Adjustments to Leadership Gwinnett Program Amidst
COVID-19 Pandemic

Few would have predicted the widespread impact COVID-19 would have on our state, nation and world. In a matter of months, almost every facet of life has been challenged forcing individuals and organizations to adapt to new ways of thinking and operating. In Gwinnett County and the region, Leadership Gwinnett alumni are leading and innovating in their organizations as well as contributing to relief efforts for those most impacted by the pandemic. Indeed, leadership is needed now more than ever, and the following is an update on how Leadership Gwinnett is adjusting to the current environment while remaining steadfastly committed to its vision and mission.

When Governor Kemp issued the “shelter in place” order in March, Leadership Gwinnett staff and volunteers quickly adapted to deliver programs virtually. Over 600 alumni participated in virtual Behind the Scenes events, and the final learning day of the 9-month annual program as well as the spring retreat pivoted to virtual format. The most sacred and inspiring elements of graduation remained, and it was a heartfelt and moving experience for the Class of 2020 – forever dubbed “The Most Resilient Class Ever!”

Thanks to a talented and committed staff and volunteer team, Leadership Gwinnett successfully adjusted to the new environment. Building upon these successes, we now look to the coming year. Glance Gwinnett and Alumni programs will be offered virtually because these programs and content are more conducive to an online format. The goals and objectives of the annual program, however, are different and more difficult to achieve virtually. In July, a working group comprised of staff and key volunteers convened to discuss options and bring forward a recommendation to the Leadership Gwinnett Foundation Board of Directors.

At a Special Called Meeting on August 4th, the Board received the working group’s recommendation. After careful consideration, the Board voted to support the suspension of the 9-month Annual Program until August 2021. As alumni of this program know, in-person interactions and group experiences are essential to building trust and developing lasting relationships, and a virtual experience may compromise the ability to achieve program goals and objectives. Class of 2021 participants received notification yesterday and received an option to defer to the Class of 2022 that begins August 2021 (preferred) or receive a tuition refund and reapply at a later time. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and all participants, thus far, have selected to defer to the Class of 2022.

Additionally, the Board supported the working group’s recommendation to expand the Alumni Program with a new offering. Consistent with Leadership Gwinnett’s mission, this program will educate participants on today’s most pressing issues and activate participants in ways that spark deeper civic involvement. Clearly, there is much to be considered and many questions to be answered, but developing a new offering allows us to revisit recommendations and results from the Center for Creative Leadership study (2011) and Deloitte StepUP projects (2018 and 2019.) As well, there is potential to build upon or possibly dovetail with a new federal funded initiative “Leaders Advancing an Equitable Culture in Gwinnett: Post COVID Civic Involvement.” Expanded programming intends to target all alumni and, when possible, participants accepted into the Class of 2021. Program planning is in its infancy, and if you are interested in contributing or sharing ideas, please reach out to Lisa Zaken / 770-232-8803 for more information.

Leadership Gwinnett’s vision is a thriving community sustained by an inclusive network of empowered leaders. While new initiatives require time, energy and a reallocation of resources, now is the time to “lean in” to leadership! We welcome your support and involvement as we move forward to bring this timely and expanded programming to life.


Renee Byrd-Lewis
Board Chair
Leadership Gwinnett Foundation