Pandemic Response

The pandemic forced everyone to rethink and reimagine what they do and how they do it. We spent the year connecting people to each other and the community by delivering meaningful, engaging programs and events in novel ways and creating new opportunities that provided relevant and timely content to help people navigate through and beyond the pandemic.

The relentless pursuit of innovation


Planning for our annual leadership conference, Spark 2020: Grit to Great, was well underway when the shut-down happened. Within just a few short months, we transformed a 300+ in-person conference into an engaging, interactive, fully virtual experience. The event featured nine sessions on various components of innovative thinking and spotlighted five Fresh Innovators – people and projects tackling community issues through unique approaches.

As the pandemic spiked in late fall, we began to transform Accelerate, our largest event and primary fundraiser, into the virtual world. We turned a one-day event into a week-long experience that allowed attendees to view every single pitch for the first time ever.

The need for innovation continued, as it became obvious by early summer 2020 that hosting the traditional Leadership Cleveland Holiday Party was unlikely. To keep the spirit of the party alive, connect people, and to help raise funds, we launched “Leadership Cleveland Holiday in July” – a collection of simultaneous, small, outdoor gatherings hosted by LC alumni in their backyards.

Appreciating the need to keep leaders connected to one another and informed on key issues, we continued our delivery of “The Way Forward Leader Lunch Break.” The popular series became a weekly staple and continues to connect people with current events, projects, and content experts across a wide variety of topics every Wednesday.


to meet the needs of younger professionals feeling isolated, we hosted a “Cocktails and Cooking with Community Leaders” virtual cooking class in partnership with WKYC. The class was led by Sean Paul, Ohio City Pizzeria, and Michael Bernot (CBB 2020, CLI 2018), West Side Catholic Center. Attendees followed along at-home to make sangria and pizza, connected with each other, with Sean and Michael, and learned about the work of the two organizations.

The OnBoard Class of 2021 found numerous ways to connect outside of their session days including: leveraging a group texting platform to stay connected through each week, a Friday lunch series, and a monthly book club which continued after commencement.

The 2021 Class of Cleveland Bridge Builders also stayed connected outside of session days through a book club and virtual cocktail and mocktail classes.

Leadership Cleveland Class of 2021 members forged bonds in between session days as they hosted several get-togethers to expand on discussions of financial literacy and systemic racism started during session days.

Two of the fully virtual cohorts of the Civic Leadership Institute were provided the opportunity to get together in-person and give back at the same time through group volunteer sessions for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank mass distribution.


Initiated by CLC alumna Natalie Yakunich (OBC 2015), CLC hosted a series of six hikes for alumni in conjunction with the Cleveland Metroparks. Participants were able to get out during the coldest months of the year and connect with their fellow alumni and nature.

In celebration of Southwest Airlines’ 50th anniversary and in recognition of one year of the pandemic, we took part in Southwest’s One Million Acts of Kindness campaign. Throughout the week, we asked our alumni and friends to commit random acts of kindness in honor of special groups (health care workers, those touched by COVID, etc.) and hosted a special Leader Lunch Break series reflecting on 12 months of the pandemic at the time of the one-year anniversary of the shutdown.

– Our Mission –

To build a continuum of civic leaders committed to our community’s excellence by serving as a catalyst for civic engagement.