There is a bittersweet beauty to being part of a young people’s organization committed to leadership development.
The great part is there are always new people coming in ready to grow their leadership, and with that, we get new ideas and become even bolder with our vision. Leadership development is one of the sweetest joys of being an organizer. I have never been more connected to pride and purpose than the times I’ve been able to support and witness someone do something brave and then, sometime later, witness them support others in their bravery.
Being a young executive director, I feel keenly aware of being a leader on my own leadership development journey. Almost every month there’s an unexpected situation that pushes me to grow and learn. As I grow older, I hope I always feel like I am being challenged to grow, and if I’m not, I can move on to something else.
I am often existing in two very different ways of being at the same time. For instance, as Executive Director, I have a responsibility to hold and share our organizational history; while holding the container for our staff and members to continue making history. At once I am embodying oldness and newness. This particular polarity feels especially acute in this moment.
As of July 1st, I am the longest serving staff person at RG at just over seven years. June 30th was my beloved Adam Roberts’ last day on staff at RG after we started on the same day in the summer of 2015.
His transition, alongside our strategic planning process, has me reflecting on all the ways we’ve grown as an organization and how I’ve grown as a person. I’m also reflecting on Adam’s impact on RG, and knowing that he’d hate more credit than he’s due, I share all these stories with the deep knowing that nothing is the result of one person, but that we are always moving as a part of teams, ecosystems, and lineages.
In 2017, I had my most magical fundraising learning experience (that is a ridiculous but true statement). Iris (former RG staff), Adam, and I were all wealthy organizers on staff. We were all becoming strong fundraisers in our own right but hungry and eager to learn more about how it works, and thought there was no better way to learn than by doing.
One late night after a retreat, we decided we would take turns pair-fundraising each other for real around our overall giving, with the third person out getting to observe. It was almost like an activity in a well-designed training except no one asked us to do this; we were just being total weirdos committed to supporting others to redistribute.
Over a couple of hours we went through a deep process, inquiring and pushing on where each other’s growth edges were, but always with love and non-judgment. At the end of it, we were all closer to each other, and we had committed more money to movements.
It was experiences like this that would become the core of the Transformative Fundraising training a couple years later when Sarah (former RG staff) and I wrote the curriculum. At its core, there was a knowing that fundraising at its best transforms everyone involved and deepens relationships.
In December of 2017, the Senate was about to pass a tax bill that would heavily favor the owning class. Under the guidance and support of Kaitlin, our Campaign Director at the time, some of us went to DC to join our partners at the Center for Popular Democracy in protesting this bill.
The first day of protests, Adam and I, with other RG members, were arrested alongside 50 other people for staging a “die-in” in a Senate building. My heart was racing, and I had no idea what would happen after we got arrested. Adam showed me that leadership meant being brave in the ways I asked others to be brave. I felt so much grounding and comfort knowing I was not alone, and that Adam especially was with me. We were released within a couple hours after paying a $50 fine for “incommoding.”
The next day, the Senate was due to vote, so we waited around the Capitol all day and into the evening. Adam and I had volunteered to be a part of a smaller crew who were going to disrupt the Senate proceedings when the vote was called. We waited until after midnight for the vote to start, and when Mike Pence entered the room four groups of four started chanting “Kill the bill, don’t kill us” (To be honest, with all the adrenaline I don’t remember 100% what we chanted). We all knew the vote was going to go through, but I was so glad to be the voice of the people that day and to be an inconvenience to the bill’s passage.
We were charged with “Disrupting Senate Proceedings,” and spent the night in a Capitol Police building awaiting processing. I was so proud of RG in that moment, for being a part of the resistance, and for taking risks alongside our campaign partners. I was really proud of myself, and really proud of Adam and of our members. And again, I couldn’t have done that alone. Adam was my rock. I don’t think he would’ve done it alone either but that’s the beautiful thing about leadership, we can lean on each other and do more than we ever could by ourselves.
And all of this leads me back to my and Adam’s first staff retreat in September of 2015 at a Methodist hostel in the West Village, NYC. We were both somewhat shy, figuring out how we fit on this new team, but we were both brimming with ideas and passion for RG’s work. I specifically remember us having many side conversations at that retreat about how we really wanted RG to dedicate more support to college organizing and solidarity economy work.
Over the next few years, I saw Adam act as a consistent but not overbearing advocate for these areas of work. I saw him build relationships, have conversations, and invite collective learning to grow our whole staff’s knowledge about these areas. And each, in their own way, started coming into fruition. Adam supported the development of our Transformative Investing Principles and carved out some time in his workload to grow our college program to a place a full-time organizer could take it over.
Adam was not alone in either of these efforts, but he played his part, was consistent, and never let the things he was passionate about override his commitment to the team and our collective goals. And almost as soon as those areas sprouted, he passed them off to others to grow (shoutout to Nadav stewarding our TIPS work and keithlee stewarding our college program).
I’m going to miss Adam. I’m going to miss all of our scheming after retreats, our late nights prepping for conferences, and all of the levity, rigor, thoughtfulness, creativity, and joy he brought every day to RG. He’s left a big impact on RG starting from his time as a member all the to today as the outgoing Resource Mobilization Director. Thank you, Adam.