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Communities that KARE: Jugaad Leadership Program

A local program is training people from diverse cultures and backgrounds to become leaders and change makers in central Minnesota.

ST. CLOUD, Minnesota — Jugaad is a Hindu word that means innovation. That is exactly what the Jugaad Leadership Program is and does. It's an innovative way to introduce new voices to Central Minnesota's government offices. 

Eunice Adjei founded the program in 2015 because she saw a need to have representation for people of color.

"The program trains and mentors the next generation of minority leaders by placing them on boards and commissions, as well as connecting them to resources which they might otherwise not know of," explained Adjei.

Participants spend seven months developing leadership and organization skills; they learn to leverage community assets and resources, and strengthen their strategic thinking and planning.

There are even greater benefits, according to Adjei. She described, "The program bridges the economic gap based on racial diversity, disparity, by [helping] emerging leaders of color to work in leadership positions, volunteer, and being at a decision making table; to allow for equitable access to resources." 

The current establishment is embracing the change; often serving as mentors to these emerging leaders. St. Cloud's Chief of Police and mayor are two enthusiastic supporters.

"Learning about other people's culture, even bringing them together to experience their ethnic background, the food, the language, is something that they enjoy and they do appreciate, because it's like celebrating and diversity," said Adjei.

With 50 graduates of the program, you can see a shift at the grassroots level. These emerging leaders are serving on the United Way board, the police citizenship and review board, and the charter commission board.

"They have a global perspective, so this all helps.  And I would say, I mean now, the world needs more diversity and bringing people together. It's a good thing. We all do better when we all do better," exclaimed Adjei.

The pandemic is also allowing the program to branch out. While the course is being conducted virtually, people from all over the state are encouraged to apply.