A Goodbye from Cathy Albisa, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Partners for Dignity & Rights

Cathy Albisa

In 2004, when I co-founded NESRI (now Partners for Dignity & Rights) with Liz Sullivan-Yuknis and Sharda Sekaran, I imagined so many things: the work we would do with partners, the growth of our organization, and the building of a strategy and vision. Most of all, I imagined the successes we would surely have in collaboration with extraordinary community groups that would transform lives in concrete and material ways for the better. I was driven by a never-ending faith in human rights and inclusive democracy, and still am.  

Today, Partners for Dignity & Rights is strong and vibrant. We have four expansive areas of work, each with multiple campaigns and projects advancing proactive community-driven solutions that will change entire systems once brought to scale. These achievements are seeding our best possible future and already protecting communities in this time of crisis. We also have a new framework, our New Social Contract project that offers a narrative allowing us to see this future. And we are part of a wave of progressive movements that are intersectional and uncompromising in their values and commitment. 

Our staff is seasoned, committed, strategic, and fueled by incomparable integrity and thoughtfulness. Our partners and members represent the best our movements have to offer. And our Board has guided our organization with a level of respect and generosity for which I can never be grateful enough.

So, it is a bit overwhelming to write this letter and share that after 15 years, I’ve decided that later this spring I am stepping down from a position that has given me far more than I can express, mostly due to the extraordinary people with whom I have had the privilege to work, think, struggle, and celebrate. Historian Carol Anderson, one of our early Board members, has frequently said that Partners for Dignity & Rights punches above its weight. This remains more true today than ever. 

This decision was made a few months ago, but our announcement was delayed due to the unexpected COVID 19 crisis. Our staff and partners’ response to this crisis – immediately harnessing the community infrastructure that has been built to protect people – has reconfirmed my faith in our role and mission. And it has reaffirmed that our power lies in how we work as a collective, and our faithfulness to our values, both within our organization and in our work.

I also believe the success of our social justice and human rights movements lies in building sustainable organizations that can carry on for the long haul. This work is not a sprint, or even a marathon. It is a relay race. I am humbled to have been part of this team for that race, and truly hope I gave what I could to advance towards our goal. 

But it is the moment to pass the baton. So, I end this letter asking you to support this incredible organization and the amazing people who will be carrying on this work. Liz Sullivan-Yuknis will continue as our Co-Director as we search for a new partner to work with her to lead this organization. And I will be watching the next phase of Partners for Dignity & Rights with enormous admiration and excitement.

Thank you to all who have brought us this far – including our first wave of board members, Paul Farmer, Martha Davis, Rhonda Copelon (in memoriam), Mimi Abramovitz, Alice H. Henkin, Patrick Mason, Carol Anderson, Bruce Rabb and Lisa Crooms, as well as our early supporters Larry Cox, Michael Ratner (in memoriam), and Mona Younis. Without you, we would not have succeeded. Most of all, I thank all of you who will carry on with us for the next 15 years and more, until we build a world with dignity and rights for all.

From Patrick Mason, Board Chair, Partners for Dignity & Rights

Partners for Dignity & Rights will remain forever grateful for the exemplary leadership of Cathy Albisa, one of our founders and our original Executive Director. For 15 years she has nurtured the growth and development of Partners for Dignity & Rights from an inspiration to an important human rights organization. One of the most important tasks of leadership is to establish a transition team and plan for the time when new leadership must guide the helm of the organization. Cathy established an energetic and talented staff; hence, even as Partners for Dignity & Rights is rightly proud of our past 15 years, we are also enthusiastic about what we plan to accomplish over the next 15 years. We thank Cathy Albisa for her dedication, leadership, and team preparation.