Dianne English believes that embracing the values of inclusion and racial equity are vital for a community and its institutions.
As the executive director of the non-profit Community Building Initiative (CBI), she is working to bring that goal to life in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
“All of this work has a lot to do with the concept of transformation – how we are transformed as individuals and how we can be a part of transforming networks or systems,” she said.
Since joining CBI in 1997, English has been a strong and consistent voice for inclusion and diversity within the community’s organizations and institutions.
“These are values which make sense,” she said. “Engaging everyone in meaningful, respectful ways and ensuring equality of opportunity makes common sense, business sense and moral sense.”
To help foster leadership commitment and skills for individuals and organizations in the area, in 2001 she and CBI supported the launch of the Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) which, through 2018, has involved approximately 450 individuals from over 30 key community organizations. In 2011 CBI and English launched the year-long Leaders Under 40 program which has equipped over 300 young professionals and community leaders to connect across differences to lead and serve.
English was born in Easton, MD, and spent most of her childhood moving between New York and Illinois and Washington, D.C. She began her higher education at Emory University in Atlanta, later transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education.
Over the past two decades, English has found that leading CBI combines not only her professional life but engages her passions, as well.
“CBI has not only given me the opportunity to stay connected to a core issue that has personal relevance for me but also to merge my work life with values I hold,” she said. “It has made a difference for me, and hopefully I’ve been able to make a difference in small, medium and large ways.”
English, who says she is engaged in “needle-moving work,” realizes that growing the community commitment and capacity she hopes for will take time, but she is not discouraged, but rather energized by the commitment of many within the CBI network and family.
“I have no illusions that the goals I seek for the community in which I live will be realized within my lifetime,” she said. “But I want to be part of moving things in what I think is the right direction.”
In 2017, she received the UNC Charlotte Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her work to create a harmonious community where all people feel valued and respected.
English, who has 3 children and 8 grandchildren, considers her family to be one of her greatest personal achievements. She knows she is blessed to have a family that supports her and her work within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community.
— By Imani Jones