Joseph P. Pratt joined the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newport County as executive director and CEO in January. He had most recently served as deputy treasurer and chief of administration at the Office of the Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo. Before that, he was a senior public affairs professional with Fidelity Investments, and has also worked at Bryant University and United Way.
He is a graduate of Providence College and an alumnus of the organization he now runs.
Pratt, who lives in Newport, talked to Providence Business News about his new role.
PBN: You hold two titles: chief executive officer and executive director. What is the difference between those roles and how will you fulfill them?
PRATT: These titles refer to roles which aren’t really different except in historical references. In the past, the executive director appears to be a term used primarily with nonprofits, while CEO related to for-profit organizations. For the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newport County, there isn’t as much of a distinction. A subtle nuance may relate to the role of executive director as the one to design and execute business plans with responsibility for the day to day operations of the organization. While as CEO, it is to provide the strategic vision and leadership for the organization and staff. Today, the roles are one and the same.
The way I will execute that on the day to day side is to put a business plan together, setting goals and measuring progress for those goals. For leadership and vision, it’s really about engaging staff and all the stakeholders and community members working together to understand the role of the clubs and create an environment in which they’re all participants.
One concrete item we’ll be doing is beginning the strategic planning process with the board of directors.
PBN: You joined the Boys & Girls Club of Newport County in January. What is the most important thing that parents and youth in the Newport County community should know about how you approach the job?
PRATT: My approach will be to focus on the organization’s primary mission, which is to help all youth achieve their full potential. We provide a safe environment where learning and fun are interchangeable. The kids are our focus. I will lead with an emphasis on collaboration and innovation, encouraging our staff to form partnerships to give our kid’s exposure to opportunities they otherwise may have missed. Opportunities include our innovative programs with robotics and technology or exposure to our 95-acre summer camp, complete with our adventure courses, swimming and boating.
PBN: Your agency is celebrating National Boys and Girls Club Month March 23 to 29. What plans do you have in store for participants?
PRATT: Thank you for asking. We have a number of exciting programs planned, including a community open house to welcome the public into our space. In addition, our staff will have Olympic-themed events, Flo Harvey Basketball, Rock Climbing, scavenger hunts, a talent show, swim for members and families, and our youth leadership clubs will conduct community service and neighborhood clean-ups.
PBN: How many members do you have and how do you plan to boost membership this year?
PRATT: We currently serve approximately 250 members per day (1700 members served annually) through our three facilities, including our central location on Church Street in Newport, our Park Holm Clubhouse and our location in Oxbow Farms, as well as our summer camp. Throughout the year, we will welcome new members by offering extended hours and quality programming. Our outreach extends into the schools and neighborhoods and we will be actively partnering with youth groups throughout our community.
PBN: What are the most important services the club provides and where can it improve?
PRATT: The Boys and Girls Clubs of Newport offer a safe, fun place for the kids focused on helping them reach their full potential. We provide programming in health and wellness, academic and career development and character and leadership development.
We provide a much needed service to the community but can always improve. A few areas we will focus on this year include additional emphasis on education and career development, extended hours, and enhancement of our partnerships to serve a larger population of the community.
On the education side, one of the efforts we’re putting focus on is college planning and SAT preparation for teens. We are planning college visits to bring them to different campuses. On the career development side, we work with different partners now. We are bringing in different representatives from different fields, and we’re also working with LifeSpan, the Chamber of Commerce in Newport and the van Bueren Charitable Foundation to attract more young adults and build more opportunities for internships.