The Berkshire Black Economic Council Presents

The 2020 Berkshire County SUCC3SS Leadership Development Report

Creating a Framework for Black Economic Empowerment in the Berkshires

Table of Contents

How to Read the Report

The Domain Reports broken into 5 major sections. 

  • The Summary
  • The Context
  • The Findings
  • The Analysis
  • The Recommendations
There are also references for additional research and a link to a glossary of terms 

Overview – I

Domain Description

Generate a leadership culture of collaboration, founded in diversity, equity, and solidarity, that can dynamically respond to challenges by swiftly building coalitions between all community stakeholders.

Domain Areas of Focus

  • What makes a Good Leader for Inclusive Change?
  • What could this community look like if we all used our leadership to create change?
  • What do I do in this community that makes me want to grow as a leader?
  • What hopes do I have for using my leadership in this community?
  • How do we diversify Leadership in the Berkshires?
  • How to empower all leaders of the Berkshires to support Black Economic Empowerment?
  • What the Jammers want to see out of our leadership?
  • What have they currently experienced from community leadership?

Domain Goals

Develop the systems and infrastructure to support the development of leaders throughout the community. They know how to define a vision and develop the processes, strategy, and teams to achieve the vision.


Neighborhood Leadership Program in Urban Areas – Pittsfield Morning Side and Westside – North Adams

Black Community Based Leadership Accelerator Program -Community Empowerment Platform -Visioning/Purpose/Governance/Cooperation/Process/Implementation

White Berkshire County Leadership Accelerator Program -Inclusive Economy Leadership Think Tank -Visioning/Purpose/Governance/Cooperation/Process/Implementation

Context – II

The Problem

“You cannot build what you can’t see or imagine.”

We must answer the question of what an inclusive, safe, and thriving  Berkshire Black Community looks like;

Historically, there was never a clear, communicable vision for ourselves and our communities.

For what an Inclusive Economy in the Berkshires looks like: 

“So far behind in the race, that any perceived progress makes you think you are winning”

In many cases not all white leaders tend to navigate systemic racism one step at a time, most often looking to Black leaders to inform their every decision, offloading their responsibility in coming up with an appropriate, long term, and/or innovative response to :

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. ~Martin Luther King, Jr

Lack of Diversity and Inclusion in the Leadership Circles in integral areas of the community domain such as government, quasi-government organizations, non-profit, corporate, and media.

Especially at the decision-making level of Boards and higher-end executive management. This challenge to credible and effective diverse representation is the main cause of the gap in providing for and allocating to, the prescriptive strategies and resources to effect impactful change. Without addressing the lack of Diversity and Inclusion in seats of decision making power the reality of a more Inclusive economy that supports a prosperous African American and Black community is out of reach.

Findings – II

From the Idea Jam

“Any time it looks like we are being successful, that’s when we run into barriers from outside parties and many forms of racism.” 

On Racism/White Supremacy

  • Hoarding of Wealth and Resources
  • Lack of Diversity, Equity and, Inclusion in all sectors of our community
  • The privilege of general laziness/non-interest in being cultural literate or competent
  • Historical Precedence of renting versus letting ownership occur 
  • (The perception/lack of trust from leaders that Black and African Americans cannot run their own institutions without white folks)

On what they want from Black Community Leadership:

  • More responsive to community needs around race-based discrimination 
  • Better transparency on DEI initiatives among all Black Community Stakeholders
  • Robust Cooperative Framework among Black organizations that encourage more collaboration
  • Initiation and Development of Leadership Programs for Emerging Black Talent in the Berkshires
  • A plan for Economic Empowerment and Business Development
  • “A space to just be, to create, to celebrate ourselves, and support our ideas for economic sovereignty and empowerment.”

On what they would like to see

  • Define what success looks like for a Berkshire County Inclusive Economy
  • Dismantle the systems and thinking that are preventing the goal of a more ‘inclusive economy”  
  • More diversity and collaboration at decision-making levels
  • More diversity training and education for leaders to better understand the problem. (Enough with the excuse that leaders are ready to listen, now. These are not new problems.)
  • Design a new system and process for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in all sectors of the community.
  • Accountability guidelines and consistent enforcement of inclusive policies that drive diversity, equity, and inclusion at a rapid pace and scale
  • Fewer barriers to resources, and funding opportunities without judgment. 
  • Innovation in creating and developing new strategies for success
  • Larger strategic Impact Investments Initiatives in all the domains in the report

Analysis – III

Where we are now

Within local leadership circles, white leaders continue to navigate systemic racism one step at a time, most often looking to Black leaders to inform their every decision and offloading their responsibility in coming up with an appropriate response to Black folks.

The Opportunity

The COVID-19 pandemic, although incredibly challenging to our society,  has provided a critical opportunity–a policy window–of heightened “awareness and consciousness.” 

At home in quarantine, removed from the rush of the rat race, white Americans allowed themselves just a peek at the daily trials and tribulations Black folk endure. Broadcast across all media platforms were the wanton violences and acts of domestic terrorism waylaying Black Americans going about their lives.  George Floyd was executed outside of a gas station. Breonna Taylor, asleep in her bed. Ahmaud Arber, out for a jog. And we must not to forget the disparate impact the pandemic is raging against Black Americans–one in every 2,000 have perished from Covid-19.

However, we are in a unique position to “R3think Everything and R3Set ourselves” to a better future. As Maya Angleou saids. “When you know better you do better.”  We must do better. Fortunately,  all the answers and solutions lie in the time, talent and resources within this very community. 

Moreover, the onset of social innovation platforms such as R3SET Enterprises, new ideas in social governance like Holacracy, and innovative distributive technologies such as blockchain and Halochain,  are leading the way. Creating more opportunities to realize a more equitable, collaborative society. Our collective creativity can utilize the power of scale.

What we need to do more of

  • Above Ground Circle by John Bissell and Julianne Boyds
  • (Example of more of this type of leadership)
  • Barrington Stage; Community Advisory Board
  • Idea Jams 
  • Research and data to elucidate systemic racism and policies that are a barrier to the collective vision, mission, and objectives
  • Greylock Federal Credit Unions work on Diversity
    Diagram for Collaborative Black Economic Success

(Visual Diagram: in the center of a group of circles, with the labels of “Visioning”, “Governance” “Purpose”, “Policy”, “Cooperation”, “Process” and “Implementation”, is “Collaborative Black Economic Success”)

Recommendations – IV

Recommendation 1

Inclusive Economy Think Tank 

The Inclusive Economy Think Tank

The Next Steps

Set up recurring meetings with community stakeholders

Recommendation 2

Blackshires Leadership Accelerator

Black Community/Economic Empowerment Leadership Accelerator:

A community-owned and informed online/offline platform devoted to community development and “leadership education”. That is guided by the values and interests of the community and serves as a forum for community members to easily connect. Thereby encouraging collaboration between organizations and community stakeholders to solve issues faced by the community.

Recommendation 3

Inclusive Economics Leadership Program:  

In conjunction with the development of the Blackshires Community Empowerment Platform and Black Economic Success Agenda: further Dismantling the barriers to recruiting and retaining peoples of the African Diaspora to Berkshire County by increasing connection to regional cities, black organizations, and institutions, developing a supportive professional culture that values diversity, building on current diversity pipeline initiatives and establishing more in different sectors, investing in the skill development of our region’s youth and establishing career opportunities that entice them to stay, architecture–public infrastructure and landscape design– that promotes community, is free from surveillance and offers the freedom to express our Blacknesses. 

Next Steps


📚 References


🎥 Credits 

Idea Jam Facilitators

Dubois Thomas, Habitat for Humanity


Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET


Alyssa Mack, SP3AK EASY Studio
Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET


John Lewis, R3SET
Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET
Patrick Danahey, R3SET
Devin Shea, R3SET


Segun Idawoo, BECMA
Malia Lazu, MIT

Table of Contents

About the SUCC3SS Idea jam

The 2020 Berkshire County SUCC3SS Idea Jam was a community event series designed to create a holistic, collaborative framework for a successful ecosystem for Berkshire Black businesses, community members, and the Berkshire County community at large.

The community came together using an Idea Jam methodology to est a vision of establishing the Berkshires as a model for Black Economic empowerment for counties across the North East.

The jams were held at the beginning of COVID-19, after transitioning the series from an in-person experience. 

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