First Group Completes Milbank Memorial Fund Leadership Program

July 31, 2017

The first group of state officials to participate in the Milbank Memorial Fund’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) completed the interactive course in late June at an in-person meeting held in Sacramento, California.

The program, developed in 2015 by the Fund and its Reforming States Group (RSG), is designed to bring together individuals from the executive and legislative branches of state government to develop skills that will enhance their effectiveness as leaders in addressing the challenges of today’s complex health policy environment. Modeled after the RSG, the ELP fosters the same type of learning and networking experiences for young leaders around the country. With class size held to around 20, participants completed three in-person meetings and two virtual sessions since 2015. Group members hailed from Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin, and Canada. In order to participate, participants were nominated by state health policy leaders from the RSG.

The curriculum at the last meeting in June focused on advanced negotiations, a topic which grew out of the previous meeting and was requested by participants. The curriculum was led and developed by Ken Kizer, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Population Health at the UC Davis Health System, and Rich Callahan, DPA, professor and chair of the Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration at the University of San Francisco.

“A big part of what we are trying to do in ELP is to bring a balanced mix of experiential and empirical knowledge about leadership strategies for effecting meaningful change,” said Kizer. “We want the group to hear from and interact with successful and thoughtful ‘real world’ public sector leaders who know the science of public sector leadership and really understand what methods and techniques work when trying to lead change to achieve lasting results.”

Participants, many of whom noted that they hadn’t had any prior or formal training in negotiations, were especially pleased to engage with faculty who spoke about their own experiences with relationship- and consensus-building, often with legislators. As one participant said, hearing about the personal experiences of faculty members helped reinforce lessons from the sessions. The program also includes a mentorship component, in which participants are matched by interest and location with state leaders interested in helping the next generation of leaders.

“It’s been gratifying for us to see how many former and current RSG members want to ‘give back’ and remain engaged with the RSG and the work of the Fund,” said Trina Gonzalez, program officer at the Fund, who leads the ELP. In addition, the first group is also interested in forming an alumni network to remain engaged with one another and with the Fund.

“What sets ELP apart from other public sector leadership development programs is its intimate, integrated, and applied approach,” said Jennifer L. Steele,  Louisiana’s Medicaid director. “ELP intentionally builds relationships within a very small cohort of legislative and executive branch participants from diverse contexts through thoughtful activities organized around common challenges. The experience cultivates personal understanding of the roles and perspectives of each ‘side’ of the policymaking process and allows for new insights into making progress at home. Complimenting this collective learning, ELP pairs each participant with a faculty mentor—a seasoned practitioner who has already walked a mile in a very similar pair of shoes—to provide real world counsel on individual circumstances. The shared trust and hands on nature of the learning is what makes ELP so powerful.”

The second ELP class of 22 people—6 legislators and 16 executive branch officials—has recently been selected. For this one-year program, participants have committed to participating in two in-person meetings and two virtual sessions, and to be paired with mentors from the RSG. “The ELP is part of the Fund’s commitment to building state health policymaking capacity,” said Gonzalez. “We will have wiser decisions in the future if we help develop better leaders now.”