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January 25, 2024 23 mins
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iHeartMedia presents CEOs you Should Know.I am John Dinkle Farmer, President and
publisher of the Baltimore Business Journal andnow founder and CEO of Dnkle Business Development.
This is iHeartRadio's CEOs you Should Know, sponsored by Strategic Factory. I'm
here today with Alicia Lee, Presidentand CEO of the Baltimore Children and Youth
Fund. Welcome Alicia, and thanksfor being here. Thank you so much.

I'm glad to be here and sharea little bit about our work and
story. Yeah, looking forward tohearing your story. So well, let's
begin by getting to know you alittle bit and the organization. So for
those who may not be familiar,could you tell us about the Baltimore Children
and Youth Fund. Sure? So. In twenty fifteen, following the untimely
death of Freddie Gray, a groupof citizens got together and said, you

know, what can we do tomake sure that young people that grow up
in our city have access to youthdevelopment? Youth development ecosystem in Baltimore that's
vibrant and support and so they cameup with the idea of the Baltimore Children
and Youth Funds in collaboration with thenMayor Bernard Young and the City of Baltimore

voted to create the fund to referendumin twenty sixteen. Eighty percent of the
city said yes, we believe thatwe should use tax dollars to support young
people in the program that helps tosustain them outside of school and home space.
And so the Baltimore Children and YouthFund was formed, and in twenty

twenty I came on board as thefirst employee as the president and CEO,
and I've been working over the lastyears, two years to build our beautiful
team. That's great, that's great, And what's your mission? Sure?
Our mission is to support the organizationsand leaders that create the youth development ecosystem
here in Baltimore City, and soour job is to service them through providing

all of the resources we have,specifically to organizations that are led by black
and brown people here in the city. So we provide grant funding, we
provide technical assistance, we provide andshare our time, our talents, our
testimony for them, and we arehere to support that network and to help
it flourish and thrive in the city. That's great, Thank you for sharing.

And could you talk a little bitmore specifically. I guess about the
communities do you like to serve?And I guess a bigger question like that
you feel the impact that you're havingon that community. Absolutely, So since
twenty twenty, BCYS has invested twentythree million dollars into over one hundred organizations
that serve young people in the city. We do that, Yeah, it's

amazing. What we're looking for is, of course, you know, twenty
three million dollars is a lot ofcapital to invest in this ecosystem. So
we want to see the outcomes thatthe community wants to see. And so
we have a set of outcomes andpriorities all determined by community voice, and
we have a set of one hundredand one grandees. Again, those grand

tees selected by the community as well. So it's really about, in addition
to all the wonderful work we do, it's about putting those decisions, that
decision making power into what weird governmentdollars should go back into the hands of
the people, and then also allowingthe people to make the selections to guide
the frameworks. Results in a communitydriven process that also is bound to show

improvement and impact. So we've seenimprovement from areas around organizational health, of
course, to young people having accessto programs that they didn't have access to,
and in addition, young people beingable to stand up and talk about
the ways that the programs are creatingtransformation for them, whether it's health based
outcomes, some academic outcomes, somefitness or wellness outcomes right, or even

just well being right, because wewant to make sure that children and young
people mental health and feeling connected andlike you belong is also such a critical
part of growing up. Yeah,that's great, And you mentioned you gave
out twenty two million dollars in grants. How does that the spurs do you?
Is it depend on the size ofthe organization or depend on the specific

need or yeah, or community?Talk to me about that a little bit.
Absolutely. So we have we runa grant cycle once a year,
and in fact, our grant cycleopens on February first, So we want
to encourage folks. You know,if you know of the youth program in
the city that is a grassroots organization, so meaning that their budget is below

three hundred and fifty thousand dollars,then the grant funding is specifically designed to
support programs that are small and notnecessarily maybe they're looking to build and grow,
but also maybe they're looking to saysmall impotent, right, and so
to make sure that they have accessto capital. A lot of the programs
we work with stay to us.This is the first time I've been around

for ten fifteen years. I've neverbeen able to pay staff. Yeah,
people had right. It's like we'vebeen running this on fumes, love,
joy and also need right. It'slike, because they love, people keep
showing up. So so yeah,we want to encourage the city, you
know, be on the lookout forhelping us to find our next batch of

grassroots fund organizations. These are quarterof a million dollar investments that are five
year grants of two hundred and fiftythousand dollars in addition to, of course
all of the support and capacity buildingwe offer, but for organizations that are
larger or outside of that scope,we also provide access to all of our
professional learning programs and community so everybodythat's serving young people in the city can

come to us and find some wayto benefit from BCIs gotcha great, Thank
you. I appreciate you sharing allthat, and I know you do a
lot around capacity building. Could youtalk about your programs around that? Sure.
So we have the Learning Lab,which is one of our new initiatives
that allows adults and young people whoare leading the programs in the city to

build up their organizational health, butto build them up in a safe and
responsive community feel. So we callit community driven learning or community fueled learning,
where we're not just plopping textbooks orhandbook workbooks in front of people,
right, We're giving them space tolearn new information, process it together,

share out what they know, sharelearn a little bit, and share a
little bit. And so the LearningLab is a six month series and at
the end of it we're going tocelebrate all together with a community exhibition.
But it's kind of like an adultscience fair where folks of you able to
share out the evaluation plans or fundraisingplans that they're creating through this process in

an environment of people who are reallyinterested in jazz to learn about ways that
organizations can build their capacity. Soit's an exciting way to think about learning
that also validates, you know,the growth and energy it takes to learn
new things and build a organizations.Yeah, that's really cool. That's really
cool. And I know you mentionedthat the Baltimore Show and Youth fund is
funded through the taxpayers. Is thatthe only source of funding are their other

funding sources? Yeah, the onlysource of funding are the are the are
folks. So one way that we'refunded is through tax dollars, of course,
and the other way we're funded isthrough the generous donations of Baltimoreans or
people who love Baltimore. Right,Baltimore has captured the heart and the imagination
of many folks around the globe asa place that I think we can imagine

Baltimore is a scrappy city art here. Yeah, we have a lot of
part and we've overcome a lot ofthings together, so I think a lot
There's a lot of people around theglobe but also here in Baltimore who understand
the power of making these kind ofinvestments in young people. We've been really
happy to attract so many donors,individual donors who on top of their tax

dollars are also donors at BCYS businessesas well local businesses, and so those
are our two streams of funding.Are Again, it's the people of Baltimore
that are keeping b c IF upand running and able to amplify its work.
Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah,and you brought this up a little
bit. How can the business communityhelp, I mean other than you know

funding, are you looking for volunteers? Do you are you doing events that
the business community can sponsor, like, what are what are some things where
can the business community be of help? Absolutely? Yeah. We just had
our first BCYF Day celebrating the dayof the incorporation of b CUIF. We
were so thrilled to have so manyBaltimore businesses step up and I'm partner with

us on BCF Day. So that'sa really great opportunity. We have a
lot of community events that Baltimore folks, local businesses can be a part of
in terms of tabling, sponsorships,media opportunities, and then of course we're
always looking for partnership opportunities. Werepresent a large use development sector, so
folks are looking for opportunities for youngpeople to see to hear from leaders or

from organizations maybe the in sectors thattheir young people are interested in, field
trip opportunities, mentorship opportunities, andso you know, this is a really
great opportunity for the business community aswell to have an organization they can come
to to kind of make those connectionsand build out some authentic ways to be
in touch with the community. Yeah, that's awesome, Thank you appreciate that.
And all right, so I'm gonnatake a little bit of a different

turn and just want to ask youtell us a little bit more about your
personal background and you know how yougot to this point in your career.
Sure well, I always call myselfwhen people ask me what I am or
what my job is, I'm anartist and so yeah, that's what I
do. I make art and Iworked for years in the education system as

a music educator. I worked myway into administration, and my position previous
to coming to b CYF to beat the HELM was working at the Maryland
State Department of Education over seeing allfine arts education for the state of Maryland.
So yeah, even in those administrativejobs, I always think of myself
as an artist first, and itallows me to really think about possibility and

dreaming as the first step in anyprocess. So I sing, I compose
music, I still conduct choirs,and all of that is a real,
the real divrent part of you know, who I am. But it allows
me, because I continue to becreative, to be a person who really
values collaboration, creativity, innovation,design and always thinking about you know,

what's next and on the horizon,being able to zoom in and zoom out.
So I think that really enhances theway that I show up as a
leader. Yeah, I love that. I oh that, Thank you,
appreciate you sharing that. Now.I'd love to talk about leadership on the
show. So I wanted to askyou, how would you describe your leadership
style? Yeah, I am.I like to collaborate and I like to

innundate. So I'm a big visionperson. I like you know, I
always have, always have a bigidea and big ideas. The best thing
you can do with the big ideais get it in a room with people
to sharpen it into an explosive idea, right. So I rely on my
team and my colleagues to help meshape my ideas or even to push them

in new directions right when necessary.And so I like to read collaboratively.
I like to work in ways thatreally where everyone has a voice and everyone
has space. And I think whatthat does is it you know the best
the best elements or the best designproducts or products where folks with a lot

of different perspectives we're able to weighin because then those are the products or
the opportunities or the program that willservice not only the most people, but
service provide service in a way thatis really different and unique. Right,
and so that's what we're looking todo at BCOs. And I think that
I have an incredible team, andso you know, again my mentors have

always said, hire the best peopleand then trust those people, right and
so and so that's a real bigcenter about the way that I think about
leadership. Yeah, that's great,and I love those two things, being
that you have to be that visionary, right and look at the long term,
you know, health of the organizationand what's going to come up next,
trying to anticipate, you know,what things are going to come down
the road that you might have toyou know, it might be challenges or

opportunities. I love that aspect aboutwhat you said on the visionary side.
But then also the same side,the collaboration, it's hugely important, right,
that's it just helps you better engagewith your team and shows your team
that year willing to listen to theirideas and you know, no matter how
wacky they may sound, but likeyou know, the best ideas come from
your team, right, I mean, yeah, that's cool. There's just

I'm reading this new book called TheSix Types of Working Genius by Patrick Lencioni,
and it's it's really interesting because youdescribed a couple of the geniuses that
he talks about in the book.But it's it's really really interesting, especially
from the Yeah, yeah, it'spretty it's pretty pretty good. I just
finished it this week. But Ithink you'd like you'd like it. So,

you know, with the general threatof the pandemic over, I know,
it seems like it's it seems likeevery third person who's talked to right
now has COVID. But with thegeneral threat of it over, you know,
what did you what did you learnyou know about communication and managing people
during that that time a couple ofyears ago. Oh yeah, that's a

great question for me. What Ireally learned. One of my favorite books
is Emergent Strategy by Adrian Murray Brown, and she talks about this idea of
when you trust the people, thatpeople become trustworthy. Yeah. So with
COVID, COVID required us to reallyright, we all started working remotely there.
We didn't really have remote systems setup for people who hadn't done that

before just required us to trust eachother and really stretch ourselves in new ways,
and people showed up. You know, young people. People were very
nervous in the beginning, Like wellyoung people even come to school, right,
and they did get lost on theydid and they learned and they showed
up. And in the work environmentit was the same kind of deal.

We learned a lot about ways thatour eyes we were relying a lot on,
like the outputs of what our eyescould see, and this new way
of working rely allows us to relyon the outputs of the outcome of the
work. Right, So instead oflike how many meetings did you come to
or how late did you say afterwork being one of those ways that we

kind of say, yeah, they'redoing a great job. Really, let's
not have as many meetings, let'snot ever stay late, right, and
let's just focus on is the workcompleted at a high quality? Or or
do we need more to get thisperson more support so that they can again
complete the work at a high quality. Right. And so then if we're
focusing on that, then we canfocus from a human centric place around then

how do we support the team wehave so that they can do the work
and that's really exciting because then wecan build space for work to be almost
a playground of sorts, but alsoa place where I like to think over
time, you know, the teamsthat we build can be your safest professional
space. Right. It's a placewhere you can make mistakes, where you
can ask for help, where youcan get all the support you need.

You need a job coach, youneed a class, you need a book
to read. What do you need? Don't you get to the outcome right
instead of like spending so much timekind of in meetings and you know,
maybe like doing like ancillary work tothe work. We can focus on the
work and the people at the sametime, which I think is really freeing
and also provides a lot of opportunityfor the workforce to have more work life

balance and to feel like you havemore opportunities for rest, you know what
I mean. So I think it'sexciting to think about what work will look
like over the next decade because we'velearned some different ways to be literally trust
the people. Yeah, that's agreat point and great advice. It's it's
you know, not working harder,it's working smarter. I was just talking
to someone about this yesterday. AndI love your point about especially the trust

piece, because you see a lotof you know, managers and business owners
and CEOs that you can tell theydon't quite trust their people. They're they're
in the weeds too much. They'rethey're working the day to day when they
should just step back and be thatvisionary. You hired someone to do the
job, Let them do it theway they want to do as long as,
like you said, they're giving theoutcomes that you expect from that role.

Let them do it the way theywant to do it. And if
they get it done in four hoursinstead of eight, great, you know
that's right, right, exactly right, that's right, that's exactly right.
Well, you know, and that'sa different way of thinking. Well,
you know, we think about likewe were in the Jobice, people were
like, you know, nobody isworking eight hours in an office either.
You know, nobody is sitting downand you know people are you know again
you can't. So it's like peoplewhen we went remote, that's so paranoid

that you know, are people goingto be like working six hours a day?
Right? If you're lucky somewhere,are you kidding? If you're lucky,
someone is dedicating and there were takesix concentrated hours of work a day.
That sounds lovely. What's more importantis are we getting the outcomes that
we want? Yeah? And whynot? And you know, let's get
let's work towards that. So Ithink it's exciting, exciting time to be

in business, to be working whilewe all figure out together, like what
does a more liberated balanced work lifelook like for America. I think you're
time to figure it out. Yeah, I agree, it is an exciting
time. And I think this newgeneration and COVID has kind of pushed this
to the forefront because I think eventually, if COVID had not happened, I

think eventually we're kind of on ourway there. But it seemed like this
just jettisoned it right like to nowand then this, you know, the
gen zs and even the millennials areare pushing that too and more based on
performance based or outcomes as opposed toyou know, hours or you know business.

Yeah, that's good, that's good. Thank thank you for the insight
there' that's awesome. What so whatgets you excited about the future of former
children and youth fun That's a greatquestion, you know, I'm really excited
to see the community receive back.You know, we're getting ready to where
we've been. I've been here sincetwenty twenty, you know, so we're

gonna we're getting ready to hit thatlike three year mark where we'll be able
to report back to the city somelonger term outcomes, right. And I
think that's exciting, right because again, these are city city residents, houses
the communities money, These are thecommunities decisions around who should be funded and
also what the priority should be.And so this is a great opportunity to

report by to them and say thisis what you asked to focus on,
and this is the result, andfor us to celebrate together how much young
people have been impacted by our collectivework to really uplift the young people of
Baltimore City. So I'm excited forthat, and crucially for that celebration moment,
we've got to take time to patourselves on the back and say,

yeah, you did that right.We as a city came together and we
decided, you know, young peoplematter, and we wanted to create some
action steps to show and demonstrate thatwe believe that, and we put our
money where our mouth was and youngpeople are better off for it. So
I'm excited for that. That's definitelyupcoming, that opportunity for us to celebrate
back with the city what they haveput in place. Yeah, that will

be exciting to say. I lookforward to seeing that as well. All
right, So conversely, what keepsup at night? Oh yeah, that's
a great question. What keeps meup at night around it? Now?
I want to tell you right nowthis this is a hypothetical question, right
because I did so well at night. I just want everyone to know that
I really believe in rest important.We're Yes, that's them, we were

getting through the work. But theidea, I think something that really,
you know, is like a persistentworry that I have is about all the
young people that are on the fringeof the programs. Right and a lot
of our community productitioners just talk about, you know, we get about sixty
million dollars in requests and we haveevery about eight million dollars to give away.

What happens with that gap? Youknow? And I think we as
the city have to come together withsome ideas around how we can make sure
that when a person steps forward andsays I'm going to dedicate my life,
my professional space to supporting young peopleto not just survive, but to thrive.

We all need to step forward andsay, let's resource that idea,
let's get that off the ground,and let's make sure that they have what
they need. So that's what,you know, that's the thing that keeps
up at night is how can wemake sure that all of the programs in
the city have access to resources sothat they feel they have what they need,
so that the vision that they havefor what they can do with young

people, we at least give ita shot that they get to try out
that full vision instead of like,you know, an aceh of it or
half of it. Right, whatdoes it really look like to have a
person who has a vision that comesfrom the community, to be able to
see that vision fully fleshed out?And so you know, you know,
that is about more resources, generatingmore support from the business community, generating

more support from individuals. And Ithink we'll get there over time because Baltimore
has already shown up to say youngpeople matter. Yeah, that's great,
that's great. Thank you. Andto wrap things up, is there anything
else you'd like our listeners to knowabout you and the Baltimore Children and the
Youth Fund. Absolutely. I justwant to remind everybody that is all our
job to to make sure that ifthere is a youth program in your community,

make sure that they know about theBaltimore Children and Youth Fund. Whether
you are small or large, wehave resources for young organizations that service young
people. So in the community,when you're out and about, if you're
dropping your kids off, make sureright you know about the Baltimore Children and
New Fund. Right you know thatthere's a foundation here in the city whose

job it is is to support andelevate the youth sector in the city.
So it's all our job to spreadthe word, spread the message. This
is our work collectively. These areour children collectively, So be on the
lookout, get on your job,make sure that you spread the word that
we are looking for youth organizations,that we're here to support the sector.
Great love it, and lastly,tell us how to find more information about

the Baltimore Children Needs Fund. Absolutelyto find out more information, you can
find us on any social media channeland our website is BCI fund dot org.
Great well, thank you so muchfor le Joe's I really enjoyed our
conversation. Getting to you a littlebit more and of course the uh Baltimore
Chroden Youth Funds. So thank youso much for taking the time to talk

with me today. Thank you somuch, it was a pleasure. This
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