City Hall Fellows

Mike Rocco from San Francisco, CA

The Project

Founded in 2009, City Hall Fellows (“CHF”) is changing Millenials’ perspectives about the importance of municipal service while ensuring that citizens have the local leaders they deserve for generations to come. The mission of CHF is simple: 1) Engage diverse, talented young people in the work of cities; 2) Empower them to be effective local change agents; and 3) Support their evolution from community oriented student to local citizen leader. As Executive Director, Mike runs all aspects of CHF. A non-partisan program, CHF does not advocate for or encourage big (or small) government as the solution to social problems. It is not trying to create – or sustain – a government welfare state. And, notably, CHF does NOT train politicians. Rather, CHF’s goal is to inspire and empower racially, socio-economically and culturally diverse top recent college graduates to deploy their considerable talents to solve the social problems in their own hometowns. Unlike typical leadership and internship programs, CHF provides a structured, year-long, quasi-academic exploration of municipalities and the local policy eco-system. During their year-of-service, Fellows experience firsthand the impact of local policy decisions on social problems and gain a grounded understanding of the role the local policy process plays in remedying those problems. CHF is the only national service corps focusing exclusively on local government.

The Progress

Taking a huge bet launching amidst the financial crisis – CHF has successfully graduated 75 Fellows (selected from over 1,700 applicants) in 7 cohorts from three cities: San Francisco, Houston, and Baton Rouge. 65% of alumni continue in local public service immediately post-Fellowship. Fellows have saved taxpayers over $10,000,000 by re-designing municipal programs and streamlining municipal services. CHF’s program is simple and designed to scale with curriculum customizable for each city. CHF’s primary goal is to have a national presence at the same level in terms of scope of impact and brand recognition as Teach For America and plans to expand its Fellowship by increasing the number of Fellows at each existing site; adding sites the short-term goal is 5 cities in the next 5 years; and leveraging the Fellowship recruiting season to educate 1,000 college students on local government. While both Houston and Baton Rouge had successful program launches, due to national economic crisis and the impact it had on local government, both programs were subsequently suspended. San Francisco’s program, however, has continued to thrive and gain political/financial stability as Mike has worked with city leaders and others to see the value of the program and to work towards full sustainability. Mike and the Board made the decision to refocus efforts to the Bay Area in order to sustain and expand CHF’s impact. They also recognized the need to reduce costs in order to maximize impact and made the strategic decision to partner w/ Community Partners to take over back-office ops.

The Team

After a successful 25-year long career that included serving as the first full-time Exec. Director of the Calif. 4-H Youth Foundation, Mike wondered if, at age 50, there was something greater in store for him. Then, he heard about City Hall Fellows. The salary – anything but lucrative. The challenge of helping to lead a just-starting social venture – immense. But the promise of making an impact as a changemaker by leading this innovative program inspired Mike. 3 years later, Mike has not only proven to be a bold Program Leader, but his passion led him to be promoted to Executive Director. A strategic leader in times of success. Mike is a humble, yet a truly resilient leader, in the face of challenges. Mike is continually exploring partnerships. Working closely w/city leaders in SF, he convinced them to provide additional funds to support CHF. Mike also negotiated a successful partnership with the SF Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation. Mike has focused on engaging with the community and built alliances w/orgs like New Leaders Council & CEO’s for Cities. Mike’s passion as a social innovator has led him to become not only a part of CHF’s social entrepreneurial adventure, but a key leader in determining its legacy. Mike is helping to make a name for CHF – one city at a time. CHF would greatly benefit from Mike being recognized as a Finding Fearless award recipient to help with its expansion as we work to prepare the next generation of enlightened leaders for America’s cities.

The Fearless Changemaker

My youth was filled with doing “good.” I felt alive when helping the less fortunate, supporting social causes, & leading groups so that other’s voices could be heard. Eating, sleeping and money meant little. Unfortunately, marriage and family demands pushed that aside for the all too familiar “it’s better to do well than do good.” Then I heard about City Hall Fellows, a fledgling organization dedicated to creating the next generation of enlightened leaders for local gov’t. It was a catalytic moment. I knew the challenges faced by cities and wondered I could use my skills and experience to lead young people towards careers that really meant something! YES! But, would my friends think me a fooI for taking this kind of risk? Could I live on 1/3 of what I made as a corporate professional? Could I take this group and make it financially viable? Could I risk “regearing” my life back to service & fulfillment over security? Could I look myself in the eye if I didn’t? 2 ½ years later, I: lead a group of 14 Fellows in S.F. making a difference for the city’s schools, transportation systems, and environment (past Fellows have saved the city millions w/ their innovations; advise the White House, HUD, and cities around the country on creating/managing career-opportunities for young people interested in government; mentor others working on community-service oriented ventures; live a transit-first life-style, work 65-hour weeks; spend my “free” time helping veterans; and couldn’t be happier!

 

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$10k Bonus Grant REI Adventure Trip

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$10k Bonus Grant REI Adventure Trip

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