Aug 16, 2013

Inaugural IGNITE Institute Convenes Women of Color in Social Sector

All 31 members of the inaugural class of the IGNITE Fellowship for Women of Color in the Social Sector ­– a leadership program for women of color at nonprofits, newly launched by NYU Wagner’s Research Center for Leadership  in Action (RCLA) -- gathered in New York City for a kick-off institute that stretched from August 1-6.

The IGNITE institute, organized by Toni Harris, Director of Career Services and Alumni Relations at Wagner, and Director of the IGNITE Fellowship, began with a welcome reception in the NYU President’s Penthouse in Washington Square. The evening included a lively and bracing discussion with Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage Project at NYU Wagner. Manji is the author of the international bestseller The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith, creator of the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary, Faith Without Fear, and she most recently authored Allah, Liberty & Love. Speaking to the IGNITE fellows, she shared  hard-won lessons on creating work-life balance for herself and her team –  a process she said was anchored in daily meditation, and propelled by the vitality and fulfillment that comes from working to turn a  vision into a reality.

The following day’s events took place at NYU Wagner and included an overview of findings from a decade of research on social change leadership delivered by RCLA Faculty Director Sonia Ospina, as well as a luncheon with a panel of women leading organizations across sectors in New York City.

 Speakers  included:

         - Analisa Leonor Balares, founder and CEO of Womensphere

         - Ana Oliveira, President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation  

          - Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League

          - Fatima A. Shama, Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs

 NYU Wagner Assistant Dean of Fiscal Operations and Human Resources Trena Drayton, moderated the panel discussion.  The conversation traced the women’s leadership journeys, from when they first considered themselves leaders, to key moments that have influenced their leadership styles and directions, to leadership challenges they are each facing currently. Key themes included the important role leaders play in convening stakeholders to find solutions, recognizing moments of opportunity in moments of crisis, and the assets that leaders of color, in particular, gain from navigating cultures while remaining grounded in the affirmation of “home” relationships and communities.

 “The energy in the room crystallized the continued value of conversations like these,” said Drayton. “People of color, especially women, benefit greatly from candid, informed dialogue around matters that are often left unspoken.”

 Following the events at Wagner, the Fellows travelled to Old Greenwich, Connecticut, for four days of robust leadership and management sessions and a chance to build a strong network. In the coming nine months, the Fellows will continue to sharpen their leadership skills with the support of cohort members and Fellowship managers.

 Offered with support from the American Express Foundation, IGNITE is a nine-month program that offers a diverse group of mid-career women directing nonprofit programs and organizations across the United States exposure to best practices, processes for building personal and organizational leadership, and opportunities to build and strengthen core management capacities.

 The program is sponsored by RCLA’s People of Color Leadership Network, which strengthens communities of color by supporting leadership by and for people of color.

 Learn more about IGNITE:

 Learn more about RCLA’s People of Color Leadership Network:

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