Reflections on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Children and Family Fellowship
Written by Frances Kunreuther
This weekend I will be in Baltimore to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Family Fellowship . In 1997, I left my job as the executive director of the Hetrick-Martin Institute and arrived in Baltimore at the Casey Foundation. It was total culture shock. I went from working with LGBT youth at a time when homophobia and HIV/AIDS were rampant to being a Fellow at a major national foundation that was showering us with training, travel, and new opportunities. During my tenure at Hetrick-Martin, we had buried the Institute’s co-founder Damien Martin and lost youth to disease, poverty, and neglect. But we also had many wins and the fact that the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) recognized someone working on behalf of LGBT youth was a boost to our field which in those days was barely recognized.
AECF was welcoming to our motley crew in Fellowship Class Three. We were learning about how to be better leaders and my mind was exploding from all I read, saw and heard. But it was more than just our leadership training. I remember a long conversation over a beer with then President Doug Nelson where we talked about how the foundation could offer benefits to partners of staff in same sex relationships (which it did later that year).
It was while I was on the Fellowship that I met the amazing Pablo Eisenberg then the head of the Center for Community Change and Deepak Bhargava who would later follow in Pablo’s footsteps. I spent time at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University where I landed after my Fellowship ended, staying for five years. And I had the precious gift of time – to learn, test ideas, listen to others, and think – something we rarely have in our work. There is no question in my mind that the Building Movement Project was conceived during that year; it just had a long gestation period!
During the Fellowship I was surrounded by my class of Fellows who continue to do amazing work: Sandra Barnhill, Dennis Campa, Edward Chisolm , Gary Ivory , Wendy Jacobson , Xuan Nguyen , Helen Muñoz-Baras, Keith Sykes, and my close friend Jean Thomases.
And now I have the Network – all nine classes of Fellows who will come together over the weekend. We will get to know each other just a little bit better as we talk about our past and our future, and work on how to make the world a better place for kids who have been disadvantaged by our society.
Leadership training can make a difference – it certainly did for me.