The Schusterman Fellowship: Looking Back to Look Forward

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This year, the Schusterman Foundation’s Leadership and Talent Team will select the sixth cohort of Schusterman Fellows. As we prepare to welcome our new Fellows, we are taking time to reflect formally and informally on the program and its impact.

Since 2016, our goal has been to prepare and support the leaders who are making positive change in the Jewish community and beyond. We also believed from the get-go that the Schusterman Fellowship should be a living program—one that could grow and evolve alongside Fellows and the needs of the communities in which they work.

In turn, we have learned a lot from Fellows themselves about their experience and how it might be strengthened. Their honesty and insight have helped shape the program into what it is today. We have also benefitted greatly from a dedicated group of coaches, facilitators and supervisors of Fellows who are partners in our work and who share our passion for providing a best-in-class leadership development experience.

We know anecdotally, empirically and from qualitative surveys that the Fellowship has had a significant impact on Fellows and their organizations. But how long does this impact last? In what ways is the Fellowship excelling and in what ways is it coming up short? These are the kinds of questions that inspired us to work with evaluation firm Learning for Action (LFA).

We teamed up with LFA in 2017 to study the effects of the Schusterman Fellowship by conducting periodic evaluations as well as a longitudinal study. I am pleased to share highlights from the longitudinal study with you here in the hopes of unearthing insights that may be of use to others who are working with and developing leaders.

The data and survey responses come from our first three cohorts of Fellows, including those who also participated in our first two cohorts of Senior Fellows. I invite you to read through the full report here.

We are proud to learn that:

  • Fellows are advancing in their careers. We found that 82% of Fellows moved into a senior executive role during or after one year of completing the Fellowship. Fellows have also established consulting firms, written books and have been invited to speak at professional conferences and events.
     
  • Fellows are growing as leaders. Fellows reported greater confidence, focus and capacity for inspiring others, command over more tools and practices to sustain their work long-term, and a stronger understanding of their own weaknesses.
     
  • Fellows are improving their organizations. According to Fellows, changes within their organization included more professional development, mentoring and coaching opportunities for employees, new or improved feedback and review processes, improvements to staff culture, and improved strategic planning.
     
  • Fellows are working together. Nearly three-quarters of Fellows indicated that they collaborated with other Fellows in a meaningful way during and in the year following the Fellowship. Additionally, a sample of supervisors shared that Fellows helped to strengthen existing connections with other organizations and develop relationships with new organizations.
     
  • Fellows feel they have greater influence within the Jewish sector. Fellows noted their improved ability to identify and articulate the changes they wanted to make in the sector, successfully implement the work that contributes to their vision and garner national attention.

We aim to improve by:

  • Strengthening the Senior Fellowship experience. Interviews with our Senior Fellows revealed a lower level of satisfaction with their experience as Senior Fellows compared to their time as Fellows. To address this, we are working to articulate goals that are specific to our Senior Fellows and create intentional programming and offerings, including virtual gatherings, Fellow-led in-person gatherings and funding to support Senior Fellows’ individual and collaborative leadership.
     
  • Preparing Fellows to lead diverse communities. Both within and outside the context of the longitudinal study, Fellows have helped us understand the need to apply a diversity, equity and inclusion lens to every aspect of the program, from recruitment and selection to faculty and curriculum. Since making improvements to our process, our cohorts and faculty have become more in diverse in terms of racial, gender and sexual identities, and our curriculum better represents the diversity of the Jewish community. We are committed to continuing to explore ways to improve on this front.
     
  • Reimagining the Fellowship’s capstone project (Change Inquiry). Though the Change Inquiry (CI) is a core component of the Fellowship curriculum, we heard from Fellows that the structure and expectations around the CI remain unclear. To improve, we will be kicking off the CI process earlier in the Fellowship and assigning Fellows to CI teams so that they have more support along the way.
     
  • Understanding how Fellows use their networks. We have partnered with ORS Impact to conduct a social network analysis. The analysis will help us understand how Fellows are connecting with one another, how information and support are flowing through the network, how that changes over time and how we can better support Schusterman Fellows as leaders and changemakers.

Our journey thus far has been one of learning and discovery—and we are committed to continuing with transparency and humility. We believe that, as Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” As anyone who has ever asked for feedback can attest, it is not always comfortable, but it is invaluable. Thank you to all those who have helped us learn and grow on our journey. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue pursuing our mission and look forward to sharing more lessons from the field with all of you.

Read the full report and download our Leadership Development Guide to get actionable insights for organizations looking to strengthen their leadership initiatives.

Abby Saloma is the Senior Director of Leadership and Talent at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.