Kwayera Archer-Cunningham is a social venture and non-profit administrator coach, specializing in social transformation and organizational development, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship. She has 35 years of experience in the arts.
When Archer-Cunningham, a trained dancer, returned to Flatbush, she was struck by the dearth of high-quality arts opportunities for residents. “I was convinced that for the community’s young people to succeed in life, they need to develop a strong sense of their own identity,” she says.
Both of those goals intersected in the community arts organization that she founded, Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy.
The name of the academy, now over 25 years old, comes from the Yoruba world “ifetayo,” which means: love is enough for joy. Two years ago, the White House honored the Ifetayo Youth Ensemble with a 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award.
Archer-Cunningham led this organization for more than 25 years. Since 1989, under her leadership as CEO, she was able to increase capacity from one teacher with a minute budget to 10 full-time staff members, 33 part-time faculty members and organized a 19-member Board of Directors. More than 20,000 youth have been served through Ifetayo’s programming.
She personally witnessed the power of her programming. Through Ifetayo’s programs and with staff and the Ifetayo community, one young severely traumatized girl was able to heal and now, as a college graduate, has gone on to help other girls who have experienced similar trauma.
In 2014, Archer-Cunningham decided to bring her skills home to Jamaica and the broader Caribbean region, leaving her past organization equipped with an annual multimillion dollar budget and a steadily growing cash reserve, as well as nationally recognized programs, management and evaluation systems.
She has raised more than $40 million in support of local programs, capacity building efforts, and general operations. She has designed and led organizational development workshops including the U.S. Department of State – Office of International Visitors for the Bureau of Education for organizations from 25 countries.
Archer-Cunningham designs programs, conferences and training for non-profit leaders and communities. Some of the results are heightened self-awareness and confidence for youth and adults, improved health, increased financial literacy, and academic success benefiting themselves and their communities.
Most notably, she has created an internationally recognized Rites of Passage Program for adolescents and families. A component of the program is dedicated to economic development in under resourced communities and is being formally evaluated for broader replication.