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Leaders in Belonging Update
(Revised 9-15-2023)

Prebys-IMG_4647-Photo by Melissa Jacobs.jpg
Thank you for your nominations for the first Leaders in Belonging cohort. The selection committee is currently reviewing the nominations. We expect to announce the awardees in early December. Stay tuned!

Leaders in Belonging

Celebrating community advocates, collaborators, and connectors who work to eliminate social barriers to an inclusive, just, and sustainable San Diego

About the Initiative

Leaders in Belonging Awards provide $100,000 in unrestricted funding to people working to identify, transform, and eliminate barriers to inclusion, justice, and sustainability in San Diego. This annual award is designed to provide leaders with vital support that will allow them to continue their work and help them build movements for change. 


We believe the secret to San Diego’s future rests in making this a place where every member of our community genuinely feels welcome and is fully able to contribute their potential, ideas, talents, experience, and culture.


To help us reach that future, San Diego must celebrate the leaders who are working every single day to make it a reality–for everybody.


This program is designed to identify and lift up those leaders. By bringing attention and resources to these individuals, we aim to support and strengthen their leadership and build momentum for their work. We also aim to lift up San Diego, a unique border town sitting at the convergence of many cultures and histories, as a true center of belonging and a model for how our country can come together.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) below to gain insight on the nomination process, timeline, and other common questions.

Image by Pavlos Vaenas

Criteria, Nomination, and other Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the Leaders in Belonging Initiative?
    Annually, the Conrad Prebys Foundation will name 5 leaders with a track record of building a spirit of equity and belonging in San Diego in the spaces of visual and performing arts, youth success, medical research, and healthcare. The 5 leaders chosen for the award will each receive $100,000 in unrestricted funding.
  • How does the Foundation define Belonging?
    We use the definition offered by the Othering and Belonging Institute, namely: “a world based on inclusion, fairness, justice, and care for the earth.” “The concept of belonging describes more than a feeling of inclusion or welcome. Its full power is as a strategic framework for addressing ongoing structural and systemic othering, made visible, for example, in the wide disparities in outcomes found across a variety of sectors and identity groups. Belonging, as OBI defines it, means having a meaningful voice and the opportunity to participate in the design of political, social, and cultural structures that shape one’s life — the right to both contribute and make demands upon society and political institutions. At its core, structural belonging holds a radically inclusive vision because it requires mutual power, access, and opportunity among all groups and individuals within a shared container (such as a society, organization, club, etc).”
  • When will the awardees be announced?
    We are launching the nomination process in June and aiming to review all candidates and make a final selection by early December.
  • What are the selection criteria?
    Any resident of San Diego County can be nominated. Those selected for the award will be chosen based on the following criteria: Through work related to one or more of our four focus areas: visual and performing arts, healthcare, medical research, and youth success—the candidate embraces and advances a universal goal that would benefit our entire community. The candidate acknowledges and seeks to improve institutions, practices, or systems that get in the way of achieving that universal goal. The candidate offers solutions and a broadly inclusive vision for why those solutions are worth pursuing. As a leader, the candidate is adept at “bridging,” connects with different parts of the community, is collaborative, and galvanizes others into action. The candidate has deep experience and expertise related to one or more of our focus areas. The candidate also has lived experience relevant to their work. The candidate’s story is inspiring, and the work they do will benefit from this recognition.
  • What is the timeline for the process?
    June 29: Nomination process opens to the public July 21: Nomination process closes August 1: Jury begins its review December 10: Awardees announced
  • How do I nominate someone?
    Nominators are asked to complete the nomination form for each individual they wish to nominate. We ask for the nominator’s name to allow us to follow up should we have questions regarding a nominee. Additionally, to ensure the nominee pool is equitable, and inclusive of San Diego’s diversity – we ask for the nominee's demographic information. This is not a formal part of the rubric but helps to ensure the grantees reflect all of us. If you do not know the candidate's demographic information, it is ok to mark “I do not know.” It will not count against the candidate. Additional Notes: The nomination form focuses on the quality and impact of the nominees and their PAST work and on the likely benefits of the award to the recipient. We ask nominators to suggest the names of others who can provide independent evaluations of the nominees.
  • May I submit nominees?
    We welcome nominations from anyone well acquainted with the nominated leader who can describe the leader’s alignment with the award criteria and tell the story of how their work has been impactful.
  • May I nominate more than one leader?
    Yes! Nominators may nominate as many eligible leaders as they would like.
  • Can I nominate someone post-humously?
    No. The awards are designed to provide an opportunity for recipients who are policymakers and others in their field about the solutions they have implemented, thereby expanding the number of Californians who benefit from their work.
  • Is it possible to receive feedback on my nomination if it was not selected?
    We are unable to offer individual feedback on nominations. We encourage folks to re-nominate or reapply next year if not selected. There is so much talent in this region, and anticipate there will be many worthy nominees.
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