Celebrating the Graduation of the Gather Fellows

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By Ethan Michaeli
Senior Advisor, Communications and Development

Twenty grassroots leaders from 16 countries around the world celebrated their graduation from the first class of Goldin Institute’s GATHER Fellows program on November 8th hosted by Board Member Mimi Frankel.

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GATHER graduate Raymond Richard, founder of Brothers Standing Together, the Chicago-based anti-violence non-profit, attended the celebration on a rooftop venue overlooking Lake Michigan. ‘Brother Ray,’ as he is best known, communicated throughout the evening with other fellows online as he has throughout the four-month GATHER program. His colleagues participated in their respective regions across the globe in an innovative live broadcast of the graduation event.

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Made possible by a new tablet-based online capacity-building curriculum that combines shared learning, local practice and robust reflection amongst the Fellows, GATHER’s inaugural participants have learned and worked together over the last 16 weeks. The highly diverse inaugural class included the manager of an orphanage in Kenya; a peace and reconciliation advocate in Colombia; a spokesperson for survivors of sexual violence in Kentucky; and a young lawyer in Puntland, Somalia. Throughout the course, these grassroots leaders engaged their respective communities in identifying existing assets, and built the personal capacities they need to design community-driven approaches to address local challenges. Both the software and core exercises were developed by Goldin Institute executive director Travis Rejman informed by 16 years of collaboration with a global network of grassroots leaders.

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In many ways, Gather is the culmination of the last 16 years of experience gained by partnering with grassroots leaders and their communities across the globe. Literally thousands of conversations with community leaders from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the streets of Port au Prince to the Boardrooms of international agencies, have informed the curriculum and improved the platform.  -- Travis Rejman

President of the Education for Change Association in Romania, Laura Molnar, summarized the GATHER Fellows’ sentiments when she shared:

It’s a joy and an honor to graduate GATHER – Goldin Institute, a high-quality course, with a real capacity to transform and empower global community leaders. Grateful to be part of a community of wonderful and inspiring people who are not afraid to dream and to work hard for making dreams become true.  -- Laura Molnar, GATHER Fellow, Romania 

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Dieudonne Allo, founder and CEO of the Global Leading Light Initiatives in  Eastern Cape, South Africa added:

Today is a historic day for you at the Goldin institute, but it is also a historic day for me and Global Leading Light Initiatives. Thank you for empowering my community through me. I have learned (and applied) so much from Gather's unique curriculum and in the process, been greatly inspired your organisational culture. Community-driven leadership isn't just something Gather taught me about, but it made me see how it is practised. As leader of a nascent organization, trying to build an organisational culture, this was a very process for me. -- Dieudonne Allo, GATHER Fellow, South Africa 

As the final assignment in the GATHER course, Fellows crafted Indiegogo campaigns to invite local and global support for the projects they created with their communities over the last four months. These projects are built on the core principles of the course which include building on the assets that already exist and making sure that those people most impacted by local challenges are part of the team designing the solution.  

We invite you to learn more about these inspiring campaigns by visiting the GATHER Fellows collection on Indiegogo.

Goldin Institute Advisory Board Member Mimi Frankel, hosted last night’s event, and saluted the graduating cohort as well as the Goldin Institute staff members. “I consider it a privilege and an honor to present the First GATHER graduating class,” Mimi explained. “It’s an extraordinary program.” 

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In welcoming the participants who joined us to celebrate the graduation in Chicago, Goldin Institute Founder and Board Chair Diane Goldin toasted the dedication and assiduity of the entire Goldin community:

“This GATHER graduation is a celebration of our Fellows who represent the heart of our mission. I couldn't be more proud of them and the team that made it all possible". -- Diane Goldin, Founder and Board Chair

Deborah Bennett, a Senior Program Officer at the Polk Bros. Foundation was likewise elated and impressed by what she saw at the graduation event. Beginning early next year, the Goldin Institute is working with the Conant Family Foundation in partnership with the Polk Brothers Foundation and many other Chicago-based philanthropies to create a new GATHER class for grantees of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities:

“I’m so inspired by the asset-based approach to working with grassroots organizations,” Bennett explained. The people most impacted should always guide the solutions, and I’m excited for what we can do to reduce gun violence in Chicago.  -- Deborah Bennett, Polk Brothers Foundation

Jazz Legend Kahil El Zabar was invited to attend the GATHER graduation by the Goldin Institute’s Executive Director Travis Rejman, and commented that he was “intrigued” by the “collective of unique, innovative minds concerned with human need and real change – I find it inspiring.”

 

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