Fall 2014 Fellow Retreats: New Connections, Inspiration and Practice in Sharing Our Stories

We are settling in to the peak fall foliage season here in Maine, and this time marks one of the most fulfilling parts of our annual cycle of activity here at the Foundation.  The annual fall Fellows’ retreats in California and New England were full of new connections, inspiration and practice in sharing our stories and leadership experiences, visions for the future and honest reflections on our individual and collective challenges as leaders.  In California, we convened at our traditional venue at Nature Bridge, nestled in the Marin Headlands, while in New England, the Warren Center was our base, west of Boston. In both settings, the expanded retreat program kicked off with the 2014 Fellows sharing their work and projects via “flash talks”, four minute/four slide presentations on topics ranging from geothermal energy in California, to sustainable agriculture policy in New England, to environmental and socio-political challenges in Iraqi Kurdistan and much more.  All of the new Fellows are outstanding leaders shaping their vision for impact.

The centerpiece of each retreat weekend was a full one-day training developed for us by the renowned Rockwood Leadership Institute, whose commitment to developing leadership for social change offered a solid grounding in vision, personal ecology and communication strategies for effective collaboration and connection.  In New England, I had my own leadership “moment” when we learned that the scheduled trainer would not make the event due to a fire at her connecting airport. Thus, with our support team – Erin Lloyd, Program Officer and Sarah Charron (1992), we reorganized the schedule and adapted a few elements from the training for the group. We expanded the offering of personal leadership stories by Fellow alums Sarah Uhl (2011), Brenda Zollitsch (2009), Dave Kramer (2004) and Susannah Lerman (2010) who described their respective leadership grants, program successes and insights as they have moved through their professional work on methane leaks in the oil and gas industry, national wetlands policy, international development work and US Forest Service urban ecology programs respectively.  Similarly, in California, Fellow alumni Sue Chiang (1997) talked about her work on building a market campaign against the health impacts of fracking and Alexa Engleman (2009) shared her work engaging in collaborative environmental decisions with US EPA in California.  For that retreat, Grey Hayes (1999) provided support staffing and organic apples from his cooperative-owned orchard! Thanks again, Grey!

The diversity of issues, interests, academic programs and backgrounds among Fellows created ample opportunity for networking and shared learning, as well as modeling the ways in which our varied topical and strategic approaches can complement one another. We all are working under the umbrella of environmental sustainability and improvement, yet we all use different strategies – economic empowerment, grassroots organizing, national to local policy and even new market strategies to bring alternative (yet traditional in some cultures) food products, like crickets, to market!  Amidst the intense dialogue and reflection, I could see friendships forming and our own networked web expanding further.  Needless to say, this is a leadership success for all of us.

Please note that the Rockwood one-day training at the New England retreat has been RESCHEDULED for Friday, November 7, 2014. Registration is now open to all Fellows. Please sign up soon as this is a fabulous and streamlined day that will surely enhance your leadership awareness and practice. I look forward to seeing you in Boston.

Fall 2014 Fellow Retreats

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