How can Charlotte be a more inclusive and equitable community?

Community Building Initiative (CBI) was created in 1998 after community leaders recognized the need to improve race relations in Charlotte. Its mission is to “intensify the commitment and increase the capacity of individuals and organizations to build a more inclusive and equitable community.”

Over time, their board of directors added race, economic status, sexual orientation, age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religious background and physical disability to their core values.

Annetta Watkins Foard has been with CBI for more than 13 years. When asked how she describes her role as program coordinator, she used the words “engage,” “connect” and “make a difference.”

“CBI’s initiatives,” Foard explains, “try to equip leaders with information about themselves and about the community so that they develop a new skill set that helps them to be more inclusive and equitable.”

CBI has several events throughout the year, but these three distinct programs make CBI a moving force within the community:

Leadership Development Initiative

Photo 2 Credit CBI

Fast facts about LDI

  • Participants are senior staff within established organizations
  • Currently on Class 15
  • 400 alum
  • Focus on bringing more diversity and inclusion to the organizations for which they work or volunteer
  • Emphasize the influence seasoned leaders have on their organizations and community
  • Discuss civic responsibility, organizational leadership and long term goals

Notable LDI alums include Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department chief Kerr Putney, county manager Dena Diorio, assistant city manager Hyong Yi, Charlotte Chamber president Bob Morgan and Knight Foundation program director Charles Thomas.

Leaders Under 40

After a CBI board member recognized that up-and-coming leaders needed something to expose them to similar topics and ideas that LDI covered, Leaders Under 40 (LU40) was born.

Photo 3 Credit CBI

Facts about LU40

  • Participants are emerging leaders under the age of 40
  • Currently on Class 5
  • 160 alumni
  • Nomination process for selection – supervisors nominate staff who would benefit from program
  • Curriculum based program with monthly 1 ½ hour sessions
  • Facilitator-led discussions, participants expected to participate and dialogue
  • Topics discussed include leadership style, health care and education
  • Opportunity to connect with high profile leaders through a “speed dating” session


Photo 4 Credit CBI (1)

Notable LU40 Alumni include county budget director Michael Bryant, 2014 Teacher of the Year James Ford, Morehead Hospital CEO Dana Weston, Mecklenburg County District Court judges Donald Cureton and Elizabeth Trosch.

Community Bus Tour

Photo 5 Credit CBI

In 2010, CBI’s leadership team took a bus tour through Center City, East Charlotte and West Charlotte. Bishop Claude Alexander asked the group, “What’s in the ground?”  This phrase, now associated with CBI, asks participants to look at what issues have been pushed aside or need to be addressed for the good of the community.

By 2011, CBI retained a grant from the Arts and Science Council to fund monthly tours. These popular tours were named “Charlotte in Black, White & More…” and closed with a facilitated dialogue. That grant ended in 2015, and CBI is in the process of seeking funding for 2016.

Check out the CBI website here for more information about nomination process, programs and events.

Photos: CBI