The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) was proud to welcome 43 leaders from metro Atlanta to the 2021 Regional Leadership Institute (RLI) class, where they participated in a week-long program to engage with some of the most salient challenges and opportunities facing our region. The class included professionals from a wide array of sectors, ranging from urban agriculture to energy to arts and culture. A complete list of 2021 RLI participants can be found at the bottom of this page.
Throughout the program, participants strengthened their leadership skills, built rapport with regional colleagues and together examined strategies for developing a stronger, more inclusive future for the metro region.
“The ARC’s Regional Leadership Institute experience is a great platform where leaders get to understand, dissect and collaborate on the intersection of resources needed in our communities,” said John Cornelius, Atlanta/Metro South Regional Director, Georgia Power, RLI Class of 2021
This year’s program focused on three key pillars – intersections, equity, and shared community, which were threaded across presentations, discussions, and workshops. The program also introduced expert hubs. Expert hubs allowed participants a chance to bring their expertise and connection to the subject matter more explicitly into the room. Another new addition to the program were policy action plans, where RLI participants met in small groups to review current initiatives and projects led by ARC staff and offer recommendations.
Culture Change Inspired by the Arts
This year’s program kicked off with a live performance and discussion by Out of Hand Theater. The performance, “If You Build It,” focused on housing, affordability, and displacement. Underscoring the importance of the arts in building connection and understanding, the performance also demonstrated how housing was at the inflection point of so many other policy areas. Framing how they would approach the week, participants were challenged to commit to be courageous in their presence, listening and care for others.
The Impacts of Decision-Making
The week began with presentations focusing on the past and present. Dr. Calinda Lee, Head of Programs and Exhibitions, Center for Civil and Human Rights, Dr. Akira Drake Rodriquez, Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design, and Ryan Gravel, Founder and President, SIXPITCH, grounded their discussion by highlighting key planning decisions, policies and practices that shaped the region and created inequitable outcomes for many of its residents. With a focus on systems, Mike Carnathan, Managing Director, Research & Analytics, ARC (RLI 2013), helped participants see patterns of inequity across a range of different indicators from housing access and education to healthcare. The class looked at community data trends to understand evolving community needs and identities, noting that the region is increasing in diversity and growing its aging population.
Participants explored COVID-19’s impact on the region through multiple panels. Leaders discussed the personal, emotional and economic toll the pandemic has had, as well as the broader regional challenges that it exacerbated. While COVID-19 was foreground in many conversations, participants were also prompted to think about recovery and what it looks like to create an economy that works for all people.
The participants heard from subject-matter experts like Sarah Kirsch, Director of the Urban Land Institute, Sanjay Patel, Director of Strategic Projects with Soccer in the Streets and Bentina Terry, Senior Vice President for External Affairs and Community Engagement at Georgia Power Company (RLI 2017).
The program concluded with participants workshopping how to expand their sphere of influence. Participants reflected on the ecosystems they were currently a part of and identified ways to deepen and expand those networks to collective impact at a regional level.
“RLI allowed me to gain a broader perspective on the issues facing our region and the need to develop tangible solutions with an equity lens,” said Catherine Foster Rowell, Councilwoman, City of South Fulton and RLI class of 2021 alum. “The bonding and networking among program participants has also proven to be invaluable.”
We are so grateful to the incredible class of 2021, and we are looking forward to seeing how they continue their work transforming our region in the years to come!
RLI Class of 2021
Director of Operations
Atlanta Music Project
J. Olu Baiyewu
Urban Agriculture Director
City of Atlanta
AC Wyatt INC
Director of Government Affairs
Metro Atlanta Chamber
Associate Director, Program Management
Senior Vice President
Saturn Freight Systems
Chief Operating Officer
Senior Director, Early Learning and Development
United Way of Greater Atlanta
Director of Programs
Jumpstart for Young Children, Inc.
GreenLight Fund Atlanta
Atlanta/Metro South Regional Director
Chief Brand Strategist
City of Dunwoody
Vice President of Engineering
GreyStone Power Corporation
Catherine Foster – Rowell
City of South Fulton
Best Life, LLC
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Atlanta CareerRise/United Way of Greater Atlanta
Director, DeKalb Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Commission
Decide DeKalb Development Authority
Faculty-J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development
KB Advisory Group
Cultural Arts Council Douglasville/ Douglas County
Director Service Strategy
Moving in The Spirit
Gwinnett Municipal Association
Donna Shaw Murphy
Donna Murphy Realty Group
Katherine (Katie) Pace-Quattlebaum
Southern Conservation Trust
Lowe Engineers, LLC
Senior Regulatory Attorney and Policyholder Advisor
MagMutual Insurance Company
Shirley Anne Smith
Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation
Major Gifts Officer
Clayton State University
Partnership and Grants Manager
R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation.
Client Partner – Public Sector
Head of Revenue
Zero Vehicle Emissions Lead/PM
ARC Annual Partners
ARC’s Strategic Partners are committed to fostering collaborative regional approaches that improve quality of life in metro Atlanta. Their support elevates ARC leadership programs, research and events throughout the year. Learn more