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LLC’s 10 Year Anniversary & 10 Top Reasons to Celebrate
Submitted by Deborah Meehan on Wed, 12/01/2010 - 10:28
10 Years Later and New World of Possibilities
To celebrate the first decade of our work together as a learning community of people committed to leadership development we wanted to invite your reflections and share some of ours on our first 10 years. As we look to the future and reflect on the past we are excited about our accomplishments, which have prepared us to increase the magnitude and impact of our work in a rapidly changing landscape where new opportunities exist to engage hundreds of thousands of people in social justice leadership. Our past accomplishments and the opportunity to step into a new world of possibilities would not have been possible without the work of dedicated leadership development program staff, researchers, funders and evaluators.
- New voices for social justice: An estimated 23 million young Americans under the age of 30 voted in the 2008 presidential election, 3.4 million more young voters as compared to the 2004 election (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement). We are provided with an opportunity to scale our leadership support with the challenge of how to positively channel these voices in support of social justice. LLC's last circle meeting of funders and evaluators focused on learning about leadership development approaches that are attempting to engage more people in leadership that produces large scale change in systems, fields, public opinion, and the quality of community life. LLC is producing reports, tools, and models that will help all of us scale our work.
- New social technologies support new levels of action and engagement: New technologies and network centric approaches to leadership are making it possible for us to connect and mobilize unprecedented numbers of people around social causes. These changes are forcing us to think differently about leadership - how decisions are made, what influence means, how enormous groups can sustain their focus and energy to work together. For example, MomsRising.org is an organization that is working to bring together millions of people who share a common concern about the need to build a more family-friendly America. The organization leverages social technology to activate its members, and so far has reached impressive results – since 2006, MomsRising's members took over a million actions in support of families, and in the process, were covered in the media over 1,000 times, according to the organization’s website. LLC has currently engaged thought leaders and practitioners from the field of network development to work with us on producing a report for the field on how to maximize a network centric approach in our leadership development work.
- Leadership programs are going after bigger results: Results and accountability have always been popular topics, but the conversation has changed over the past 10 years. We are no longer just talking about how leadership improves organizational performance, we want to measure changes in the condition of peoples’ lives, this means changes in systems, communities, and fields of practice. We are learning more from a results investment framework we created in meetings with many of you. It also means we are talking about what it takes to support leadership to innovate, how we focus more attention on levers that catalyze and influence systems change.
- Leadership development programs and researchers are rethinking leadership: We are moving away from thinking about leadership as the behaviors of a heroic individual toward thinking of leadership as a collective process. At LLC we have been focusing a lot of our work around understanding and promoting collective leadership. This may be optimistic, but we are getting there. A number of researchers and scholars are writing about leadership as a collective process, Yay! Learn more about their work in our recent piece, "Applying Evidenced Based Practice Approaches to Leadership Development."
- The leadership field is talking about race: Whether or not you agree that we are in a post-racial society, and we don’t, talking more about race is a good thing. While work on diversity and inclusion has been extremely important, the recent census bureau statistics remind us that wealth and opportunities in this country are still heavily influenced by one’s race/ethnicity. In October 2010, we joined with partners from the racial equity field to publish a report, Leadership and Race. The report challenges us to do our part by developing leadership that understands and is committed to closing opportunity gaps for people of color. We've had over 1,000 downloads so far! Enthusiasm for this publication makes us optimistic about exploring this topic even further.
- Concrete efforts to promote inclusive, collective and networked leadership: Four years ago, with your support, LLC embarked on a bold collaborative research venture with the goal of shifting the way we think about and support leadership. We launched LeadershipForANewEra.org, a wiki-based website that has engaged over 20 partners and 175 individuals. We have established norms for collaborative writing, branding and marketing major reports on Leadership and Race, Leadership and Networks, Collective Leadership, and Leadership Across Difference.
- Leadership evaluators are building the capacity of the field: The LLC Evaluation Circle has been the strongest and longest running. We will not be able to learn as a field until each leadership program is able to identify what is working and not working in their current efforts. Many of the Evaluation Circle participants collaborated on a seminal book for the field, Handbook for Leadership Development Evaluation, edited by LLC’s Claire Reinelt, LLC board member Kelly Hannum and her colleague Jennifer Martineau from the Center for Creative Leadership. More recently, the Evaluation Circle met and expressed strong interest in refining a model of collective leadership that can be tested across different contexts. If you are interested, please join the Circle.
- Increased interest around learning communities and communities of practice: Ten years ago most of us doing leadership work were not talking to each other. There may have been some inclination to learn from each other but the opportunity did not exist and…speaking quite frankly, in the early days people talked about the need to maintain a competitive edge or were guarded about learning publicly from mistakes that might be exploited in a competitive environment. Creating Space, an event that we have hosted eight times over the last ten years, has become a hallmark of learning in community. The event offers an opportunity to explore cutting-edge ideas; address pressing challenges and issues facing the field; and establish and strengthen relationships with like-minded peers. Feedback from participants consistently affirms the importance of authentic exchanges and opportunities to connect with colleagues and share resources. By connecting our learning, participants strengthen their own work and the work of the larger leadership development field.
- Creating the culture of sharing and disseminating knowledge about the leadership development field: Over the last ten years we have been working with you to help us document innovative ideas and practices in the field through the LLC website. The website hosts a wide range of valuable resources, mostly through the resource center but more recently through the community blog – which is a place where members can express provocative ideas and trigger conversations that move the field forward.
- Exploring ways of evolving and increasing our impact in the next decade: In the past 3 years we have focused heavily on research, especially through our applied research consulting projects that test and develop our ideas through practical application, e.g. figuring out how to catalyze a leadership alumni network. This has meant focusing more of our attention on producing provocative reports and making sure that we have the reach needed to have an impact on the way people are doing leadership work. Of course, it’s also meant that we had to shift to a biennial Creating Space schedule. We miss the more regular face to face contact that was an essential ingredient of building trust and a sense of community in our early days. The good news, over the last months we have begun to tap into a greater audience and have more impact – we still have a long way to go but the energy around the Leadership and Race publication and engagement with the community through social media channels are helping us move in the right direction. We need to find ways to continue to reach more people and harness the energy of hundreds of new people now connecting with the community virtually. Over the next several months we will be thinking more about what it will look like for LLC to scale its work by adopting a more network centric approach and we welcome your support ushering us into a new world of possibility.
Again, on behalf of the LLC team, we would like to thank all of you who have been an important and integral part of this work, and all of you who are becoming part of the work. We would like to invite you to join in the celebration by sharing your stories or adding comments about the last decade and ideas for the next decade to our message board. Happy Anniversary!