By Holly Bartling
I’ve been at the General Service Foundation for fourteen years now. Forward Together has been a grantee with GSF since before I joined here, so my connection with Forward Together began right away when I came to the foundation as a program officer. When I think back on moments of engagement, I remember the first big convening of the Strong Families network. I came to that first convening because Forward Together invited a small group of funders to participate in the process, and that already gave me a strong sense of being in it together.
At the convening, I remember walking into that meeting space and seeing both people whom I’ve known for a long time and people whom I’d never met before. It was a multiracial, intergenerational space, and folks were talking about every kind of issue. They were talking in an interconnected way at a time where so much of the work was siloed. And that, to me, felt so warm and loving and relational. I was in a room actually seeing both how people were with each other and also how much people were really digging in and trying to think about how to have a really big vision for the world that they wanted to see, even as they might be working on particular aspects of that vision. The Strong Families network is a really important contribution to our movements, both in the way that the network brings together so many organizations across different, particular issue areas and the way that Forward Together has used art and culture as part of their work.
Forward Together is a leader in working on culture change, movement building and leadership development. They have thought so much about what it really looks like to build a bench of leaders. I’ve always been struck at what a leader-full organization it is, and the fact that you see so many folks within the organization speaking and presenting and holding space. To me, this quality of wide leadership indicates that leadership development is built into how the organization works, and that’s a great strength in how Forward Together operates. I’ve also seen that ripple out beyond Forward Together into the broader movement through programs like Stepping Into Power, their community-wide leadership development training program, as well as through campaign work and through the Strong Families network. The ethos around creating conditions for folks to step into their own power and voice issues and lead the work is one of the strongest examples we have of truly building a pipeline of leaders.