Q+A With Our CEO: NationSwell Next

March 28, 2019
by Grace Zec
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Q+A With Our CEO: NationSwell Next

Q.

You recently launched a new initiative, NationSwell Next. Can you explain what it is and what it’s solving?

A.

NationSwell Next is an initiative that champions the next wave of social impact leaders who don’t yet have consistent access to the resources, advisors, or collaborators who can help take their ideas to scale. The initiative works to elevate these innovators — many of whom are first-generation college graduates, immigrants, front-line professionals, and community leaders — by welcoming them into the NationSwell Council (a membership community of 1,000+ social impact leaders). We believe that being inclusive of service-minded leaders representing a greater diversity of professions, geography, gender, race, and sexual orientation will make our community stronger.

A set amount of funding is available via NationSwell Next to subsidize memberships in 2019 and will primarily be determined based on household income, profession and lived experience. If a subsidy is awarded, members are responsible for 10% of the standard membership fee.

Q.

How did you come up with this idea?

A.

The credit belongs to others! Meg Garlinghouse, the head of Social Impact at LinkedIn, and a NationSwell Council member, inspired the initiative.

As a leader at an influential company, she reflected last year on how she’s constantly having informational conversations with young people who are considering where to go in their careers. What she realized is that those conversations involved the same types of people — people that she described as being like her as a young person — college students and graduates, and generally people who come from well-resourced and well-connected backgrounds. She wrote an inspiring blog post, in which she committed to having informational conversations with those who did not have direct access to her; it had an impact on how I thought about connections, power, and community.

What Meg’s story highlighted is the inequality around access – not just income – that exists in our country. There is a real need for more intentionality in how people create, build, and participate in networks, especially those who have historically faced a systemic constraint. We believe that our community’s ability to advance solutions is directly tied to our ability to have a diverse, fully representative and vibrant community — and we believe NationSwell NEXT will be a key part of strengthening the Council for all of our members.

Q.

Who is the target audience for NationSwell Next?

A.

Ultimately we want to help builders and leaders across the country develop, advance and have as much opportunity as possible to realize their potential as changemakers. That includes first generation college graduates with the potential to emerge as promising service-minded leaders across a range of sectors; community organizers; educators; first-responders like social workers, nurses, law-enforcement officials and others in close proximity to the challenges our community cares about. These groups have traditionally not been fully represented in the NationSwell Council, so it’s important that we extend beyond our networks. Outreach via public channels like social media will be critical, as well as targeted outreach to associations for first-line service leaders. The goal is to welcome more great people who bring something unique to the community and find more powerful ways for everyone to connect and collaborate.

Q.

How did you design this initiative?

A.

This initiative is really close to our hearts — so we took the time we needed to make sure that it was designed in a way that would yield real impact. We spent three months going through different iterations to make sure that what we were putting out into the world was meaningful and inspiring to anyone who might intersect it. A key consideration was to structure the program so that members joining as part of it are embraced as full and equal members and do not feel any sense of “otherization.” We were fortunate to get excellent input from Council members, potential partners, colleagues, and others from the broader impact community. We evaluated their feedback and implemented key adjustments, which has resulted in an initiative that we hope is as thoughtful, considered and effectively designed as possible. Of course, as always, we’ll learn and adjust as we go.

Q.

What can I do to help?

A.

Several Council members have contributed financially to support this initiative, which has made its launch possible. So, we’d certainly be grateful if you’re willing to help. We’d also welcome any advice, input, or feedback on your experience as we operationalize this. As with all things, we are building this with and for our members. Finally, just keep bringing a spirit of service, openness, and generosity to your engagement with the Council and your fellow community members — it’s worked really well so far!

To offer feedback or support the initiative, please contact [email protected].

Q.

What would success look like for NationSwell Next?

A.

Our hope is that by building a more diverse and inclusive community, we’ll set the stage for greater collaboration and support amongst our members — and ultimately better accelerate solutions across our country. If we might dream, it would be that other members and organizations follow suit — and think about how best to extend pathways of access in the context of their own efforts.

Share the NationSwell Council and NationSwell Next with the changemakers in your life — apply here.

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