Linda Bryant, #20Storiesfor20Years

“I was Vice President of Workforce and Training with Emerge Community Development. There was a survey done of African-American young men in North Minneapolis who were hanging out on the corners. Not a written survey, verbal. Someone asked them, ‘What would it take for you to stop doing this?’ And time after time they would say, ‘Well, gimme a job.’ So we came up with a gang intervention model called North 4. We created internships and an empowerment group for them. The young men had to refer themselves and then interview for ten cohort spots. The goal was for them to begin making better choices and start changing their life trajectory.

We applied for a grant with Social Venture Partners Minnesota and we were awarded it. We were partnered with Houlihan Lokey and they were the best partnership for this project. They had project management and data analysis expertise that we didn’t have, nor could we ever afford. They put together a presentation for us to better articulate what we were doing and share the results. And they didn’t just do that, they also started doing clothing drives, they started hosting us at their offices. These young men had never even been in a building downtown, so to be able to go into a skyscraper on the 50th floor and just look out the window for them was life changing. When I left Emerge in 2019, one of our original partners was actually on the board of Emerge. So that’s how much they believed in what we were doing. That’s putting your money where your mouth is.

Eventually, I took a seat on the SVP Board so I could be a voice of community for youth-serving organizations. If there’s an opportunity for me to weigh in on something, that’s what I do. I feel like at the table, I can influence how the money is given out. That doesn’t happen very often in our community. So that empowerment is very important, feeling heard. You don’t just stack your board with people who have money, you also stack it with people with experience and a diverse perspective. And I think that becomes value and SVP knows that and it shows in the work.”

Linda Bryant
SVP Board Member and former SVP Fellow

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