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Reporting from the 2017 American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit

April 3, 2017

5:00 PM

In case you missed it, this afternoon, Cheryl L. Dorsey  (President, Echoing Green) and Cody Switzer (Assistant Managing Editor, The Chronicle of Philanthropy) held a riveting conversation on the power of Intrapreneurship During Times of Transformation at the American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit.

From serving in two presidential administrations, to starting her own nonprofit, to heading Echoing Green – a global organization providing seed funding to social entrepreneurs solving the world’s biggest problems – Cheryl has devoted her expansive career to driving change across sectors and social issues.

Below are the top three leadership lessons we learned from Cheryl this afternoon:

  • How to be a strong leader in the nonprofit sector
  • This generation of young leaders needs to navigate across different sectors and therefore needs a wide variety of qualities and assets. Having emotional intelligence and contextual intelligence, the ability to understand the context in which you operate and the assets you can bring to bear in a particular setting, are important. Also balancing passion and purpose, navigating networks, garnering influence to drive change, and bringing curiosity to any task at hand are all vital.
  • Lessons from Echoing Green
  • One of the most important qualities to have is resilience. Being a leader is so much about failure and getting back up again and again. It’s part of the journey and should be embraced – not hidden from view! The greatest learnings happen in those moments of failure.
  • Lessons for breaking through the noise and getting in touch with your cause
  • I recommend leaders filter out the noise by intensely focusing on connecting with the right customer for their cause. You do not need to find a broad audience. You need to find your audience and build trust with them to create evangelists for your cause.

If you are looking for a great, practical resource on intrapraneurship, Cheryl suggests reading Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change from Within by Lois Kelly.

Cheryl and Cody’s fireside chat has inspired all of us to leverage the power of intrapreneurship within our own organizations – a crucial leadership skill that will always be needed during times of transformation.

Cheryl and Cody
To hear more, be sure to watch the replay of Cody and Cheryl’s conversation available at

3:50 PM

...And the winner of the 2017 American Express Leadership Award is... Erica Hamilton!

Born and raised in the Bronx, as executive director of City Year New York (CYNY), Erica leverages her leadership skills to empower the youth of her hometown.

Following her win, I had the opportunity to sit down with Erica and hear her thoughts on all things leadership, as well as the future of the sector.

Tim: Why did you choose a career in the social purpose sector?
Erica: I know from firsthand experience what it is like living in an environment that is not well-resourced. I was fortunate enough to have a loving family and encounter people who invested in me. I knew very early on that I wanted to play the same role in the lives of those who are underserved.
What does leadership mean to you?
Good leadership requires a commitment to doing what is right, even though this sometimes means standing alone against forces that are insurmountable. Great leaders know that every problem has an answer, although sometimes the answer may require difficult choices.
How have you leveraged your experiences at the American Express Leadership Academy to drive change in your community?
The American Express Leadership Academy inspired me to think more innovatively about developing not only my own leadership, but also the leadership skills of those around me. I now spend a significant amount of time identifying programs for my staff members. In addition, I recently launched an organization to provide female executive directors in NYC with the opportunity to collaborate on strategies that improve their teams’ and their leadership abilities.
What about the sector’s future is keeping you up at night?
The sector’s ability to attract and retain the assets it needs to successfully implement programs and provide services. The task upon all of us is to think proactively, engaging in conversations with diverse groups, and working collaboratively to develop strategies.

Tim and Erica
As part of the award, CYNY will also receive a $25,000 grant. Erica plans to use this funding for development training of CYNY staff members – paying forward her leadership development experience to those she leads.

We wish Erica the best as she continues her leadership journey!

10:00 AM

Greetings from the third annual 2017 American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit in NYC!

Over the next few days, we will be celebrating the trailblazing alumni of the American Express Leadership Academy – our transformative, decade-long program that has developed nearly 3,000 emerging, nonprofit and social purpose leaders. This year 51 alumni from across the world, as well as representatives from our Academy partners – top leadership development and entrepreneurship organizations that help us train these incredible leaders – will gather in downtown Manhattan to discuss best practices for advancing the sector’s impact on society.

Our discussions here are timely, thought-provoking and impactful – and we are asking all of you to join us, by streaming Intrapreneurship During Times of Transformation, a fireside chat with Cheryl L. Dorsey, President of Echoing Green, moderated by Cody Switzer, Assistant Managing Editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, at 3:15 p.m. (ET) today, via

Our Alumni Task Force voted overwhelmingly to hear Cheryl speak – not only is she a pioneer in the social entrepreneurship movement, but her leadership insights derive from a career that has spanned decades, sectors and social issues. We invite you to ask Cheryl questions in real-time via Twitter, using #AmexLeads. In addition, Cody will host an exclusive live preview of the conversation on The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Facebook page at 2:30 p.m. (ET) this afternoon.

We’re also counting down the hours until we announce the winner of the 2017 American Express Leadership Academy Award. Not only will we be recognizing an alum who has demonstrated outstanding and impactful leadership. But, the winner’s organization will also receive a $25,000 grant to support operational programming.

To get you excited for our imminent announcement, we have included a list of the incredible nominees below:

  • Blair Glencorse, founder and executive director, Accountability Lab – spearheads the development of young civil society leaders around the world through leadership training and mentorships.
  • Erica Hamilton, executive director, City Year New York – leads the recruitment and training of tutors, mentors, and after-school program managers that support students in NYC public schools.
  • Emily May, co-founder and executive director, Hollaback – heads a network of grassroots activists fighting online harassment through public conversations and safe, inclusive spaces.
  • Jessica Santana, co-founder, executive director, New York On Tech, manages after school programming, internships, and mentorships for underrepresented students, encouraging them to pursue careers in the technology sector.
  • Victoria Wisniewski Otero, human rights advocate, protects forced migrants in Hong Kong, by raising public awareness and building legal evidence to effect change.

I will be providing updates from the Summit throughout the day, including an in-the-moment reveal of our 2017 American Express Leadership Academy Alumni Award winner at 3:50 p.m. (ET), so continue to follow CSR Now!


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