A message from Chris Oechsli, CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies

In 2002, Chuck Feeney and the Atlantic Foundation directors made the decision to complete the foundation’s grant making by the end of 2016 and conclude all operations by the end of 2020.  In 2012-13, as we neared the end of grantmaking, we deliberated with many Atlantic grantees and colleagues on how to have the greatest impact and influence on the themes and issues, and in the regions, that have been of historic interest to Atlantic.  Many of you were central to those discussions.  The result is Atlantic’s investment of over $650 million in the Atlantic Fellows - emerging and effective values based leaders who, working across professions and communities, will make the world a fairer place.   

Tumultuous political and social winds in the US, UK, South Africa and beyond, with recent manifestations such as Manchester, Brexit, the Zuma era and the US presidential election; and the changing regional and global social and economic dynamics emanating from the Asia-Pacific region; all underscore global deficits in moral vision and leadership.  The Atlantic Fellowship Program leaders and colleagues have taken up the ambitious challenge to address those deficits.  You have begun this journey as highly motivated and experienced individuals committed to building a regional and global community that will address those needs.  Those of you joining us as our first fellows have already demonstrated your commitment and talent to build a more equitable world, and we look to you as co-creators of a truly transformational community.

I struggle to say if it is for Atlantic or for Chuck Feeney to thank you for what you do as we are, like you, stewards of a privilege and a commitment to make a difference in the world.  But those of us at Atlantic who work with you have a deep gratitude for your work, for being part of this community, and for our opportunity to participate in this undertaking.

My basic request is that we not lose sight that we are all in service of the effort to equip our fellows with the strength, skill and resilience that will empower them to make a difference.  It is not about us.  It is ultimately about how we empower fellows and their fellow travelers to be influential agents for the outcomes to which we aspire.  Even as we advance our programs, we are waiting for the voices and contributions of our fellows to fully emerge.  We have much to learn.

At a recent meeting of the GBHI Governing Board in Dublin, I passed by a marker celebrating the great iconoclastic wit, Oscar Wilde.  Three of his quotes on that Merrion Square Park marker resonated as thoughts relevant to our community:

“Most people are other people.”  We are diverse.  From that diversity, we can model the message of inclusivity among ourselves and the experience we offer to our fellows.

 “Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.”  Our passion and experience invite us to lead with what we know, yet we aspire to remain open to the thoughts and insights of others.

 “The well-bred contradict other people.  The wise contradict themselves.”  The challenges we seek to address are complex and full of contradictions.  We and our fellows must be able to hold these complexities and contradictions while adhering to our fundamental values and goals.  It is a difficult dynamic that is at the root of how one achieves desired social change.

Execution is the chariot of genius.  Our ideas and aspirations will not advance without the basic mechanisms of our work.  Our immediate respective and collective tasks include operationalizing programs; exploring how to leverage and connect ourselves in ways that transcend our individual areas of expertise; and finding specific effective ways to build a community of change makers who will bend the arc of history towards a more just and equal world.  Those of you who are our first Fellows have much to teach us in this work. Our hope is that the Atlantic Institute will provide resources and support to hold up and advance the aspirations of this community in specific and tangible ways.  Yet, just as each program is in an early start-up phase, so, too, is the Atlantic Institute.  We must be patient with our collective efforts to execute on our vision, even as we retain our impatience to advance and realize change. 

This first newsletter marks another phase in our progress.  As I hear from and interact with many of you, my excitement for the emerging prospects only grows.  There is so much to do; so much to look forward to.  But we’ve come a long way from 2012.

Expanding the We: The Framework of Othering & Belonging

by Sara Grossman, Communications and Media Specialist, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society

Stories are critical to our shared survival, john a. powell told an audience of more than 1,100 scholars, activists, policymakers, and other changemakers gathered at the 2017 Othering & Belonging Conference. Narratives, powell explained, allow us to empathize, reach out, and expand the boundaries of our “circle of human concern.”

“How do we build bridges?” he asked. “We must hear other people's suffering and stories.”

Opening up the second day of the conference, held April 30-May 2 in Oakland, powell, who is the director of UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, the conference organizers, sought to contextualize the impetus for a three-day conference on understanding and engaging with othering and belonging: At a time when toxic nationalism, xenophobia, and racism are on the rise—and when human rights and democratic values are under attack—how can we envision and advance a society rooted in love, belonging, and compassion?

And compassion, powell said, “means to suffer with others” through stories. While many of the speakers centered their discussions on history, politics, culture, or organizing strategy, powell anchored much of his talk on the ontological, the notion of the self, our concepts of who “we” are, and who the “we” are in our collective imagination. In his speech on “Practicing belonging in a period of deep anxiety,” powell provided a closer critique of exclusion in US society through the entry point of a very simple American phrase: We the People.

Who is “We,” he asked, and who is considered “People”? For too long, that “we” has only included a small few, excluding groups like indigenous peoples, Blacks, immigrants, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, and others. powell argued that stories about who “we” are remain critical to reimagining a more inclusive whole. For too long, he said, social “we” stories have been exclusionary, highlighting only the triumphs and suffering of a small group, with everyone else lumped into the secondary role of “Other.”

The key role of narratives was highlighted by a number of other speakers during the event. Speaking on the first night of the conference—and on the hundredth day of the Trump presidency, in a moment where “it feels like we might all fall apart”—speaker Jeff Chang reminded attendees that it is not too late to reimagine a society grounded in belonging. And artists, he said, “have the potential to be stewards of validating the righteous humanity of marginalized people.”

Chang, Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, was just one of more than two dozen distinguished speakers at the conference, all of whom sought to provide clarity and context on the strained moment the world finds itself in today, or, like Chang, offer a provocative reimagining of what could come next.

Chang, who said we are currently facing “the struggle for the soul of America,” concluded that it is the job of artists, and of changemakers more broadly, to inspire people and to “manifest the idea of a nation that is yet to be.” Attendees heard not only from artists who are doing just that—notably photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier and Moonlight playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, both of whom discussed the role of the artist in elucidating and expanding notions of belonging—but also scholars, policymakers, activists, and others, each offering diverse expertise to help guide the fight for belonging.

Echoing Chang’s conclusion, #BlackLivesMatter Co-Founder Alicia Garza noted during one panel that her work as an organizer is to “cultivate the movement that I want, fully understanding it is not yet here.”

Another speaker, Stanford sociologist Doug McAdam, emphasized that it is important not only to look forward, but also backwards in order to understand that the divisions we see today—especially with rhetoric used to demonize people of color and other minority groups—are nothing new, ”just the most extreme version of what we've seen  recently.”

McAdam was highlighting a truth underscored by a number of other speakers at the conference: that the divisions President Trump embodies are a continuation of America’s legacy of exclusion, and, secondarily, that the fight opposing the president’s policies are just one part of a larger historical fight for justice. Renowned changemakers like former Greenpeace head Kumi Naidoo, scholar Saskia Sassen, and Color Of Change Director Rashad Robinson all echoed many of these sentiments from varying vantage points during the conference.

The conference concluded with an electric speech from scholar and activist Melissa Harris-Perry, who warned of the counterintuitive dangers of seeking to eliminating some forms of Othering altogether.

It is problematic, she said, when Belonging may be only understood as simply “fitting in” to the status quo. Those in society who have long been considered “the Other” hold valuable and honest truths, and their insights can make us stronger. “Never forget the artistry and power of the Other,” Harris-Perry concluded.


Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity program updates

-          Our Fellows

Recruitment and selection of our first cohort has finished and we will officially announce our Fellows in the coming month. This cohort represents the vision for the Program; demonstrating impressive track records, strong commitment to social change, and a diversity that will contribute to a dynamic cohort experience. Overall we received 34 applications through nominations from our collaborating partners – 71 percent of the applicants were female, and 65 percent have Indigenous heritage from Australia and New Zealand.

We are working towards a proposal to on-board our Fellows in August ahead of the program starting in October this year.

-          Program design

We are planning a series of internal workshops to build on the significant curriculum design work that has already taken place, as well as developing a monitoring and evaluation framework.

We have also held extensive discussions with our partners to test various elements of the program, including co-delivery, place-based learning and Indigenous pedagogy. Throughout the program, we will continue to adapt and refine the curriculum in concert with our Fellows.

Framed by an Indigenous pedagogy that draws on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, tradition and knowledge, the 12-month program will expose Fellows to a variety of topics, contexts and locations across Australia and New Zealand. Outside of the eight program modules, Fellows will continue to develop their own social change proposals with the support of faculty, coaches, and the cohort.

-          Program board

The program board met for the first time on 17 May in Melbourne. Board representation includes senior members, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, from The University of Melbourne, The University of Auckland, Queensland University of Technology, Brotherhood of St Laurence, as well as Mr Chris Oechsli from The Atlantic Philanthropies. The role of the program board is to provide strategic guidance and direction to the program. The board will meet again later in August 2017.

-          Permanent home

One of our key priorities in the coming months is to set-up a permanent home for the program, and we are pleased to report that we are in the final stages of confirming a site near the University of Melbourne. We envisage creating a space that is fit-for-purpose for the program team as well as welcoming to Fellows, faculty, alumni and the Indigenous community at large.

-          Master of Social Change

We are working with the University of Melbourne to have the program recognised as an award program – the Master of Social Change, the first of its kind in Australia. While this was not part of our initial proposal, Fellows will now receive a formal qualification once they complete the Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity program, along with more favourable tax treatments as “students”. 


-          Program Director

Mr Jason Glanville was appointed Program Director for the Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity program in April 2017. Jason, a Wiradjuri man from south-western New South Wales, is a senior leader who has spent more than 20 years working in a range of community-based Indigenous organisations, State and Federal Governments and non-government peak bodies. 

In leading the program, Jason’s vision is to harness Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander talent and innovation, resilience and capability, to create positive social change and contribute to a more just society.

The program provides a rare opportunity to positively disrupt and reframe the way we tackle problems and support the Fellows, whose ideas will develop new approaches to solving them.”

Indigenous cultures represent the longest single unbroken thread of human history spanning more than 70,000 years and points to an extraordinary level of strength, creativity, and adaptability. The Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity will draw on this history and excellence to deliver a program that invests in a new generation of leaders working together to bring transformative change.

Jason sees the Alumni as key to the program, “(Alumni) will be at the centre of a 21st century agora that will bring new opportunities to inspire us all to expect more from our leaders, to crave inspiration, to get excited by the possibility of ideas, to demand social equity, and the creation of economic and cultural sustainability

Jason is Chair of the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute and on the boards of the National Australia Day Council, the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre, Carriageworks and Social Traders. He was a member of the Steering Committee for the creation of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

In 2010, Jason was named in the (Sydney) magazine’s 100 most influential people of Sydney and in 2011 he was featured in Boss Magazine’s True Leaders list. In 2016 Jason was appointed as an Associate Professor (Adjunct) at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University.

 News items

This year marks a number of significant anniversaries in Australia’s journey towards reconciliation:

-          50 years since Australia’s historic and most successful referendum on May 27 1967, to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the national census.

-          25 years since the landmark Mabo decision on June 3 1992 that legally recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ relationship to the land, which existed prior to colonisation and still exists today.

-          20 years on from the release of the Bringing Them Home Report on 26 May 1997 into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. 

A number of key events and programs have taken place during Reconciliation Week to celebrate these achievements, including the historic meeting with over 250 First Nations’ people at Uluru and the Statement from the Heart for truth-telling about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ history.

“In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”

In describing the gathering, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar, said “This is an opportunity to address the fundamental way that our peoples are seen and heard in this country. It can also speak to the relationship that we seek with our fellow Australians.”

The Uluru Statement now goes to the Referendum Council, which advises Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, on the next steps towards a referendum to establish a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. 

Reconciliation Australia: http://www.reconciliation.org.au/

Referendum Council: https://www.referendumcouncil.org.au/event/uluru-statement-from-the-heart


Garma, an annual celebration of Yolngu culture (Aboriginal people of north east Arnhem Land) is on from 4 – 7 August 2017. Garma has become Australia’s Indigenous equivalent of the World Economic Forum, and attracts an exclusive gathering of 2,500 political and business leaders from around the world. http://www.yyf.com.au/