Robert Sterling Clark Foundation

Sterling Network NYC


đź“„Program Description


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Working Toward a More Just and Vibrant New York

Not your traditional leadership development program.

The Sterling Network is a new initiative to build a network of systems leaders, who will work together to enhance economic mobility across NYC.

Systems leaders are network, organizational, coalition, or collaborative leaders who work actively to address the root causes of problems, rather than mitigate the symptoms.

Excellent leadership programs exist in New York City, focusing on individual development within an organizational paradigm. We’re taking a different approach. Sterling Network NYC is building a network of leaders that will work collaboratively to accelerate advancement in the many issue areas that impact economic mobility. While the central focus of the network is systems change, participants will also develop as the types of systems leaders who can engage effectively in the complex collaborations required for lasting social change.

“Each time I met the group I came away energized, with a new perspective or idea, and ready to go back to the fight.” 


We are looking for a diverse and dynamic group of applicants who are:

Change makers who understand that no matter how effective their own organizations are, addressing and resolving New York City’s challenging issues—including those around economic mobility—require creative collaboration across the private, public, and social sectors;

Boundary crossers who thrive on unlikely alliances and have the ability to get things done;

Hungry learners who want to dig deep to understand their city and learn new approaches for long-term systems change; and

Decision-makers with a history of organizational leadership and experience in New York City


The Foundation’s commitment to economic mobility is at the heart of Sterling Network NYC. Despite improvements to the physical conditions of many low-income neighborhoods in New York City, and the reversal of the disinvestment experienced from the 1970s through 1990s, poverty and limited economic mobility remain obstacles to residents of low-income communities in the city—and a systemic problem for all New Yorkers committed to justice and equity.

Economic mobility is influenced by a variety of factors including an individual’s education level, neighborhood of origin, personal savings, and family structure. It is also heavily marked by income, immigration status, race, and gender. At the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, we believe that poverty and inequity are at the heart of the challenges we face not only locally, but also a nation and a global society.

Jane Wei-Skillern, Senior Fellow, Center for Social Sector Leadership, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, defines four principles of Networks, which we think will take us far in our work to build a more just city:

Mission, not organization

The network mindset is about advancing the mission even before advancing the organization. leaders adopt strategies and tactics to achieve the mission, not necessarily to stimulate organizational growth.

Trust, not control

In the network mindset, trust and shared values are far more important than formal control mechanisms such as contracts or accountability systems.

Humility, not brand

Conventional wisdom has organizations promoting their program models, building their brands and striving to be leaders in their field. In the network mindset, organizations work alongside their peers as equals and willingly take a back seat when their partners are in a better position to lead.

Node, not hub

Those who embrace the network mindset see their organization as one part of a larger web of activity directed towards a cause, not as the hub of the action.