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Paul Kaplin Leadership Program

As an effort to ensure a continuous stream of individuals ready to take on the responsibilities of leadership,   Blind LGBT Pride International (BPI) has established The  21st Century Fellows Program. BPI has priortized its commitment to give emerging leaders the tools they need to stand on the shoulders of the experienced experts within the organization and beyond.

People with disabilities are greatly underrepresented in the leadership of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities and organizations. This lack of diversity can hinder work to advance the rights of a diverse LGBT community and be detrimental to the overall LGBT movement. At the same time, many nonprofit leaders are at or near retirement and will soon be transitioning out of their positions. For the LGBT field to reflect an increasingly diverse society as well as prepare for the next generation of leaders, it needs to enhance the preparation, advancement and retention of emerging leaders with disabilities in leadership positions. The 21stCentury Fellows Program was formed to address this specific issue.

The program’s initial five-day orientation focuses on developing both hard and soft leadership skills in both group and one-on-one settings. In the past, leadership trainings have often focused on developing core technical skills; however, with increasingly networked organizations, less hierarchal leadership structures and a greater focus on teams, more emphasis is being placed on strengthening “soft” skills such as building partnerships, communicating effectively, resolving conflict and developing and mentoring others. The Program’s follow-up sessions are a promising strategy to build on and reinforce Program learnings from the initial conference, while also providing valuable interactive opportunities for fellows to maintain and enhance their peer network. Since many emerging LGBT leaders with disabilities report the lack of this network in their day-to-day work, it is an especially important Program component.

Our goal is to bring five vision impaired LGBT individuals with recognized leadership potential to BPI’s July 2018 national conference in St. Louis, Mo. To be considered for a Fellowship award,  applicants will need to satisfy two basic criteria — be 18 years of age or older and be blind or vision impaired. The application process for the BPI Leadership Fellows includes the submission of a written essay stating why the applicant feels they should be considered for this award, two letters of recommendation, and participation in a telephone screening interview with the BPI Membership Committee. Factors to be considered in the selection process will include the applicant’s reasons for applying for the fellowship award; a brief summary of the applicant’s education and relevant leadership experience; description of the applicant’s role as a leader and assessment of what the applicant feels they bring to BPI.

All award recipients receive round-trip transportation; hotel accommodations (double occupancy), per diem stipend for meals and incidentals, convention registration fee and reception and banquet tickets. Award recipients are expected to attend the entire conference and actively participate in all conference activities including general sessions, special-interest presentations, seminars and workshops.