Generating ideas, connections, and action

LLC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Stacy Kono, Rockwood Leadership Institute

LLC Member Spotlight: Stacy Kono, Rockwood Leadership Institute

We are excited this month to be highlighting our partnership work with Rockwood Leadership and in particular with Stacy Kono who is Rockwood's Fellowship Director. We have had a long standing relationship with Rockwood and more recently converged more through our work.  Through our partnership with Social Policy Research Associates, LLC had the opportunity to help evaluate the impact of the leadership development component of the Community Leadership Project.  Rockwood, one of the leadership providers for CLP ran leadership programs for people of color.  I was moved to sit in a circle with Stacy and a couple of Rockwood participants as they talked about the power of the experience.  One woman who talked about doing work in a community where tritip, football and Jesus are the background went on to say, “To have a space in beautiful place to talk about feelings was beautiful.  I am hurt and need to heal and want to heal others.  It was a gift.”  We are huge fans of Rockwood and all of the folks over there and are happy to have the opportunity to appreciate Stacy.


Stacy loves to convene “unlikely” partners.

Before coming to Rockwood Leadership Institute, Stacy worked for ten years with Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA), a community-based organization in Oakland, California with the mission of building the leadership and power of low-income Asian immigrant women and their families. At AIWA, Stacy organized garment factory bosses to sit down with garment workers to improve working conditions, and respond to the high rate of workplace injury.  According to Stacy, “It was a challenge to imagine bosses and workers working together, but my experience at AIWA proved that with strong leadership and relationships anything is possible,” After the talks, several Oakland factories agreed to implement ergonomic changes that reduced injuries for hundreds of workers.

Stacy continued creating “unlikely” partnerships through her work on Rockwood’s Fellowships. The Fellowships bring together leaders who are engaged in different strategies within one sector in order to catalyze more powerful and engaged learning communities and partnerships. Rockwood’s first two Fellowship Programs brought together leaders in Media Reform and Justice, and in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Advocacy community. Over the last seven years, Rockwood has replicated its Fellowship model with eight sectors, convening over 170 leaders, in partnership with twelve foundations.

The work of Rockwood’s Fellowship Program, and its Art of Leadership Program, is to equip advocates, organizers, researchers and other social change agents to engage in personal leadership development  (e.g. managing stress, understanding personal power, navigating, difficult conversations) in order to be more effective at building partnership and collaboration. In many cases, the Rockwood’s Fellowship programs also create the space for leaders to mend “wounds” from past conflicts between leaders within a sector.

Last summer, Rockwood partnered with Claire Reinelt at Leadership Learning Community (LLC) to conduct an evaluation of their Fellowship model. In the results released this spring, Claire found that the Rockwood Fellowship model, “encouraged and supported participants to develop their personal leadership, sustain themselves in their jobs, and learn and practice leadership techniques for greater influence and impact in their sector.” Ninety percent of evaluation participants found the program to be “extremely/very” valuable personally.

The surveys conducted by LLC also affirmed the value of developing new relationships in their sectors, and having the opportunity to expand collaborations with others. Many participants reported that informal and formal relationships, such as board membership, emerged from the Fellowship connection. In addition, projects like the Knowledge Exchange and the Transgender People of Color Coalition were created by Fellows in response to conversations within the Fellowship context.

The data from LLC’s surveys confirmed what Stacy has witnessed over her almost twenty years of work in the nonprofit sector: unlikely partnerships can often be the strongest.

You can learn more about the Leadership Learning Community evaluation results on the Rockwood blog at: and more about Rockwood’s Fellowship and Art of Leadership Programs at

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