Earlier this year, I announced that this would be my last year at Independent Sector. I have since received an incredible amount of well wishes and kind words and, for that, I am grateful. And while I’m sure I will write you soon with an update on the new CEO search, I want to spend this time to remind you that our commitment to building a healthy and equitable sector and nation will not waver just because Independent Sector is in transition. In fact, it appears our diverse and rich community is more committed than ever to facing the hard conversations and challenges necessary to ensure all people thrive. We are seeing that most recently in the incredible feedback we’ve received in announcing our new Bridging Fellowship.
Generously supported by Walmart, the Bridging Fellows Program provides changemakers in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Dallas the opportunity to strengthen their individual and collective leadership capacity and grow networks to support building healthy and equitable communities. The program focuses on bridging specific areas of division, including ideological, racial, socioeconomic, and geographical.
During this two-year program, Independent Sector will provide Fellows the space, skill-building opportunities, and resources to socialize and embed bridging as a core competency in their organizations and communities. Fellows will learn and share adaptive leadership skills to engage in challenging conversations; solve divisive, complex issues with other people in a constructive manner; and manage positive social change.
So far, the response has been incredible. We’ve received hundreds of emails from national sector changemakers, local community organizers, academics, rural changemakers, faith-based leaders, and journalists — all wanting to be a part of the program. We’ve also heard that changemakers are wishing it could be offered in more regions, so I wanted to clarify that we chose these cities because of deep relationships we’ve already built around our place-based Upswell strategy. Had it not been for the pandemic, we would have held in-person Summits in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Dallas by now. With any luck, we will find ourselves back there again in the future. But in the meantime, we are incredibly honored to host changemakers from those regions in our aim to address the deep divisions that have plagued our country since its founding.
One leader put it this way: “The program looks like a great opportunity to build bridges in plurality to advance and expand the change work needed to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive ecosystems in society. In alignment, it appears to be another great opportunity to share ideas and experiences in a space conducive for collaborative strategy toward reimagining, rebuilding and restoring value of people and places, as well as processes.”
We are taking applications through March 7 and I highly encourage you to share this opportunity with changemakers in your own networks.
We know our country is fragmented and the divisions of hate, mistrust, and misinformation have set a context around so much of our work right now. But I also know that your commitment to our communities and this sector are powerful enough to address all of that. Thank you for walking alongside us and thank you to the community of leaders who have validated the need for our collective, innovative work together.