Celebrating, connecting, and advancing extraordinary leaders.

The Barr Fellowship celebrates exceptional leaders, investing in them and their organizations, and cultivating a network of civic leaders committed to Greater Boston.

Six times since 2005, a diverse group of nonprofit and public sector executives has received an invitation to become a Barr Fellow. Selected for their significant leadership and contributions at their organizations and across our community, Barr Fellows participate in a two-year program, including a group learning journey, a three-month sabbatical, and facilitated retreats with their class of Fellows. Their organizations also receive a significant grant to support leadership and organizational development, and exploratory projects.

To date, the Barr Fellowship has recognized, supported, and connected 68 exemplary leaders from many backgrounds, organizations, and fields.

Meet the Barr Fellows Class of 2017

Program Overview

The Barr Fellowship reflects our core value of investing in effective, visionary, and collaborative leaders who motivate others, drive change, and produce results. Through the Fellowship, the Barr Foundation seeks to advance three goals:

  1. Recognize, reward, and support accomplished leaders by providing an opportunity for personal and professional rejuvenation.
  2. Strengthen organizations by providing resources to develop and enhance leadership across Fellows’ organizations.
  3. Build civic leadership for the region by fostering a strong network of leaders.

In each class of Fellows, the Foundation strives to include a diverse group of leaders whose roles span multiple fields, communities, and types of organizations. Barr Fellows share the following experiences:

  • A ten-day group Learning Journey designed to immerse fellows in a collective, challenging growth experience, build relationships among Fellows, and offer inspiration through exchanges with leaders working to improve lives in another country.
  • A three-month personal sabbatical during which Fellows are asked to disengage completely from their organizations.
  • A series of facilitated leadership development retreats with their class over two years, designed to help Fellows bridge silos of experience, develop new skills and perspectives, and cultivate deep understanding and collaboration across sectors to advance civic leadership.
  • Significant grant funding to support exploratory projects, professional and organizational development, and organizational costs, as appropriate, associated with each Fellow’s sabbatical. During the Fellows’ sabbaticals, each organization is asked to name an interim leader (or leadership team) who takes on increased responsibility during the Fellow’s absence and beyond. The Foundation offers coaching and collaborative learning retreats for these interim leaders.

“The investment in me, my staff, and IBA during my three years, especially the sabbatical, were invaluable for the growth and stabilization of IBA.” –Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, Barr Fellow Class of 2009

The Fellows Network

At the end of the two-year Fellowship period, each class is integrated into the Barr Fellows Network, an ongoing forum through which participating leaders continue to learn from each other, deepen relationships, and potentially create collaborations that benefit the city as well as their organizations.

Since 2005, new relationships and connections among Barr Fellows have sparked a number of innovative collaborations. As one example, it was a group of Barr Fellows who conceptualized and mobilized to create the Margarita Muñiz Academy, the first dual-language high school in Boston, named in honor of Margarita Muñiz, member of the Barr Fellows Class of 2007.

Selection Process

There is no application for a Barr Fellowship. Candidates are nominated through a confidential process, vetted by Foundation staff against a set of criteria, then chosen by a selection committee.

Nominations are submitted by a diverse group of more than 100 individuals who are knowledgeable about our city, its leaders, and its varied communities. Barr Fellows and Foundation staff also submit nominations. Nominators then provide confidential ratings and comments on all eligible nominees.

Nominations are submitted by a diverse group of more than 100 individuals who are knowledgeable about our city, its leaders, and its varied communities

Based solely on information distilled from this process, an eight-member selection committee of community leaders, a Barr Fellow, and Foundation trustees determine the finalists. Finalists are then contacted to invite their participation and ensure they are interested and able to commit to the two-year program and its components.

An eight-member selection committee of community leaders, a Barr Fellow, and Foundation trustees determine the finalists.

2017 Selection Committee

Amos B. Hostetter, Jr.

Co-founder and Trustee, Barr Foundation

Barbara W. Hostetter

Co-founder and Chair, Barr Foundation

James E. Canales

President and Trustee, Barr Foundation

Vanessa Calderón-Rosado

CEO, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción
Barr Fellows Class of 2009

Reverend Dr. Ray Hammond

Co-founder and Pastor, Bethel AME Church

Justin Kang

Vice President, Strategy and Growth, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce

Elizabeth B. Smith

Former Executive Director, The Hyams Foundation

Lisa M. Wong, M.D.

Associate Co-director, Arts and Humanities Initiative, Harvard Medical School

Selection Criteria

The Barr Fellowship is open to leaders of organizations located in or primarily serving Boston. In particular, the Foundation seeks to include leaders and organizations serving underrepresented communities.

Fellows are selected on the basis of their exemplary leadership, organizational impact, and track record of partnership and collaboration.

Learn more about Selection Criteria


Our first five classes included 58 pioneers and champions in education, community development, the arts, immigrants’ rights, youth development, environmental sustainability, and more.

Meet our alumni


“Only Connect”

In 2013, we shared the theory of change, strategy, evaluation methodology, and results of the Barr Fellowship and its first four classes in an article in The Foundation Review, titled “Only Connect: How an Investment in Relationships Among Social Change Leaders Is Changing Them, Their Organizations, and Their City.”

Read the article
“Networking a City”

A case study published in the Summer 2012 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review featured the Barr Fellowship. It explored the idea that the relationships of trust and respect forged among Barr Fellows have become the “currency of social change” in Boston.

Read the case study
“Creative Disruption”

In 2009, Barr and several other funders that offer sabbatical programs for nonprofit leaders commissioned TSNE MissionWorks and Compass Point to study and document the benefits of such programs for individual leaders, organizations, and funders.

Read the report

Videos on the Barr Fellowship

The Barr Fellowship Team

Blog Posts About The Barr Fellowship