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
We 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;
- developing an open-source training platform;
- utilizing communications tools and other technologies.
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;
- prototyping with partners as an exploration into new and different ways of working.
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.
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.