A 2022 BostInno Startup to Watch has partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to create a new educational fellowship.
GenUnity, a civic education nonprofit, and Blue Cross are launching a program to support the growth and impact of Boston’s next generation of civic leaders. The program will be called the “Andrew Dreyfus Community Fellowship,” named after the outgoing president and CEO of Blue Cross.
GenUnity said the new fellowship builds on its three-month development program. After launching in 2020, GenUnity has brought together business professionals sponsored by companies such as Blue Cross, nonprofit employees, and community members in 10-week cohorts. The goal is to share lived experiences and learn about the systems and power structures that cause inequities in areas like health equity and housing. The goal is for participants to turn what they’ve learned into action plans to tackle issues important to them and their communities.
“It feels like this movement and this belief that as businesses, we need to have not just a deep understanding of community, but actually be in relationship with folks. And that’s something that isn’t just an executive-level thing,” Jerren Chang, GenUnity’s co-founder and CEO, told BostInno. “There’s so much opportunity there if employees can bring that level of intentionality and that compassion and sense of community into the work.”
Chang said Dreyfus was the right namesake for this partnership because of his work making the community a key stakeholder at Blue Cross.
“His legacy is a perfect fit for how we think about our work. He came from the foundation side of Blue Cross to become the business side CEO and has really thought deeply about how do we continue to embed equity and continue to be proximate to community…to support the core business,” Chang said.
Dreyfus spent 12 years running the state’s largest health plan. During his tenure at Blue Cross, he helped establish value-based payments, took on a number of health equity initiatives and led efforts through the Covid-19 pandemic. In October, Dreyfus spoke to the Business Journal about his health care career and next steps.
“GenUnity is an incredible organization that is helping create the next generation of community-focused, empathic and collaborative leaders,” Dreyfus said in a statement. “I am honored to be a part of their work and excited to see how these leaders will make Boston a healthier and more just place to live and work.”
Chang said one past program participant was a legislative aide who learned about research at Suffolk Law School focused on bias in the rental market. She partnered with the researchers and her boss to introduce state legislation to mitigate that bias, Chang said. Other participants have been VPs at local banks who went on to create first-time homebuyer programs in different languages. A Blue Cross employee who completed GenUnity’s program is working on a project at the company around increasing cultural competency for in-network behavioral health providers, Chang said.
The goal of this new fellowship is to provide leaders from diverse backgrounds the chance to continue their journey beyond the three-month program. Benefits extended to those in this fellowship include additional seed funding, community-building events and direct connections to community and civic leaders.
“If the 10-week community leadership program that we’ve been doing, our flagship program, is the civic bootcamp, where folks learn the exercises they need to be deeply engaged in their community, then the flip side of that is how do you provide the civic gym. The kind of ongoing space for people to come together, see their friends, continue to be inspired, share their progress and what they’re learning,” Chang said.
The Andrew Dreyfus Community Fellowship is open to participants from any GenUnity cohort from 2020 through 2025. GenUnity is also accepting applications for its next health equity program, which will also kick off in the spring of 2023.
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