Broadening Our Networks: Fellowships Bring New Ideas and Expertise

Posted by: Richard Thomason

Connections. Connections. Connections. Putting a new spin on the real estate mantra about the importance of location--the Foundation’s future success and the impetus behind the Senior Fellowship program, is all about connections…to new ideas, to new networks of people, and to research and new expertise that broaden our perspective.

Our first Senior Fellows arrive next month, and they will connect us--through their experience and networks--to two specific areas that the Foundation believes will help us move ahead at this exciting time: social movements and data strategies. 

Looking back after almost a decade at the Foundation, I feel lucky to have contributed to California’s significant progress in improving access to health care and coverage through aggressive implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Across the state, millions more of our friends and neighbors have health coverage, and the community health centers and health systems delivering care are stronger than ever.

With this solid foundation, I feel that the best is yet to come, as we implement our new strategic direction with the goal to make California the healthiest state and to end domestic violence. This is the biggest transition in the Foundation’s work that I have seen, and I am excited to help develop this Senior Fellowship program, which will help make the connections that we need to get to this new destination.

Here in California, we’ve seen in recent years the power of social movements to bring about change. Jacqueline del Castillo, our new Senior Fellow for social movements, has firsthand experience in social movements in many capacities--as a participant, ally, scholar and activist. “Social movements have brought about some of the most important changes in society, uniting people around issues that affect us all,” said Jacqueline, “I am excited to work with people building movements across California to make further progress together.”

Another powerful tool for us is data--and our other new Senior Fellow, Jen Lewis-Walden, has worked on a local level in Sonoma County for five years demonstrating how data, when used effectively, can shift culture and support healthy communities. In Jen’s words, “I am interested in strategies using data to deepen understanding of community voice, safety and trust, connectedness, and dignity.”

You can see why I am excited about these senior fellows, who we view as idea generators enriching us with their expertise, and also as connectors, who can link us to people and organizations with more new ideas that can help us achieve our mission. Through this work, we also see great opportunity for the fellows to benefit in their own professional growth.

Our new direction will enable the Foundation to have a more significant, long-term impact on the health and safety of Californians, as we take a broader look at social issues in meeting the needs of communities.

And, it won’t stop with these two fellows. Senior fellowships will offer us future opportunities to identify areas where we need special help in exploring and understanding issues and challenges from year to year. We see the program as an ongoing idea lab that will help us make more connections across sectors, communities, and programs to bring together the diverse strengths of all residents and make California the healthiest state.

Learn more about the new Senior Fellows and the fellowship program here. 

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