FAQs About ELP's Fellowship Programs

What are the primary benefits of an ELP Fellowship?

We receive so many wonderful testimonials about the benefits and impact of the ELP fellowship that we needed to create a separate Testimonials page to capture them. We put this question to our Senior Fellowship community recently and received some wonderful responses which we’ve included at the end of this list.*


What happens in the ELP Fellowship and at retreats?

Please note: In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ELP is currently holding all retreats on a virtual platform with adapted curriculum and online collaborative tools. We will continue with virtual retreats until it is deemed safe for in-person gatherings. We appreciate your continued support and interest in ELP’s Programs!  UPDATE: As our 2021 program year comes to a close, we are embracing a virtual/hybrid model with the third of three retreats scheduled to be held in person for our Pacific and Pacific Northwest programs.  Our 2021 National Fellowship will remain all virtual. 

ELP fellowship programs are comprised of 12-13 days of training spread over several multi-day retreats. 

Each retreat is a mixture of training and retreat. Fellows have time to dig into intense learning and also have space to process this learning - in conversation, in quiet reflection, and in time outdoors. Our retreats employ a range of models and and facilitation tools - and this is influenced by the particular facilitators and the nature of the group. Our basic model involves meaningful exploration of critical topics and skills, dialogue and reflection, the opportunity to generalize useful lessons, and the opportunity to strategize about next steps, and set intentions with supporting structures.

ELP retreats are, for the most part, an amazing time. We love for people to have fun, play, grow, celebrate, and connect. At the same time, we recognize that some of our deep learning happens outside our comfort zones so we also create a safe space for Fellows to take learning risks, experiment with new types of learning, and more.  In addition to the structured learning sessions that happen each day, retreats contain long-lunches and most evenings are open.


Do I have to be extroverted to enjoy an ELP Retreat?

No. Our retreats allow for people with different learning styles, different levels of comfort with groups, etc. We change it up a lot. In any given day, you’ll likely get to experience individual reflection time, a buddy conversation, a small group, and some full group exercises. 


What about the content? What do we “learn”?

Though the content of ELP fellowships evolves over time, here are some of the topics we currently explore:

  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and skills for working across difference
  • Strengths-Based Leadership; aligning with and investing in your gifts
  • Network-weaving and creating communities of abundance
  • Personal effectiveness
  • Creating high-functioning teams and learning organizations
  • Difficult conversations and dealing with conflict
  • The nature of leadership in our times - and in our individual contexts (issues, domains, etc.)

We feel that all of the topics we explore allow ELP Fellows to grow emotionally (building self-efficacy and empowerment), to develop practical knowledge and skills, to create deeply supportive relationships, and to refine their action plans for the long-haul.


Is the fellowship appropriate for people in my sector? Or of my age and/or level of experience?

ELP's Fellowship Programs are intentionally designed to be a "cross-sectoral" space. Each ELP cohort has participants working on a range of issues and a range of from different sectors (non-profit, private, public, and academia, grassroots).

Generally, we work with mid-career people, not those straight out of college but those who have at least a few years of work/field/career experience. In recent years, our Fellowship Classes have become increasingly inter-generational which has brought added value to our programs.  Fellows have ranged from academics to organizers, program managers to executive directors, exceptional graduate students to city mayors, and sustainability officers at Fortune 500s to start-up CEOs.


How competitive is the program?

Each of ELP’s Fellowship Programs have between 15 and 20 spots. Given that we now have 7 regional programs and 1 National class per year, that means we train over 125 people per year. Our goal is to have the highest possible quality of applicants for our programs - which means people who are excited about the opportunity and ready for it in terms of time, energy, and maturity.

We do not seek to maximize the number of applicants in order to make the program more “selective” and “elite.” Rather than aggressively market our programs, recruit many more applicants than we can accept, and then turn many away, we prefer to put our energy into most efficiently finding a amazing mix of people for whom ELP is perfect at that time.


When is the next Fellowship?

ELP currently has 7 regional fellowships and a national fellowship. You can see details about these programs - and the corresponding dates- on the pages from the Programs drop down menu on our homepage.


Do I have to be present for the entire training? 

The ELP Fellowship is designed as whole - and as the entry point into a larger learning community. Though participants are on an individual journey of leadership development, there is also a collective journey - a whole that is great than the sum of the parts. Given that the process is actually diminished and hindered when some participants miss parts, we ask that you be present for the entire training from beginning to end. If you know in advance that you can’t participate in the retreats, please think about either rescheduling commitments or applying the following year.


Do I have to stay on-site during the trainings?

In ELP’s 20 years of facilitating retreats, we’ve heard that participants have the richest experience when they commit fully to the training - including being on-site throughout. This allows for organic connections, community-building, and for participants to be reasonably well-rested. For these reasons, we require ELP Fellows to stay on-site at the retreat center rather than commute. 


How much work is involved between the retreats?  

There  are some short assignments before each retreat - but these are not time-consuming.

There are occasional pre-retreat reading assignments and the creation of a PLP (personal leadership plan) which is then discussed and honed through conversation (in person or digital) with your learning team or pod. This is as demanding as you want it to be - and also very rewarding.

When Fellows graduate into senior-fellowship, they get to determine their level of engagement in this larger learning community. There are many - and varied - opportunities for engagement but these are all voluntary.


What does Diversity mean to ELP?

Diversity is a major value for ELP and has been since the launch of the organization 20 years ago. This is not lip service; it is a core part of our mission.

Currently, almost 40% of the over 1200 Senior Fellows (graduates of the ELP fellowship) are leaders who identify as individuals of color. In all of our classes/cohorts, we seek to maximize a bunch of different types of diversity (ethnicity, gender, sector - and we are hoping to start tracking other types including sexual orientation and socioeconomic class). We aim to do this in ways that are non-tokenistic and non-intrusive, but also deeply honor the value of this kind of diversity to the learning process, to the larger ELP community, and to our environmental and social justice movements.

We acknowledge that ELP is a learning organization and a work-in-progress. Though we are committed to building diverse, inclusive, and just spaces (and societies), we know that almost every organization has a long way to go on these counts. Thus, we welcome conversation, feedback, and recommendations.


I have more questions. Do you have a real human I can talk to?


  • For questions regarding our Regional and National Network Fellowship Programs, please contact coreprograms@elpnet.org and we will get back to you as soon as possible.