Cultivating Leaders in a Pandemic: BOLD in 2020 and 2021 

The city has spent the better part of a decade partnering with the nonprofit Unite Oregon to cultivate leaders from historically marginalized communities through the Beaverton Organizing & Leadership Development (BOLD) Program. When the pandemic hit, BOLD was about to launch its eighth cohort but was forced to pause and consider if holding the program was even possible. Much of BOLD’s success comes from its format, which is based on a popular educational model that relies on people of diverse backgrounds sharing their stories and physical spaces, eating together, and participating in difficult conversations and activities that require movement.  

Unite Oregon staff followed up with enrolled participants and we delayed the program to transition to a fully virtual format. Six shorter trainings were held (instead of three all-day sessions), with a modified curriculum, virtual binders, and tools like Zoom’s white board. The pandemic emphasized how crucial it was to continue the program. The need to create opportunities for people to build with each other, access resources, and address inequalities that have always existed became even more important.  

Thirty-one individuals graduated from BOLD during the pandemic, including diverse participants ranging from high schoolers to seniors, newly arriving immigrants to folks who have spent most of their lives here, and from established civic leaders to those taking their first steps into engagement with local government.  

The BOLD Program is centered around growing new leaders, connecting to city resources, building cross-cultural relationships, and laying the groundwork for civic engagement. Today, there are over 150 BOLD alumni, many of which have served on city boards and commissions, collaborated on projects, applied for city grants, run for office, and more. For more information, visit