Stuart’s Sabbatical: Recharging batteries, building stronger movements

18 years is a lot. In this country, it’s enough to let you have a vote. 

After 18 years and a week of working for TransForm, I will be taking a three-month sabbatical starting June 5. 

While I’ve always dreamed of having some time off to recharge my batteries, there was always the next big thing to worry about - always some reason it was simply not possible.

So when a new sabbatical awards program was announced last year, I lunged at the chance.  Modeled on the highly successful Durfee Foundation Sabbatical Program in Los Angeles, the O2 Sabbatical Award supports a three-month break for non-profit executive directors in San Francisco and Alameda Counties.

O2 Initiatives believes that when nonprofit leaders have time to recharge and refocus, they are better prepared to ignite positive change. Their sabbatical program rewards executive directors with time, while helping others in the organization grow their leadership capacity during the absence. This results in stronger leaders, smarter teams, and more resilient organizations.

As our team has started to plan for the sabbatical, I’m seeing staff rise to meet new challenges. I am convinced this will make us into a stronger organization.  At a personal level, sharing more responsibility is absolutely liberating. As a founding executive director, I’ve poured my passion into every crevice of TransForm, but with over 30 staff on the team these days, there are some nooks and crannies I could stand to let go of.

In fact, the timing couldn’t be better. Our incredible long-time deputy director Jeff Hobson will take the helm during my time off, supported by a deep bench of senior staff leaders and an engaged and enthusiastic Board of Directors.  And TransForm’s recently adopted five-year strategic plan means that staff and board have a clear shared vision to guide them.

With TransForm in such capable hands, I can’t wait to unplug from work.  And unplug I will.  Part of the deal is that there is absolutely no communication with work during those three months. In fact, all my passwords will be changed so I couldn’t even check e-mail if I wanted to!

So what will I do with my time? I’m excited to have some great outdoor adventures with family and friends -- backpacking in the Sierra, taking multi-day bike rides, and spending time with my family on the East Coast. I’m also hoping to rediscover what it is like to sleep until a normal hour and not hop straight onto the computer.  (There’s a reason we’re changing my passwords.)

Since I was fortunate to be among the first recipients, I want to make sure others know about this opportunity. Each year, O2 Initiatives will grant up to six awards to executive directors. Each award includes funds to help cover the cost of a three-month sabbatical, plus a stipend for the interim leader and opportunities for additional professional development support within the organization.  I can already tell you that it’s really worth applying…and I haven’t even started my sabbatical yet. 

I’m looking forward to this break, and then, to hearing about all the great things TransForm did over the summer.  I hope you’ll be a part of them!  TransForm can do without me for a few months, thanks to our community of supporters, partners, and allies – but we couldn’t do without you.

Applications for the 2016 O2 Sabbatical Awards are due August 5. To learn more or refer somebody you know, visit their website.


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TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit