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Three Lessons Learned From the 2018 Fellows Retreat

The 2018 Echoing Green Fellows

This June, 35 leaders officially joined the Echoing Green Fellow community. The 2018 Fellowship class traveled to New York for their New Fellows Retreat, bringing their optimism and ideas to their first official Echoing Green convening. Each member of this year’s class is aligning their talents with their passions: they are transforming unrecyclable plastics into usable materials in the San Francisco Bay Area, working to provide equitable healthcare to LGBTQ  communities in India, connecting refugees to translators in real-time, and making it easier than ever for communities to anonymously share reports of interactions with police, and more. While their individual work is deeply important, like those before them, the 2018 class knows that community is a crucial part of the work ahead.

The annual New Fellows Retreat strengthens ties between people bound by a shared commitment to collectively building a just and equitable world. Fellows spend the week examining their leadership, plotting a course for the future of their work, and getting to know one another. Echoing Green’s team and advisors joined the Retreat to mentor Fellows and map out fundraising and programming strategies. Alumni Fellows brought their accumulated insights, sharing how elements of their own experiences as Echoing Green Fellows have shaped their leadership. We were grateful to be joined by 2017 Edwin Cohen Community Steward Award Recipient Rey Faustino ’12, Gemma Bulos ’07, Lauren Burke ’14, Eric Dawson ’96, Michael Lwin ’14, Keno Sadler ’97, Bessie Schwarz ’16, Katrina Spade ’14, Amy Vreeland ’15, and Tony Weaver, Jr. ’16.

The collective wisdom of this community – from the new Fellows to the alumni, staff, advisors, and community members – brought life to new lessons that resonate well beyond the retreat.  Read on for three of our favorite takeaways from the week:


1. Find – and create – spaces to listen.

“Witness. Bear witness. Listen. When you’re listening to someone, deeply listen to them. There’s something very nourishing for the sharer of the story to just be heard.” – Sara Day Evans, founder of Accelerating Appalachia

Whether one is starting out on an entrepreneurship journey or is a lifelong leader, observing and bearing witness to the experiences of others is key. It can educate, inform, and challenge us: for leaders launching new organizations, the space to engage in this listening alongside the communities they work with or fellow Fellows is especially important to continue to learn and serve as supportive advisors, confidantes, and friends.

Bessie Schwarz ’16, Michael Lwin ’14, Lauren Burke ’14, and Tony Weaver, Jr. ’16 share insights with the 2018 class.


2. Seek out communities where you can ask for help.

“A lot of times, you cannot let your guard down. Being here allows me to fully be vulnerable and to say, ‘There are things I need help with.’” – Brittany Young, founder of B-360

As people launching and growing organizations, entrepreneurs are often expected to be “on,” projecting success and security at all times.  The New Fellows Retreat builds upon a community where people are encouraged to experience the world as their fullest selves: space to share not only successes, but to give voice to doubt, fear, and failure. When leaders have the room to be vulnerable and authentic without worry, they can provide mutual support to each other while strengthening their own leadership.


Vincent Cobb II, Gabriel Leader-Rose, Jelani Anglin, Antionette Carroll, Purvi Shah, Tiffany Thompson, Brittany Young, Amber Scott, Brandon Anderson, Lori Robinson, Thell Robinson, and Rashiid Coleman. Photo courtesy of Rashiid Coleman.


3. Show up for the long haul.

“You’re a Fellow for life. You have these support structures for life. I think that is very powerful.” –Diego Ontaneda Benavides, co-founder of Latin American Leadership Academy

Lifelong leadership is propelled by lifelong community support. For more than three decades, the common Echoing Green refrain has been “Once a Fellow, always a Fellow.” As each gathering of our community shows, leaders know they can pick up right where they left off and continue to count on this network for years to come.

Diego Ontaneda Benavides, co-founder of Latin America Leadership Academy, and Atif Alghunaim, co-founder of Tarjimly.

Click here to learn more about the 2018 Fellowship class, along with the partners and funders who make our support possible.

The 2018 New Fellows Retreat photo album is on Facebook.

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