Planning for the establishment of Leadership Victoria began in 2000. That spring, executives from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation approached the board of Volunteer Victoria to gauge their interest in establishing a local community leadership program to nurture the region’s emerging generation of community leaders. By the summer, Volunteer Victoria had agreed to host the exciting new program. With three years of seed funding from the McConnell Foundation and additional financial support from the Victoria Foundation and the United Way of Greater Victoria, Leadership Victoria was created as a program of Volunteer Victoria.
Program development began with extensive cross-sectoral consultations among current leaders in the Capital Regional District. As well, a curriculum steering committee engaged leaders from throughout the community in helping to define and develop the program. Following the model of existing community leadership initiatives in other cities, the aim was to create a curriculum that would focus equally on both essential leadership competencies and real-life community issues. The ambitious goal was to create a program that was richly experiential, that would leave a legacy of lasting community impact, and that would establish a durable network of highly engaged, committed leaders.
Program development was swift. Less than a year after planning began, a class of 24 participants, from a wide range of backgrounds representing the diversity of our community, launched the program at the first three-day opening retreat in September 2001. CFB Esquimalt hosted the first graduation ceremonies in June 2002. Since then, and through the continuing efforts of more than 100 volunteers and staff, Leadership Victoria has grown from its infancy into a sustainable, highly-regarded, professionally-delivered program.
In 2007, the Volunteer Victoria Board and the Leadership Victoria Advisory Board decided that the program had grown sufficiently and that the time was right for Leadership Victoria to establish itself as an independent organization. In early 2008 the Leadership Victoria Society was created. As an independent society, Leadership Victoria gains the ability to pursue new partnerships, access new funding sources, and plan for an even better leadership learning experience.
The Broader Scope
The community leadership program concept originated in the United States in the late 1950s in response to a need to organize community activities around the civil rights movement. Cities dealing with the growing social unrest of the 1960s also recognized that responsible, collaborative leadership was needed to build and maintain healthy communities. Developing this capacity meant expanding a community’s leadership base.
This observation was tragically reinforced when a plane carrying many of Atlanta’s young leaders crashed in 1969. In the face of such a great loss, a group of citizens formed Leadership Atlanta to fill the immediate need and to ensure there would always be a steady supply of community-minded leaders.
Since then, the Community Leadership Association has assisted in developing leadership programs throughout the United States and across Canada, and has promoted the expansion of leadership programs into other countries. There are now about 1,500 community leadership programs world wide.
The first community leadership program in Canada, Leadership Vancouver, was co-founded by Volunteer Vancouver and the Vancouver Board of Trade in 1991. At one point, there were programs in 22 communities across Canada.