Yemi Akande-Bartsch, Ph.D. FOCUS President & CEO

Yemi Akande-Bartsch, Ph.D.
FOCUS President & CEO

Taking the Next Step  

This year, FOCUS celebrates 20 years as the region's premier leadership organization. A great deal can change in 20 years. St. Louis has built a reputation as a life sciences hub, alongside a growing startup scene. McDonnell Douglas became Boeing, A.G. Edwards became Wells Fargo, and Anheuser-Busch became part of InBev. The smartphone was invented. The Rams football team has come and gone, and a new Busch Stadium was built. Ferguson went from being just a municipality on a map to a word synonymous with the racial and economic divides in our country. 

What hasn't changed is the need for leaders. Leaders who are informed and engaged, who seek collaboration and welcome other perspectives and who invest their time to make our region stronger. As long as this need exists, FOCUS will be here.

This year, we were thrilled to launch our newest way to meet this need - the FOCUS Impact Fellows program. One of the most common questions from our program graduates is, "What's the next step?" FOCUS Impact Fellows is our answer to this question, giving experienced and emerging leaders the opportunity to work together to address a regional issue. As I write this, the inaugural class is making preparations to roll out their plans and projects to the community, and we look forward to seeing all that they have accomplished.

We've also seen a greater need for civic leadership-related training across our region and, as a result, a greater demand for customized programming. While these types of training opportunities will never replace the immersive experience offered by our core leadership programs, they do offer us the opportunity to reach out to new audiences, industries and organizations. This year, FOCUS reached more than 2,500 individuals through our leadership programs, training sessions and community events.

But this work is too vast and too important to go it alone. We would be remiss in looking back at the year without reflecting on the partnerships that make it possible, from teaming up with the Missouri History Museum on the Sites of Conscience program to wrapping up the successful For the Sake of All Community Action Forums.

Most importantly, thank YOU, for being a partner in this work (and helping build relationships that have possibilities and greater impact). We couldn't do it without you!