Women of Color LeadStrong Fellowship

Love is the ultimate motivation of a transformative leader. Love inspires, it activates audacity, boldness and courage, and it generates boundless energy. Without love of a cause, how can we take a stand, how can we make sacrifices, how can we venture, how can we take risks? It is love that generates the energy that keeps us unfolding the future, that keeps us engaged, that keeps us in the groove.
— Hope Chigudu’s thoughts on ‘Riding the Waves of Activist Leadership'

LeaderSpring Center’s Fellowships are an antidote to isolation and an opportunity to set in motion powerful shifts in the way social sector leadership is defined and how power is distributed. Adding a new cohort to its Fellowship family, the purpose of the Women of Color LeadStrong Fellowship is to elevate and strengthen the vision, voice, power, and leadership of women of color working for social and racial equity and justice in the social sector. This Fellowship will create a healing, generative, and rigorous space to learn and grow.

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The framework for the Women of Color LeadStrong Fellowship holds that equity and social justice leadership actions, individual and collective, centered in a love ethic, can transform self, systems and the communities in which we live and work. We do this through integral personal development, critical sector analysis, intersectional and collective partnerships, and changes in organization culture and systems.

How we do it

Our two-year, on-the-job Fellowship Program is competitively awarded to 15 women of color, who are social justice change-agents in leadership* positions within social sector organizations in San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa County. We create the space necessary for leaders to dive deep into inquiry about the structures of inequities that persist in the social sector, envision preferred futures for our organizations and communities, and the leadership essential to transforming systems of oppression.

*Leadership includes positions of decision-making authority and/or on decision-making leadership teams that impact organization and program policy, and direction.

This highly customized program integrates leadership development and peer learning through:

  • Monthly, full-day Leaders Circles, offering time for reflection, peer learning, and dialogue;

  • Minimal assignments between Leaders Circles;

  • Three Multi-day retreats;

  • Personalized study trips to nationally and internationally recognized organizations; and

  • Executive coaching support.

Women in the LeadStrong Fellowship will:

  • Appreciate how leading from love fuels brave action;

  • Understand how power sharing emboldens collective action for greater social impact;

  • Determine how to advance an equity and social justice agenda from an analysis of the structures that hinder their work; and

  • Deepen their sense of renewal and well-being.

Why we do it


We are in a time in our nation’s history where the resurgence of overt racism and sexism is projected from the highest political office in our country and has emboldened individual citizens and states to shift from implicit bias to overt violence. This, acted out in micro and macro aggressive behavior toward people of color and women, re-traumatizes the soul of those who historically have been navigating their way through hostile spaces and structures linked to colonial systems of oppression and white dominance. Many people of color suffer racial battle fatigue and experience the social stressors that accompany living and working under, and fighting against these oppressive systems, which in fact is emotionally and physically damaging to those victimized. However, even in the face of the impact on health and well-being, there is a reservoir of power and beauty in those leading and working together to affect equity and social justice


The Annie E. Casey’s commissioned report, The State of Diversity in the Nonprofit Sector, and the Building Movement Project’s Initiative, Race to Lead, both report that organizations led by people of color are serving poor communities of color with limited resources and access to power. They also report on the dismal statistics of people of color in leadership roles in the nonprofit sector, and the leadership of women of color representing an even lower statistic. Although women leaders of color have historically been underrepresented in the social sector, they have been the champions in lifting the dignity of people of color and communities suffering the indignity of poverty, poor health, low education, and job, housing, and food insecurities. It is women of color who need our support to impact the communities they are leading.

We believe women of color are worth upholding and celebrating.