The Barr FellowsJune 23, 2009 Leave a comment
I knew a few Barr Fellows before I started doing the kind of work I do today. I knew a few of them before they were Barr Fellows, and so I also knew them after. It was in this nonscientific way that I was able to observe some of the subtle and not so subtle shifts that were happening among my friends – the fellowship had an effect on them and on their work. Conceptually, the idea behind the fellowship was something that I could understand, network theory and the power of relationships already made intuitive sense to me.
Check out the Barr Fellows Program for a formal description of the effort. But to risk oversimplification, the fellowship is about taking a diverse group of amazing leaders in Boston’s social sector, rewarding them with a sabbatical, connecting them to one another and exposing them to social innovation in other parts of the world.
Over the last two weeks in Brazil I have finally had a more direct experience of the fellowship, away from concept and anecdote and into the actual “Learning Journey” of the 2009 class of fellows – and it was truly amazing. I have been asked to work with this 2009 fellows over the next few years, and participating in their very first experience together seemed to be an obvious requirement. A single blog post can’t begin to capture all the lessons learned nor the many ways in which new light has been shed on leadership, networks and the next phase of social change.
However, what is absolutely clear to me is that (1) bringing amazing people together, (2) when they share a common cause, (3) highlighting different contexts and approaches in (4) spaces that foster deeper relationships is indeed a key to social innovation. The Barr Fellows are a hundred times more likely to collaborate with one another, they are already asking important questions about their core assumptions, and they are already thinking more boldly about ways to make change happen.
There is a lot to be learned here, and even more questions that remain. Some of the key questions that I’m hoping you can help me with include my wondering about what it would take to foster this kind of shift among whole organizations? And of course I’m also asking, what are the organizational structures needed to keep alive this momentum when the fellows go back to work?