Our Mistakes

We are committed to upholding our values in every action, and recognize that there are moments when we fall short of this commitment. Here is a living list of specific moments when we have not fully upheld our values. We share this so that we may learn from our mistakes, so that we may be held accountable to our communities, stakeholders, Fellows, our values of fearless transparency and embodied integrity, and ourselves. And we share so that we may work to practice humble leadership that centers vulnerability, relationships, and community over ego. While this list surely cannot contain the many small or more amorphous moments of misalignment, we share it to ground the conversation of upholding values in tangible moments. We recognize that living these values is a constant practice and are committed to that practice.

Embodied Integrity  
Moments we didn't practice care with our relationships 

Email Error (Oct. '18)
We sent mass email campaigns to UNC-Chapel Hill students mistakenly referring to them as “Harvard students” because of an email template mishap.
Action Taken
We established a more rigorous editorial process for email campaigns, including a protocol for reviewing email language and all final drafts.
Video Mishap (Nov. '18)
We sent video introductions between Fellow Semifinalists and proposed host government officials. In several cases, these videos were sent without consent from the Finalists.
Action Taken
We have an Applicant Tracking Software that registers these preferences, and more care will be given to each email to reduce the risk of mistakes.
Cold Intro. Issues (Nov. '18)
When receiving email introductions to Hometown Fellow semifinalists, many government officials had never heard of Lead For America and were confused by the mission.
Action Taken
We work in collaboration with local government associations in proposed host community states to inform and build a stronger understanding of our work.
Turnaround Pressure (Nov. '18)
We gave semifinalists only 6 days to submit their public narrative videos. This fast application turnaround created significant attrition within the group, which may have led to some individuals dropping out. 
Action Taken

We engage in more robust application planning to avoid burdensome requirements that might inconvenience our applicant pool or make our application otherwise inaccessible. 

Response Rate Lags (Ongoing)
We sometimes stretch our bandwidth thin. At times, this has led to prolonged lags in email responses, sometimes amounting to several days or even over a week
Action Taken
Our staff have instituted daily email check-ins to keep one another accountable to our inboxes. This structure, has significantly sped up email response times.
Communication Challenges (Dec. '18-May '19)
After selecting our Fellows, we failed to provide consistent and timely updates to the Fellows regarding the status of the Fellow host placement process.
Action Taken
For future years, LFA will provide biweekly personalized updates to each Endorsed Finalist informing them of their progress within the host placement matching process.
Delayed Check Delivery (Summer '19)
During the Catalyst Institute, several training speakers who had expected travel reimbursement were not paid until days or weeks later.
Action Taken
With the help of our bookkeeper and accountant, we have established much more rigorous administration systems.
Follow-Up Info Missing (Summer '19)
At least one speaker accepted an invitation to attend our Catalyst Institute, but never received further logistical information about the training.
Action Taken
We hired a Director of Strategic Partnerships who developed a sophisticated relationship management system to prevent future mishaps of this sort.
Team Wellbeing Trials (Ongoing)
The team culture and team norms within the organization left several teammates feeling disrespected and unheard. These norms tended to cater to a specific way of communicating without making space for other styles. 
Action Taken
We have worked to identify the behaviors and cultural norms that led to this dynamic and developed a set of group norms that we frequently revisit to reground and revise.
Feedback Failures (Summer '19)
In our attempt to create a culture of feedback, we failed to set clear expectations around how we hoped this feedback to manifest. Because of this, several speakers received public feedback from the audience that didn’t come from a place of care.
Action Taken
We have apologized to these speakers and have built a set of shared norms around feedback with our Fellow cohort. We will continue to revisit these norms, call our Fellows and ourselves to these shared values, and work to root our feedback in a place of love. 

Equity In Action
Places we need to continue taking action to center equity and justice

Diversity Oversight (Dec. '18)
In our first Interview Weekends for our Hometown Fellows and Lead For North Carolina Final Interviews, our panels were sometimes nearly-all white, despite interviewing candidates who were majority people of color.
Action Taken
We are committed to having a selection committee that reflects the diversity of lived experiences of the communities our Fellows work in and represent. 
Overlooked Tribal Gov. (Summer '19)
While our Catalyst Institute is meant to offer critical information and a foundation of support for all of our Fellows, we failed to meaningfully include a discussion of and attention to the distinct structure of tribal governments where multiple Fellows were headed.
Action Taken
We will make sure that we continue to have Native representation in our Steering Committee and that we build relationships with tribal government leaders and tribal colleges to make sure that this content is meaningfully included in our curriculum.
Ideology Bias (Summer '19)
The majority of our Catalyst Institute speakers were politically left of center. We believe that meaningful local change must happen everywhere and requires that we convene and work together across political divides.
Action Taken
We will continue working to incorporate a diversity of perspectives all along our curriculum building process —from design to implementation. We will also ensure there are diverse perspectives—politically and otherwise—in our staff, board, and Fellowship cohorts.