I am continually inspired by the work of our grantee partners and the impact they achieve in the world. These partners are diverse and work on a range of issues and in a range of settings and geographies. What unites them is that each relies on passionate and dedicated leaders who work tirelessly to serve their communities. Often these leaders are so focused on organizational and external priorities that they can overlook their own spiritual, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. Perennial reminds us that a core component of leadership development is a focus on a leader’s inner life. We are excited by the programming and fellowship opportunities they offer, all of which are designed to nurture leadership skills and focus on renewal or as we like to say, “keep the spark alive.” — Sheila Leddy, Program Partner
Some years ago, we chose to name our organization Perennial because of our experience that humans are remarkably sustainable and resilient beings who, like living soil, can generate magnificence. More specifically, the leaders who dream and inspire others to take action toward building a more inclusive, equitable and loving world regularly make the impossible, possible.
At Perennial our belief is that this capacity to generate hope and possibility is, again like living soil, something that can continue to produce if well tended. Therefore, our approach to leadership development has always been focused on those deeper, inner landscapes from where leaders access their resolve and capacity to renew themselves and their work.
After doing this well for two decades we have learned that ignoring or delaying these priorities inevitably leads to a depletion of inner resources that cannot be sustained. In short, our work has taught us that social leaders are capable of remarkable sustainability but tend to approach the inner landscape of their leadership in unsustainable ways. And when the depletion of inner resources hits critical levels of concern, and leaders cannot continue with their work, we are reminded that social leaders are not easily replaceable. More than anything—ideas, strategic plans, policies, funding—positive social change requires humans, leaders, to make the impossible, possible.
And over the past several months, we can see the world over that this proposition is under serious threat.
Leaders from all angles of social change—especially in health, education, environment, and human rights—have been called to be more resilient than ever and take actions while facing prolonged uncertainty. Communities are in crisis. People are displaced and under new threats. Organizational budgets are on the brink. More than ever we see widespread coverage of leadership burnout.
One anecdotal sign of how things have changed is that for many years our work at Perennial was not generally understood or, if it was, it was sometimes considered to be a “nice to have” leadership development training experience. But starting in 2020, it became less necessary for us to “make the case” for why our work and approach to leadership development is so important. Anyone who is involved with the social sector—whether it be at the local, national or global scale—knows leaders doing the work who have been working under crisis mode for what seems like forever.
Here we are reminded that while leadership may be sustainable, it is not easily replaceable.
Perennial is meeting this challenge by dramatically scaling our offerings to make our work more accessible to leaders around the world. With COVID protocols preventing us from conducting in-person trainings, we have adapted our work and expertise to be as powerful and transformational as a virtual offering. Since March 2020, we have trained hundreds of leaders throughout Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America through our Perennial Fellowship and other partnerships in our facilitated and asynchronous programs.
And perhaps as evidence that institutional philanthropy is beginning to recognize and prioritize leadership, wellbeing and sustainability, over the last two years we have worked closely with funders like the Obama Foundation, the Malala Fund, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, the Issroff Family Foundation, and of course Imago Dei Fund, to elevate and amplify the Perennial approach to leadership development.
In January 2022 we are excited to be launching a new program in partnership with the University of Washington Department of Global Health called Wellbeing for Healthcare Professionals. This ten-week course will be built around our Perennial Wellbeing Practice and will enroll 2,500 participants throughout the world.
Additionally, in Spring and Summer 2022 we are offering our two-month Perennial Fellowship, which is a great opportunity for leaders to restore and renew themselves in a global cohort of remarkable people leading change throughout the world.
For more information on our work and what we are learning about leadership sustainability, wellbeing and burnout, please visit our website.