The Leadership Metro Richmond Program: its effect on interpersonal networks and community organizational memberships

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The problem explored in this study was the effectiveness of a community leadership development program in training identified emerging community leaders to develop networks of communication and understanding between the governmental, economic, and educational elements of the city and to use these contacts in community organizations that address the problems of the city.

Attention was given to what networks were in place before, during, and after a short leadership program. Contact type was addressed. Secondly, the study analyzed the use of network structure by participants in community organizations. The association of race and gender was considered. Finally, the use of network analysis as a method of evaluating the outcomes of a community leadership program was researched.

Findings on interpersonal contacts were similar in four classes. Prior to the program contacts were minimal. By June 1984 contacts among participants in all four classes increased from a range of 70% to 392%. Another finding was that contacts among participants prior to the program were with those of the same race.

Contacts changed during and after the class. By June 1984 black participants In three of the four classes surveyed had more contacts with whites than with blacks. White participants continued to have most contacts with whites. Race seems to be a more important factor In the selection and maintenance of contact than does gender.

These findings were generally borne out by LMR II Interviews who said that the networking process with persons of a different race, gender, and residence was the single most important outcome of the program.

Findings on contact type suggest that gender is more important than race In contact type. Black females' contacts with fellow participants were usually work contacts; male contacts were community contacts.

Neither race nor gender was significant in community organizational memberships of participants. However, participant memberships shifted busIness/professional memberships to civic/ government memberships, a desired program outcome, in three out of four classes. Black females joined more political/government organizations both before and after the program as well as business/ professional organizations. White females, on the other hand, joined more civic/community organizations and black males joined more educational/religious organizations.

Program outcomes suggest that the leadership development model of Leadership Metro Richmond seems to be an appropriate model to bring about the desired outcomes of the program.