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What About the Rest of Us? Looking Beyond Preconceived Notions of Leadership

By September 13, 2021September 12th, 2022No Comments
Female speaking in a conference room

EENM Executive Director and Prospera Partner co-facilitator, Eileen Everett. Photo by Gabriella Marks.

The Prospera Partners facilitation team is made up of people who are experts in the nonprofit sector. Each brings a unique set of experiences and perspectives to the table having worked for and with nonprofits for years. One of these facilitators is Eileen Everett who will be helping with our “Dismantling Systemic Racism in the Nonprofit Sector” workshop. She also serves as the full-time Executive Director of Environmental Education New Mexico. In this guest article Everett shares why keeping leadership – and leadership training – inclusive is imperative to making real social impact.

When I bring up my involvement in the Environmental Education New Mexico (EENM) Fellowship Program and the Emerging Social Sector Leaders Program created by Prospera Partners for the Santa Fe Community Foundation, people often respond by assuming that these are programs for early career and young leaders. I believe this comes from what’s already in existence in terms of leadership programs, especially fellowships – those that focus on young professionals or that support already accomplished leaders – but what about the rest of us?

Through my work with Prospera Partners and diving deep into transformational leadership, I’ve seen over and over again the critical need to invest in leadership development at all levels. If we’re not offering opportunities for those at any point in their career to grow and evolve as leaders, then aren’t we just reinforcing hierarchies and systems of oppression that give people job titles with the word leadership in them but without the skills to work with and cultivate leadership in others?

When I found the Emerging Social Sector Leaders Program, I was so excited to find something I could engage in mid-career. I had been seeking programs that allowed for my own growth as a leader and new Executive Director at the time, and had found virtually nothing. I was told I was too old (I was in my late 30s) or not accomplished enough. In other words, you missed the window of opportunity earlier in your career but now go prove yourself before we’ll consider you. That’s not helpful for most of us.

As a participant and now co-facilitator of the Emerging Social Sector Leaders Program, it’s been truly transformative to keep reflecting on and evolving my own leadership in community with others. This reflection led to the development of the EENM Fellowship program which was launched in 2020. Working in partnership with Prospera Partners, we’ve designed and facilitated experiences for 36 Fellows in exploring the interconnectedness of access to the outdoors, outdoor and environmental learning, and social impact through systems change while learning, dreaming, growing, and being in community.

The EENM Fellowship is open to those representing education, environmental justice, outdoor recreation, and conservation. The Fellows have produced a shared vision and strategy – the first in the country – to advance daily equitable access to the outdoors and environmental learning for all New Mexico kids (see Every Kid, Every Day, Every Way). EENM Fellows represent a diversity of experiences, perspective, and the many identities of New Mexicans including a multitude of generations, many racial and ethnic identities, different geographical representation, and other dimensions of diversity.

This is the kind of change I’m invested in: that which brings people together to work across differences and view that difference as a strength, that which requires us to sit through what it takes to truly see our own humanity and each other’s humanity. Through this kind of change, we break down hierarchies, explore shared leadership and power, and ultimately dismantle systems of oppression (internally and externally) while creating new ways of being with one another. This is why I don’t invest in programs open to only young leaders, because we all have a role to play in the change our world needs and we can’t leave “the rest of us” out.

Learn more about EENM, including their involvement in New Mexico’s upcoming Outdoor Learning Week by visiting their site.  Be the first to learn about Prospera Partner’s upcoming workshops (including those on transformational leadership) by subscribing to our enews.