This post originally appeared in the PLACES Connection July 2022 newsletter.

BY Dion Cartwright, Director of Equitable Initiatives and Leadership Development

Each day we face constant reminders of the historic and current-day challenges of our society that often negatively impact our lives. I could easily list all the ways life makes you want to quit trying to change the world or change the hearts of the people in it, but I’m pretty sure if you’re reading this, your list is the same as mine.

When the narrative feels a bit overwhelming and the systemic barriers begin to feel like permanent walls, I try to remember my why. When you understand your why, you understand your purpose, and this gives you the ability to self-determine and make choices that best support the vision for your life. In the midst of these hard moments, it’s easy to lose sight of why we continue doing this work, but hard moments can also lead to a clarity of purpose.

In the face of doubt, adversity, white supremacy, and increasing burnout, remember your purpose is greater than the challenges you face. We’re not only working to improve other people’s quality of life, we are also working to improve our own lives, the lives of our families, and our children’s future. We are working on just trying to breathe a bit easier when every day a bit more of the oxygen gets sucked away.

What’s your why?



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.


About the Author

Dion Cartwright is TFN’s senior director of equity initiatives and leadership development, directing the PLACES Fellowship program and leading 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.





Photo by Shad0wfall is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA