Director, Community Building & Engagement
While in graduate school, on a short-term assignment in the Dominican Republic, Bernadette Orr discovered her passion for bringing resources to people and communities ready to become their own agents of change. She explains, “I felt at home with the local people. I was so impressed with their generosity, commitment, and vision for their communities.” This initial experience has led her to a 25 year career in domestic and international community development, working on such issues as sustainable agriculture, farmworker rights, women’s economic development, grassroots leadership development and organizational capacity building.
At NeighborWorks America, Bernadette assists local residents through the Community Building & Engagement Program. “The joy of this job,” she says “is knowing we’ve made a difference in helping residents achieve change on the ground.”
In her role as program director, she helps ensure that community engagement and resident leadership development efforts are supported across the NeighborWorks network. During her tenure, she has helped grow the NeighborWorks network member participation in the program from under 20% to 50% (or from45 organizations to 125 today)
Bernadette also manages the annual Dorothy Richardson Resident Leadership Awards, which are a tribute to the Pittsburgh resident leader who effectively catalyzed the creation of the NeighborWorks network in the 1960s. “The awards highlight all that can be achieved by resident leaders, and remind us that resident engagement is key to NeighborWorks’ mission and identity,” she says.
Immediately before joining NeighborWorks America, Ms. Orr managed Oxfam America’s Gulf Coast Program, a community development response to ensuring local voice and perspective in the rebuilding effort following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These experiences brought her to the NeighborWorks America team and she continues to support NeighborWorks America’s Gulf long-term recovery efforts. Bernadette holds a Masters in International Relations (Latin American Studies) from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.