Meet this year’s Distinguished Partner Award Honoree, Collaborating for Resilience!

This award is given to a partner who is held in high regard for their contributions to Atlas Corps, their commitment to our Fellows, and their passion for creating pathways for diverse and talented leaders to serve others.

Collaborating for Resilience (CoRe) is one of our amazing Host Organizations and we are proud to have five of our Fellows serve at their organization. We are grateful for their support towards guiding our global leaders.

CoRe team at Promise of Commons Workshop in Gujarat 2022: Karen Pineiro, AIF Fellow Namrata Sehgal, AIF Fellow Manushi Sharma, Blake Ratner, and Apoorva Shivakumar.

On behalf of the organization, Blake Ratner, Executive Director, shares more about their Host experiences.

At Atlas Corps, we have a tradition of stating our “Five Facts” when introducing ourselves to new people. What are your five facts?

Name: Blake Ratner

Hometown: Washington, D.C. (I was born in California, lived on a farm in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains, and grew up early years in D.C.’s Adam’s Morgan neighborhood)

Role at Organization: Executive Director

Social Issue/Interest Area: Environmental justice, Social equity, and Resilience in the face of climate and environmental change

Fun Fact: I love whitewater kayaking and adventure bicycling.

What made you first decide to host an Atlas Corps Fellow, and why do you choose to continue to be a Host Organization? 

In this moment of climate and ecological crisis, poor communities who depend on forests, land, rivers, and coasts for their livelihoods face particular risks. Recognizing this, CoRe supports civil society organizations in South and Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America to advocate for and build innovations that make governments and markets more responsive to the priorities of local communities. 

By design, CoRe is a highly distributed organization and thoroughly international. Because of this, we need to attract top talent from the countries and regions where we work. Atlas Corps helps us find mid-career professionals whose training and interests align with our mission. Then they complement the training we provide by providing a structure in which Fellows can reflect about their own leadership development priorities and challenge one another to grow. Ultimately, we’re interested in attracting a steady flow of professionals who improve our partnerships, help shape our strategy, and feel inspired to work with us over the long term.

What are some specific examples of how your Fellows’ contributions have made an impact on your team and organization’s mission in the long run?

We’ve hosted four Atlas Corps Fellows and are now welcoming a fifth—three have been co-sponsored by the American India Foundation (AIF). Because of their insights and expertise, we’ve been able to deepen our engagement with civil society partners in India, identify and expand new partnerships in Africa, plus strengthen our monitoring and evaluation and communications outreach. 

Our first Fellow, Radhika (Class 38, India), was instrumental in co-developing guidance to improve the functioning of local democratic planning institutions in India. AIF Fellow Manushi (Class 46, India) has developed new tools to monitor the growth of partner networks in India and track their effectiveness. AIF Fellow Namrata (Class 46, India) has co-led design and implementation of a new training and certification program for local practitioners. Antsa (Class 43, Madagascar) helped facilitate dialogue among partners in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa on implementation of land policy. Now, after the Fellowship, he’s managing a four-country evaluation study on national policy dialogue platforms.

Workshop groupwork in Gujarat 2022: AIF Fellow Manushi Sharma (standing at left) participates in small group activity on hypotheses to evaluate pathways to change under the Promise of Commons initiative led by CoRe partner, Foundation for Ecological Security. (Photo credit: AIF Fellow Namrata Sehgal)

What is your favorite part about being an Atlas Corps Host Organization?

I appreciate that when Atlas Corps Fellows arrive, they are already part of a community—their peers within the current cohort but also an extended community of Fellows from prior years. This means they have support settling into their new city and new job as well as an international network with whom to explore their own professional development goals.

Why is it important for you to inspire future social change leaders?

The challenges that we confront on a planetary scale–among nations and within communities–are immense. Our current policies, institutions, market mechanisms and social norms are inadequate to meet these challenges. We need innovators—people who are willing to be bold in visualizing and building new ways of working together that put ecological integrity and social equity front and center. This is a task that requires entrepreneurial and transformational leadership. 

Thank you, Blake, for your inspiring words! We look forward to celebrating Collaborating for Resilience on July 17 at 12 pm ET during the Atlas Corps Celebration of Service!

Photos from Blake’s and CoRe’s personal archive.