In Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, News

Times of Transition

UPDATE 9/26/22 – River Network has selected the firm GoodCitizen to lead the search for our next leader.

The river is constantly turning and bending and you never know where it’s going to go and where you’ll wind up. Following the bend in the river and staying on your own path means that you are on the right track. Don’t let anyone deter you from that.

-Eartha Kitt

Dear River Network colleagues –

It was a pleasure to be with so many of you at Rally! I hope you are heading into fall with good health and great summer memories.

I am excited to give you an update on the last few months, as well as a look ahead. As you likely know, Nicole Silk departed the role of River Network President at the beginning of the summer. While sad to see Nicole leave, we are taking this opportunity to deepen our connections, live our values, and think creatively about the future.

Transitions, like rivers, all take on their own forms, their own timetables, and their own bends.

For River Network, the last few months have been about going slow to go fast. The Executive Committee of the Board (including Bill Brandt, Ronda Lee Chapman, Andrew Fahlund, Scott Miller, Raj Shukla, and Rebecca Wodder) along with our staff Leadership Team (Katherine Baer, Barbara Long, Lisa Runkel, and Diana Toledo) worked hard all summer to keep River Network’s work and priorities at the forefront, while assessing needs for the transition.

A first step was to understand our gaps. The staff Leadership Team was well-positioned to take on additional leadership tasks, but the Executive Committee—a passionate group of volunteer members— needed extra capacity. Lynn Broaddus, former River Network Board Chair, will be providing interim support in the role of Board Transition Consultant. We are grateful for Lynn’s energy, love for our network, and keen understanding of board governance practices and executive function.

Finding our own path.

When things become unsettled, we can stay safely within the status quo OR we can reach for something more. River Network is choosing the second path while staying grounded in two key values: staff and board collaboration and River Network’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. We are taking our time, being intentional, and not giving in to a sense of urgency. As one staff member put it during our staff and board retreat last week, River Network is a “leader-full” organization. This means recognizing the leaders who are embedded across our organization, welcoming new ideas, and finding new ways of moving forward together.

While many Boards of Directors conduct leadership searches behind closed doors, we are committed to working in partnership with River Network staff and offering as much transparency as possible. The board is committed to taking time at the beginning of the process to achieve what is most important to us at the end: a values-aligned, visionary leader and effective staff and board collaboration.

Where does our track lead next?

River Network staff during the 2022 retreat.

River Network’s entire staff and board team met last week in Boulder, Colorado. I left re-energized and with a deep appreciation for our collective wisdom, skills, and sparkle. In addition to discussing what we want to see in River Network’s new leader, we had deep, generative conversations to advance our Strategic Refresh. The excitement and energy in the room was palpable. We look forward to receiving broader input over the next few months as our consultants conduct field testing of our strategic roadmap.

Regarding the leadership search, a joint board and staff committee is in the final stages of identifying a firm that will support a welcoming, collaborative, and fair recruitment process. We will make a final decision in the next few weeks, so please look for announcements on social and in River Voices. The search firm will help us convene a joint board-staff search committee and develop a process that includes input from staff, board, and partners.

From there, we will follow the path of this river of change and transition, flowing where it leads us, planning to arrive at our destination and welcome a new leader in the spring of 2023.

In the meantime, please be on the lookout this fall and winter to new nonprofit resources, stories of novel partnerships, and stories from the last twelve months. We will be releasing the 3rd edition of the Clean Water Act Owner’s Manual, our new Board of Directors Development video series, and our annual Impact Report.

As we move through this transition, River Network’s efforts to connect and strengthen the national network of water protectors do not stop. Staff and board are working in tandem to support and amplify your work and continue our shared journey to ensure healthy rivers and clean water for all.

I welcome your questions, ideas, and feedback.

With love and gratitude,


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