Annetta Watkins Foard



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Community Building Initiative (CBI) is a non-profit organization established in 1997 by civic and government leaders in response to a community crisis around issues of race. Its stated mission is “to intensify the commitment and increase the capacity of individuals and organizations to achieve inclusion and equity in our community.” As CBI launches its 20th Anniversary year, its three areas of programmatic focus are: 1) Developing Leaders; 2) Connecting Community; and 3) Advancing Equity. In terms of Developing Leaders, CBI is focused on convening and developing leaders who can effectively address issues of inclusion and equity and work for change. Leaders Under 40 (LU40) is one of CBI’s signature leadership programs. It was piloted in 2011, and since then over 300 people have participated in LU40.


LU40 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 explore more intentionally issues of inclusion and equity, to become more aware of and educated about the community and 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 in the present and for years to come. CBI believes that Leaders Under 40 have a vested interest in assuring that our community is both inclusive and equitable and in using themselves to influence for change in both their personal and professional lives.


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.


CBI recruits a diverse group of up to 50 Leaders Under 40 from the public, nonprofit, corporate, education and religious sectors of the community to participate in each LU40 class.  Candidates are nominated by leaders of community institutions, organizations and groups and by individuals connected to CBI who identify within the nominee the potential for and commitment to leading for change within their various spheres of influence.


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 increase their awareness of and impact within the community;
  • A commitment to prioritize attendance and actively participate in all LU40 sessions.


All nominations are reviewed to assure the demographic balance of LU40 Class 8.  Acceptance of persons to fill any remaining open seats in LU40 Class 8 – those not filled by LU40 sponsors or contributing organizations - is determined by CBI.


LU40 consists of 11 monthly sessions - plus an Orientation and a concluding Graduation.  All LU40 sessions are offered on weekdays and take place over lunch (11:30 AM - 2:00 PM), with the exception of the half-day Connecting with One Another workshop in June and the LU40 Bus Tour and the Speed Networking with Community Leaders sessions which typically run from 8:30 – 11:30 AM.  From time to time, CBI may offer additional optional sessions for participant to increase their exposure on topics related to current events or issues.


Class 8 will typically meet on the fourth Thursday of every month, with adjustments made for major holidays or scheduling conflicts.  Participants are expected to attend, actively participate in, and provide feedback on each session.  A proposed calendar for LU40 Class 8 is included in the Nomination Packet.


Because LU40 is an iterative program and each session builds on the previous session(s), it is essential that participants prioritize attendance.  This is important not only because of the experiences and learnings being provided but also in order to support the building of authentic and meaningful relationships with other class members.  LU40 is not a “class” in which missed sessions can easily be made up; rather, consistent participation is crucial for achieving desired results – for participants, for their organizations, and for CBI as the program sponsor.  In order to maximize the experience or all participants, it is recommended that participants are not dually enrolled in other leadership development programs.


As a part of their leadership development, participants may be asked to contribute to the design and / or facilitation of sessions related to their area of expertise.


LU40 Class 8 is made possible through the generous support that CBI receives from key LU40 Program and Session Sponsors and from community partners who underwrite the participation of their LU40 nominees.  This generous support allows CBI to recruit and accept a diverse and cross-sector group of participants for each LU40 class and involve representatives from organizations that have limited professional development dollars.


Small non-profit or community organizations are asked to contribute $500 to defray costs associated with participation of their representative in LU40 Class 8.  Opportunities for LU40 scholarships exist, and CBI is open to discussing this option with any nominating organization or nominee.


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