Empower Emerging Leaders

Marilee Adams

Dec 20, 2013


I’m writing to share with you a new passion of mine and also to make a request. It is the Berrett-Koehler Foundation, of which I am a member of the board. We exist to empower emerging young leaders, especially in the non-profit world who might otherwise get little or no training or development and mentoring experiences.

There is a silent crisis in the world of non-profits that affects the leadership pipeline in these organizations, including many of the large ones and virtually all of the smaller ones. Shrinking budgets in general lead to diminished resources for growing strong leaders in many of the organizations we care about the most. Unfortunately, there are also fewer opportunities for the next generation of leaders to hone their leadership skills since many baby boomers continue to hold onto senior leadership positions in many organizations.

These facts contribute to a growing concern about preparing the next generation of leaders to provide the visionary and practical leadership that these organizations require. Moreover, this concern extends beyond the non-profit world to include mission-driven companies, NGO’s, grassroots organizations, schools, and other organizations committed to solving the challenges of today and tomorrow.

This is exactly the situation that the newly-formed Berrett-Koehler Foundation is committed to ameliorating. Our Foundation has targeted emerging young leaders (ages 15 to 35) as the focus of our commitment to contribute to strengthening the kind of leadership that can really make a difference for the future we all share.

The Foundation was created by my publisher, Berrett-Koehler in San Francisco, a publishing community dedicated to creating a world that works for all. I am proud that BK is my publisher and happy to offer my service to such a strategically important mission.

Here’s my request: As you consider your year-end tax planning and gift giving, might you include a tax-deductible donation to the Berrett-Koehler Foundation? Every bit helps! Here’s the link to the website that allows you to make an online donation, including information about where to mail a check: http://www.bkfoundation.org/donate/. I’m also happy to speak with you about this at any time (Marilee@InquiryInstitute.com; 609-397-9100).

I send my warmest wishes for a healthy, happy, and meaningful New Year.

With appreciation,

Marilee Adams


Information about the Berrett-Koehler Foundation
The purpose of the Foundation is to empower emerging young leaders to master and put into practice methods for visionary and collaborative leadership, community engagement and working across difference. We do this by leveraging the wisdom and active mentorship of our authors. Our programs are designed to help thought leaders, developers and practitioners of cutting edge organizational, individual and educational methods “pay forward” their knowledge, experience and practical expertise to new generations of leaders.

This vision of our new Foundation has tapped into a wellspring of desire and excitement within our community of authors, readers, staff and publishing partners. We’re excited about creating an organizational model and hybrid between the profit and non-profit worlds that engages and leverages the wisdom and thought leadership of the BK community toward making a tangible difference in the lives of next generation leaders. Over fifty Berrett-Koehler authors, readers, partners, and leaders (including me) have volunteered thousands of hours to investigating, designing, and establishing the programs of the Foundation.

Innovative Model
The Foundation’s model for accomplishing its purpose is to pair experienced authors and leaders as sponsors and mentors to emerging young leaders in action learning projects after which they themselves share their learning with others.

Young leaders propose a project that they are passionate about and through which they can enhance their leadership skills. Once selected, they are supported by an author mentor through to completion. Additionally, the Foundation staff monitors progress and provides support to the young leaders as well as to their mentors. Following their project, young leaders share what they learned through articles or videos hosted on the Foundation website. This extends individual learning and helps create an active on-going learning community of young leaders and mentors.

Program Formats
Initially, three kinds of programs are being pioneered:

1.      Action-Learning Fellowships (in which the Foundation provides support directly to individual young leaders and their sponsors/mentors);

2.      Action-Learning Partnerships (in which the Foundation works through existing nonprofit organizations to support young leaders and their sponsors/mentors); and

3.      Experiential Exchanges (in which the Foundation helps arrange for emerging young leaders to do on-the-job “shadowing” of authors and leaders).

Over time these programs will be refined and other programs, offerings, and resources added.

Four Pilot Projects in 2013
This year four action learning projects were completed by young leaders and are described on the Foundation’s website: http://www.bkfoundation.org/news/. I am proud to say that I sponsored one of these projects with two leaders from Achievement First Elementary School in Brooklyn. I think you’ll be inspired by all four of these early projects .

Other pilot projects are in the planning stages. What has already become clear is that our model provides important benefits to multiple audiences:

1.      First and foremost to young leaders (by opening up new realms of their learning with mentors and peers).

2.      Second, to authors/experienced leaders (by giving them a highly effective and efficient way to pass on their wisdom and be inspired by the next generation).

3.      Third, to partnering organizations (by giving them new approaches and tools for enriching their programs).

4.      And finally to communities (because of the projects and initiatives that are coming out of the action-learning experiences).

One of our big picture goals is to demonstrate a model for leadership development through action learning that will be adopted by other leadership programs and publishing houses so as to better prepare future leaders of change.

Relationship between Berrett-Kohler Publishers and the Berrett-Koehler Foundation
Initial leadership and support of the Foundation is coming from the community of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, which is one of the leading publishers in the world of books advancing new leadership approaches, collaborative community development, and socially responsible business.  BK is an independent, values driven organization. BK’s books challenge conventional thinking, introduce new ideas, and foster positive change. Our community of over 800 authors includes such thought leaders as Sharif Abdullah, Angeles Arrien, the Arbinger Institute, Ken Blanchard, Peter Block, Juanita Brown, Riane Eisler, Willis Harman, Hazel Henderson, Jacob Needleman, John Perkins, Otto Scharmer, Brian Tracy and Margaret Wheatley.

The Berrett-Koehler Foundation has applied for 501(c)(3) status. Until this status is achieved, we are utilizing the Social Enterprise Trust as our fiscal sponsor. Our goal is to raise $500,000 to cover the first two years of the Foundation’s budget, operations, and programs. We have already received commitments for approximately one-third of this amount from Berrett-Koehler Publishers and dozens of BK community members.

Although Berrett-Koehler Publishers is supporting the Berrett-Koehler Foundation and providing about 20% of our initial funding, the Foundation is an independently incorporated public charity with its own separate programs, staff, budget, and board of directors. We must raise the rest of our funds through the generosity of donations and grants.

My request for you
I’m sure that my passion and stewardship are evident in this letter. I believe that the success of our Foundation matters and can make a significant and generative difference in the world.

I would love to have a conversation with you about the BK Foundation, either about making a financial contribution or any other kind of support or involvement you might like to explore. My email is Marilee@InquiryInstitute.com; my phone is 609-397-9100.



Written by:

Marilee Adams

Dec 20, 2013