Bridging Communities, Amplifying Voices: Part 3


In part three of this three-part blog series, staff writer, Katie Rainey, explores Community-Word Project’s beginnings with one of this year’s Annual Benefit Honorees: Echoing Green. Read part one here and part two here.

In the first two parts of this series, we saw Community-Word Project grow from a simple community poem into the 20-year-old organization it is today, having impacted over 250,000 students worldwide, and how the social impact organization Echoing Green has been an instrumental part of that beginning and growth.

Echoing Green’s Direct Impact program is an innovative board leadership initiative that aims to accelerate private sector talent to have a direct impact on changing the world for the better. Direct Impact transforms rising stars of the private sector into highly-effective board leaders of the world’s most innovative social enterprises.

As Community-Word Project scaled its impact (see part two of this series), Founder and Executive Director, Michele Kotler, focused her energy and attention on the internal structure of the organization, the work created in the classroom, and in the training. However, to sustain that scale, she knew that the board needed to grow and she turned where she always had when she needed guidance: Echoing Green.

The Direct Impact program explores with potential board members what it means to support an organization and what happens when an individual is given access and becomes a part of a community. With their cohort, individuals learn directly from nonprofit leaders, social entrepreneurs, and community members to develop the knowledge required to fully participate and contribute in the social change ecosystem. The program immerses them in communities around the world, creating a rich, experiential process that transforms the way participants look at board leadership.

Two new board members have joined the Community-Word Project family through the Director Impact program: Crista DeStefano and Gilbertson Cuffy

“I knew that as I progressed in my career I wanted to make an effort to always find ways to give back. Being on the Board for Community-Word Project, helping to bring opportunities to young people daily, could only have been possible for me via Echoing Green and it’s Direct Impact board training program.” – Gildbertson Cuffy

Through this blog series, we’ve seen the vital role Echoing Green has played in Community-Word Project’s history and how transformative it has been for its Founder & Executive Director, Michele Kotler. In 1997, when Michele applied for the Fellowship that would set this work on its course, she had no idea how far reaching Echoing Green’s impact and support would go. Twenty years later, she’s felt the effects of this community’s power, which continues to feed her passion and inspire, reminding her everyday that this work cannot happen alone.

“I’ve learned through Echoing Green that it’s not about having it all figured out before you put your vision into action. If you’re passionate, determined and willing to take the risk, then the work will soar. Passion is contagious and it will fuel your work and attract the network necessary to bring your vision to fruition. Echoing Green made me see how powerful passion and community are in believing in the power of your work, in believing so deeply in the work it is a force that drives positive change.” – Michele Kotler