Leadership Accelerators

Research shows that Southerners place significant hope in our local political leadership and especially in those who value building more inclusivity. The overall outlook in our communities greatly improves when leaders from across the political, civil, business, academic, and philanthropic spectrums openly support and prioritize racial equity, diversity, and inclusion. E Pluribus Unum continues to uplift and invest in those leaders to ensure they can accept and execute this important task.


EPU’s Leadership Accelerators launched in 2020 with our inaugural cohort of Unum Fellows. The Leadership Accelerator is designed to support Southern elected leaders working directly in their communities to solve issues of racial and economic equity. We support the Fellows by bringing the best and the brightest organizations and practitioners to them to help create and focus their personal equity lens and creating a peer community of equity-driven Southern leaders. EPU provides ongoing support to the Fellows to drive sustainable change through specific projects tailored to each of their communities.


Leaders make the greatest impact when they have both the focused passion and the right tools to transform their communities. E Pluribus Unum continues to grow the number of Southern leaders committed to racial equity and inclusion. Communities benefit when a leader provides opportunities for open dialogue about equity, and the Fellows’ community-informed equity projects build momentum for change. These projects also serve as inspiration for other government, civic, business, faith, education, and more to take on equity work by illustrating successful pathways to create change.

Program Highlights

EPU’s Unum Fellows program reaches a variety of leaders from different states, different elected roles, and different levels of experience. However, they share common thread of a strong commitment to equity, their constituents, and improving the South.

Inaugural Cohort of Unum Fellows

Made up of 11 local elected officials who hail from eight states across the American South, the inaugural cohort of EPU’s Unum Fellows represent the region’s diverse leadership. They are mayors, city council members, county commissioners, school board members, and a solicitor. They represent a mix of urban, suburban, and rural communities. The cohort also embodies a range of work and educational backgrounds, including in business, law, education, advocacy, public policy, transportation, and healthcare.

2021 Unum Fellows

In November 2021, EPU announced the second cohort of Unum Fellows comprised of 11 state legislators from six states in the South. The group represents a wide range of tenures and areas of expertise such as education, faith ministry, healthcare, business, advocacy, and law. The Fellows are chosen for their sincere commitment to creating equity in their states and will begin their year-long formal program in early 2022.

Byron Gipson

Unum Fellow Spotlight

South Carolina’s Solicitor Byron Gipson launched a quarterly warrant resolution event in partnership with the Richland County Solicitor’s Office, local community leaders, and other government actors. The community-based events are held at a local church and designed to help residents safely resolve outstanding warrants and get back on track with their cases.  The first event held in November 2021 resolved 72 active bench warrants.

97% of participants said they would recommend future events to their family and friends.

78% felt that not having an outstanding warrant will change their daily lives.


“I can rest knowing I have no bench warrant and payments are on track.”

“I won’t be looking over my shoulder for every cop car.”


Advancing racial equity requires commitment from both elected leaders and the community. In cities and states across the South, EPU is supporting its partners in their work including engaging elected leaders, sharing resources, creating promising best practices, and providing technical support.

For example, EPU partnered with the Knoxville Area Urban League (KAUL) to bring together community leaders and organizations from key sectors to facilitate an antiracism initiative. The participants gathered bi-monthly to identify initiatives that they can spearhead and then seek buy-in and support from city and county governments. Over the course of eight meetings, participants engaged in presentations, discussions, and activities around Knoxville equity data, models, and initiatives for equity work in other cities, exploration and analysis of the key issues they see in the community, identification and development of work priorities, and areas of focus, and learned from guest speakers on equity challenges in contracting, the upcoming 2022 city disparity study, and drafting equity resolutions.

Policy & Research

EPU’s Policy & Research work is centered on developing actionable tools and resources for policymakers on ideas that can accelerate change to create equal access to opportunity, justice, and democracy at the federal, state, and local levels.

Narrative Change

EPU’s Narrative Change work continues to leverage behavioral science and human-centered design techniques to understand and change perceptions and beliefs around the issues of race and equity.