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G.O. Williams & Associates


Building organizational capacity and the  next generation of Detroit leaders

With the benefit of over ten years of experience, a strong track-record, local connections, and a clear vision, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice (DWEJ) was poised to grow. Staff, board members, and other stakeholders put together a proposal for an ambitious project which would promote sustainable development, foster the development of green jobs and workforce development, and engage and empower community members to participate in their own neighborhood development. In early 2008, this vision became real when DWEJ formally launched the "Build Up Detroit" program. The project expanded the organization's scope of work substantially; DWEJ eventually increased its staff from two fulltime staff to five fulltime staff and the organization's budget expanded from about $200K per year to nearly $1.2M.


From its inception, DWEJ was committed to incorporating youth into its mission in order to begin to plant the seeds for the next generation of environmental leaders in Southeast Michigan. As the organization expanded, the leadership was faced with a decision: seek to hire experienced managers, perhaps recruiting from outside, or seek to identify and hire young leaders with the potential to grow. The latter approach fit more closely with DWEJ's mission. With only one senior manager on staff, taking on less experienced staff could be a challenge. DWEJ already relied on G.O. Williams & Associates L.L.C. to take on multiple management roles, including representing the organization in policy forums, cultivating donors and writing grants, designing new projects, and advising staff on program implementation.


When time came to staff the Build Up Detroit program, G.O. Williams helped to recruit and hire two early-career professionals to fill roles on the project. Through ongoing direct mentoring, Guy has helped to develop the careers and leadership capacity of multiple young staff members at DWEJ, including two young men who originally came through DWEJ's green jobs training program who are now fulltime staff members.

By building the capacity of young staff members to write grant proposals, develop budgets, shape projects, and guide implementation, G.O. Williams ensures that organizations in SE Michigan continue to have a ready supply of entrepreneurial, innovative, self-motivated leaders who can move projects from vision to reality. One recent college graduate who joined DWEJ in 2008 with no prior program management experience recently developed an initial budget and project proposal and engaged with multiple partners to develop and submit a proposal for a major new project. Guy helped manage the process by walking through the project development steps, serving as a sounding board, and reviewing the progress at key intervals, but by the end of the project, the junior staff member felt confident in her ability to manage the process independently.

In its approach to its projects, G.O. Williams goes beyond providing strategic advice to investing in developing the long-term capacity of its clients and partners. Specifically, G.O. Williams can:

  • recruit and hire new, young talent, matching skill and passion to the requirements of a position
  • mentor existing program staff, improving their confidence and aptitude and helping them to set personal and professional goals
  • teach existing program staff core project management skills, from vision to financing to implementation to evaluation
  • help connect existing staff with key contacts, organizations, and resources that will help in their work and in their personal career development
  • and advise or manage the overall distribution of tasks between the consultant, senior staff and junior staff, in particular, helping to manage the risk of lack of experience versus the opportunity to help younger staff build experience.

More About the Partner Organization: Founded in 1994, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice (DWEJ) has been a leading voice for environmental justice in Southeast Michigan. Through its programs and advocacy, it has helped shape local environmental policy and empowered urban residents to take a meaningful role to address the environmental concerns in their neighborhoods. G.O. Williams & Associates L.L.C. Principal, Guy Williams, helped found DWEJ and continued to build and shape the organization over the past 16 years in a variety of roles from board president to strategic advisor. To learn more about DWEJ and its projects, visit

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"Guy created the opportunity for me to come work in a city I've fallen in love with. Through my role at DWEJ, I've learned so much so fast: how to write successful grant proposals, manage multiple projects, work collaboratively with community partners."

Sandra Yu, Program Manager
Build Up Detroit, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice

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