The formation of the African American Leadership Forum resulted from a series of meetings Kelly Woodland, formerly of the William Penn Foundation, had with 11 heads of organizations and stakeholders to ascertain their level of preparedness in anticipation of state budget cuts. During the course of these meetings many organization heads shared concerns regarding the long term sustainability and “value add” of African American led organizations. Specific concerns focused on the need for leadership development; succession planning; organizational capacity building; what it means to be data driven; the role of African Americans leaders in the broader advocacy and policy landscape; and the need for collective action on behalf of the African American community.

Organization leaders represented various areas of the nonprofit sector: multi-service; intermediaries; community development corporations; education & college access; youth and adult workforce development; and STEM education. After a few meetings and conference calls, it was determined that a retreat was necessary.  A half-day retreat was held in June, 2011 to discuss the group’s purpose, vision, and next steps.  Bernadine Watson, formerly of Public/Private Ventures, was chosen as a facilitator to conduct this retreat. While the retreat was helpful in attaining a clearer focus and “getting folks on the same page”, more questions arose and a need for more data was apparent. Are there any examples of similar efforts in other cities?

Further research revealed an effort in Minneapolis that emerged out of similar needs and conditions.  Gary Cunningham of Minneapolis’ Northwest Area Foundation created the African American Leadership Forum, a stakeholder group in Minneapolis that came together to work across organizational boundaries to develop strategies and solutions to common struggles. In addition to the Twin Cities; the AALF has chapters in Portland, Seattle, and Des Moines. A conference call was conducted with Gary Cunningham in August, 2011, to learn more about the AALF (African American Leadership Forum).  After that conversation, the seeds for a Philadelphia affiliate of the AALF (African American Leadership Forum) were sown.