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A Vision For The Future Of Rockwood

By October 27, 2016February 10th, 20172 Comments



Dear Friends,

In 2009, I was a participant in Rockwood’s Leading from the Inside Out Yearlong Fellowship. As a black, gender-nonconforming woman from one of the poorer neighborhoods in DC, I was touched and surprised by how much of the program resonated with me. It was as though I found my home, my language of leadership, and a path of support and encouragement that I hadn’t known before. Through this path, I have been able to stretch, grow, and continue saying “yes” to bringing my authentic self to my work and life.

In the first session, I closed my eyes to imagine my vision for the future. I saw young black folks lifted up and physically floating toward fulfilled dreams. I then stood up in a room of 24 of the country’s top nonprofit executives and movement leaders, and declared my vision for my life’s work: I would make the powerful, plate-shifting Rockwood experience available to people in communities like the one I’m from, communities that don’t typically receive these kinds of resources. I called it “Rockwood for the Hood”.

Seven years after making that vision stand, it is becoming a reality.

Starting this year, Rockwood’s focus will be on developing and expanding ways of making the tools and resources this organization has to offer more accessible, a direction we’ve named Open Access Rockwood.

In order for Rockwood to significantly impact the future of change in this society and this world, we must reach greater numbers of people, and a broader array of leaders. We must invest in them, support them, and open up opportunities for all whose ideas, gifts, and talents are directed toward social change to better this world.

To do this, we will look to experimentation, risk-taking, and radical inclusion (making our programs open and welcoming to many different kinds of people) to inform the ways in which we touch our existing network of nearly-6,000 alum, as well as those new to Rockwood. Open Access Rockwood will also require us to strengthen our commitment to integrating more about racism, technology, and creativity—topics that are deeply impacting all our lives today—into our offerings.

Adopting the term “open access”—and experimenting with who and how we engage—is a natural and important evolution from where Rockwood began. We’ve always been a learning organization, and with this vision, we continue to move in that direction, building on our long history of providing transformative leadership training to social change and nonprofit leaders to enable them to “lead from the inside out”: with deep self-awareness and powerful impact.

Here’s a closer look at our direction over the next several years:

Open Access Rockwood

Organizational Direction, 2016-2019


Open Access RockwoodWe will train those in nonprofits settings and beyond. We will invite communities who have not yet accessed Rockwood – grassroots community leaders from the hood, tech activists, social entrepreneurs, and others – to gain and shape tools and resources in leading from the inside out.


Grow the Rockwood network We will adapt our offerings to meet the needs of broader audiences, and make our tools more accessible by:

  • training people where they live and work (regionally-, locally-, and community-based trainings);
  • developing an open-source training platform that assures that Rockwood leadership tools and resources are readily accessible to and shaped by leaders across movements and at all levels of leadership (a “train-the-trainers” model for leaders to spread more deeply into the communities in which they live and work);
  • utilizing communications tools and other technologies to extend our resources more broadly (creating TEDTalk-style podcasts where leaders in our network share their stories and movement successes, for example).

Experiment and Incubate – We will take risks, play, prototype, experiment, incubate, and be creative, and we will inspire our network to do the same by:

  • enabling new and creative leadership models by offering resources, systems, and support to incubate new initiatives (partnering with leaders in our network to create and share resources, as well as develop new programs);
  • prototyping with partners as an exploration into new and different ways of working (leaning into new and different ways of doing what we do by openly sharing with, and learning from, partners).

Cross-pollinate, Collaborate, and Connect – We will create more opportunities for shared learning, cross-sector collaboration, and deeper connection among social change leaders in the world by:

  • engaging in unlikely partnerships that reach and bring people together (technology, socially responsible corporations, formerly incarcerated leaders, and those working to end gun violence, as examples).


Liberation and Evolution – We exist to support moving our society and world toward greater interdependence, sustainability, and equity for all. This manifests as:

  • a healthy environment and a healthy world;
  • economic, political, and social equity for all;
  • leaders who are transforming themselves, their communities, and the world.

For more, see Rockwood’s 2016 Theory of Change, which uncovers more of our guiding philosophy.


In the spirit of an Open Access Rockwood, we want to promote a new kind of openness, and lean into interdependence within our network and beyond. Your insights energize, inform, move, and shape us.

That is why we’re inviting you to shape the future of Rockwood. Send an email to, and share your thoughts on this new direction with us.


With love,

October 2016


  • Stephanie Selekman says:

    This sounds incredible! When will everything be rolled out?

    • joi foley says:

      Thanks for your comment, Stephanie! We’ve actually begun working on the vision, and have rolled out a few pieces (like this brand-new website), so expect to see more very soon!

      joi, Communications Manager