Obama Foundation Annual Report 2018

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The 2018 Class of Obama Foundation Fellows gathered in Chicago to meet for the first time.

OBAMA FOUNDATION FELLOWS

TWENTY REASONS TO BE HOPEFUL

When we put 20 outstanding, innovative civic leaders together in one room, we knew powerful things would happen. In the spring of 2018, we invited our inaugural class of Obama Fellows to meet for the first time, and to begin a two-year journey that would collectively push their work forward.

During the first year of the Fellowship program, the leaders have built on their impressive work in an effort to create transformational change. After meeting in Chicago and hearing from President and Mrs. Obama, they immediately established connections and found opportunities to collaborate. Later, amidst training sessions and guided conversations, they reflected on their first year together at the Obama Foundation Summit. In their first year, our Fellows have expanded their work and continue to model the powerful truth that each of us has a role to play in civic life.

Fellows Moussa Kondo and Sandor Lederer unearthed a powerful connection: both had strong, personal experiences with corruption that drove them to tackle the issue, though in different, innovative ways. Celina de Sola and Nedgine Paul Deroly drew a wealth of support from each other as they worked to overcome inequality in El Salvador and Haiti. And Clarissa Delgado and Veronica Crespin-Palmer bonded over their shared work of expanding education to alleviate poverty and trauma, even if that work happens a continent apart.

Each of our Fellows will continue their journey for another year, taking advantage of the individualized support, resources, and connections the Fellowship provides to deepen the impact of their work. In the second year of their Fellowship, they’ll begin to collaborate with and learn from a new cohort of 20 leaders—the class of 2019 Fellows. We’re excited to grow the Fellowship community from 20 to 40. We can only imagine the powerful things that will happen next.

Conversations Among Fellows

“Since the Fellowship, we’ve seen a lot of mobilization and engagement around our work. This kind of engagement is really hard to do in Mali because of the underlying mistrust of institutions and the people who make decisions. The way people see our work has changed—we’re a more credible entity and I think it’s helped us build trust between our organization and the people and communities we want to help.”
—MOUSSA KONDO, MALI
“I’d also add that the support and coaching I’ve gotten through the Fellowship has been incredibly valuable to myself and to my organization. A lot of ordinary people in Hungary who start NGOs haven’t studied these things. You just start doing it, and depending on your skills and expertise, some people are better at it and are able to succeed. It’s been such a precious thing to be connected with other Fellows because their stories are deeply inspiring; it’s a huge gift to me that I can work with them to learn and grow together.”
—SANDOR LEDERER, HUNGARY
“What’s been incredible for me so far in this experience has been the reminder to not engineer smallness for our movements. Celina and I both care so much about people’s power and about what can be done with local community assets, that it can be easy to focus more on the person and lose sight of the systemic change we’re working tirelessly to create. I have been challenged, and I have been pushed in a lot of ways when it comes to movement building and dismantling systemic inequality in our specific contexts. and the people and communities we want to help.”
—NEDGINE PAUL DEROLY, HAITI
“I agree. I’d add that this Fellowship has helped me reflect on what I believe, and retrace the steps that led me to start really paying attention to social justice and carefully designed systemic oppression—as Nedgine mentioned before. I’m putting the pieces together, and thinking so much about the scale of the work we are doing. It’s important for us to work deeply in each community and understand it well, and it’s interesting to think about what that means as we grow and scale.”
—CELINA DE SOLA, EL SALVADOR
“I agree. I’d add that this Fellowship has helped me reflect on what I believe, and retrace the steps that led me to start really paying attention to social justice and carefully designed systemic oppression—as Nedgine mentioned before. I’m putting the pieces together, and thinking so much about the scale of the work we are doing. It’s important for us to work deeply in each community and understand it well, and it’s interesting to think about what that means as we grow and scale.”
—CLARISSA DELGADO, PHILIPPINES
“Wow, thank you. I really appreciate your humor and optimism, Clarissa. It’s also really inspiring to see another woman of color really crushing it in this space. Your perspective on education and how you approach it has been really powerful for me. And honestly it’s been therapeutic to be able to bounce ideas off of you, share common frustrations, and keep the long term vision for our organizations at the forefront. You really are an incredible support system I need, because this work is no joke!”
—VERONICA CRESPIN-PALMER, U.S.
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