The Maven Leadership Collective, a leadership development institute for queer people of color and their allies focuses on closing the technical skills gap of social impact organizations. The organization is the brainchild of Corey Davis and Daniel Anzueto.
Innovation and Persistence
Davis, co-founder and executive director of Maven, explains how his organization wasn’t given a seat at the table, so they created their own space to thrive.
“We were volunteering for a number of other organizations in Florida. We came to see that when we became more engaged that there was less prioritizing inclusion the higher you went up in the ranks. We would bring that message to the organization where we were serving, but there were other priorities,” he said. “At first, we considered just having it as a project and housing it somewhere, like another organization but then we said if we are going to grow and become impactful we need to incorporate and get tax exemption status right away. We incorporated in September 2016, and then we launched our [inaugural] program in April 2017.”
Maven inspires these young, emerging leaders to thrive by embracing diversity and inclusion, transformational learning, creating lasting connections that lead to amplifying their stories through their dynamic networks.
“Our mission consistently invests in queer and trans social impact leaders of color, and builds more resilient communities that thrive even in crisis, tragedy or transition,” Davis said.
Their leadership structure exemplifies their mission statement; it is 100% people of color, 70% queer, 50% female, and 50% under the age of 40.
Maven was founded in September of 2016. This organization operates in Central and South Florida, and focuses on queer and trans people of color, and their allies in professional development.
They launched their signature program, Maven Leadership Cohort, in April of 2017.
“[We] embarked on a journey to connect talented leaders with experts and practitioners who share best practices in elevating social impact, funding resources, career advancement opportunities, activities to focus on self-care and model wellness for their teams, and local and national opportunities to expand their professional network,” Davis said.
The Emerging Leaders: different dreams, different backgrounds but the same relentless ambition
The ever-growing community of Mavens is improving the lives of more than 60,000 people between South and Central Florida.
Since its founding it has been consistently investing time and energy into social impact queer or trans leaders who are making waves in their communities.
“There are many leadership opportunities available; however, none of them centered around people of color in their work,” Davis said. “There really was not an intersectional approach to capacity building or professional development. We continue to be the only organization of its kind in Florida because of the singular focus of elevating queer, trans people of color in leadership.”
Using a diverse array of social networks and generating in-depth conversations with other leaders has garnered success in a short amount of time. Davis reiterates that staying true to their mission statement and centering their efforts and innovation on queer and trans people of color has created so many new social initiatives.
“When we go to tap into the [established] infrastructure to move us beyond that trauma, it’s [the program] not designed for us,” he said. “It may cause additional harm, the [Mavens] then invent the helpful [resource] that would have helped them in the past. Which now leads people to success [instead of hitting another barrier].”
Yasmin Flasterstein, the Founder and Executive Director of Peer Support Space
Davis shares an anecdote about Flasterstein: “When she came into the program, she had this idea to launch an organization in about five years. What Peer Support Space does is to provide mental health services for queer folks and communities of color and people that tend to fall through the traditional health care system. They have two components: One of them is the Peer support circles, or groups, [where] people that have experienced a certain trauma [are then] trained to lead a group of members who had experienced similar trauma.”
Flasterstein is a recent University of Central Florida graduate who worked with Orlando’s Pulse nightclub survivors while she was a psychology student. In 2016, she was raped at gunpoint in her own home. A few days later, Flasterstein witnessed her roommate commit suicide.
The hardships that surrounded overcoming that trauma led her to start a grassroots agency that supports and empowers people with mental health issues or substance abuse challenges through other people who have already walked that path.
Davis shares how one of the weekend sessions was a decisive factor for Flasterstein.
“There’s a module that we do, usually the second weekend where you really drill down what your contribution to the community is. It’s a pivotal time [where] she found clarity. She resigned from her [current] position and started her organization.”
Building Movement Project’s report that takes a deep dive into the Nonprofit racial leadership gap
More than 4,000 people responded to questionnaires regarding their jobs in the nonprofit sector to understand training, capacity building, views on leadership and race.
Davis giggles as he reminisces about the findings from the survey.
“It’s as if diversity and excellence cannot coexist at the same time,” he noted.
A belief is that people of color are uninterested or unqualified for roles in nonprofit leadership. However, according to The Building Movement Project’s report, the conclusion from the survey offers more insight; there are more similarities than differences in the level of education, and people of color are more likely to aspire for positions in leadership than their Caucasian counterpart.
The market forces prove Diversity is more lucrative
Davis comments on the lack of diversity in leadership roles.
“Studies show that diverse teams are more productive, more innovative, and more lucrative,” he said. “I don’t know why we continue to have a problem.”
This gap in leadership isn’t solely found in the nonprofit sector; the Fortune 500 has only three Black CEOs as of July 21.
This past Sept. 23, Wells Fargo’s CEO, Charles Scharf apologized for a comment he made during a Zoom call back in June stating that the bank’s lack of employee diversity was because of a “very limited pool of Black talent.”
More determined than ever to combat COVID-19
Davis and Anzueto are working feverishly to add new virtual courses and create an online platform for wellness and assistance with navigating government paperwork.
“Coaching sessions, rolling out additional resource courses on a new virtual platform. For wellness sessions, we had a qigong meditation online to replace the yoga meditation that we had in person,” Davis said. “When PPP came out, there wasn’t enough information and it wasn’t trickling down to communities of color, so we had to get really good to [navigate] what it was and communicate with folks. [As for] securing funding, there is an increased need, and no one planned for a global pandemic.”
Leading with Intent: A history of tremendous resilience
“The wonderful thing about communities of color is that ultimately our story is one of tremendous resilience. There are so many reasons why we should not be here, and why we should not have things to celebrate,” Davis said. “But we are here, and we do have things to celebrate. We have to make a shift about the way we speak, our struggle which communities of color have had to endure. What we have come to see — it is a story of resilience and the struggle is actually an asset. We have always had to do more with less throughout our history in America. It has lent itself to a particular work ethic, certain creativity. We have integrated an asset frame as a part of our instruction.”
Social impact leaders that are queer or trans are models of resilience that other communities can learn from.
Davis believes that changing the narrative and perspective will do amazing things for how organizations and agencies solve problems.
“When everything is a problem, we still refer to you as at risk. It limits the possibilities and outcomes that we can achieve.”
“You have to find the things that are positive, that's how you build and that’s how you grow,” Davis said.
The horizon looks bright
Maven Master class is advanced training for people who have already completed the initial programs. It is currently still in the pilot phase with test participants. They have had virtual classes during the pandemic.
This series of classes is to amplify impact, generate earned revenue, establish leadership succession plans, and measure what truly matters for the organization.
This is a part of an SFGN series on local BIPOC leaders making a difference in the community. Check out the other stories at sfgn.com/bipoc.