Community Projects

As part of LT’s curriculum, participants have the opportunity to apply the leadership lessons they have learned through community projects. Until this past year, class members partnered with local nonprofits on projects identified by the organizations. Read a summary of the past five years’ of projects here.

New this year, LT'18 had the opportunity to apply their leadership by choosing a community issue and studying the leadership skills, behaviors, and styles exhibited by people leading in their topic area. At our final Challenge Day, the teams reported on what they learned about leadership in the context of their issue area, including the Leadership Challenge Behaviors they observed, the ways in which leaders did or did not include all voices, how leaders on different sides of the issue engage their constituencies and demonstrate leadership, and how they do/do not bring a racial equity lens to the issue.

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Below is a list of issues LT’18 explored, the leadership they observed, and key takeaways.


+ Access to Mental Health

We explored the barriers low income individuals in the Puget Sound Region face to accessing mental healthcare. We interviewed regional leaders across public, private, and nonprofit sectors who are taking different approaches to breaking down these barriers. Three leadership themes emerged through our interviews. First, leaders inspired a shared vision and encouraged the heart by stressing the importance of focusing on the clients and sharing their stories. Second, they challenged the process by breaking down silos of care and shifting to a more holistic approach. Finally, they modeled the way to decrease stigma around mental health by being open and sharing their personal experiences. We found leaders are focusing on integrating and expanding our mental healthcare systems to create multiple layers of support with initiatives such as mental health education in schools, peer-support systems, and new community integrated residential living options.

+ Digital Citizenship

Our team explored young people’s relationship to digital democracy and media literacy, and how adults are preparing them to understand, filter and utilize digital media. We interviewed leaders involved in passing a state "digital citizenship" bill and developing recommendations for public schools across the state, along with other leaders who work in academia, government, educational consulting and the private sector. Those we interviewed expressed concern about the health of our democracy, young people’s social media relationships, and growing divisions in an increasingly connected world. They were also aware of the impact of systemic racism on access to opportunities to learn and practice digital citizenship, but we did not hear concrete solutions to this problem. We noticed that this effort is being led by an older generation that did not grow up as digital natives and have conflicting views on the relationship between devices and social connection.

+ Ending Sex Trafficking in the Puget Sound Region

We reviewed leadership through the lens of ending sex trafficking in the Puget Sound Region. We interviewed 14 diverse leaders from the public, nonprofit and private sectors. The team determined a set of interview questions based on the five leadership practices of exemplary leadership. Through these interviews, we learned the importance of building connections between the various actors and approaches including law enforcement, prosecutors and social service providers, thus creating much-needed wrap-around services for abuse survivors. Thoughtful design for integrated services to help victims take charge of their recovery, along with allies that can walk alongside survivors, is important to giving voice to a topic that is often silenced by discomfort of the greater public.

+ Gender Equity

Our team explored women’s leadership in fields typically dominated by men. We interviewed seven exemplary women leaders whose careers encompassed business, law, law enforcement, music, sports, government and academia. All have risen to the top of their fields as women in a man’s world, and all feel an obligation to lead, support, and advance women coming after them. Themes that emerged in our interviews include the importance of mentors; of pursuing or accepting challenges even when not quite ready; of building relationships across their organizations, including with adversaries; and of open, honest communication with real listening. Each woman felt that she had to be better, work harder and make fewer mistakes to be successful in a world dominated by male colleagues, while pointing out that being “the other” helped them stand out.

+ Immigration in King County

Our team explored how leaders in King County respond to enforcement of current immigration policies. To understand different perspectives, we interviewed leaders in the private, public and nonprofit sectors to learn how this issue impacts different sectors. We found three key leadership themes: the importance of trust and building relationships, leading with passion, and enabling others to lead. Each leader applied these strengths to how they navigated important nuances when faced with decisions between addressing public needs, working within institutional and policy parameters, and sustaining their capacity to help. While immigration has existed for most of human history, the current environment has made it especially important for leaders to leverage these strengths to work effectively within their difficult political and social circumstances.

+ The Intersection of Second Amendment Rights and Mental Health

We interviewed seven leaders, who represented different constituencies and perspectives, about access to firearms. These leaders provided a comprehensive understanding of this topic and presented varied approaches to making progress towards their goals. We had three key takeaways. First, leaders engage in fact-based advocacy and encourage the heart. While mainstream media tells stories of “sensational” violence, data shows that most gun violence is self-inflicted. Leaders use data to establish a shared vision and present a logical case for change; they also find opportunity to inform perceptions without distorting facts. Second, equity considerations are mostly missing from the conversation. Only a few leaders discussed how people of color are impacted by gun violence, and where they are engaged in the issue. Finally, some lead to win without compromise and others to win incrementally. We need more leaders to listen, de-politicize, and de-polarize.

+ Marijuana: Implications for Tribes

Our team explored marijuana and its implications for Native American tribes. The legalization of marijuana created opportunities and challenges for local Native American tribes entering the market. Are tribes entitled to participation in this new industry given that federal law still maintains the illegality of recreational marijuana? And, if so, what are the implications of their engagement? Through interviews conducted with City Attorney Pete Holmes and Senator John McCoy, we discovered that answers are not so much about interpretations of the law as they are about leadership and ethics. Pete Holmes said leadership often requires understanding when your position of power can be used to combat inequity. Our time with Senator McCoy revealed that leaders must wrestle with decisions that offer a greater benefit to many while challenging their personal values. The lessons we learned were to respect others, embrace conflicting perspectives, and get to know those around you beyond the surface level.

+ Racial and Gender Equity in Puget Sound STEM Pipeline

We considered racial and gender equity in the Puget Sound STEM pipeline. We interviewed seven leaders across private, education, and nonprofit sectors to learn how leaders are advancing the conversation. Addressing equity in STEM is led by those that are challenging the status quo and encouraging others to act. In the corporate sector, leaders are going beyond their job responsibilities to push their employers to engage. Nonprofit leaders tend to be former corporate sector advocates who decided they could do more by working at a nonprofit. The theme of inspiring shared visions through storytelling was prominent. There is an ongoing need to do more. Programs like TEALS, Year Up, and Techbridge Girls are making gains for equity. Yet, they are only able to serve a small portion of the students who would benefit from their support.

+ Transgender Youth in America Schools

We wanted to discover what leaders in the Puget Sound region are doing to bring light to transgender equity in schools and how they are modeling the way for schools throughout the country. We identified leaders who are working on this issue and interviewed them to examine their methods. We conducted interviews at the board level, the senior administrative level, and with private consultants who provide equity training to school communities. The leaders we interviewed demonstrated the value of everyday leadership and persistence. Through discussions, we saw how they “show up” and placed student equity first, even if it means having challenging or uncomfortable conversations with peers and colleagues. There is a great deal of work to be done, but the importance of transgender student equity in schools and the need for community advocates can’t be understated.

+ Youth Detention

Our team investigated the question, "How are leaders in King County working together to achieve zero youth detention to eliminate youth incarceration?" We conducted our research by identifying individuals who operate at key intersections of power for this topic, including education, police services, government, and advocacy. Through interviews, we learned that making progress requires careful deployment of different leadership styles for different circumstances. The very nature of the zero detention goal challenges a process that has been at work for decades, and we spoke to several individuals who are dismantling this process through judicial action and public advocacy. Those with significant positional power spoke of the need to make space for others to act, allowing communities to exercise their own agency in developing and executing strategy. Finally, we frequently discussed the difference between a shared vision and reality, and the need to attach accountability and means to the vision to truly support it.