This post originally appeared in the PLACES Connection December 2023 newsletter.

BY Dion Cartwright, Director of Equitable Initiatives and Leadership Development and Incoming President and CEO

As I reflect on the last seven years at TFN and what journey lies ahead, I become full of gratitude and heartfelt appreciation for the people that I’ve had the pleasure of being in community with over the past seven years. I have gained some of the most amazing friendships, visited beautiful cities, learned from leaders across sectors and worked to advocate for and address some of the most pressing issues of our time.

I also got to be a witness to the brilliance and resilience of the many people we’ve been honored to meet that fight for true change in the face of adversity. Our travels introduced you to opportunities to hear from community and nonprofit leaders to learn about the atrocities they face and their local and regional efforts to confront them head on.

In states like West Virginia, where issues of addiction and poverty are at the forefront, healthcare issues in rural Kansas, or major climate issues that impact Indigenous communities in Standing Rock, North Dakota.

We also bore witness to the the immigration challenges faced by boarder communities in El Paso, and the water crisis impacting people in Flint.

Even recent attacks on our democracy and the constant pain and suffering facing people here in the U.S. and beyond, there were no shortage of challenges communities faced. There was, however, a shortage of courageous and systemic actions philanthropy had taken to address them.

What makes PLACES such a special program is our willingness to unpack the hard truths about the individual, institutional, and racial inequities that exist within the philanthropic sector and the systemic inequities communities are facing every single day. There is a willingness that participants have had to address these challenges in their grantmaking and engagement efforts. A willingness to be bold and courageous in efforts to dismantle systems of oppression while at times being challenged with our own strategic complicity as we navigate personal truths, our own safety, and even the realities of our own identities and journeys that influence who we are and our approach to the work.

The work doesn’t stop there. This note is a reminder to each of you to never forget the power you hold to influence change, create a bold, unobstructed vision and new approaches to this work. Think about what you can do from your position of power and how you might bring others along in your effort to change the world.

As someone who has committed their career to investing in people, communities, and intergenerational leadership, I am honored that TFN has chosen me to not only lead the organization into its next chapter, but also to advancing our mission and creating a home for philanthropic changemakers like yourselves, working to create more just, sustainable, prosperous, and healthy communities for all. The opportunities I see ahead for TFN, and the sector excites me, and it continues with each of you. Each one of you represents an opportunity for us to collectively be BOLD and COURAGEOUS in our fight for JUSTICE.  I hope you continue to join me in helping philanthropy live up to its name. #NoMoreFuckery



PLACES — which stands for Professionals Learning About Community, Equity and Sustainability — uses learning, coaching and reflections to explore structural racism, community empowerment and equitable grantmaking practices. In addition to the PLACES curriculum, Fellows learn from the people and places we visit. Our Fellowship Cohort, selected annually from a highly competitive pool of applicants, embarks on year-long journey that includes four site visits to communities across the U.S. and Canada.

The PLACES Fellowship concludes with a capstone presentation and graduation — but that rarely marks the end of the PLACES experience. As any PLACES alum will tell you, the deep bonds and professional connections forged by the Fellows extend well beyond the end of their cohort year. Learn more about the PLACES fellowship and alumni here.

Applications are now open for 2024 TFN PLACES Fellowship. The deadline to apply is Jan. 5, 2024. View the application and apply today!


About the Author

Dion Cartwright is TFN’s incoming President and CEO. Prior to CEO, Dion served as senior director of equity initiatives and leadership development, where she directed the PLACES Fellowship program and lead the organization’s work to address equity, inclusion, and structural racism. She was a 2010 PLACES Fellow and chaired the PLACES Advisory Board for four years before joining TFN’s staff.