By James Weinberg, FUSE CEO
A FUSE fellowship lasts one year. In that time, our executive fellows tackle enormous challenges in cities across the country: addressing a homelessness crisis; getting more students from school to college; integrating autonomous vehicles into city infrastructure; responding to the opioid epidemic; taking action on climate change.
So how does a one-year fellowship provide enough time to address such ambitious goals, especially when we know that large, complex challenges require long-term, sustained problem-solving efforts? And what can cities learn from this process?
While there’s no way to completely resolve these kinds of issues quickly, we’ve seen over the last few years through the work of FUSE fellows that it is possible to make measurable and significant improvements in just one year.
These issues did not crop up overnight. They’ve developed over years, during which time talented civic leaders have been working on solutions — and their efforts will continue long after a FUSE fellowship ends. But adding a FUSE fellow to the team can help problem-solving efforts to go further toward achieving impact. During their year of service, fellows bring new capacities — serving as catalysts, facilitators, conveners, objective perspectives, skill-based specialists, or dedicated project leaders.
Defining the scope of each fellowship is one of the most important steps in the process. FUSE works with cities to identify specific deliverables that can be successfully completed by a fellow within a given year. Through conversations with our city partners and in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, together we are able to identify a crucial missing piece of the puzzle.
In fact, it’s that very act of thinking about the challenge in a way that breaks it down into steps and planning over an extended period of time – and determining how someone from outside of government can best contribute in the coming year – that allows our city partners to imagine new possibilities and create space for innovation.
Over the course of the year, FUSE fellows quickly draw insights and identify opportunities to maximize impact. They bring together new partners and collaborators who may have never worked together before to share insights and coordinate approaches. In one year, a fellow can become enmeshed within a community as a convener of leaders from different sectors to help everyone work more efficiently together toward common goals and collective impacts.
Not only is a year enough time to have a meaningful influence on a strategic initiative, the very existence of a 12-month deadline is one of the keys to our impact, as FUSE fellows consistently prove that urgency drives innovation. On the first day of work, fellows know they have 364 days left to achieve some very ambitious goals. A perpetually ticking clock motivates them to push through challenges, overcome obstacles, come up with creative solutions, and mobilize partners to achieve goals.
So, although 12 months might not seem like it’s long enough to make a difference, especially given how long these challenges have taken to develop, FUSE fellows demonstrate every year that it is enough time to advance innovative, sustainable, and high-impact solutions.
Interested in learning more about our fellowships? Check out our 2017-18 listings here.