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July 25, 2013 | Erica Lock

New Fellows Retreat: Laying a Foundation for Support and Growth

Last week the 2013 Echoing Green Global and Black Male Achievement Fellows gathered in New York for the annual New Fellows Retreat. Thirty-seven individuals, working in fields ranging from STEM education in the US, to SMS-payment-activated solar home lighting systems in Kenya, to technology for transparency in labor conditions across Asia, came together over five days to connect with each other and with the Echoing Green community.

While the Fellows are connected by their thirst for social change, the Fellowship Program recognizes that they are each at different stages professionally and personally. Over the course of the week, the workshops and sessions provided learning opportunities about the resources available within the Fellowship Program, with an emphasis on the customized support they will receive. Fellows engaged in exercises that helped them identify their goals, both in their careers and their personal lives, and then analyzed their current status, their future milestones, and the work needed to get there. Throughout our Brain Trust sessions, the Echoing Green community at-large demonstrated to be an asset to the Fellows’ organizational growth as well, offering feedback and ideas for sustaining the early-stage social entrepreneurs through the challenges of scaling their impact. Most importantly, Fellows came away from the retreat with a deep sense of camaraderie within their cohort.

“The Global and Black Male Achievement Fellows will receive financial, technical, and leadership support from Echoing Green, but the community they form here unites them in what often feels like a solitary journey,” says Decker Ngongang, who manages the Open Society Foundations Black Male Achievement Fellowship at Echoing Green. “The New Fellows Retreat is a key moment for these innovators to foster those relationships that connect them in their work, and perhaps even for the rest of their lives.”

A highlight of the retreat was the Newman’s Own Foundation Luncheon hosted at the Manhattan offices of Open Society Foundations. During the luncheon, Echoing Green’s Senior Vice President Lara Galinsky interviewed Lisa Walker, Managing Director of Newman’s Own Foundation. The discussion covered topics ranging from industry trends to lessons learned while working in philanthropy. The Fellows were particularly interested in Lisa’s advice for those seeking philanthropic funding. Lisa made the following suggestions:

  1. Network: Networking opens doors, and will help you stand out in the field. 
  2. Do your homework: Identify prospective funders based upon where you fit into their portfolio.
  3. Pay attention to detail: Refrain from sending those late-night emails. Take the opportunity to check and double check your work.
  4. Have clean, compelling and brief packaging: Have a well-rehearsed elevator speech that covers why you are doing what you are doing, and the results you hope to generate.

Jan Schaefer, Director of Communications at Newman’s Own Foundation, reflected on the innovation and drive of the 2013 Fellows. “I was in a Brain Trust session where a woman had gotten her patent in the seventh grade—I think back to what I was doing at that time and it is so intimidating to be around such smart and wonderful people doing some fabulous things. The leadership that they show is just incredible; I am so happy to be a part of that, and very proud to be a part of Newman’s Own Foundation, working with Echoing Green.” Check out the photo slideshow to see highlights from the 2013 retreat.