Frequently Asked Questions


Thank you for your interest in Sterling Network NYC --  a new initiative to identify dynamic NYC leaders and bring them together to form a network that works together to advance economic mobility in New York City.

The following are responses to some of the frequently asked questions about this new initiative and about the application process.  



Who should apply?

We are looking for a particular type of change-maker. First, we are looking for people who are able to reach beyond the boundaries of their own organizations and sectors, and to engage in creative and diverse cross-sector collaborations to achieve change. Second, we are looking for people who are eager, active, on-going learners, and who strive to understand the city, and are excited to learn new approaches to long-term systems change. Finally, we are looking for decision-makers with a history of organizational leadership and experience in New York City, and who have a demonstrated ability to get things done.


When will participants be announced?

Participants will be announced in early October, 2017.


What are the requirements for participating in in Sterling Network NYC?  

During 2018, participation requires a commitment to the following 10 days:  

Retreat 1: Jan 24 – 26, 2018

Retreat 2: May 9 – 11, 2018

Retreat 3: September 26 – 28, 2018

Day-long convening:  November 30, 2018


In addition, participants are expected to be actively engaged with the network between convenings. Beyond 2018, commitment to the network is open-ended. Our hope is that participants will remain actively engaged and committed members of the network.


What are the goals of the network?

If the network is successful, we envision it contributing to a city that is more just, fair, and vibrant, where economic mobility is a core feature of our shared aspiration as a city. Specifically, we expect three types of collaborative outcomes to develop among network members:

Micro-collaborations, in which a small number of individuals or organizations agree to work together on a project basis to achieve a specific goal;

Partnerships, in which individuals or organizations agree to work together more formally over time to exchange information, coordinate activities, and even share resources; and

Impact networks, in which a number of organizations find leverage points to address a complex systemic issue related to economic mobility, that no single organization could accomplish alone.


What are the benefits of participating in the Sterling Network?

Participating in the network offers you:

Deep and sustained engagement with a network of the city’s most impactful systems leaders;

Access to three retreats each year, where  a group of city-wide leaders will learn together and plan issue-oriented solutions;

Time and support to develop and implement initiatives that will make New York City a more just and vibrant place;

An opportunity to participate in critical conversations about equity and justice;

A chance to leverage your personal and institutional interests, skills, resources, and networks to achieve concrete, lasting, system-level change in New York City.


Is there a fee for participation?

No, there is no fee for participating in the network.


Will I or my organization receive funding for participating?

Neither you nor your organization will receive funding for your participation. We will cover your travel costs and the expenses of all retreats and meetings.


How is Sterling Network NYC different from other fellowships and programs for leaders?

Our approach differs in two key ways. First, we are looking for a specific type of leader: a system leader who is able to work across boundaries, in diverse alliances, to tackle the root causes of entrenched social problems. is our central focus. Second, rather than focusing on building the capacity of individual leaders or organizations, our aim is to build and strengthen a network of leaders who will develop partnerships and collaborations to achieve system-level impact.



Why is the Initiative focused on building a network, rather than on individual leadership development?

We define networks as intentionally structured efforts to catalyze change in a system by engaging people and organizations around a shared purpose, connecting them through strong relationships, and sustaining the effort over time. Effective networks transcend silos, sectors, differences of race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other challenges to collaboration and progress. In them, leaders find common ground, coordinate strategies, and collaborate generously, even when there are striking  differences and sharp disagreements. As a result, networks are the drivers of effective system-level change.


What does Sterling Network NYC mean by “systems-leader”?

System leaders look beyond a particular problem or their role in addressing to consider the larger systems at play. They seek to address root causes of problems, rather than seeking to merely alleviate symptoms. They are able to consider perspectives different than their own, to foster relationships across boundaries, to help groups engage in shared reflection, and to build and sustain complex and impactful collaborations.


Why is the Sterling Network focusing on the issue of economic mobility?

We believe that poverty and inequity are at the heart of the challenges we face as a city, as well as as a nation and a global society. Although the physical conditions of many low-income neighborhoods in New York City have improved, the disinvestment experienced from the 1970s through 1990s, poverty and limited economic mobility are still obstacles for residents of low-income communities in the city and a systemic problem for all New Yorkers committed to justice and equity. We know that economic mobility is influenced by a variety of factors, including an individual’s level of education, neighborhood of origin, personal savings, and family structure. It is also heavily affected by income, immigration status, race, and gender. We aim to bring together key individual leaders from multiple sectors, who are committed to increasing economic mobility for low- and middle-income New Yorkers.


Can I apply even if I work for a grantee of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation?

Yes – you are still eligible, but you get no “advantage” over other applicants.


What if I cannot make all of the retreat dates?

In the first year of the network, participating in each of the retreats is a key requirement. However, if a problem arises, talk to us. If we can make it work for you, we will.


Who else will be in the network?

We are seeking leaders who care about equity and NYC from a range of sectors, fields and disciplines, including nonprofit organizations, government agencies, business, media, academia, artists, the law, etc.


Must I hold a particular position (e.g. CEO, Executive Director, etc.) to qualify?

Not necessarily. Still, we are looking for people who have sufficient professional authority, autonomy, and networks to make real-world decisions to move change forward.


What will happen at the network retreats?

Participants will have an opportunity to meet, talk, eat,  relax, and learn with some of the city’s highest-impact leaders, as well as to participate in critical conversations exploring strategies to advance equity and justice. Participants will gain knowledge and skills to support effective network-building (e.g. network theory, working effectively across differences). The group will have the space to plan collaborative work.


Will the Network grow after this year?

Yes! The network can grow each year. Because the network is not organized into “cohorts,” growth will be organic. The foundation will work with network members to determine who we need in the work with us in order to make a difference in the city.