The Fund's Brad Whitehead to Step Down, Says Room Must be Made for New Leaders

Brad Whitehead - The Fund for our Economic Future
The Fund for our Economic Future
Brad Whitehead
Brad Whitehead, president of The Fund for our Economic Future, has announced that he will step down from the alliance he helped create in 2004. In an announcement Wednesday morning, Whitehead said that he made the decision expressly to make room for new leaders.

The 59-year-old will move into an advisory role by March, 2020, after the announcement of the organization's next president, and will also serve as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program.

"This was not an easy decision for me; I love what I do and I love this community," Whitehead said in a statement provided to the media. "But it is absolutely the right time. I believe we are falling short of our potential as a region in part because we are not allowing sufficient space for generational leadership. We will benefit from fresh perspectives, fresh ideas, fresh culture."

Whitehead has shepherded the Fund — an alliance of 30 regional funding organizations — through 15 years of regional research and economic development strategy. In 2018, the Fund published its Two Tomorrows report, the first local economic development road map which centered racial equity in its prescriptions for improving the region's outcomes.

At last year's infamous "Dead Last" speech by Jon Pinney at the City Club, Whitehead was one of eight white male leaders called upon by name to step up and more assertively lead.

Whitehead's response has been an elegant one — to lead by making space for others. Shortly after Pinney's speech, he publicly acknowledged the embarrassment of being among the white males listed.

He wrote in a follow-up blog post that there had been "a palpable, growing expectation (horror?) in the room that the list would end where it did." He suggested at the time that the named leaders all nominate a non-white-male to lead on their behalf, and "to enable these emerging leaders by placing the full weight of our influence behind them."

Whitehead has now done all these men one better. Not only did he forego a leadership role in Cleveland Rising, one of the "grand challenges" envisioned in Pinney's speech, to make room for younger, more diverse voices there. (In fact, Whitehead was the only leader to speak with protesters outside the headquarters at a planning summit in December.) But he has now actually surrendered his presidency, at the organization he founded, to do the same.

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