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Grants & Impact Investing

The John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows Program

Named after the late civil rights leader and former Weingart Foundation Board Member, the John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows program strengthens the regional network of next-generation leaders. This program helps leaders new to their roles develop their adaptive leadership skills, hone their leadership stance, improve their ability to develop more effective campaign strategies, and better access resources that support them as leaders in movement organizations and networks, all through a racial justice and equity framework.


The John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows program aims to strengthen and develop current and emerging movement leaders to lead social and racial justice work that results in a more just and equitable Southern California region.

In March 2021, 14 movement leaders were selected for the second cohort of John W. Mack Fellows. Click here to view the list of 2021 Fellows. To view the list of 2019 Fellows, click here.

Applications for the 2023 cohort will be available in fall 2022.

For questions about the program, please contact Vera de Vera, program director at or (213) 688-6313.

To learn more about John W. Mack’s legacy, click here.

John W. Mack

John W. Mack


Southern California has a strong history of social movements including recent campaigns advocating for reinvesting funding from law enforcement and incarceration to community health, safety and well-being; livable wages; educational equity; criminal justice reform; immigrant rights; marriage equality; affordable housing; environmental justice; and economic empowerment. And the current political environment, racial inequities, and the recent protests in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Andrés Guardado and many other Black and Brown people by law enforcement, have intensified activism, mass mobilizations and a sense of urgency among social justice advocates. They press on to ensure that the gains won by a previous generation of movement leaders are not rolled back and they collaborate to create a vision of an equitable liberatory future.

Achieving Equity

In March 2017, as part of its commitment to equity announced in summer 2016, the Weingart Foundation convened 170 philanthropic colleagues and nonprofit leaders for a day-long discussion on Achieving Equity in Southern California. One of the key action items from that day was the need to develop and strengthen social justice leaders and the movement building infrastructure in our region. Convening participants identified numerous traits of an effective leader including: boldness, courage, diversity, comfort with crossing sectors, willingness to risk reputation, and the capacity to build bridges, link theory to practice, think outside the box, and spark movement—all essential to achieving steady progress toward racial equity and social justice. It would be difficult to find any one individual who inhabits all these traits, so it is imperative for long-term movement building work that a robust network of leaders who collectively possess these qualities be developed, supported and sustained.

Investing in Movement Leadership

In response to this call for more philanthropic investment in developing next generation leadership, the Weingart Foundation convened a group of seasoned movement building leaders and commissioned a study to explore whether existing programs and supports were sufficient to meet the needs of the region’s movement leadership. The research concluded that a more robust leadership-training infrastructure should be developed, not only to sustain the generational transfer of leadership and grow inter-generational relationships, but to also deepen their commitment to the long-term change needed to achieve social justice and racial equity. The research also revealed that a key inflection point in a movement leader’s career is when they transition from day-to-day campaign work to an executive or senior level leadership position involving added responsibilities for managing resources and supervising staff. Seasoned leaders noted that it was at this critical juncture in their early careers where they felt most vulnerable to potential burnout and frustration due to a rather thin layer of support for newly minted movement leaders.

To help strengthen this regional network of leaders new to their role, the Weingart Foundation launched the John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows program in 2019, named after the late civic leader who began his lifelong career as a movement leader through student activism during the civil rights movement. This program will help current and emerging leaders develop their adaptive leadership skills, hone their leadership stance, improve their ability to develop more effective campaign strategies, and better access resources that support them as leaders of nonprofit organizations and movement networks.


The John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows program is designed to help movement leaders:

  • Transform their leadership skills to more effectively respond and adapt to ever-changing conditions;
  • Better articulate their personal leadership stance;
  • Build upon their existing networks through a dynamic shared peer cohort experience;
  • Deepen the alignment between their personal and shared values and their movement work;
  • Identify how they can better connect with more seasoned movement leaders as well as support the development of the next generation of leaders; and
  • Access other leadership development and support resources for themselves and their organizations.

The program is facilitated by Change Elemental, a nonprofit organization that supports individuals, organizations and networks working to disrupt and transform systems of inequity and create powerful vehicles for justice. Fellows will engage in a learning process focused on the five elements of deep change and a thriving social justice ecosystem:

  • Advancing Deep Equity
  • Cultivating Leaderful Ecosystems
  • Embedding Multiple Ways of Knowing
  • Influencing Complex Systems Change
  • Centering Inner Work

Through an exploration of Self, Organization and Movement Networks, the Fellows will also develop tools for leading through complexity and chaos, breaking the habits of white dominant organizational culture, learning through experimentation and reflection, aligning their values through their work and actions, and the importance of self- and collective care.

In 2019, twelve emerging leaders were selected for the pilot cohort of the John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows program. The initial cohort focused on leaders from nonprofits operating primarily in Los Angeles County. For the second cohort that will convene in 2021, leaders from nonprofit organizations and movement networks based in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties are invited to apply.

The components of the fellowship are:

  • Each Fellow engages in leadership development training, peer learning and coaching support through a series of three overnight retreats, four Learning Days and individualized coaching sessions scheduled over an 18-month period;
  • The program is facilitated by experienced movement builders and Fellows will have the opportunity to co-design portions of the curriculum;
  • Each Fellow has access to up to 20 hours of professional coaching (valued at more than $3,300) during the program; and
  • A grant of $25,000 is awarded to each Fellow’s organization to help compensate for the Fellow’s time away from the office during program activities, support the Fellow’s ability to fully engage in the program activities and support the organization’s internal leadership development practices.


Candidates for the John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows program must have the following experience:

  • Five years of campaign experience in social justice and racial equity issues;
  • Employed at a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino or Ventura County and engaged in movement building networks working toward racial and social justice and equity;
  • Placed into a leadership role with supervisory/management responsibilities in their organization/movement network within the past three years.

During this review and selection process, candidates will be screened on these additional qualities:

  • Deep commitment to social justice and racial equity;
  • Readiness to commit time to participate in the Fellows program activities and engage in professional/personal/organizational transformation and development;
  • Exhibit a spark to connect with others outside their current issue area(s) and participate in a cohort-based, peer learning opportunity;
  • Curiosity and desire to constantly learn, innovate, and challenge traditional/current thinking;
    Ability to apply theory to practice;
  • Appreciate space and time to reflect on lessons learned and think proactively about solutions, individually and collectively.


The application period for the 2021 cohort of John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows is closed. We anticipate opening the application process for the 2023 cohort of Fellows in fall 2022. For questions regarding the John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows program, please contact Vera deVera, program director at


Note: The application period for the 2021 Fellows cohort has closed. The questions and responses below are listed for informational purposes only. We anticipate opening the application process for the 2023 cohort in fall 2022.

What is the process used to select the Fellows?
All applications received by the deadline will be reviewed by Weingart Foundation staff to ensure all required information has been received. A review committee comprised of the John W. Mack Fellows advisory group members (nonprofit and movement leaders), Weingart Foundation staff and alumni from the current cohort of John W. Mack Fellows will read and score the applications and identify up to 20 finalists. Applicants will be notified of the status of their application by February 5, 2021. An interview committee, comprised of similar representatives, will conduct interviews via Zoom with each finalist during the week of February 22-26, 2021. Finalists will be notified of the decisions by March 5, 2021.

I applied last year, but was not selected. May I apply again for the second cohort?
If you applied last year, you may submit an application for the second cohort if you meet the eligibility requirements.

I’m not employed at a nonprofit organization but am engaged in movement building work. Am I eligible to apply?
At this time, applicants must be employed as staff at a nonprofit organization (501c(3) status) or as part of a project that is fiscally sponsored by a nonprofit organization.

Is there a limit on how many people can apply from an organization?
Due to the competitive nature of the potential applicant pool, applications are limited to one candidate per organization. If more than one application is received from an organization, the executive director will be contacted and asked to select one application to be considered by the review committee.

The one exception is fiscally sponsored projects in which case applications are limited to one per fiscal sponsor and one per fiscally sponsored project. Fiscally sponsored projects must have a written agreement in place with the fiscal sponsor to be considered.

What is the time commitment required?
The Fellowship spans 18 months with programming beginning in April 2021 and finishing in September 2022. The time commitment is estimated at about 15 days to engage in group programming, with an additional 20 hours to engage in coaching. Each Fellow is expected to participate in an orientation (1/2 day), three multi-day retreats (each retreat is three days in length), and four learning days (each a full day). The length of each activity and scheduling may vary depending on current health and safety guidelines in place at the time of each scheduled event. Fellows and their organizations can anticipate these activities:

  • Early April 2021 – New Fellows Orientation
  • Early-mid May 2021 – Retreat #1
  • Late July/early August 2021 – Learning Day #1
  • Early October 2021 – Retreat #2
  • Early-mid December 2021 Learning Day #2
  • Early-mid February 2022 – Retreat #3
  • May 2022- Learning Day #3
  • Early September 2022 – Learning Day #4/Culmination

What happens if I am selected and can’t participate in one or more of the Fellows activities?
Participation in the Fellows activities is required, although we understand that unanticipated scheduling conflicts may arise. We encourage early and open communication with Weingart Foundation staff if such circumstances arise.

What precautions are being taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Depending on current COVID-19 health and safety policies in place at the time, dates, venues and method of convening (virtual vs. in-person) may vary. If deemed safe to convene in person, the meeting venue will be within a two-hour driving distance of downtown Los Angeles.

How will the grant be awarded to each Fellow?
For each selected Fellow, a $25,000 grant will be awarded to their organization to help compensate them for the Fellow’s time away from work, provide support to the Fellow to enable their full participation in Fellowship activities (e.g., child care support during Fellows programming days, access to technology for virtual participation if necessary, transportation to and from program sites, etc.). Organizations are encouraged to use remaining funds to support overall staff professional development.


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