Each year since 2010, the American Express NGen Leadership Award has recognized one distinguished leader 40 or younger who has improved lives in diverse communities and inspired us with bold visions for a better tomorrow. Here’s a look at the first four of eight total leaders Independent Sector had the fortune of recognizing with this prestigious award. Now through Friday, May 25, we are accepting nominations for a prolific changemaker to add to this list as the 2018 awardee.
2010 | Darell Hammond
Most folks who followed KaBOOM! founder Darell Hammond’s career before he handed off the day-to-day management reins to James Siegal in 2015 are probably familiar with a story, but it bears retelling. Hammond launched KaBOOM! in 1996 after reading a story in the Washington Post about two small children—a four-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother—who suffocated while playing in an abandoned car. Their neighborhood in Southeast Washington, DC didn’t have a playground. When Hammond himself was four, he and his siblings were placed in a group home—his mother unable to care for her children after his father abandoned them. But the group home was on a thousand-acre facility in northern Illinois—something Hammond pinpoints as pivotal in his own development despite his inauspicious beginnings. Hammond left the now 22-year-old organization in mid-2016 to join his wife on a PeaceCorps assignment that began early in the same year.
2011 | Ai-jen Poo
Coincidentally, 1996 was an important year for both our first and second NGen Leadership Award recipients. For Hammond, it marked the start of KaBOOM!. For Ai-jen Poo, it was the first year she—then a fresh Columbia University grad—began organizing domestic workers. Poo’s name has become among the most recognized of U.S. women activists in the years since she was formally recognized with the NGen Leadership Award. She received the award on the heels of championing a major legislative victory in 2010—the nation’s first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. In 2014, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. Most recently, the Pittsburgh-born, Taiwanese-American was among the women activists who accompanied marquee-name actresses on the red carpet for the 2018 Golden Globes Award Ceremony. Though she’s been organizing domestic workers for a quarter of a century, Poo’s has become something of a household name as issues of gender inequity have come into national focus.
2012 | Jeff Edmondson
Jeff Edmondson founded StriveTogether in 2006. Then, the fledgling nonprofit consisted of 300 local organizations in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky logging improvements in 40 of 53 measured outcomes for improving education. Two years before Edmondson was honored with the NGen Leadership Award (2010), StriveTogether became a national initiative. Edmondson stepped down from the helm of the nonprofit about a year ago to become managing director at The Ballmer Group, but not before expanding StriveTogether’s network to 73 communities. Last August, shortly after transitioning into his role at Ballmer, Edmondson joined Annie E. Casey Foundation Executive Vice President and Chief Program Officer Lisa Hamilton (also a member of the IS board) on the foundation’s CaseyCast. During the conversation, Jeff detailed some of the lessons about deploying data to improve outcomes for kids and families during his 12-year tenure at StriveTogether.
More on Jeff:
- Jeff Edmondson on Creating Collective Impact to Support Kids
August 2017 | Annie E. Casey Foundation CaseyCast
- It’s About Results at Scale, Not Collective Impact
March 2017 | Stanford Social Innovation Review
2013 | Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson has led Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute (WMI) since 2007. Weill Institute is the education and social impact arm of New York City’s 127-year-old performing arts venue, Carnegie Hall. Collectively, its programs reach hundreds of thousands of people each year in New York City, across the US, and around the globe. Johnson herself grew up playing oboe, per her teacher’s encouragement that she had “the right personality” for the instrument. She shared more about the role of music in her childhood earlier this year when she joined Bill McGlaughlin for an episode of “Exploring Music,” a program by Chicago’s classical and folk radio station WFMT. Johnson originally hails from Illinois, and left for New York to continue her musical education at Julliard. In her conversation with McGlaughlin, Johnson discusses what was initially a tough transition from rural Illinois to the bustle of New York City, as well as the frustration she felt, that as a musician, she had limited opportunities to also work on social issues she cared about. Her journey eventually led her squarely to the education and administration side of music, and ultimately to her role at Carnegie Hall’s WMI.