From Boca to Broadmoor – The Business of Civil Society

September 21, 2009

By Mary Wong, President, Office Depot Foundation

The Office Depot Foundation (ODF) held a “National Conversation on Community Renewal” at the National Press Club on Friday. The event featured leaders from three local communities who have played key roles in implementing innovative civil society initiatives to help their areas recover from natural as well as economic disasters.

  • Elkhart Common Council President Rod Roberson discussed an inspirational back-to-school community-wide initiative that put vital resources into the hands of the unemployed, including Office Depot Foundation backpacks for their elementary school-age children.
  • San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce President Ruben Barrales discussed how partnerships helped San Diego businesses work with the community to recover from the massive 2007 wildfires.
  • And from New Orleans, Broadmoor Community Development Corporation executive director Hal Roark discussed how partnerships with businesses and academic institutions such as Harvard have empowered residents to rebuild their community after the floods of Hurricane Katrina.

These three success stories provide inspiration for other communities that are currently facing real economic challenges.  “Partnerships” and “collaboration” were key words during the session – as nearly everyone agreed that smart initiatives between businesses and nonprofits are enabling communities to work towards economic recovery. President of the Sagamore Institute Jay Hein and executive director of the SCORE Foundation Mark Dobosz both elevated the conversation, which built on ODF’s civil society work over the last several years.

Check out  photos from the event here.

The National Press Club event also marked the release of a report inspired by last year’s Weekend in Boca, entitled “The Business of the Civil Society Sector: Taking Care of Community.” 

Those of you who are interested in fostering collaborations in your own community are invited to attend our annual Weekend in Boca Civil Society Leadership Symposium, which we wll host this year in Florida from December 6-9 in collaboration with the U.S. Chamber’s Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC).

We invite you to watch a short video about last year’s event, and be sure to check back with the BCLC website in the coming weeks to sign up for this year’s Weekend in Boca.

Finally, let me just say that I know we all have friends, family members, and neighbors who have been impacted by the economy.  As we all work to help our neighbors in need, I encourage you to visit the U.S. Chamber’s Together For Recovery website, which features more than 250 business offerings available right now to help the unemployed. Please look at these offerings and spread the word that help is available for those who need it.