This fellowship is currently not active. If you’re interested in information about this fellowship, contact us. Learn more about creating a fellowships for our network, foundation, or issue area here.

Death Penalty Abolition Leaders are advancing a powerful movement for human rights in the US and around the globe. The US general public and key state legislatures and courts have demonstrated declining support of the death penalty.  The United Nations and international human rights groups have called for a world-wide abolition of the death penalty (and the US is alone with China, Iran and Saudi Arabia in carrying out so many executions).

With the support of the Open Society Foundation’s Criminal Justice Fund and Atlantic Philanthropies, Rockwood launched the Fellowship for Death Penalty Abolition Leaders in 2012 to provide powerful and effective training in leadership and collaboration to leaders within this important sector. The pilot program was completed in April 2013, and you can learn more about the cohort here.

About the Fellowship

This intensive leadership program is designed to teach powerful visioning, listening, speaking, presentation, coaching, team-building and feedback skills to leaders engaged with advocacy and organizing for death penalty abolition. The program includes the Art of Leadership, the Advanced Art of Leadership, a Collaboration Convening, professional and peer coaching sessions, and additional leadership support.

Key skills developed through the Fellowship are for leaders to:

  • Deal more effectively with leadership challenges
  • Manage relationships to increase personal and organizational effectiveness
  • Sharpen and sustain compelling visions for your work
  • Inspire and align others to work effectively towards common goals
  • Increase sustainability and engage with tools to prevent burnout
  • Build partnerships inside and outside your organization
  • Engage in a learning community of leaders working across the country on death penalty abolition

Program Offerings

Art of Leadership

Between January and June 2012, Fellows, in small “subcohorts” of 4-5 Fellows, attended the Art of Leadership, Rockwood’s foundational retreat.  The rest of the participants in the Art of Leadership applied to the training separately from the Fellowship – so included activists, organizers, program directors and other nonprofit leaders engaged in other social, economic and environmental issues.

The Art of Leadership is an intensive retreat workshop in which participants will hone skills related to articulating vision, managing difficult conversations, and identifying personal leadership strengths and challenges. Each participant receives a 360-degree leadership evaluation from peers.

Professional Coaching Sessions & Peer Coaching

Coaching is both an important leadership skill and resource for social change leaders. Following the Art of Collaborative Leadership, Fellows form peer coaching partners to provide support to each other in managing leadership challenges back in their organizations and reinforce tools from the training. Pairs develop goals and a schedule for their sessions together throughout the Fellowship.

In addition, each Fellow has access to two hours of professional coaching from a Rockwood trainer. Professional coaching sessions help provide an opportunity for Fellows to get deeper support on leadership challenges such as time management, strategic planning, courageous conversations, and overcoming obstacles to the success of their organizations.

Leadership Practices

To reinforce the tools of the training, Rockwood has designed leadership practice “homework” assignments for Fellows. Assignments involve “practicing” with the tools from the trainings. As an example, the Art of Collaborative Leadership offers some strategies to engage with difficult conversations. One Leadership Practice assignment invites Fellows identifying an actual conversation that they can use the training tools for and implementing the tools. Leadership Practices will be supported by group conference calls where Fellows can share stories and connect to other Fellows in the program over the phone.

Advanced Art of Leadership: Leadership in Action: September, 9-13, 2012, Edith Macy Conference Center, Briarcliff Manor, NY

After all the Fellows have attended the Art of Leadership, they will come together as a full Fellowship cohort at a second residential retreat, the Advanced Art of Leadership: Leadership In Action. This Advanced training challenges Fellows to delve deeper into their professional development and partnerships, building off the tools and experience of the Art of Leadership. In addition to furthering the practice of leadership development, the Advanced training will reserve time and space for Fellows to collaborate through essential conversations specific to the national death penalty abolition sector. It is designed for leaders to enhance their skills in areas of both leadership and collaboration, including an examination of power (personal, positional and institutional), strategy and performance, and personal and organizational sustainability.

Collaboration Convening: April 3-5, 2013, Edith Macy Conference Center, Briarcliff Manor, NY

The final Fellows training will advance skills learned in the first two trainings along with customized facilitation and time to focus on issues identified by the Fellows as key opportunities to further collaboration and policy reform in the death penalty abolition movement.  Curriculum will be customized as Fellows are interviewed and polled during the course of the Fellowship.

The Trainers

The Art of Leadership is led by nationally and internationally recognized thinkers, educators, and activists who are experienced in sharing the most in depth, leading insights on leadership development, collaboration, and capacity building.  You can find their bios here.

The Advanced Art of Leadership and Collaboration Convenings will be led by:

José Acevedo, who is the president of New World Consulting and an expert in the development of leadership skills and the creation of high-performing organizations. José has spent the last 25 years working with a broad range of organizations to help them function innovatively in pursuit of specific mission-critical results.

Helen S. Kim, who is an organizational development consultant, facilitator, and executive coach with 18 years of experience working with social change organizations and leaders in the US and internationally.


Fellowship participant criteria

Rockwood’s optimal criteria for enrollment the Fellowship include a cohort of leaders who:

  • Are engaged in death penalty abolition organizing and advocacy
  • Have been engaged with this work for at least 3 years
  • Play a decision-making/leadership role within their organization
  • Demonstrate personal/professional readiness to learn new leadership skills-and to be assessed and evaluated for same
  • Have experience with and interest in gaining more skills with cross-strategy collaboration
  • Will contribute to a learning community that reflects the diversity of issues, strategies, geographic and community focus
  • Will make the full time commitment to the program – including participating in the two 5-day retreats, coaching, and leadership practice assignments
  • Will make a $200 contribution towards program participation