LGW Explores Leadership in St. Louis

This May, Leadership Greater Washington traveled to the great city of St. Louis, to experience another Leadership Exchange in partnership with Focus St. Louis. 
The goal of this Leadership Exchange led by FOCUS ST. Louis President & CEO, Yemi Akande Bartsch, and her team was to expose LGW Members to the diverse communities of St.  Louis and its leadership by exploring essential topics that link directly to the progress of the city, such as race relations, poverty, social services, and economic development.
LGW recently sat down with Farida Bouftass Ph. D, M. Sc, a State Department Fellow, who spent the month of May observing Leadership Greater Washington’s programs and operations. Farida is a Resilient Leadership Coach and trainer who has received funding to launch the Resilient Leadership Development Academy in her home country of Morocco. 
The LGW team was thrilled to have Farida accompany LGW Members on the Exchange. The experience offered an in-depth look at leadership in the Midwest and the social and systemic issues that still affect the St. Louis region.  Read Farida’s interview with LGW and her take on the St. Louis trip below.
How would you describe the members of FOCUS St. Louis? 
Members of Focus St. Louis are very passionate about their region. Most of them are in the education, non-profit, social entrepreneurship, and law fields. Although they come from different professional areas, they all share a passion for advocacy and giving back to their city. Their initiatives have a powerful impact in St. Louis. 
What was your favorite part of the Leadership Exchange? 
My favorite part of the trip was the presentations and panels. The professional background of each speaker was fascinating, and the presentation topics allowed me to get a broad view of the different initiatives that are implemented to eliminate racial inequities and discrimination. 
The speakers detailed the issues and solutions to local problems, including: 
Fostering relationships between the community and the police, and strategies to encourage more young people from disadvantaged areas to join the local police force
Recommendations to improve health and wellness, especially in young adults
Initiatives to lower the rate of school dropouts in public schools
Leadership Exchange participants hear from local leaders on the state of St. Louis communities 
Why are Leadership Exchanges between organizations like LGW and FOCUS St. Louis so significant? 
Tremendous opportunities can develop from these types of experiences. What is very compelling is the sharing of best practices concerning specific fields or actions. A whole region can excel through the exchange of knowledge and accelerate development of the entire country. The network of leaders can provide better economic collaboration within the region.
Members experience a tour of St. Louis neighborhoods led by Professor Bob Hansman 
What was one thing you learned on the trip that surprised you?
What happened in Ferguson on August 9, 2014, was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many citizens in St. Louis. I am appreciative of what I learned during my time in Ferguson, specifically how protesters voices were heard, and how the Ferguson commission report was created, I gained a more profound understanding that when people share the same humanistic values, they can grow together and differences and diversities become an indicator of a mature and healthy human society, rather than a way to discriminate and exclude. 
Thank you, Farida, for sharing your perspective and thank you to our Leadership Exchange partner FOCUS St. Louis. LGW’s next Leadership Exchange is the Civil Rights Learning Journey in partnership with WRAG taking place September 23-27.