Neighbors celebrate outside at a block party.

Barr Renews Commitment to Signature Leadership Program

Next class of Barr Fellows to be named in mid-2017; Kimberly Haskins takes new role overseeing the Fellowship and other Cross-Program Initiatives.

Since its launch more than 10 years ago, the Barr Fellowship has recognized and supported 58 extraordinary Boston-area leaders. We are excited to take a number of steps to extend and strengthen our commitment to this work, including naming Kimberly Haskins to serve as the lead staff person for the Fellowship, as part of her assuming a new role advancing our Cross-Program Initiatives grantmaking.

A Moment to Reflect on a Decade of Investing in Leaders

Given the Fellowship’s history, the growth in the Fellows network, the Foundation’s refined strategies, and the evolution of the broader context for our work, we felt it was an important moment to reflect on the program and to explore opportunities to strengthen it. To do this, we spoke to Barr Fellows about their experiences—what they valued most and what could make it better. We reviewed past assessments. We examined other national models and spoke to colleagues running varied leadership programs.

In light of all this, in conversations with Barr staff and trustees, we revisited the Fellowship’s core goals and components. In the end, this process led us to reconfirm the original goals of the program and to identify a few important refinements I am happy to share today.

What Won’t Change

The goals of the Barr Fellowship remain to:

  • Recognize and reward accomplished leaders by providing an opportunity for personal and professional rejuvenation.
  • Strengthen organizations by providing resources to develop and enhance leadership across Fellows’ organizations.
  • Build civic leadership for Boston by fostering a strong network of leaders.

In our conversations with Fellows, it has been inspiring to hear them reflect on these goals and how they played out in their own experiences. Many spoke of the deep meaning and value of the Fellowship both professionally and personally. They described the international learning journey as a transformative experience, disrupting their thinking, and building deep bonds with other Fellows. They were also grateful for the chance (indeed, the requirement) to disconnect from their organizations and recharge, allowing them to return with fresh perspectives and confidence.

Beyond the impact on them personally, many Fellows also described how their organizations had cultivated a deeper “bench strength” and a more distributive approach to leadership. New partnerships and initiatives have emerged over the Fellowship’s first decade, such as the Margarita Muñiz Academy and the Boston Promise Initiative.

These conversations, and other aspects of our review, made clear the positive impacts of many core elements of the program, which will continue, such as the learning journey, sabbatical, organizational support, and particularly the fundamental principle of focusing first on relationships, rather than on a specific agenda for collaborative projects.

What’s New

The review also illuminated several areas where we could enhance the program to ensure its continued vibrancy and relevance. We will take a number of new steps as we begin our work to identify the Barr Fellowship Class of 2017 (which we plan to announce this summer). Among those steps, we will:

  • Expand the pool of nominators and establish a broader, rotating membership for the Selection Committee. During our review, we considered creating an open application process to ensure a breadth of applications. However, Fellows strongly encouraged us to keep the nomination process confidential in order to minimize competition or advocacy for candidates, or to advantage leaders from one type or size of organization over another. Our broader pool of nominators and Selection Committee members will help us access more candidates while maintaining the strengths of the process.
  • Increase transparency about the process. For the first time, we are making public on the Fellowship page of our website the eligibility and selection criteria, as well as the composition of the Selection Committee.
  • Include select leaders from outside the nonprofit sector. To increase the potential impact of the Fellowship, with the 2017 class we are piloting the inclusion of leaders from public agencies, for-profit social enterprises, and faith-based organizations.
  • Provide greater investment and more targeted support to Fellows and their organizations. We will enhance the amount of flexible resources provided for Fellows’ organizations. We will enrich the content of professional development offered through the Fellowship—in particular, adding a greater focus on system change and cross-sector collaboration, as well as a greater share of Fellows-directed activities.
  • Provide more focused, ongoing staff support that will, among other things, facilitate greater intentionality around activities of the Fellows Network.

Strengthening Staff Leadership

We are very pleased to have Kimberly Haskins step into a new role as senior program officer for Cross-Program Initiatives. In this role, she will provide the focused staff support mentioned above and help shape and advance our (still relatively new) Cross-Program Initiatives strategies, particularly in the areas of leadership and sound decision-making. Kim has covered a number of responsibilities at Barr since joining the Foundation in 2003, most recently focused on our early childhood education portfolio, but also previously including a role with the Barr Fellowship. In addition to her significant contributions at the Foundation, she has held roles with United Way of Massachusetts Bay and in the corporate sector, and brings deep knowledge of the Boston community, where she has also earned deep respect. To help the Education team advance its new strategies, we will soon initiate a search for a new senior program officer.

In my first six months at the Barr Foundation, one of the greatest privileges for me has been to meet with Barr Fellows and to see firsthand the abundant evidence of their tremendous leadership and commitment to our communities. We are eager to continue investing in and supporting this growing network of leaders for many years to come.

comments powered by Disqus