To Our Members and Friends:

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Anniversaries are all about celebration. They are also a perfect time for reflection on where we have been, reaffirmation of what we believe, and renewal of our commitment to educate and connect leaders and facilitate important, nonpartisan conversations on critical community issues.

So it was in the past year as we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Leadership St. Louis program and the 20th anniversary of the founding of FOCUS St. Louis. With nearly 400 more graduates from our seven leadership programs, we have now trained more than 10,000 regional leaders throughout our history. Those leaders continue to describe our programs as transformative, and the fact that our programs are continually over-subscribed further validates the value we bring to the region.

Our accomplishments extend well beyond leadership training, as the stories, facts and figures in this annual report detail. Whether it’s engaging young professionals through Connect St. Louis, shining a spotlight during What’s Right With the Region on those working to improve our community, or facilitating community conversations on issues ranging from food deserts to the status of women and girls in our region to the City of St. Louis mayoral race, we broaden awareness and understanding and inspire citizens to take action.

This moment in our history has also been a time of evaluation and evolution for FOCUS. We are undertaking a comprehensive process to articulate our outcomes, with an eye to learning what more we can be doing. Our goal is to develop performance metrics for our programs that will help guide our work going forward.

During this time of political polarization and heightened tensions, we aim to enlarge our role in civic engagement through a web-based Citizens Toolkit and partnerships with other organizations striving to increase civic participation. Our Impact Fellows recently released a Catalyst Toolkit that small groups of individuals may use to facilitate structured discussions around racial equity.

As we continue to evolve and enhance our many programs, our mission remains true. We continue to educate leaders at all levels, build leadership capacity for a stronger region, and build networks for stronger collaboration. That has been our calling since FOCUS was started in 1996, and it remains even more important today.

Of course, we could not do any of this work without the support and encouragement of our many friends, members and partners. Thanks especially go to Tim Eby, our outgoing board president, for his leadership and wisdom. Special thanks are due to MasterCard for their support of our Coro Women in Leadership Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program, to Boeing for supporting Youth Leadership St. Louis, to Kemper Foundation and the Missouri Foundation for Health who support our Impact Fellows, and to RGA for its generous gifts to the recipients of our 2017 What’s Right With the Region awards. In addition, we are grateful to the 314 regional leaders who took the time to meet with our leadership program participants, and to the hundreds of FOCUS members and other contributors who make our work possible.

With the celebrations over, we are renewed in our commitment to helping make St. Louis a thriving region. I look forward to working with all of you toward this goal.

Yemi Akande-Bartsch, Ph.D.
President & CEO