Leaders Under 40

Connecting Across Difference To Lead & Serve

Leaders Under 40 (LU40) is one of CBI’s signature leadership programs. It was piloted in 2011, and since that time over 200 people have participated in Classes 1 - 5 of LU40. CBI is currently in the process of recruiting and selecting members for LU40 Class 6 which launches in May 2016 and concludes in May 2017.


LU40 1LU40 is a leadership development program that convenes and supports a diverse, cross-sector group of emerging community leaders to build connections across difference, to learn about their own leadership styles, to become more aware of and educated about the community and real-time community issues and to connect with established leaders in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. LU40 is founded on the premise that we live in a community that has been shaped by decisions made by leaders in years, decades or even centuries past. Today we have both the opportunity and responsibility to participate knowledgeably and actively in decisions being made that will impact our community for years to come. Leaders Under 40 can be a valuable resource in these deliberations and have a vested interest in assuring that ours is a community that works and provides for everyone.

Major areas of focus for the overall LU40 program are:

  • Connecting with self & others;
  • Connecting with the community & community issues;
  • Connecting with community leaders.

    The success of LU40 requires an inclusive group of participants – including diversity across race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, time in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, employment, background and perspective – to form an active and engaged network of people.


    LU40 2CBI recruits a diverse group of up to 45 Leaders Under 40 from the public, nonprofit, corporate and faith sectors of the community to participate in each LU40 class. Candidates are nominated by leaders of key community institutions, organizations and groups and by individuals connected to CBI and are accepted into the program by a CBI/LU40 Selection Committee. Nominations are accepted based on the following criteria:

  • Under 40 when the program begins;
  • Connection to a constituency / sector / organization;
  • Desire to participate in LU40 as a personal development process and as an opportunity to become more connected to the community;
  • An intention and desire to influence for inclusion and equity;
  • A commitment to prioritize attendance and actively participate in all LU40 sessions.
  • Leadership Development Initiative

    Equipping People to Impact Organizations

    The Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) is a signature 12-month program of Community Building Initiative (CBI) supports non-profit board members and senior staff of non-profit, public and for-profit organizations in the leadership role they and their organizations play in building a more inclusive and equitable Charlotte-Mecklenburg. LDI develops, connects and guides diverse groups of leaders (28 – 32 per class) in increasing their awareness of and ability to influence for inclusion and equity. LDI's long-term goal is to increase participating organizations' commitment to and capacity for promoting access, inclusion and equity in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. This includes addressing aspects such as race, ethnicity, gender socio-economics, religion, sexual orientation and others.

    LDI 8

    LDI focuses on leadership for both individuals and organizations. LDI provides a deep journey in personal development, but it is also an organizational change program. Individuals are expected to apply the skills gained in LDI to strengthen the organization they represent.

    Becoming an “LDI organization” means making a commitment to support CBI’s mission, work toward the goals of LDI and identify participants over a period of years. These LDI graduates, in turn, become a key resource for each other, their organization(s) and for CBI as part of a network of “influencers.”

    Who's involved

    LDI was launched in 2001 when CBI’s leadership team piloted the model. Since that time CBI has offered 14 additional classes of LDI and has graduated almost 400 individuals who represented approximately 32 key community organizations and institutions. Classes may include up to two organizations new to LDI.

    The success of LDI requires a diverse group of participants, including diversity across race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, perspective, background, employment and time in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Organizations are asked to send two participants at a time, optimally a multi-racial/gender pair. The current demographic mix of LDI breaks down as follows:

    CBI chart LDI-Demographics rev


    LDI integrates an experiential learning process with content that includes an in-depth understanding of group dynamics, coaching and peer feedback, systemic change, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community and what it means to "influence."

    While at its heart LDI is an organizational change program, it does provide a journey in personal development. Individuals are expected to apply this self-development to strengthen the organization they represent. An organization becomes an LDI organization by making a commitment to work toward the goals of LDI and to send participants to LDI over a period of years. These LDI graduates – individually and collectively - become a key resource to the organization.

    LDI 1Becoming an LDI organization means that ongoing support and consultation is offered in building capacity to demonstrate inclusion and equity. Organizations are asked to send two participants at a time, optimally a multi-racial/multi-ethnic pair. CBI executes a Memorandum of Understanding with each participating organization in order to clarify expectations and to formalize the relationship it has with each LDI organization.

    The success of LDI requires a diverse group of participants, including diversity across race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, age, time in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, employment, background and perspective. LDI employs multiple methodologies in order to achieve outcomes at three levels:

    • PERSONAL: Individual leaders with increased awareness, skill and a network of resources and support.
    • ORGANIZATIONAL: Organizations better able to develop programs, practices and strategies for inclusion and both internally and externally with their respective client/customer base or constituencies.
    • COMMUNITY: Stronger network of individuals and organizations with commitment and capacity for inclusion and equity.

    In addition, CBI offers a menu of options for follow-up support to LDI organizations that want to leverage their “critical mass” of LDI participants to demonstrate inclusion and equity within the organization.

    LDI 2LDI was created by and is issued with the permission of Octavia Seawell/OZS Consulting. Ms. Seawell designs and facilitates all LDI sessions in partnership with other facilitators. Ms. Seawell also provides organizational consulting and follow-up support to individual participants as needed.


    LDI was initially launched with grant support from the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation. Over the course of the program, CBI has been successful in securing support from a broad spectrum of foundations, organizations and corporations. Each LDI class is underwritten by CBI stakeholders who serve as Program Sponsors and Tuition Partners. Program Sponsors’ investment allows CBI to subsidize the participation of community organizations who bring a unique voice to LDI but who would otherwise be unable to participate.

    Charlotte in Black & White...and More

    Seeing our Past; Impacting our Present & our Future

    Do you want to know more about Charlotte’s Center City, Westside and Eastside?

    Do you wonder how key decisions have influenced the city’s growth & development? How race & ethnicity have played a role in these decisions? How these decisions are impacting our present and our future?

    Do you want to engage with others about what can be done and what you can do?

    Join Community Building Initiative (CBI) and tour guides Tom Hanchett, Levine Museum of the New South historian, & John Howard, administrator of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Department's Historic Districts Commission, as they shed light on these questions, explore “what’s in the ground” in our community and bring the history of Charlotte to life and up-to-date.

     “Charlotte in Black & White. . .and More” bus tours provide a window into African American history in Charlotte as well as into the new immigrant experience. The tour includes conversations with other participants and an opportunity to consider how YOU can get involved in current community issues.

    What to Expect 

    Each two-hour tour engages an average of 55 people and highlights Charlotte’s physical and historical landmarks, especially those connected to its racial history and heritage as well as to zoning and infrastructure decisions that have contributed to current racially- and economically-segregated neighborhoods. Tours also focus on how these decisions, and others yet to come, impact the effort to build an inclusive and equitable community.

    The geographic focus is on three areas - Center City, the Westside and the Eastside - which show the history of Charlotte in “black and white” and also as home to an increasingly multi-cultural immigrant population. For example, the tour highlights the Brooklyn neighborhood and what happened to that community as a result of urban renewal in the 1970’s. All that remains of this once-vibrant African-American enclave are photographs of the homes, schools, businesses and churches that were removed in the name of progress. Understanding this history provides a foundation for participants’ awareness of “what’s in the ground” in the Charlotte community related to matters of race. The tour also highlights the transition of the Central Avenue corridor from a majority white community to a vibrant incubator for immigrant businesses.

    Each tour begins with a brief overview of what to look for and think about during the ride so that participants can benefit from what is seen and heard. In order to extend the learning and exchange, CBI offers an optional dialogue following each tour which allows participants to more deeply connect with one another, ask questions of the tour guides and have conversation about what was experienced on the bus. During this 45- to 60-minute dialogue – most often over lunch – people share their perceptions and questions and reinforce connections with one another as well as with what is currently taking place in our community. 


    A Special Projects Grant from the Arts & Science Council in 2011 allowed CBI to organize and offer the first three Charlotte in Black & White. . .& More bus tours as a pilot series. Community tours in 2012 and 2013 were underwritten by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Foundation, Wells Fargo Community Development and Bank of America. CBI has also recieved in-kind support from Coca-Cola and Snyder's-Lance and is partnering with Little Rock AME Zion Church (itself a historic site) which serves as the departure point and dialogue site for the Charlotte in Black & White...and More bus tours.  


    How to Register 

    To reserve your seat on a Beyond the Bridge Community Tour, contact Annetta Foard by email at or phone at 704.943.9762.

    CBI Staff

    Community Building Initiative (CBI) has three full-time staff members. A complement of subject matter experts, process/dialogue consultants, communications and development professionals assist in accomplishing CBI's program of work and supporting CBI volunteer leadership.

    Dianne English, Executive Director
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    Annetta Watkins Foard, Program Coordinator
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    Christi Robinson Lee, Program Coordinator
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    Program Faculty
    LDI Class 16: Octavia Seawell & Christian Friend
    LU40 Class 6: Jasmine Hines
    Equity Dialogue Circles: Open Source Leadership Strategies & OZS Consulting
    Bus Tours: Tom Hanchett & John Howard