By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Executive Development Institute (EDI), which provides leadership training for multiethnic individuals, has navigated its way through the pandemic despite its programs being in-person interaction and networking.
EDI was founded by Ted Yamamura in 1994. While working at Boeing, Yamamura recognized that there were many Japanese Americans that had the qualifications to be promoted within the company, but were not. Under the direction of the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce, EDI was created to help combat the underrepresentation in corporate America. The program expanded to include all Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities and in 2009, EDI launched its Hispanic-relevant curriculum.
EDI boasts over 1,100 alumnus of the program—many of which return to assist with programming.
Its value statement indicates that it offers real-time leadership solutions to companies and organizations seeking leaders equipped with cross-cultural insights and business savvy to manage global strategies and to connect with diverse markets.
EDI focuses on two key programs during the year. The first being ‘Leadership Navigation.’ which brings together 8-12 individuals. The program focuses on developing leaders within the API community. Its curriculum facilitates the building of leadership skills while utilizing cultural values drawn from each individual’s background.
The second is ‘Leadership Discovery,’ which focuses on a self-reflection to explore how culture, racial identity, and life experiences shape assumptions, behaviors, and beliefs. This program is open to more individuals.
“The main program kicked off in February. However, once the shutdown began, we immediately took it online,” said Executive Director Marci Nakano of the Leadership Navigation program. As Nakano explained, the initial meeting for this year’s participants occurred in person. “Everyone bonded and got to know each other.” The rest of the program was done online with everyone meeting once a month.
EDI’s second program, ‘Leadership Discovery,’ was postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic.
Nakano stated that EDI will be going virtual with all its programming in 2021.
“It was easier to make the decision upfront,” she explained. “We redesigned the curriculum in virtual form in mind based on what we’ve learned this year.”
In order to maintain contact with professionals seeking ways to improve themselves through the program, EDI conducted “mini-sessions” for young professionals seeking leadership development. Nakano indicated that alumni of the programs have stepped up to offer sessions over Zoom. EDI has also put together virtual ‘happy hours’ and ‘pop-up classes,’ which continues the goal of the organization to have professionals continue to develop their leadership skills. Although these programs are shorter, it helps EDI maintain its vision for professionals who are navigating this turbulent time in corporate America.
“We’ve been busier than normal because everything is so new,” Nakano said. “When we needed to work on our curriculum, it was pretty easy but [going] virtual, there are so many components to consider.” EDI received a lot of input about its online programming and used that to continue to shape it. “Now, we are redesigning it and it has taken time to do it.” Nakano mentioned that due to the pandemic, businesses, professionals’ needs have evolved and EDI has worked with the feedback it has received to properly address concerns.
In addition to professional development, EDI held workshops for alums of the programs which centered around COVID-19 and anti-Asian racism. EDI also held workshops on Black Lives Matter. The discussions were candid and emotional on these subjects.
As with many nonprofit organizations, the revenue streams and fundraising have shifted from its usual course of business. Nakano stated that EDI received a Personal Paycheck Protection loan through the Small Business Administration as it maintains two full-time staff.
Fundraising for EDI went online. Normally, the organization hosts an annual fundraiser where people meet, network, and give to the organization. ‘EDI Transformed’ was the organization’s virtual fundraising efforts, which included an online auction on its Facebook page. People logged on to place bids, sign up for ‘pop-up classes,’ and donate to EDI.
For more information on EDI, visit ediorg.org.
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.