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Deborah Meehan's blog

What We are Learning from Our Work with Networks: Part II

 

 

 

In an earlier post I began to share our reflections as we asked ourselves at LLC, “How are we applying what we are learning from our work with networks to our own effort to become a network?” I described three key take-aways from our network building work: Support Self-organizing; Focus on Place; and Create a Communications Ecosystem. In the last post, I talked about Self-organizing, and this week I am going to talk about Focus on Place.

 

Focus on Place: In a number of our network building projects we have developed a healthy respect for place. Leadership programs that focus on specific regions or localities have an easier time organizing alumni networks for several reasons: the participants have greater access to each other and can meet up more easily; even when working on different issues, and for different organizations people and groups are more likely to intersect with each other around citywide issues; people are able to bring their local connections to a network effort in their own city; and participants share a sense of place that is often enriched by different perspectives and histories. In a recent network building project, we found that local meetups brought more energy to the network, and were more likely to activate self-organizing. When you are trying to shift systems, bringing people together across a city can also create more opportunities to work at the intersection of issues. 

 

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How do we know if leadership programs are making a difference?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a question that people who fund and implement leadership development strategies grapple with, and there are no easy answers. Afterall, it’s tricky to isolate the leadership supports as the thing that made a difference when there are so many other things happening in people’s lives, and in the world. Still, for all of the time and resources we invest in developing leadership as a critical strategy for advancing equity and justice, we want to know that this is a good investment, and that we are doing our best.

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Leadership and Governance

Leadership is at the very heart of the ways in which we work, the processes through which we act and learn. We talk

about what it means to center equity in leadership and this week I had the opportunity to delve more deeply into

what this actually looks like with a wise group of people tackling questions of governance, for us the context was networks, and yet the questions are real for all justice loving people.

 

 

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Three lessons on Leadership Development From Reverend William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign

 

As three full days were coming to close at the Othering and Belonging Conference, I could not imagine that there was any space left in my overflowing brain or heart, that was, until Reverend William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign took the stage. I was riveted for the next hour, and my thoughts have returned repeatedly to several lessons about leadership. I encourage you to listen to the video of his speech yourself.

 

First, as context, the leadership that Reverend Barber inspires is squarely anchored in the pursuit of our full humanity, without pulling any punches. He resurrected what he describes as the often forgotten tenets of Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for wholeness, the fight against systemic racism, poverty and militarization. As someone with a passion for social justice leadership, I found myself listening for ideas about leadership, who leads, and how.

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Three lessons on Leadership Development From Reverend William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign

As three full days were coming to close at the Othering and Belonging Conference, I could not imagine that there was any space left in my overflowing brain or heart, that was, until Reverend William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign took the stage. I was riveted for the next hour, and my thoughts have returned repeatedly to several lessons about leadership. I encourage you to listen to the video of his speech yourself.

 

First, as context, the leadership that Reverend Barber inspires is squarely anchored in the pursuit of our full humanity, without pulling any punches. He resurrected what he describes as the often forgotten tenets of Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for wholeness, the fight against systemic racism, poverty and militarization. As someone with a passion for social justice leadership, I found myself listening for ideas about leadership, who leads, and how.

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Leadership and How We Talk About Stuff: Three Lessons from Paulo Freire and Pedagogy of the Oppressed

At a recent LLC board meeting, members were eagerly pitching ideas about how they could help.. Our newest member, Lisa Leverette, who in her own words is a Detroit based Change Orchestrator had a unique offer, “I want to help LLC figure out how to talk about stuff.”  This sounds simple on the surface... but it’s actually quite deep. For the past couple of months, everytime I turn around, I have been running smack into the idea of how we talk about our work. At a retreat hosted by the Whitman Institute in October, “A Future We Can Trust,” we were facilitated in several sessions by Culture Strike that focused on tapping arts and creativity to shape a positive narrative. Not long after a valued colleague, Milano Harden, sent me an article by Marshall Ganz, “Public Narrative, Collective Action and Power” from 2011, that is resurfacing right now for a reason. And, a few weeks ago I was fortunate to attend Facing Race which was launched with a plenary session on narrative and arts among the culture wars. I am hooked. I have been thinking about this a lot, well kind of non-stop, and talking about it with anyone who will listen, so here were are.

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Standing for Love

I was at the closing session at the International Leadership Association (ILA) when the speaker who took the stage told us she had just heard there had been a mass shooting. Phones lit up as together we all learned the horrifying news that 11 people had been killed at the Tree of Life Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. We stood in stunned silence honoring the lives of those who had died, and as an expression of deep sympathy for their families and neighbors, and for all of those reliving the loss of hate killings in their communities. I speak for all of us at LLC in expressing our love and support to the familes of those lost in Pittsburgh, the synagogue and the city, and to the families of Maurice Stallard and Vicki Jones, two African American who were killed by a white man in Kentuck who first attempted to barge into a Black Church.

 

I was filled with sadness, outrage, and overwhelmed by the tidal wave of attacks on people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, women, and LGBTQIA communities occuring against a back drop of hateful language that incites and condones these actions. I am fired up with anger about everything I am against. Over the last couple of day, I have been reflecting about what it means to be in a perpetual fighting posture defined by what I am against. Clearly I am against hate, and I don’t want the haters to be the ones defining where my energy is going, to the extent that I am losing touch what it means to be for love.

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Continuing the Co-Director Search: Additional Updates

We have been thinking long and hard about how to conduct the search for a Co-Director in a way that is equity driven, networked and collective i.e. aligned with all of our values. After all, there are some unavoidable power dynamics in the interview process that we can’t eliminate, but we do want to address and be transparent about them. We hope to get better at this, and for now, this is our best thinking about the process. So a huge shout out to all of the candidates who are being very patient with our process, which we hope reflects relationality, transparency and equity.

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Update on the Co-Directorship

We have received applications from a number of exciting candidates. We have interviewed people who are still of interest to us, and are keeping the position open a bit longer to meet additional candidates.  We are learning as we go, and have a great team of folks from the LLC board and network who are actively engaging alongside us in this learning. Here are some of our early lessons:

 

We are a relationale network and that goes for recruitment too:  I was in a hurry to recruit a co-director because we were holding off on hiring a FT Operations and Program Manager after Miriam left so that the new person could be involved. We also were holding off on board recruitment for the same reason. This was creating a sense of urgency about an important decision for LLC.  We need to create time to get to know potential candidates, and for them to get to know us. This will require more than two interviews. Getting to know more candidates is an important process for understanding what will contribute most to the future we hope to see. So, we are slowing it down so that we can engage with more people, and talk more with interested candidates.

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