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ULI Program Provides Leverage Points for More Sustainable, Successful Communities

Health equity and building sustainable, successful communities were the focus of a recent Urban Land Institute leadership program day held in Washington, DC, as part of the nine-month Regional Land Use Leadership Program hosted each year by ULI’s Washington District Council for mid-career professionals.

The program is an outgrowth of a ULI headquarters initiative that started in 2001, and several other ULI chapters today host similar programs, often known as the Center for Leadership.

The purpose of the leadership program across ULI, said Becca Hertz, Manager with ULI’s Washington District Council, is “the idea of fostering leadership in our members and growing them as they move in their careers,” with an emphasis on leadership and professional development.

Washington’s leadership program has adapted a regional approach given the unique needs of members in the greater Washington, D.C. region it serves, which includes Montgomery County and Prince George's County (both in Maryland), Washington DC, and Northern Virginia.

Participants apply to the program, with about half of applicants being accepted each year, and applications are screened by a committee of program alumni. Scholarships are available to ensure diverse participation.

“The Leadership Institute participants are usually people who are about 10+ years into their career,” Hertz said. “They're looking to maybe take leadership roles in their companies or they’re moving on to a new company where they can get that leadership opportunity. So we really hope that the program allows them to create this sort of cohort where they feel like they have a good network of people as well as learning different leadership skills.”

In addition to Health Equity -- which was the program day topic for February -- the monthly meetings for cohort members feature a range of topics, including the Region in Context, Transportation and Infrastructure, Housing and Affordability, Placemaking and Design, Sustainability and Resiliency, Trends and Innovation, and the Finance and Development Process. Many themes, such as Transportation and Infrastructure, are regularly included and others, like Housing and Affordability, are added as they become more prominent issues in the region.

Interactive workshops, panels, and speakers on the program day provide cohort members with insights on that day’s focal topic and an opportunity to further develop their leadership skills.

“The idea is that each day will be focused on a different topic that's faced this region and bringing in experts that know about it, who can talk about it, who can bring their resources to these members in the class,” said Hertz. “And then also, each day have the opportunity to grow their kind of leadership understanding of themselves and what they can be.”

For example, as part of the recent Health Equity day, Waterford’s Beth Offenbacker led a session entitled, “Emotional Intelligence for Work and Career Success,” which focused on tapping into individual insights for greater leadership effectiveness and enhanced team results. As she noted in introducing the workshop, emotional intelligence insights also are valuable in engaging a diverse range of community members, which in turn can support equity needs.

“It's really a professional development program that is also connected to the content and trends and themes that we find here in the land use and real estate industry,” Hertz said. “So there's the leadership component side and also the content side of it. And we want to make sure that each of the program days kind of mix the two into each other. And sometimes they very much overlap, which is when it is a really good emphasis on the leadership role that you can have in your industry.”

Participants also work together on a mini-Technical Assistance Panel (mTAP) as a group project during each leadership year. A TAP, Hertz explains, “is an advisory consulting panel, where we're hired by a jurisdiction that has an issue that they're looking for a panel of experts to come in, who may not necessarily know about it and kind of bring their recommendations for the problem.” This is a smaller-scale version of the popular Technical Assistance Program that ULI offers, and it provides participants with an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the program to a specific regional problem or challenge.

The 2019-2020 class is focused on planning for the Friendship Heights area of Washington, DC. The teams are “looking at its economic development, housing, and transportation,” Hertz said. “The class is split into five different groups, and they're each going to come up with their own presentation, and recommendations for the issue. And so they were given this project in February, and they have time at the next two class program days as well as whatever time they need outside of class so that it's ready to present on their graduation day, which is in May.”

In existence for almost 10 years, there are more than 200 program alumni who play an active role in planning and coordinating each of the leadership days. Each summer, Hertz and her team reach out to alumni to ask for their involvement. We ask them to choose “the days that they want to focus on or if they have any resources or people they know that work in that specific topic.” The recommendations they provide are valuable, said Hertz, “because I can come up with the topic, but I'm not necessarily going to know the right people, the right experts. And that's what our members are here for. It’s a really great resource for us and why we continue to do it that way by having the alumni be involved.”

There is also great value to ULI Washington members in remaining involved in the leadership program. Each program graduate receives a one-year ULI membership for completing the program as part of keeping participants engaged and involved.

The program is specifically designed for professionals who are looking for leadership and skill-building as well as to build their network, Hertz said. “This is really the place for it within ULI,” she added. “We do so many other events, but this is a really long-standing time you really get to know the people in your class and hear from them. And so this is that opportunity. And it's really the only local professional development program that ULI offers. We offer it on a larger scale, but those people are coming from all across the country. And so this is really that opportunity here.”

It’s ideal for professionals who are “looking to get a more of a leadership role in their company or move to a new job, where that's an opportunity,” she noted. “This is really a good starting point to learn what you offer and what you need.”

Hertz emphasizes that the program is a commitment for those who are accepted into the cohort. “We require their attendance for these program days that are one full day a month from September to May. So it's definitely something that needs to be approved by their bosses and companies and hopefully their company is willing to provide them that opportunity.”

ULI Washington leadership program is an extension of the robust programming that the chapter provides to more than 2,500 members in the greater Washington region. Other programs include the ULI Young Leaders Group for members under the age of 35, ULI Next for members ages 35-50, and the ULI Women’s Leadership Institute, for women in the industry.

To learn more about the ULI Washington Regional Land Leadership Program, visit this link.

For information about a Center for Leadership in your area, contact your local ULI District Council; a complete list is at this link.

Can we help with moving you -- or your team members -- forward on the path to Green leadership success? Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, Ph.D., at or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Executive/Leadership Coaching services or our Leadership Development workshops are right for you. We work with individual Green Professionals and with Green Organizations. All services are customized to your needs.

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