The Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative has selected Aqua Porter as its next executive director. Porter had served as interim director since May.
“Aqua is exactly what this coalition needs right now. We already have a group of community leaders who are working together and beginning to see real change. Her experience leading complex teams, her change management skills and her passion for equity will solidify the gains we’ve made,” said RMAPI co-Chairmen Daan Braveman and Jerome Underwood in a statement Tuesday. “She will help build the culture of results and accountability that we need to ensure we continue on the path to a community that has equity of opportunity for all our neighbors. During her interim role, we’ve had a chance to see her in action and couldn’t be more optimistic about our future as a result.”
Since May, Porter has forged strong bonds and working relationships with the members of the coalition and the backbone staff that supports it, officials noted. She brings decades of experience in a variety of roles at General Motors Corp. and Xerox Holdings Corp., including 17 years in vice president roles at Xerox in Rochester. She has a lifelong commitment to equity and justice, evidenced by numerous awards and serves on multiple community boards.
The RMAPI coalition is a collective impact effort comprising 30 organizations working toward the common goal of eliminating poverty and increasing self-sufficiency. Coalition members include local, state and federal government, nonprofit organizations, funders, area employers, education leaders and community members who bring contextual expertise to the group’s decision making.
In its first five years, the coalition has made significant strides, officials said. Members developed a shared strategy focused on workforce development and basic needs. Under the leadership of former Director Leonard Brock, the group began to address both the short-term needs of communities struggling with poverty and the longer-term systemic changes needed to change the community’s trajectory.
Advocacy has emerged as a strategy RMAPI can use effectively, according to Tuesday’s statement. An unprecedented level of cooperation across sectors and among community members has led to some significant gains, on both the short and long-term priorities.
A seven-member search committee made up of RMAPI’s co-chairs and members of the Steering Committee, including people with lived experience of poverty, committed to finding the coalition’s next leader. A search consultant identified more than 150 candidates nationwide who were vetted by the search committee.
The Steering Committee voted unanimously to approve Porter as the new executive director at its meeting on Nov. 30.
“I have been so impressed with the work of the coalition and the backbone staff during the past few months,” Porter said. “It’s humbling to take on this role and responsibility for our community, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Eliminating poverty is a community challenge that can be solved by working together collectively to transform systems, policies and practices that have stymied us for decades. There is no silver bullet. But I am truly excited about what I know we will be able to accomplish together, with a focus on results and accountability.
“Justice demands nothing less of all of us.”