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Norman Bent


Consortium of Hispanic Agencies

1211 Trumbull
Detroit, Michigan 48216
After two decades as an administrator at Wayne State University, Norman Bent decided to take a year sabbatical. But he wasn’t idle for long. Through his involvement in southwest Detroit’s Latino community, he was soon tapped to lead the Consortium of Hispanic Agencies, and a new career was born.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Consortium of Hispanic Agencies Executive Director Norman Bent: A leader is a good listener, one who doesn’t just process the information and then not do anything. A leader is flexible and understanding of the needs of the community. A leader is always willing to accept his or her weaknesses and to see them as opportunities. It’s someone who takes a stand when needed, and that stand will benefit others.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream is that our kids are healthy, that they feel safe, and that they’re educated to the optimum level. I wish that every child would feel valued. There are systemic policy issues within our school systems… Children who don’t speak English are often put into Special Ed classes rather than given the resources they need. I’d like to see all kids reading at or above their
Children who don't speak English are often put into Special Ed classes rather than given the resources they need.
grade level. I want kids to get all the services they need across all areas -- hunger, home issues, etc. -- and have all the necessary tools they need to have a chance to be a child.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
We need to figure out how to create better processes for distributing funding: there’s money for programs, but very little for operational costs. There also needs to be an understanding that change takes time; organizations want instant results, but attitudes and behaviors don’t change overnight. On top of that, foundations sometimes want too much of a say; they need to be more flexible. Of course, there needs to be accountability on our end, but they need to step back and let us answer the question “How do we best do our work?”
How do you know you’re making progress?
CHA is really working to change perceptions to emphasize the importance of collective work. People are still making up their minds about it, but we are working to develop a sense of trust and transparency. When I see that we’re moving in that direction, I feel good. Collective impact requires you to devote 10 to 15 percent of your time to the collective work, so I also feel progress is being made when we can manage our time in a conscientious and intentional way to balance our own jobs
My advice to kids would be first and foremost to get their education. Learn as much as you can [at school], but also realize that you can learn things from your own community that you can't learn in books.
with the larger goals of the group.
What are you most proud of?
Of this work… it’s a challenge, and sometimes I think, “Oh my gosh, what am I doing?” It’s not a nine-to-five job, and there are times when it’s difficult, but I’m proud to see it progress. We’ve collectively applied for grants. I feel very positive about this; we haven’t done that before. We’ve also taken a collective stand on some policy issues such as air quality, so that’s a great accomplishment.
In speaking with younger people who are interested in careers in the social sector, what advice would you give?
My advice to kids would be first and foremost to get their education. Learn as much as you can [at school], but also realize that you can learn things from your own community that you can’t learn in books. Be humble, flexible, and willing to absorb as much as you can; then take that knowledge and put it into action. Another piece of advice I’d give is that social sector work is not a nine-to-five job. It takes up a lot of time, and it’s so easy to drain yourself, so you really need to learn to manage your time.
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Program Profile


  • Consortium of Hispanic Agencies
    The Consortium of Hispanic Agencies (CHA) of Southwest Detroit is an entity of community based Latino led organizations working together with other stakeholders promoting effective leadership, advocacy, policy change, and culturally appropriate ...


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