Key Points

· After years of leading social-sector organizations in an environment where competition is more the norm than collaboration, many gifted leaders are near burnout, unable to maximize their gifts. Since 2005, the Barr Fellowship has been changing that in Boston.

· This network of leaders, created by the Barr Foundation, is based on the hypothesis that recognizing talented leaders and investing in their personal growth and connections with one another will result in individual, collective, and city transformation.

· A longtime funder of networks, Barr designed the fellowship as a “connectivity” network, where collective actions and shared agendas might emerge but would not be imposed. In this way, the fellowship exemplifies what has been described as “ambidextrous philanthropy” – rooted in strategy yet also in values; focused on outcomes, yet also responsive.

· This article describes the theory of change; strategy; evaluation methodology (including network mapping); results – for Barr Fellows, their organizations, and Boston; and how the program fits within an approach to philanthropy that embraces the long view. It discusses implications for funders interested in supporting connectivity networks.

Open Access