This year’s All Fellows Conference brings Echoing Green to the incredible city of Johannesburg. These annual gatherings convene leaders with purpose who are driving big, bold change around the world. Not only are Fellows meeting industry experts, corporate champions, investors, and leaders of local innovative organizations – but they’re also here to learn from each other.
Gemma Bulos, 2007 Echoing Green Fellow, brings the values held within this community to life. She is the 2015 recipient of the 2o15 Edwin Cohen Community Steward Award, presented annually to a Fellow who has been a remarkably supportive steward of the Echoing Green community, just as Ed Cohen, the awards namesake has been. As someone who has displayed a deep commitment to Echoing Green Fellows, staff, and the community at-large, Gemma’s insights into the value of All Fellows Conference run exceptionally deep.
All Fellows in Community
By: Gemma Bulos
Gemma is a 2007 Echoing Green Fellow and co-founder of A Single Drop for Safe Water. She now leads the Global Women’s Water Initiative, which trains local women to be the experts and drivers of a movement around water. Follow Gemma on Twitter @gemmabulos.
In May 2007, when my partner and I came to New York City for Fellow Selection Weekend, it was clear even then how special the Echoing Green community was. Echoing Green created a culture of sharing from the start, simply by putting us all in the same room and giving us the opportunity to learn from each other. I remember sitting in a circle delivering our 60-second pitches and getting feedback from the other potential Fellows, and through that process, witnessing transformations in how we each talked about our work that went from academic technical jargon to powerful succinct pitches worthy of starting change-making movements. In this process alone, after hearing about the amazing work everyone was doing, we went from feeling competitive to being cheerleaders for each other. That’s never stopped.
Why is the Echoing Green community so special? Throughout the years, I’ve been able to feed and be fed by this community in so many ways:
Since Echoing Green identifies each org at the start-up stage, inevitably every Fellow comes into the community feeling the same extremes from one day to the next: honored, overwhelmed, excited, alone, motivated, underachieving. Oftentimes our friends and families won’t be able to provide the best support or advice because they don’t understand firsthand what we’re going through. The special bond that Echoing Green Fellows have is strengthened by our shared experiences.
Some of the best advice and inspiration I’ve received were from other Fellows. Their capacity to think out of the box and be bold fosters creativity and an attitude of “Nothing is Impossible.”
Fraternity & Camaraderie
As a Fellow, I’ve have reached out to Fellows from other classes, having never met them before, to ask for advice or a connection, and I have always received a response and unwavering support.
My 2007 class has been organizing our own retreats for the last nine years. During these retreats we flush out new ideas, process challenges, and hold each other accountable for things we’ve pledged to do to move forward in our work and in our lives.
Space for Vulnerability
It was never clearer to me how powerful the Echoing Green community was until I went through my own personal and organizational challenges. I was able to share my failures with this community which helped me make some painful decisions and implement much needed changes to let go and move forward. There is nothing more healing then to be able to give voice to your failures, be understood, and have others use your experience as guidance.
The best part of this community is that we take care of each other. Echoing Green creates the conditions for us to connect and share and dream together. Because they know that a strong community is like the tide: when it rises, all boats rise together.