent stakeholder engagement skills
- Superior critical thinking and analytical skills
- Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations
- Self-motivated and goal-oriented leader who can also be an independent worker
- Ability to sustain progress within potentially ambiguous environments
- Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations
- Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity