In November 2006, the City Council took a historic step toward investing in citywide equity and community engagement by creating the Diversity and Civic Leadership (DCL) Program. As a partnership between City government and community organizations, the DCL Program has the ambitious goal of bringing the voices of all Portlanders — particularly our BIPOC, immigrant, and refugee communities— into decisions that affect their lives. DCL was designed to change the relationship between people and government by providing leadership skill development, culturally-relevant community-building, and new ways to connect with City officials to shape public policy.
The DCL Program provides annual grants to community organizations who use those grant funds to design and implement culturally-specific leadership development programs for the communities they serve. Over the years, DCL has seen grant-funded graduates earning the leadership skills and confidence to run for city council, serve as executive directors of community-based organizations, and advocate for social change in Portland.
Participating DCL Nonprofit Organizations and Their Programs:
Urban League’s Advocacy and Civic Engagement (ACE) department works to achieve policy and community change that advances equality, social and economic justice, and civil rights for African Americans and others in Oregon. ACE works to advance the League’s mission of economic empowerment and civil rights through building partnerships and coalitions, advocacy, outreach, civic engagement programs, community events and organizing, policy research and analysis, issue campaigns, and publications that elevate the issues of the community.
Latino Network’s Líderes program aims to increase equity in community involvement by engaging Latinos in the governance of the city. It introduces participants to Portland, Multnomah County, and Metro government structures, officials, and decision-making processes.
NAYA’s Oregon LEAD program provides seven months of interdisciplinary leadership, skill building, professional training, and networking opportunities which build leadership capacity across Native communities throughout Oregon.
IRCO’s Engage program addresses disparities and equity issues for new Oregonians. This culturally-specific leadership project empowers communities of color to identify and understand governance structures, develop leadership opportunities, and foster effective representation on boards, committees, and commissions.
Unite Oregon's PILOT program addresses the challenges faced by emerging immigrant and refugee leaders and groups through leadership and skill building convenings.
The DCL by the Numbers
Each DCL partner has a different starting point and some of these nonprofit groups are bigger than others.
However, the point of investing in BIPOC communities is to showcase Portland’s commitment in investing in programs that clearly demonstrate Portland’s values of anti-racism, collaboration, and equity.
Civic Life’s DCL program continues to grow, and we are working with community partners to advance, train, and cultivate more leadership opportunities for historically underrepresented and underserved communities.
|Organization||Leaders in 2020-21 DCL Program||Total Leaders Trained Since DCL Formed|
|Momentum Alliance (past participant)||8-15||50-75|
Portland's Next Generation of Leaders
For years, these nonprofits have enrolled, trained, and cultivated the next generation of community builders and advocates to ensure that civic government and policies will work for all Portlanders. Here are their stories.
Amanda Squiemphen-Yazzie is a Native American entrepreneur working with local and statewide coalitions to uplift and support BIPOC communities. She grew up in Warm Springs, Oregon. She moved to Portland to get her Bachelor’s Degree in social work from Portland State University, and, seeking a deeper connection to the local Indigenous community, she applied to be a part of the Oregon LEAD Program. Squiemphen-Yazzie says she found a strong family within the program, in addition to community organizing and leadership skills. She recently established her own business, Squiemphen-Yazzie Strategies LLC. Amanda attributes her leadership development to the Oregon LEAD program.
“I walked away from this program incredibly proud of our way of life and who we are as Indigenous people and what we bring to the world. In addition to the values that were recreated and re-emphasized in this space, I was able to understand how power dynamics work throughout the systems that impact us, and how to organize and build movements,” Squiemphen-Yazzie says. “For so long I was leading with a very colonized approach…This program showed me that civic engagement is not always following the agenda, and reaching a quota, but decolonizing that mindset and stepping back and listening to community to lead the way…this program showed me how to show up in a way that will positively impact our community and support our needs.”
Simone Auger joined NAYA’s LEAD program because she wanted to be a part of a culturally-based organization that aligned with her interest to serve her tribal community. Through this program Auger learned critical tools necessary to implement in her professional development while at NAYA. Following her graduation from the LEAD program, she served as the 2020-2021 Hatfield Congressional Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives, working for Congressman Schrader and focusing on tribal policy. She has since stayed on the team as first a legislative assistant and now a Congressional staffer. She says that NAYA’s LEAD program helped lay the groundwork for this “incredible journey.” Auger appreciated the program’s focus on nurturing leadership and affirming cultural identity, as well the supportive environment it provided. She notes that it gave her many of the skills that today make her successful as a Congressional staffer and volunteer in her community.
“[My and my peers’] shared experiences coupled with the program’s unique leadership training has resulted in personal growth, substantially stronger advocacy skills and an expanded network that I continue to benefit from, including in my current role working on the Hill,” says Auger. “In addition to learning how to navigate the political system, the LEAD program has given me a greater understanding of the generational trauma caused by historical policies that are the backdrop to many of the struggles American Indian/Alaska Native tribes and indigenous groups face today. As an advocate, this understanding has helped inform the work I do and has elevated my ability to educate stakeholders and policy makers more effectively. Culturally-specific leadership training programs like this are profoundly beneficial to the communities they serve, and are not found in typical programs elsewhere.”
Ahlam Osman has been a youth participant with former DCL recipient, Momentum Alliance, since 2018. She says that their community motivated her to become more involved with the group. The staff, the youth, and it being BIPOC-led made her feel safe and comfortable. Being involved with Momentum Alliance was the first time she had ever been a part of a space where she felt truly safe and supported in her identity as a young Somali Muslim woman, and it led her to keep coming back and staying connected. She previously participated in the Youth Equity Cohort led by past-youth-participants-turned-staff in 2018.
After the cohort, Ahlam became heavily involved in Momentum Alliance's partnership with Metro where she consistently participated in discussion groups and testimonial activities leading her to become an intern at Metro in 2019. Ahlam continues to cultivate partnerships including collaborating on the 2019-2020’s social summit program by Momentum Alliance, Metro, and OMSI. Last year, she co-led the COVID-19 financial relief campaign by supporting outreach, developing a strategic scoring guide, and scoring applicants. She says that Momentum Alliance has taught her that being a leader means to collaborate, listen, and learn from others, always considering the community first. Currently, Ahlam sits on the Momentum Alliance board as secretary. She also attends Portland State University where she majors in community development in hopes of one day becoming a city planner and working with underserved communities, an interest sparked by her work with Momentum Alliance and Metro.
“Not only was Momentum Alliance a safe space for me, but I was constantly challenged to grow into a leader via youth leadership cohorts, focus groups based on racial equity, educational events, internships, and many more [experiences],” says Osman. “Because of the skills and knowledge I gained, Momentum Alliance has paved many paths for me that lead to social change.”
Debbie Cabrales is a 2018 graduate of the Latino Network’s DCL program, Academia de Líderes. She says that she joined Líderes because she was a single mom and she wanted to gain more skills and the confidence to be in spaces where “she knew she belonged.” She notes that her son was and has always been her biggest motivator, and he is the reason she joined and continues to be a part of programs like Líderes. Then a staff member at Latino Network, Debbie went on to become the executive director of Centro de Servicios de Campesinos, an organization that provides legal services to farmworkers, and was also elected to the Woodburn City Council. Cabrales decided to run for this position because she felt that having representation from people who looked like her was necessary to make positive change in her community. She says that the Líderes program was the steppingstone for her civic engagement, getting her more involved in Latino Network, and giving her the confidence to run for the city council position.
“Líderes showed me that if people do not make space for me at the table, that I need to bring my own table and chair to create that space not only for me but for people like me that are not given a chance or are being shut out,” Cabrales says. “The knowledge I have gained has…made me realize the type of leader that I am, and the amount of change that I can [make], how I can show up to spaces, and be confident as to why I am there.”
Promote the Common Good: Civic Life is building stronger communities by supporting and empowering Portlanders. We think, act, and partner with our communities to better understand and take care of their diverse needs. We invite you to join us in this continuous, much needed work to make our communities safer and more welcoming for all.