Celebrating, connecting, and advancing extraordinary leaders.

The Barr Fellowship reflects our core value of investing in effective, visionary, and collaborative leaders who motivate others, drive change, and produce results.

Five times since 2005, a group of nonprofit and public school executives has received a phone call from the Barr Foundation with a unique offer—to become Barr Fellows. Selected for their outstanding contributions to our community and potential to drive positive change for years to come, Barr Fellows participate in a two-year program including a group learning journey, a three-month sabbatical, and facilitated retreats with their class of 12-15 Fellows. Their organizations also receive a significant grant to support exploratory projects, and leadership and organizational development.

The Barr Fellowship has now recognized, supported, and connected 58 exemplary Boston leaders from diverse backgrounds, organizations, and fields.

The Big Idea

Today’s most effective social change leaders rarely allow themselves the luxury of a pause to reflect and recharge. There seems always more work to do. The Fellowship offers such leaders a unique avenue for personal and professional rejuvenation in the context of thought-provoking learning experiences with peers.

Through the Fellowship, the Barr Foundation seeks to advance three goals:

  • Recognize and reward accomplished leaders by providing an opportunity for personal and professional rejuvenation in the context of stimulating, often disruptive learning experiences.
  • Strengthen the Fellows’ organizations by providing resources to develop and enhance the leadership abilities of other senior staff to take on new responsibilities.
  • Build capacity in Greater Boston to address persistent social and economic challenges, by weaving a strong network of leaders who share a long-term commitment to advancing positive change in their city.

Beyond providing support for individual Fellows, the Foundation also makes substantial resources available to their organizations, for the purpose of developing leadership among the senior managers who take on new roles during and after the Fellow’s sabbatical, and to strengthen other aspects of the organization as desired. In this way, the Fellowship program extends beyond individual recognition to become a growth opportunity for each organization and its broader leadership team.

“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

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 Muniz Academy, the first dual language high school in Boston, named in honor of Margarita Muniz, member of the Barr Fellows Class of 2007.

In recognition of the potential of boundary-crossing relationships, with the Class of 2017, Barr will pilot the inclusion of leaders from the public sector, faith-based institutions, and for-profit social enterprises.

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.

To select the incoming Class of 2017, the Foundation has invited a diverse group of over 100 individuals who are knowledgeable about our city, its leaders, and varied communities to submit confidential nominations based on the Fellowship criteria (see below). Barr Fellows and Foundation staff will also submit nominations. Participating nominators will be asked to provide their confidential ratings and comments on all eligible nominees. Based solely on information distilled from this process, an eight-member selection committee--comprised of community leaders, a Barr Fellow, and Foundation trustees--will determine the finalists. Finalists will then be contacted to invite their participation and ensure they are interested and able to commit to the two-year program and its components.

Barr Fellowship Criteria

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

Class of 2015

Carole Charnow President & CEO, Boston Children’s Museum
Emmett Folgert Executive Director, Dorchester Youth Collaborative
Jesús Gerena Managing Partner, Family Independence Initiative
Bob Giannino Chief Executive Officer, uAspire
Tiffany Cooper Gueye Chief Executive Officer, Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL)
Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez President, North Bennet Street School
Diana Lam Head of School, Conservatory Lab Charter School
Sandra Lopez Burke Vice President & Executive Director, City Year Boston
Arthur Pearson President & CEO, Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center
Wayne Ysaguirre President & CEO, Nurtury

Fellows Alumni

Our first four Fellows classes included 48 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

Meet Our Fellows Team

The Fellowship on our Blog