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Rockwood Institute

President's Message


About three years ago, I noticed a stick growing in my neighborhood a few doors down from my house. It was right at the edge of the curb, angling out into the street. I didn't pay too much attention to it.

Last summer I realized it was a fig tree. There were little bitty figs clinging to the branches. I was sure someone from the city would come by and cut it down. Clearly, it was a volunteer fig tree. No one in their right mind would have planted it so close to the street and at such an angle.

I’ve been quietly rooting for this little tree, hoping that no one would cut it down or decide it was a nuisance. I’ve welcomed the new leaves and fruit each year, glad that they grace our very urban street. Our tree brings sweetness to those who pass by, and the fruit is never wasted. This year it’s almost as tall as I am, and is filled with the most delicious bright green figs — you can’t buy these beauties, even in gourmet shops!

I’ve been rejoicing that it continues to grow and thrive. It’s a reminder about deep purpose. All that fig tree “knows” is that it’s here to seek the sun and make fruit. It is not concerned with zoning laws or arboreal civic planning. It’s busy doing what trees do — photosynthesizing, sending roots down for water and sending out oxygen — a gift to humans everywhere. That fig tree was going to be a fig tree independent of where it was planted. It might not have grown so big or so rapidly, but it was going to be a fig tree no matter what!

Like the fig tree, each of us has a purpose and it doesn’t matter where we find ourselves. Our purpose doesn’t change. It is crucial as leaders that we get in touch with and understand why we’re here — what our unique purpose is.

Unlike fig trees, we can move about. We’re not limited to wherever that wonderful bird left its droppings. We can seek work that allows us to express our purpose fully, or choose organizations that will enable us to thrive. It is our responsibility as leaders to find the best environments where we can bring and express our biggest gift — our purpose.

So, go outside on a summer afternoon, lean against a big, strong tree, and reflect on your Purpose:

  • How clear am I about my purpose, why I’m here?
  • Am I in the right and best place for me to bring my gifts?
  • Are the people around me the best people to support my purpose?
  • Do the structures around me allow me to thrive?
  • Is there anything that needs to shift, begin or end?

We humans are so lucky to have cousins like the fig tree to grace our lives and teach us. And I am so lucky to have each of you in my community of leaders.

Sending you love on this bright August day.

From my heart to yours,

August 2013

How are you thriving where you are planted? Share your experience on the Rockwood blog.



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Rockwood Leaders Changing the World

July 10: Andrew Gillum is running for Mayor of Tallahassee, FL.

July 16: Jotaka Eaddy (Senior Advisor to the President & CEO and Senior Director of Voting Rights, NAACP), and Anna Galland (Executive Director, collaborated to get 1.5 million people to sign an online petition calling for federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.

August 1: Nine alum were arrested at an immigration reform protest in Washington, DC: Deepak Bhargava (Executive Director, Campaign for Community Change), Heather Booth (Democracy Partners and President, Midwest Academy), Gregory Cendana (Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance), Sarita Gupta (Executive Director, Jobs with Justice), Marielena Hincapié (Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center), Andrea Cristina Mercado (National Campaign Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance), Phil Radford (Executive Director, Greenpeace), Angelica Salas (Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles), and Miriam Yeung (Executive Director, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum).

August 7: Mary Kay Henry (President, SEIU) was on The Colbert Report to discuss the fast food workers strike.

August 8: Steven Renderos (National Organizer, Center for Media Justice) was interviewed for an AP video about the FCC vote on prison phone rate reform.

August 14: Rockwood alum, Linda Sarsour (National Advocacy Director, ACCESS/National Network for Arab American Communities), Fahd Ahmed (Legal and Policy Director, DRUM), Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele (Senior Organizer, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund), and Priscilla Gonzalez (Director, Organizing, Communities United Police Reform) are pictured in a photo as part of The New York Times story, "As Critics United, Stalled Battle Against Frisking Tactic Took Off."

Are you a Rockwood Alum? Send us your news.



Leading from the Inside Out Webinar

Join Stacy Kono, Rockwood’s Director of Programmatic Partnerships, for a webinar about Leading from the Inside Out. This one-hour session will be hosted by Leadership Learning Community on August 27th at 11 AM PT/2 PM ET. For more information and to register, click here.




Photo by Jam Adams

Give Your Birthday to Rockwood

We’ve set up a Crowdrise page for Rockwood so that you can create your own online fundraiser for Rockwood. You can ask your friends to make a donation to celebrate your birthday, as a wedding gift, or just because you love Rockwood. Crowdrise makes it easy to share your fundraising page via email, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you have any questions about Crowdrise, please contact us!




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Art of Leadership for Women in Racial Justice and Human Rights

We’re proud to announce our 7th annual Art of Leadership for Women working in Racial Justice and Human Rights. This special training will bring together women of color and white women leaders engaged in reproductive justice, education, immigrant rights, environmental justice, indigenous communities, and many other racial justice issue areas to strengthen their leadership skills and further their social change goals. The training will be held October 21-25, 2013 at the Mayacamas Ranch in Calistoga, CA. Click here to download a PDF with more info.

Apply Here

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9 Art of Leadership Trainings for Nonprofits and Social Changemakers

We have nine Art of Leadership trainings coming up in 2013/14 in California and New York. You can view the schedule of trainings here. Feel free to contact us with any questions.

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Advanced Art of Leadership: Leadership in Action

Leadership takes practice and ongoing learning. The Advanced Art of Leadership is designed to support graduates of the Art of Leadership to continue to grow as leaders. The session will be held February 24-27, 2014 at the Mayacamas Ranch in Calistoga, CA. Apply by August 31, 2013 to receive a 10% discount on training fees.

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Photo by Quito sometimes Marcos

Art of Leadership for Philanthropic Leaders

Now in its tenth year, this special training is designed to meet the unique needs of philanthropic leaders who wish to further their leadership and collaboration skills. The session will be held February 24-28, 2014 at the Earthrise Retreat Center in Petaluma, CA.

This training is open to all philanthropic leaders: Foundation executives, Board members, Executive Directors, Program Officers, donors, corporate sponsors, and other leaders in a position to leverage resources for social good.

Apply Here



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