Negar is a passionate philanthropic advocate supporting the global refugee response driven by her professional and personal experience with forced displacement. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Global Whole Being Fund (GWBF), a global philanthropic fund supporting more than 4 million refugees across 23 countries.
From 2009 to 2015, prior to her philanthropic engagement, Negar worked on 20 international development projects in nine countries with UN agencies, governments, bilateral donors, and NGOs. Negar also runs her executive and leadership coaching practice ‘Resonance Coaching,’ supporting individuals and teams. As part of her passion for accompanying people on their journey towards empowerment, Negar teaches women on the frontlines Empowerment and Self Defense (ESD).
Negar’s LinkedIn page
What has your Fellowship enabled you to do, explore, or gain that you wouldn’t have otherwise?
The Fellowship at Intersticia has been providing me a fabulous support structure as I have been growing into my work. The Fellowship is more than a series of trainings. It comes with a sense of belonging to an inspiring community of like-minded leaders, who follow different passions and disciplines.
Through the Fellowship I got the privilege to attend an Executive Course at the Harvard Kennedy School titled ‘Leadership for the 21st Century.’ The course covered the main principles of adaptive leadership; a leadership theory that would transform my work. The timing of the course was auspicious. It happened right before my learning journey across the migration route covering five countries. I had to wait nine months before I could finally visit grant partners due to Executive Order of the Trump Administration. This trip was vital for refining the grantmaking strategy for the GWBF. The course equipped me with the tools I needed for this critical task.
Without the Fellowship, I would not have been able to attend the Harvard course and to hence step aside from the daily work to engage with inspiring minds from all over the globe; some of them I now count as friends and allies.
What impact has your Fellowship had on your ability to lead in the 21st century?
The Fellowship had a significant impact on my self-perception as a leader and the ways I see myself leading as I am working towards my vision. Through the Fellowship and the learning around adaptive leadership, I gained following three insights that shape how I show up as a leader today:
1. Sitting on the balcony vs. being on the dance floor The balcony vs. dance floor concept, a keystone of the adaptive leadership course, was critical for me. The nature of my work requires me to balance multiple perspectives. While engaging with grant partners who each focus on different aspects of forced displacement, I also need to hold a broader vision. If I were to engage too much on the dance floor while supporting grant partners, I would lose sight for the broader vision of the Global Whole Being Fund and my leadership responsibilities as a philanthropic advisor. The course, the language and the exercises in small groups helped me to practice being on the balcony and carefully choosing when to engage on the dance floor. Practicing this metaphor in every meeting helps me to create an enabling space and to engage rather than be reactive.
2. The art of listening and asking questions vs. ‘knowing’
The course helped me to rediscover the art of listening and emphasized the importance to remain curious and ask questions. This mindset enabled me to visit the refugee camps and organizations with what is referred to in Zen Buddhism as a ‘Beginners Mind.’ It allowed me to stay with ambiguity and acknowledge that aiming to ‘know’ the complexity of each an every organization and camp across countries was a sheer impossible task. Interestingly this approach resonated with existing and potential grant partners. My grantpartners and colleagues shared their appreciation for having felt seen and acknowledged.
3. Trust One of the critical insights of the course is that being a leader requires staying grounded in the most simple and yet most difficult things such as building and maintaining trust. The importance of building trust and the adaptive leadership stakeholder mapping has been critical. The stakeholder mapping including categories such as partners, allies, confidence, troublemakers to name a few, helped to distinguish a support ecosystem. Being clearer on the different kind of stakeholders I work with inspired me to revisit some strategies and reflect on alternative ways to implement these.
How do you imagine your Fellowship will impact on your personal and professional growth in the next chapter of your life?
The Fellowship has been critical for my learning journey. Intersticia’s support has first and foremost enabled me to see myself as a leader. The insights I gained through the fellowship and the Harvard course have been adding so much value to my work. The Fellowship enabled me to rethink the framework for my work and focus on the critical pillars. My work is centered on my vision, which I am deeply passionate about. That said, the insights I gained through my Fellowship also translate into actions and mind shifts in my personal life. The importance of balancing observation and action (balcony vs. dance floor), listening and asking questions linked to the art of building and maintaining trust have been shifting my relationships overall. In a nutshell, I feel curious about learning, and I make more intentional decisions and value relationships more than ever.
The course also enabled me to recognize that I seem to be most comfortable amidst chaos and conflict. Leaning into courage comes at times naturally, and other times it is accompanied by a sense of discomfort. In any case, I seem to be continually striving for situations that require me to be courageous. Embracing my courage makes me come alive.
- Envisioning a holistic and dignified refugee support system driven by logos
- The Greek Opportunity
- Funders must recognize that refugees have also assets not just needs
Negar co-founded and is co-chairing three Funders Working Groups:
- NEXUS Initiative on Refugees and Forced Displacement
- Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees’ (GCIR) Funders Group for Asylum Seekers and Refugees
GCIR Working group ‘Be Well’ – integrating belongingness, wellbeing and mental health support into grantmaking.