Northsider appointed to new White House council

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Left: Bill Strickland, founder, president and CEO of the Northside’s Manchester Bidwell Corporation, was appointed to the White House Council for Community Solutions by President Obama in December. (Photo courtesy Manchester Bidwell Corporation)

The Northside now has a voice in the White House.

President Barack Obama recently appointed life-long Northsider and Manchester Bidwell Corporation President and CEO William Strickland to the newly formed White House Council for Community Solutions.

The purpose of the new council is to help solve specific community needs and one of its tasks will be to engage leaders across the nonprofit, corporate and philanthropic sectors and to encourage cross-sector cooperation.

The president wants directions, answers and common sense approaches, Strickland said, not just facts and data. The job of the council will be to provide President Obama with real-life examples of programs that work in solving endemic social issues.

“I was very impacted with the gravity and importance of being picked,” Strickland said.

He sees some of the biggest challenges that communities face in education and the plight of urban youth, and believes Manchester Bidwell’s work in those two areas helped get him appointed to the 25-seat council.

The Bidwell Training Center, for example, works with employers to develop training programs that have a much higher success rate in placing graduates into jobs.

Another major focus of Manchester Bidwell is youth arts, with the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth and Arts program, which provides opportunities for underprivileged youth to explore their creativity.

Obama appointed council members from corporations, nonprofits and charities. Some of the other members are singer/songwriter Jon Bon Jovi, the president of eBay, the vice president of Starbucks and the president/CEO of Goodwill.

To be successful in his new role as community advisor, Strickland will have to extrapolate the strategies he’s used in Manchester Bidwell to other communities.

He doesn’t believe he’ll have too much trouble doing that, as he’s already done it in three communities outside of Pittsburgh.

The National Center for Arts and Technology, one of Manchester Bidwell’s subsidiaries, has centers in San Francisco, Grand Rapids and Cincinnati. All three of those centers replicate the successful models for adult and youth education employed by their parent organization, Strickland said.

“[Those centers] demonstrate we can build a world-class training program that addresses issues of underprivileged youth [and] the unemployed,” Strickland said.

The White House Council for Community Solutions meets for the first time on Feb. 4, and Strickland has already begun thinking about how to address education issues across the nation.

The key, he said, is engaging and working with local public schools and employers, as Manchester Bidwell has done. Although Strickland has proven his strategies work, there is always the question of how to get schools and employers engaged in the organization’s goals and mission.

Now, Strickland is thinking of ways to outline and underscore what Manchester Bidwell has done in Pittsburgh and elsewhere, and translate that into a strategy that communities across the nation can use to achieve the same successes.

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