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'Shame Can Cause Us To Act': Cedric Bobo On How CRE Companies Can Face Their Diversity Problem

In this series, Make Yourself At Home, we are hearing from members of the commercial real estate industry about how they are managing this new reality and gaining insight into their day-to-day approaches. You can subscribe on iTunes and Spotify.

Cedric Bobo and his son, Alexander.

In this week’s episode, we speak to Cedric Bobo, who founded Project Destined, a social impact platform that provides training in financial literacy, entrepreneurship and real estate.

The platform — which has its own e-learning program — forms partnerships with schools, nonprofits and companies to offer training. The aim is to demystify the real estate industry and to show people that they can be part of the development in their neighborhoods.

Brookfield, Westfield, Walker & Dunlop and former baseball All-Star Alex Rodriguez’s A-Rod Corp. are backers of the program, which Bobo started in 2016 in Detroit. Last year, students worked with Brookfield executives volunteering their time to teach them the business at the firm's megaproject in the Bronx. This summer, Project Destined has joined with the Real Estate Board of New York to offer a paid, five-week virtual internship in commercial real estate for 100 CUNY undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds who had missed out on the in-person summer internships because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bobo, who worked for Carlyle Group before founding Project Destined, spoke about the importance of ownership, building real estate’s next pipeline of talent and why companies need a record of their failings and successes with diversity.

“We’ve been lucky because there’s been lots of courageous leaders that have been standing up and making statements, and doubling down on that, there’s going to be some action,” he said. “We need these leaders to quickly follow with programmatic solutions, not haphazard, like ‘I’m going to go and give $1K to my favorite charity' ... You need to look at your internal talent and be able to create programs where you de-mystify how to be successful in your company, so leadership is more reflective of the country that we want.”

He believes companies need to take a close look at their failings on diversity and put metrics in place and report on them.

"Sometimes it’s the shame that can cause us to act on a continued basis,” he said. "So you start with metrics, you start with the problem and then focus on the solution and the metrics you are going to measure yourself by.”