How do you build a strong pipeline of emerging and established leaders? One way is by implementing a fellowship program. 

Organizations often struggle with managing staff capacity and filling open positions thoughtfully and in a way that creates and maintains a steady stream of talent. A robust talent pipeline allows organizations to fill critical positions more quickly, equip staff to step into leadership roles, and bring new or historically underrepresented viewpoints into the mix. To summarize, staffing resources enable organizations to achieve their strategic objectives and expand their social and community impact.

So how do you build this strong pipeline of emerging and established leaders? One way is by implementing a fellowship program. 

Fellowships are an investment in the future and can take many forms – supporting a unique audience and sector and providing opportunities for personal and professional development. Successful fellowship programs afford fellows the chance to build technical skills and knowledge, as well as soft skills such as leadership, collaboration and communication. These programs also help fellows expand and strengthen their networks. 

Clearly, these programs are mutually beneficial for both organizations and fellows.

Global Impact serves as a leader in the design, implementation and management of fellowship programs. Whether supporting emerging humanitarian leaders or social entrepreneurs, fellows are brought together around a common interest to effect positive change in their communities. 

Planning ahead
Our approach customizes fellowship programs based on the background, structure and objectives of the host organization. Through our hands-on experience over the past six years, we have found several common factors that consistently lead to a successful and engaging fellowship program:

  1. Define the purpose: What is the host organization looking to solve by engaging fellows? Set goals and objectives, and visualize what a successful fellowship program looks like.
  2. Understand capacity: What size program can the host organization support? Develop correctly-sized structure (considering network, number of participants, etc., and establish an annual calendar and timeline to help manage the program.
  3. Identify organizational needs: What does the host organization want fellows to accomplish during their experience? Identify the criteria for fellows and determine the application and recruitment process.
  4. Outline details: How does the host organization want to engage fellows? Establish the fellowship curriculum, program requirements and engagement opportunities (e.g. networking events, mentorship, etc.).

Initial implementation
Once you have identified the initial structure, it is time to establish processes and implement your tailored fellowship program. 

To ensure that the program has the greatest chance of success and that fellows are benefitting both personally and professionally from the experience, Global Impact first focuses on implementation, reflection and learning to ensure that there is a solid foundation from which to scale, and then on building and expanding the fellowship program in a sustainable way. This includes gradually increasing the number of fellows per cohort, expanding the geographic reach, and supporting deeper engagement of and interaction between the fellows based on the specific objectives of the fellowship program and as prioritized by relevant stakeholders.

Ongoing management 
In addition to designing and implementing the fellowship program, Global Impact can also manage the program on an ongoing basis. This includes: 

  • Establishing an application process.
  • Recruiting and onboarding fellows.
  • Hosting check-in calls.
  • Reporting out on fellowship requirements and major milestones to the host organization and its stakeholders.

Monitoring and evaluation are key components of refining and expanding on the fellowship and, in time, engaging alumni in your program. As your fellowship program grows, alumni represent an increasingly important stakeholder group as they provide valuable input to refine and improve the fellows experience, facilitate sustainable networks through engagement mechanisms such as mentorship programs, and contribute to an overall sense of community. This is why Global Impact regularly asks for feedback, reflects on the immediate successes and failures, identifies areas of improvement, and then takes action to improve the program. 

Make your program the best it can be
A fellowship is an iterative process. It is about community and leveraging talents of the few to impact the many. It is a constant process of reflection and growth – for both the organization and the fellow – and so we continue to set new targets for ourselves to ensure that the fellowship program meets the evolving needs of organizations, fellows and alumni, and helps them each achieve their respective goals. 

From conceptualization to reflection and growth, Global Impact can support your fellowship program every step of the way. To learn more about how to design, implement and expand your fellowship program and enrich the experience of your fellows and alumni, contact Sam Ducey.