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Partner Spotlight: Genevive Walker

Genevive Walker was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in New Haven. She obtained her BA in Urban Studies with a minor in Education in 1997 from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After obtaining an MA from Columbia University’s Teachers College in 2007, Genevive taught 5th grade in New Haven Public Schools. During her time as a teacher, she also designed youth leadership programs for high school students.

Since 2020, Genevive has been the CEO of Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT). ConnCAT provides job-training programs intended to give unemployed and under-employed adults the skills needed to secure meaningful, well-paying jobs in the health sciences and culinary professions. Previously, she served as the COO for five years and, before that, as the organization’s Program Director.

Q. What was your path to leadership in workforce development?

I’ve always had a passion for urban places. In college, I majored in Geography and Urban Studies, but my focus was always on what happens in urban places and how the challenges there are solved. After graduate school, I taught fifth grade at two New Haven schools, John S. Martinez School and Church Street School. During those years, I also designed programs to address leadership gaps among high school students. Eventually I left teaching and, with others, I began the formation of a nonprofit focused on youth leadership development. During that process, I met Erik Clemons, the CEO of the then recently established ConnCAT, who hired me as the Director of Programs. I haven’t looked back since.

Q. How did you get involved with SVP?

My initial introduction to Social Venture Partners occurred several years ago when Erik Clemons and I met with Mark Argosh and Sylvia Shepard to discuss job training in advanced manufacturing. While ConnCAT decided to pursue other initiatives, I did get a good sense of what SVP was trying to accomplish in terms of establishing more robust workforce development systems in Connecticut.

Then, in the spring of 2019, I was nominated by an acquaintance to participate in the selection process for the Funding Committee of SVP’s Race Equity Fund. The Fund itself was an exercise in participatory grantmaking where I and six others with deep experience in the New Haven and Bridgeport communities worked to select BIPOC-led, community-based nonprofits addressing systems change in a variety of areas. The Funding Committee was responsible for evaluating grants and determining which grants were funded. The Race Equity Fund was an genuine exercise in community engagement and substantive involvement in the decision-making process. It revealed SVP’s real interest in making the best decisions it can in supporting the work of systems change. We committee members also hoped that our work would set an example, a template as it were, for other philanthropies who are interested in greater community involvement.

Q. What expertise and experience do you hope to bring to SVP’s work?

I look forward to bringing my experience in designing and evaluating program effectiveness. Also, I believe that the insight that comes from my experience in the workforce development space will help us evaluate and address the barriers that unemployed and under-employed people face. There is great potential here in New Haven for SVP, especially when it comes to the extent to which SVP can help build capacity and collaborative efforts among workforce development nonprofits here.

Q. What are your aspirations for your involvement with SVP?

I hope that I will be able to help bring SVP’s resources to fledgling or struggling organizations that are doing meaningful and demonstrably effective work. The advisory work that SVP does can be invaluable, as is the power of its network in accessing financial and connecting communities and individuals.

Ultimately, with respect to SVP Partners, I want them to consider the value they bring to the table. You don’t have to be an expert in a given field or sector to make a substantial difference. The wisdom and judgement that come from the professional and lived experiences of SVP Partners can be invaluable assets to organizations.

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