ALF created a video for its 20th Anniversary in March of 2009;
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The American Leadership Forum (ALF) was founded in 1980 by Joseph Jaworski (pictured below right), who left his successful law practice to address what he increasingly saw as a crisis of leadership throughout the country. He envisioned a national organization dedicated to bringing together leaders from various sectors in communities across the country to hone their leadership skills, increase their capacity, and strengthen their commitment to work together on public issues.
After a year of meeting with leaders from across the United States, Jaworski and seventeen other prominent Americans launched the American Leadership Forum. This group included John Gardner, former secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; James MacGregor Burns, professor emeritus of Williams College; Warren Bennis, former professor at USC and a respected author; Tom Bradley, former mayor of Los Angeles; Harlan Cleveland, former ambassador to NATO and president of the World Academy of Art & Science; Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School; and James B. Stockdale, vice admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Guided by their vision, ALF began in 1980 to address a need for more skillful, more ethical, and more effective local leadership. They were convinced that if a cross-section of a community's business, elected, academic, minority and religious leadership could be brought together to work on public issues, no problem would be beyond solution. In 1996, Joe Jaworski published a book, Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership, in which he chronicles his efforts to build the American Leadership Forum and explains the principles and values that ALF embodies.
Now a national organization with active chapters in Charlotte, North Carolina; East Lansing, Michigan; Houston, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Sacramento, Northern San Joaquin Valley, and Silicon Valley, California; Tacoma, Washington and the Waccamaw Region of South Carolina, more than 2,500 ALF Fellows nationwide have completed the program, bringing to their disparate communities a new sense of commitment, understanding and interconnectedness.
ALF's Roots in Silicon Valley
When founder Ann DeBusk (pictured left) approached former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare John W. Gardner to ask whether he thought the region could benefit from an ALF chapter, Gardner reportedly responded, "If any place needs ALF, Silicon Valley does."
Ann proceeded to build the organization's core leadership program in 1988. She established a founding board led by Paul Freiman, then president and CEO of Syntex Corporation, with representatives from the private, public and nonprofit sectors, and in 1989 she launched ALF's first Silicon Valley class of Fellows. Over the next decade, ALF's Fellows program evolved, growing in quality and attracting many of Silicon Valley's most influential leaders from all sectors. Mayors, CEOs, nonprofit executives, members of Congress and the state legislature, and other business and civic leaders have participated, strengthening their commitment to regional stewardship and collaborative problem-solving, while exploring the Inner Path of Leadership. During these years, Ann DeBusk provided the leadership, spirit and passion to keep ALF on its path to build a better Silicon Valley community. In 1999, she was recognized as a Woman of Vision by the Career Action Center.
ALF's Growth in Silicon Valley
As the network of ALF Senior Fellows has grown to 400 regional leaders, the organization has gradually shifted to promote more ongoing engagement. Ann Gregg Skeet (pictured right), a Class X Senior Fellow, who was named ALF president in 2000 and chief executive officer in 2004, led this effort.
In early 2000, ALF's Board of Directors approved the Second Generation Plan, which focused on the role ALF could play in creating a more connected community and serving as a catalyst for promoting regional collaboration and change for the common good. A major fundraising campaign accompanied this plan, the first in the organization's history.
From this effort came the development, incubation and launch of several community initiatives, including 1stACT (Arts, Creativity & Technology), the Partnership for School Readiness and Building Peaceful Families. All three of these efforts were eventually spun off from ALF and operate today as separate nonprofit organizations.
In 2006, ALF updated its strategic framework to focus on the fundamental strength that the organization offers its Fellows and the community: the ALF network. Based on the findings from internal and external program evaluations and assessments, the evolving structure is designed to develop, nurture and activate the ALF network, drawing on the network's Leadership DNA.
In 2008, ALF announced a partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to create a Common Good Collaborative in Silicon Valley.
The work of the Collaborative is based on the belief that ineffective and/or unsustainable outcomes are rarely the result of too little action, but rather action that is not grounded in a deep understanding and use of diverse views. The Common Good Collaborative is developing the skills and leadership capacity needed to nurture participative dialogue as part of the path to sustainable change in Silicon Valley. The goal is to create a new way for Silicon Valley to address issues and affect positive change.
For information on current Common Good Collaborative initiatives, click here.
In February of 2009, Chris Block (pictured left) became Chief Executive Officer of ALF. Block is a Class XVI Senior Fellow, who came to ALF from Charities Housing Development Corporation, where he served as Executive Director. Press release.
In July of 2009, ALF announced the completion of the Network Campaign, the organization’s most ambitious fundraising effort to date. A major initiative to secure resources for the organization at an exciting time of transition, the Campaign exceeded its original $4 million mark, successfully raising more than $4.2 million.
In the fall of 2009, ALF celebrated its 20th anniversary in Silicon Valley. Click here to view commemorative video.
ALF has been fortunate to be served throughout its history by a strong and active board of directors, chaired by a cadre of regional leaders.
Today's board represents a remarkable and diverse array of talent. Kathy McCarthy, Chief Administrative Officer & General Counsel, EMQ FamiliesFirst, (pictured right) serves as Board Chair, Dotty Hayes, Retired Vice President, Internal Audit Intuit, is Treasurer, and Randy Pond, Executive Vice President, Operations, Processes and Systems, Cisco Systems, Inc. is immediate past chair.