Marta Viciedo is co-founder of Urban Impact Lab and TransitAlliance.MiamiTransitAll and a Miami Fellows Class IX alum. She shared how her Fellows experience helped her become a stronger, more genuine leader.

As The Miami Foundation gears up for the next Miami Fellows class, I can’t help but chuckle at the stream of memories from my circa-2016 vantage point. At the time, I was filled with doubt about applying: what if the program wasn’t right for me? What if I didn’t make the cut? What if I became too overwhelmed with work to give it my all? Now, having just completed the program, I’m quick to share the application link and chat with anyone that’s interested. My mantra: “If you have a deep love for the 305, apply.”

What does love for a place look like? Loving Greater Miami isn’t just about appreciating the city’s beauty, its wonderful diversity, the parties, cafecitos, entrepreneurial opportunities, delicious food, beach and all else there is to enjoy. When I talk about loving this place, I also mean having the willingness to wade into the daily struggles of the city’s most vulnerable communities, to see dysfunction and inequities unfold right before your eyes, and to have the courage to experience all of it, understand it, and grow in ways you didn’t think possible.

The Fellows program is a 14-month journey through this love affair to make this place work for everyone. Many of the pictures you see of the Fellows capture moments of happiness and camaraderie. These images might give you a glimpse of a class of Fellows engaged in conversation or simply listening and learning. You might catch the thoughtfulness and professionalism that defines the program’s design. What many never see are the moments that define growth for each of the Fellows.

Pictured above - left to right: Miami Fellows Class IX members Michelle Abbs, Marta Viciedo and Brandon Okpalobi with Charisse Grant, senior vice president for programs.

It’s unlikely that you’ll happen upon a photo capturing one’s personal vulnerability leading to a greater respect for an opposing point-of-view. You probably won’t see the moments when the Fellows are moved as they witness the immense disparity within our community. We don’t take selfies when the lumps in our throat keep us quiet over dinner or when we’ve had to confront something about ourselves that needs shifting. And while these moments may be temporarily unpleasant, it is undoubtedly when our armor cracks, our assumptions are laid bare and the best of what is within us can begin to shine through.

 For me, that process started with the first Fellows lab session where I was asked to show up as myself – not the social entrepreneur or the Miami activist – but rather the version of me that loves her children, is driven by values like grace and boldness, and is embarrassed by her middle name. Those moments were gifts that permitted me the space to observe myself make decisions based on who I am, not what I do professionally, and it drove home the point that leadership is an “inside job.” My lesson: If I intended to successfully lead anything in Greater Miami, it would be because I have the courage – and the love – to be my most genuine self for this city.

These are the critical moments in leadership development. There is no doubt in my mind that it is the fellowship program’s ability to deliver these experiences that make it an unparalleled and deeply meaningful opportunity. If you’re at all invested in the future of Greater Miami and are willing to deepen your love for this crazy place, apply. Do it. Despite my early hesitation, I’m immensely grateful to be a Miami Fellow and a stronger, more genuine leader because of it.

Marta Viciedo is co-founder of Urban Impact Lab and TransitAlliance.MiamiTransitAll and a Miami Fellows Class IX alum. She is also a past Public Space Challenge winner.

 Editor’s note: Miami Fellows Class XI applications are now open.


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