Equity Centered Leadership Project

Emerging Leaders Fellowship (ELF)

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Project Overview

Oak Foundation and MDC partnered to launch the Oak-MDC Emerging Leaders Fellowship (ELF) to support young leaders interested in social change, offering them an opportunity for practical experience as they learn how philanthropy can promote equitable systems-change. The fellowship intentionally seeks to diversify the philanthropic sector by supporting the career aspirations of recent college graduates from traditionally underrepresented groups. The fellowship provides recent college graduates with a deep understanding of how nonprofits and foundations interact with each other, with the goal of developing a pipeline of young professionals who will bring diverse experiences and perspectives to the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

Fellows have the opportunity to grow while helping philanthropic leaders understand and draw on the insights of the next generation of leaders. ELF addresses barriers that young professionals face when trying to access careers in the philanthropic world. The fellowship provides a reciprocal learning opportunity for all involved in the program. It is a 24-month, full-time, paid experience that couples creative thinking, leadership development, and strategic philanthropy with practical experiences that foster a greater understanding of how equity-centered leadership can influence philanthropy in support of a systems-change agenda.

Fellows are employed by MDC and work out of the Oak Foundation US office in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Fellows are young leaders who provide key support to Oak Foundation’s Learning Differences Programme, Special Interest Programme, and/or the President’s Office. Fellows explore a range of projects and, with support of foundation staff, develop an individual learning plan in alignment with the fellow’s interests, skills, and content area knowledge. The fellows actively contribute to knowledge development and learning by staying abreast of developments in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors and supporting data collection and analyses that demonstrate Oak’s effectiveness and impact. Fellows also participate in learning sessions where they work with peers and subject matter experts to sharpen analysis in their field of interest. They have the opportunity to better understand and apply their leadership style and abilities, with a keen emphasis on equity, as they continue to shape the work of their philanthropic host organization.

Education and Experience Requirements 

Applicants have a bachelor’s degree and up to two years of professional experience. Priority is given to those with prior work or study in a variety of relevant areas including, but not limited to, public policy, education, economic and workforce development, poverty alleviation, sociology, political science, community development, leadership development, or similar fields.

About The Organizations

Oak Foundation

Oak Foundation is family-led and reflects the vision and values of its founders. We commit our resources to address issues of global, social, and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged.

In all its work, Oak pursues rights-based approaches, gender equality, and partnership with partner organisations. Oak supports civil society as a pillar of democracy and justice, nurturing innovation and visionary leadership within it. Oak values diversity both within Oak and among our partners, seeks to be inclusive and flexible, and encourages different points of view. Oak believes that the best grantmaking reflects both careful due diligence and the willingness to take risks.

For more information, please visit: https://oakfnd.org/


MDC partners with Southern leaders and communities to catalyze systemic change that allows more people—particularly our most vulnerable neighbors—to thrive.

For more on MDC, please visit: https://www.mdcinc.org/about/

If you are interested in supporting this project, please contact Senior Program Director, Kerri Forrest.

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Contact the Project Team

Kerri Forrest, Senior Program Director

Email Kerri Forrest