We’re living in an increasingly democratized society. Where once small, elite groups of people controlled resources and made decisions, there is now a bottom-up, crowd-sourced power that can set a community’s agenda. As we announce Class IX of ourMiami Fellows this week, their collective energy and leadership style is illustrative of what Henry Timms calls the “new power” model of leadership. The executive director of the 92nd Street Y in New York City and co-creator of #GivingTuesday, Henry recently wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review, Understanding ‘New Power’,” that lays out how we are moving from old power models to new power models and the implications of that for communities, organizations and leaders.

The old power model is top-down. It consists of small groups of people controlling resources and making decisions for everyone else. Miami was very much an old power place – a city where leadership was defined by the company or organization you ran and how big it was. Decision-makers encompassed mostly CEOs. Miami’s traditional power elite, known as the “Non-Group,” operated this way for several decades until disbanding around 15 years ago. This group of civic leaders made numerous positive contributions to Miami. But the world changed. And Miami changed even more. With that change also came a call for a new approach to civic leadership. As a result, Miami was ahead of the curve in getting to a new power model.

New power models are bottom/up. They are exceedingly democratic and meant to be hard to control. They are made possible by the ease and breadth of new media and communication tools. Greater Miami is becoming a new power place: grassroots movements here can put anyone at the head of the table. With an idea and the passion to make it happen, leaders can emerge from anywhere and have real impact. The Miami Foundation’s recent work across our three pillars – civic leadership, community investment and philanthropy – actively drives this new construct.

Evolving local leadership: corporate to democratized
Take our Miami Fellows for example. Class IX, comprised of 17 remarkable individualswho are inspired by our community’s potential, have demonstrated ethical leadership and are driven to do more. Since 1999, close to 140 emerging leaders from diverse professional and personal backgrounds have completed the program. Notable alumni like Vance Aloupis (Class VI), newly appointed CEO of The Children’s Movement of Florida and 2016 Ruth Shack Leadership Award honoree, is working to ensure a brighter future for Florida’s children. David Lawrence, Jr., who founded the Movement in 2010, has entrusted Vance to carry the vision forward. At just 32, this exemplary leader now heads one of the state’s most influential child advocacy organizations. Vance has helped build The Children’s Movement by using new media and decentralizing power, key characteristics of new power thinking.

Similarly, we created the Public Space Challenge so that anyone with an idea can get the money and help they need to create or improve a park, plaza or open space in their neighborhood. The 2016 Challenge set a new record with more than 400 ideas submitted to activate local gathering places – underscoring Greater Miami residents’ continued call for such opportunities. Along with Health Foundation of South Florida and the Office of Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, we’ll invest $305,000 in the winning ideas, allowing residents to develop the kinds of neighborhoods they want to call home. Give Miami Day lets anyone be a philanthropist with small, $25 donations that create a multi-million dollar movement. This year, we gave Give Miami Day a permanent place on the local calendar. Starting November 17th, the Thursday before Thanksgiving will forever-be the official date for what has become one of the biggest annual giving events in the United States. In a new power world, all you need is an idea and a few people willing to go along with you, and you can create the opportunity needed to make something amazing happen.

Greater Miami has established institutions willing to invest in emerging efforts
These new leadership dynamics have not been lost on some of our established institutions. Rather than work within outdated constructs, forward-thinking organizations provide the platform and resources to promising leaders for them to bring about change however they see fit. More and more organizations see no need for control over efforts to shape this city. Look at what our friends have done over at Knight Foundation. Our past Ruth Shack Leadership Award winner Felecia Hatcher has used Knight support to bring Miami’s explosive tech start-up growth into communities of color through Code Fever and Black Tech Week. Miami’s established leaders, such as David Lawrence, Jr. and Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen, have embraced this new model of leadership, empowering effective young leaders like Vance and Felecia who embody new power thinking.

Position emerging leaders to tackle big issues
So, what’s next? We have an emerging crop of young leaders in this town; we have increasing numbers of organizations and people investing in their ideas for change; we have forward-thinking leaders empowering them. It’s time to think how we can position emerging leaders to tackle the broader issues facing Miami-Dade County. The slim affordable housing options and widespread need for transportation solutions make it hard for young talent to establish roots here. The growing number of young lives being cut short on our streets shakes the very foundation of our community. And of course, perhaps the most existential threat we have ever faced, sea-level rise continues to slowly, but surely, creep onto our doorstep. Let’s continue to identify, equip and propel new leaders to disrupt the old power models and build a resilient city. That’s how#ourmiami gets things done.

Javier Alberto Soto is the former president and CEO of The Miami Foundation.


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