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Member Spotlight: Dianne Yamashiro-Omi


Dianne Yamashiro-Omi, Senior Program Officer at The California Endowment, is a big picture thinker.  We were drawn to her many years ago when she began talking about boundary-crossing leadership.  We felt very lucky to be a partner in this work, running a learning circle for her grantees so that we could all learn more about how to support leaders who can build bridges across boundaries. One divide that can be tricky is the one between funder and grantee, but Dianne brings a keen awareness of power dynamics. She frequently asked how her presence might alter a frank conversation and offered to attend (or even not attend) meetings to support candid learning. Dianne has been an invaluable learning partner asking the kind of tough questions we love about racial justice and the kind of leadership it would really take to tackle inequities in the health of Californians. 

Dianne shared some of her thoughts about working with LLC and also updates us on her current work at the Foundation:

My first engagement with Leadership Learning Community (LLC) was in 2005 as our partner in shaping the California Endowment’s approach to Leadership development.  I had heard of the wonderful work of LLC through my colleagues in the field.  We had commissioned a paper from Carmen Morgan of Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations (LDIR), a group based in Los Angeles which formed in response to hate crimes, to describe the possible intersection between community health and leadership development with a specific focus on communities of color.  This was our first step toward deepening our understanding and creating a funding rationale for framing leadership development with a racial equity lens.  We also knew that the corporate model of leadership development produced individual leaders with strong management/technical skills, but what was needed in low-income communities of color was more than that.  Through LLC’s expert guidance, we honed our focus on “boundary-crossing” leaders, or leaders who were adept at alliance building and able to cross the boundaries of difference to engage in cross-sector, cross-ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender, age/disability, to bring true change to communities.  LLC developed learning circles for our leadership grantees so that they could deepen their understanding and practice of developing boundary-crossing leaders.  Many of those relationships and learning continue to this day.


Currently, the Endowment has embedded leadership development strategies within our 14 communities and has identified alliance building as one of our 4 “drivers of change.”  Last year we engaged john powell, formerly with Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute, Lori Villarosa from Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, Rinku Sen from the Applied Research Center and others to deliver our first Racial Justice Institute for our program staff, executives and grantees to deepen our understanding of structural racialization.  We “toured” the training through our 3 regions (Central Valley, Northern CA and Southern CA) engaging over 400 stakeholders, community residents and youth from our sites involved in our Building Healthy Communities efforts.  In the next year we will be developing a Spanish version of the training and creating a strategy to seed and to support multi-ethnic/cross-sector alliance building in our sites.  Based on our deeper understand of structural racialization, we are targeting resources to address the health/mental health disparities for our Men and Boys of Color and vulnerable immigrant populations both of which include a leadership component.  In reflecting on this body of work, LLC was clearly instrumental in helping us set the context and I am forever grateful.  Social change is a life long journey and I consider LLC as a “gift”, a key partner and driver to help us navigate this rough and complex road.


LLC has had a number of opportunities to work together with Dianne and The California Endowment – producing a report on different leadership approaches to supporting place-based initiatives; a Scan of Health Leadership Development Programs for the Youth, Immigrant and Senior Communities of California; and the boundary crossing leadership action learning evaluation. Dianne’s openness, curiosity, generosity in sharing, along with her deep commitment and contributions to the field has served to enrich us all. We are pleased to honor her and her work as we begin the New Year!