Who is Bob Young?
I was born in Virginia and went to school there. I was kind of considered a geek. I was interested in chemistry and ended up majoring in it in college. In my early days, I grew up in the projects, and everyone there either had the goal to go into the army or work at the local shipyard, but I knew that that really wasn’t for me. I was interested in sports and music and ended up playing clarinet in high school. The thing that really interested me in college was meeting so many people with different backgrounds and interests and I felt that there was a place for me in that world. Although I did chemistry for about 12 years I am more focused on human resources and working with corporations to build a more diverse workforce. In other words, people technology. I came to Arizona to work as a multicultural diversity director and then started my own consulting business and worked with the city of phoenix as a diversity consultant.
How should companies invest in their employees?
First one needs to understand the skill level and competencies employees have. Leadership, communication, decision-making, etc; there are all kinds of assessment tools and tests out there to help individuals know best how to education and interests. Education coupled with passion and interest is the key to being successful in your life’s work. So, if you are going to educate someone, you need to know where that baseline is to make sure that you can assess the skill sets that they need to be successful. Another one is mentoring programs. Young people having mentors is very important, but you also need to provide them the opportunity to practice their skills as part of that process. When I worked at Dell Computer Company, I directed an initiative called Earn and Learn. Young people participating in the program were required to disassemble a computer and then rebuild that computer. When they successfully completed that process, that computer was donated to them. For many of the student it was their very first computer and they were proud to say, I rebuilt this computer myself. We looked at how we could best incentivize these students. Not only did they earn the opportunity to own the computer but they also now know and understand the technology that created the computer as a very usual tool in today’s society. These students become an asset, not just to Dell, but to the community. Another thing companies should invest in their employees is to value the culture and ethnic background of their employees. Employees bring something unique because of who we are. Be culturally responsive to the people you employ or are working with. Whenever you think about what’s in it for the corporation think about what’s in it for the employee. When you do this you begin to set in place a system that produces a product that’s a win-win for all the people. There needs to be a willingness to educate, train, and establish an equitable system that invests and rewards employees.
What are some of the biggest challenges faced by nonprofits today?
I think that nonprofits are so dependent on grants that it is difficult to expand beyond the programmatic component. Nonprofit organizations need Capacity Building funds to sustain and grow their programs and initiative. This requires non-programmatic funding. What is difficult is building a kind of revenue stream that can be there for expansion and growth. Nonprofit community development organizations usually are constantly looking for ways to scale and expand their work and to be able to do that you need sustainable revenue. Nonprofits in the past have become more grant driven and this makes it difficult to sustain to organization’s work over time.
What do you think makes Harmony successful?
First of all, Harmony Project Phoenix is part of a national organization of similar music mentoring programs that started back in Venezuela in the mid-nineteen seventies. It now has over 140 programs like it throughout the United States with more than 1500 teachers and impacts over 20,000 students. So it is an international and national evidence-based music mentoring program.
Secondly, the fact that the Phoenix community sees the benefits of a youth mentoring program. I also think another reason Harmony Project-Phoenix is successful is that we really get dedicated people, from the teachers to the board members to the philanthropic community. As long as we have a clear mission, we will be successful. It is also important to tell the story. Diogo Pereira, our Executive Director and David Bernstein a co-founder of the program, make sure that those who have invested their time and effort into Harmony Project are able to see the benefits and it is always a good news story.
What are some of the goals you wish to achieve in Harmony?
I would love for Harmony to become a cultural melting pot of youth and young people eager and excited to learn and grow. When you see that representation, it is then that you can see the beauty, a physical manifestation of what can happen when people work together. Being a part of an orchestra, band or music group provides life-long skills to do just that. I would love for Harmony Project Phoenix to be supported and sponsored by the community and become known as the premier Phoenix Youth Orchestra – Harmony Project-Phoenix.