Instilling economy, environment, and equity in California’s next generation of leaders

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(Photo: Susan Lovenburg/CA Fwd)

Tackling California’s challenges while keeping its triple bottom line – increasing prosperity, equity and sustainability – front of mind is a yearlong goal of the California Stewardship Network’s Steward Leadership Program. This March, the program graduated its latest cohort of 18 Steward Fellows, who come from leadership positions across the state.

“Our goals, of course, are to create a movement of Stewards with an increased focus on the triple bottom line and the long-term vitality of their communities and all who live there,” said Kathleen Moxon, who is the director of the Redwood Coast Rural Action network and helped lead the CSN Steward Leadership Program. “I think we were right in finding existing leaders interested in developing their skills at negotiating the triple bottom line.”

The California Stewardship Network represents 15 diverse regions to develop regional solutions to the state’s most pressing challenges via collective action. The Steward Leadership Program started in 2018 and the current class of graduates is the second cohort to complete the program.

“This experience has been so instrumental and vital to the work that I'm doing. I think first and foremost is learning the triple bottom line for the first time and knowing what that means,” said Claudia Moreno, Southern California outreach manager of Small Business Majority.

During the yearlong program, participants met several times in different regions of the state to discuss issues facing California such as industry, affordable housing, homelessness and racial equity. The Stewards attended the California Economic Summit in Fresno in November 2019 where they held a session with legislators about leadership and tackling challenging issues.

“This program has been awesome — being able to build a network of other statewide leaders,” said Adrian Rehn, project manager at Valley Vision. “It has just been unparalleled being able to travel and actually get to know firsthand experience by visiting other regions and understanding the problems that they face and how similar they are to the problems that we face in Sacramento. It has just been a transformative experience.”

This most recent cohort had a different characteristic from last year’s according to Moxon. “In that the first year, we were looking for emerging leaders and in the second cohort we were looking for participants who were a little farther along in their career and could put what they learned to work in their current occupations.” 

“In my region I use triple bottom line every day,” said Brittany Benesi, the Sierra Business Council’s communication director. “Understanding that the communities, the economy, and the environment work best when working together. That's really been an avenue for messaging issues like climate change and affordable housing and forest health and natural resources management to rural communities.”

The California Stewardship Network joined California Forward in 2019, strengthening the organization’s focus on collaborative action, while providing valuable regional insights into the impact of policy and areas of regional interconnectivity.

Bank of America served as a sponsoring partner of the 2019-2020 CSN Steward Leadership Program and will continue to do so with the third cohort expected to launch in the fall of 2020.

Benesi summed up what this program means to the next generation of California leaders, saying “this experience has really widened my perspective to see how we're using [the triple bottom line] across the entire state of California, from the Inland Empire to San Jose to the Central Valley and more communities for the betterment of the entire California State.”


Nadine Ono

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