Robert Sterling Clark Foundation

Sterling Network NYC


Working Toward a More Just and Vibrant New York

The Sterling Network was launched in October 2017 to build a network of systems leaders, working 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. The Sterling Network NYC takes a different approach. Together, members of the Network, supported by the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, are building a network of leaders that is working collaboratively to accelerate advancement in the many issue areas that impact economic mobility. While the central focus of the network is systems change, participants are also developing as systems leaders who can engage effectively in the complex collaborations required for lasting social change. 


The inaugural Sterling Network is a group of diverse and dynamic NYC leaders 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 are able to get things done;

Hungry learners who want to dig deep to understand their city and learn new approaches to 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 and racial justice 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 as a nation and a global society.

Working together, Network members are developing new approaches and collaborations to take on historic challenges within New York City.

Jane Wei-Skillern, Senior Fellow, Center for Social Sector Leadership, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, defines four principles of Networks, which guide 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.