Finding Leaders

Renaldo Rivera

CRS Mediator, New York Office

[Full Interview]

Question: How do you identify the leaders?

Answer: All you do is ask the question from a responsive source, which is what CRS used to do in the old days in the South. They'd go into a community cold and have to find who the people of influence were. So you start asking the people closest by. You ask the clergy who has influence. You ask the NAACP, to see if you were able to identify some of those people of influence even if they weren't highly visible in the public providence. Then we went and talked with them and expressed the concern and told them what was going on. They were also able to influence the publisher of the paper because the United Way has this little corporate committee round circle. They were able to talk to the publisher of the paper and that also influenced the nature of the direction that they took with the case. So in identifying the people, you need to talk to a large number of people and what begins to happen is that a smaller subset -- that's the other part of the underlying question -- you need to talk with a wide range of people in the community. You ask, "Who is it that can get things done. Who do you go to get things done in this community? Who else do you go to when those people don't work?" What happens is that you talk to community members, church members, members of municipal departments. And you talk with the private giving community. What begins to emerge is a small cluster of individuals and those are the ones you want to talk with or have other people talk to. That technique and that strategy goes way back to the beginning of CRS. They may not always be lawyers and doctors. They may be in some places where people have coffee, in the homes. Those people of influence exist in each place. A lot of them are unheralded and unsung, but they're there in each community and getting your way to them is through the process I just described.