Generating ideas, connections, and action

Looking Ahead: Results Based Planning and Experimenting with Form

Experimenting with Organizational Form

Last year, Miriam and I began a bold experiment.  At our 2015 April board meeting, as Natalia was preparing to move to Southern California, we asked if we could pause in hiring while we took some time to figure out what work was most important to us and what form would best support that work.  We wondered, as a learning network, what it would be like to be more network like.

We just completed a very fruitful board meeting and extracted some interesting lessons from our 7 months of experimenting with being more network like.  I would like to say that it was ingenuity but it was good part necessity as well.  Given that we had decided not to hire until we had finished this reflective process we were forced to work in new ways if we were to continue the same level of good work.  We are a dynamic duo and there is a limit to what two people can do.  We found ourselves doing more with partners, we were tapping our network to do the work.  In other words, we were staffing the work instead of staffing the organization

For example, Creating Space has always been a labor intensive venture for LLC staff.  This year we used the grant funds to support local partners who were hosting us.  A lot of our projects have been done with consultants from our network instead of staff.  This allows us to spread funds within the network while bringing people together on projects who don’t usually have opportunities to learn together.  A lot more of the content we share through webinars and our newsletter is being generated by you, the network, and less by us.  We have not quite found the sweet spot.  We are still working too hard, but we think we are on to something about tapping the network instead of building an organization with a lot of overhead. Our board is excited.

Developing a Results Based Framework

At out board meeting, thanks to funding by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we brought Marian Urquilla to help us use a Results Based Framework to develop sharper strategies and performance measures for LLC.  This can be particularly difficult for organizations that do capacity building because we can be far upstream from the results we most want to see in the world.  For example, we believe that helping people to lead more effectively will help organizations, networks and initiatives be more successful in their explicit social justice purpose and goals.  It can be hard to follow change that far out from our specific intervention. Even so, we all want to know that our efforts are contributing to what is most important to us, and for LLC that is social justice. I will confess I was dubious about what we were setting out to accomplish in a one-day meeting.  We were all pretty amazed with the way in which Marian guided us through a number of fruitful questions such as:

  • What is the desired result we are trying to achieve?
  • Who would we need to move to get to that result?
  • What impedes and supports the results we are trying to move?
  • What are built-in opportunities?
  • How can we prioritize and sharpen our strategies?
  • How will we know if what we are doing is working? What will we expect to see?

We will continue to digest and translate the good work we did with Marian and wanted to share some of the insights and decisions that will shape our work in 2016.  For the past 7 years we have been talking about, writing about and providing resources that support a new leadership consciousness and leadership development process.  At the heart of this leadership is an understanding of leadership as a process by which many people engage and align their efforts and actions around a shared purpose.  We would love your input around what to call this leadership, e.g. leadership as a process, network leadership, collective leadership, connective leadership, social justice leadership.  We are not trying to brand a new thing but instead provide a common framework or paradigm for understanding the kind of leadership we need to make progress on our social justice goals.  For now we are using the term network leadership, not just because it’s the kind of leadership you need in networks but because networks are generating leadership behaviors more in line with this more expansive paradigm of leadership.

LLC Result: More funders, social justice initiatives, leadership development programs and alumni networks help us lead, learn and act together to achieve faster and bigger equity victories.

Key strategies for getting to this result:  All of these strategies are dynamically connected and contribute to each other.

  • Make the case: Current ideas about leadership are heavily influenced by the dominant culture of individuals.  We need to provide more examples of network leadership that demonstrate the power of working and learning together.
  • nnovative practice: We need to immerse ourselves in practice and learn by developing network leadership with people who are already experimenting with more connected approaches to leading in networks, initiatives and communities of practice.
  • Field Building: We need to expand the number of high quality, results oriented opportunities to learn together in a way that moves the field or is nationally significant.

Our board met in December before the holidays so this is an early share. Our gratitude to the Annie E. Casey Foundation for funding this work.  We invite you to stay tuned as we refine and operationalize our decisions.  Please stay tuned for more.