Professional development is a significant component of the Fellowship experience, and one that is designed to build the skills and knowledge of the Fellows. During these trainings, Fellows are challenged to think about big ideas—what power and inclusion mean, the role nonprofits play in public policy, or the widespread effects of income inequality.
While we have historically met twice a year for 4-day retreats, the Covid pandemic has required us to adapt. Currently, Fellows meet online approximately every month for 2-hour virtual trainings. As soon as it is possible to travel and meet in person safely, we plan to resume in-person retreats.
Host supervisors and Fellows play a major role in designing and focusing the trainings so that they reflect the interests and needs of the current cohort of Fellows. Together, they help to identify topics that are most valuable to the cohort and participate in setting the agenda and planning the presentation and activities.
This year, for example, our online trainings will include:
Fellows gain practical skills, too. They learn how to deploy the power of community organizing, hone their presentation skills, and develop a strong leadership style. Fellows also connect with other current Fellows to learn about their work at their own host organizations and gain exposure to other critical social issues.
In addition, Fellows meet with special guests from leading social impact nonprofits and experts in organizational development, policy, and education. FAO Schwarz Fellows, for example, have met with Gerald Chertavian, CEO and Founder of Year Up, a non-profit organization that provides intensive professional education to underserved young adults, and with Yael Lehmann, when she was the President & CEO of The Food Trust, which strives to make healthy food available to all.
The goal of the Fellowship retreats is to give you the chance to step back from day-to-day challenges and responsibilities and consider the larger landscape of social impact. How do leaders solve social problems? How do you effectively address inequalities in the short term while you’re working toward long-term solutions? How do social impact leaders navigate competing demands?
Retreats contribute to a sense of community among the FAO Schwarz Fellows. The camaraderie of the cohort is an important component of the Fellowship experience—one that every Fellow comes to treasure. Retreats include team-building activities and plenty of informal time together for more casual conversations. You’ll have lots of time to socialize with your cohort and meet with alumni Fellows.
At the end of the four days, you’ll return to your host organization with a deeper understanding of social impact work. With new friends and a richer network, you’ll be refreshed and renewed and ready to apply new skills and knowledge for greater impact in your organization and community.
FAO Schwarz Fellowship hosts Fellow orientations.
Fall professional development retreat. Locations rotate among host cities.
Spring professional development retreat. Locations rotate among host cities.
When I applied to the FAO Schwarz Fellowship in the winter of 2020, life was different. I submitted my application before heading over to a