Socially Responsible

Presidio’s Fort Scott to house new leadership program

Fort Scott is a “post within a post” in a northern corner of the Presidio Photo: Courtesy Presidio Trust

Fort Winfield Scott stands in one of the northernmost spots of the Presidio, where the ocean almost meets the Bay. Its buildings and grounds were once the home of the United States Coastal Artillery. In this setting, a unique but fledgling Presidio Trust program, the National Center for Service and Innovative Leadership (NCSIL), is being created to advance the efforts of those working for the common good.

The site itself is bathed in sunlight and offers spectacular views. There is a sense of remoteness from the rest of the Presidio that almost makes it a “post within a post,” in the words of Clay Harrell, Presidio Trust spokesman.

Fort Scott encompasses several barracks scheduled for rehabilitation, and even has its own Officers’ Club and Main Post. It is a section of the Presidio that lends itself to the development of programs that promote leadership, partnership, and the gathering of those who look toward resolving today’s social challenges, according to Sarah Locher, the Fort Scott project coordinator.

NCSIL has been in the planning stages for several years. There are not only complex federal documentation, filing and often-complex red tape that need to be completed, but also the creation of a council charter and recruitment of council members, along with a permanent director. The director and council positions have been filled, but the 21 historic buildings slated for rehabilitation into classrooms, offices, lodging, and dining and recreational facilities will be key in encouraging partners to locate at Fort Scott.

More important, however, is the recruitment of compatible partnerships to help NCSIL meet its goals. On the cusp of putting NCSIL into action, the program has identified three major objectives:

  • Leadership development: Providing a venue for leaders to meet and talk about the challenges facing the world in the new century.
  • Research: The venue will include a research center and offer means to present results through lectures and public events.
  • Convening: As the words stenciled inside the main building indicate, NCSIL will offer lodging and amenities for leaders to meet and plan in a beautiful and historical setting.

Information that is more specific is unavailable at this time, says Locher, because NCSIL is still in its beginning planning stages, even though the Presidio Trust has been talking about such a program for several years.

One example she provided of a social challenge within NCSIL’s scope would be the school dropout rate in this country. A partnership with an organization whose mission is aimed toward young people could pool resources with other NCSIL groups to address this problem.

Locher points to the goals set for 2012-2013 that include rehabilitating three of the ten historic barracks; creating a founding advisory council; recruiting partners for collaboration in pilot leadership-development courses; developing service-learning programs for local youth; supporting programs for returning veterans; and establishing an organizational structure.

“The success of the NCSIL will depend very much on a partnership-intensive effort,” Locher said. “Much of the past couple of years has been spent speaking with mission-aligned organizations and individuals, both locally and nationally … we’ve had a presence at conferences and events, such as the Conference on Volunteering and Service.”

NCSIL is looking for partners who might sponsor particular programs as well as those who would establish Fort Scott as their venue.

“We have long believed that the beautiful Fort Scott campus should be repurposed to benefit the public in a direct and meaningful way,” said Craig Middleton, executive director of the Presidio Trust. “We owe so much to those who have served their country from the Presidio. What better way to honor them than to create a campus dedicated to building service into the fabric of our nation’s communities.”

NCSIL has selected 11 people so far for its 15-member federal advisory committee: Toby Rosenblatt (chair), Lester Strong, Wendy Spencer, Michelle Nunn, Gloria Johnson-Cusack, Sandra Hernandez M.D., John Gomperts, Stephanie Dimarco, AnnMaura Connolly, Seth Barad, and Karen Baker (vice chair). Each member has a history of contributing to his and her community in a variety of ways.

A founding director, Greg Werkheiser, will begin his duties in January 2013. He most recently served as the executive director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at George Mason University in Virginia.

At the entrance to the center’s main building are white cardboard squares attached to a red cord with comments about NCSIL. One stands out: “For the first time, those who work for the common good have a home, a place where they can share their finest ideas.”

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