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Creating Space: Baking Equity & Justice into Leadership Development Work

Turn on the news and there is little doubt, equity is under assault... from attempts to repeal ACA, taxation proposals to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy, to attacks on undocumented workers and Muslims. We need to build a new equity consciousness and set of practices into leadership development work to nurture our individual and collective resistance to stand up for social and racial justice.

We have talked a lot over the years about why it is important to bring a race conscious equity lens to leadership development. Now we are talking about what it takes to change practice. In short, the answer is practice. I am reminded constantly of this refrain from our former board chair and inspiration Eugene Kim, Faster than 20, who champions the idea that the way to become better collaborators, or in fact better at anything, is through practice. It’s time for those of us who don’t really get what it might look like to change up our leadership development approaches by trying out new equity practices, borrowing from those who do get it, and keeping at it, learning from what we do that works or doesn’t work and trying again.  That is why we are calling this the year of Creating Space.  


There are lots of opportunities for your to practice building your equity lens and muscles (as our friend Milano Harden likes to say). For example, we have created a calendar here where we have identified organizations and people who are offering 1-2 day trainings that will help build your understanding and toolkit. We will also be trying to raise funds for additional opportunities, like a train the trainers for leadership development staff and consultants who want to learn how to use the ‘Transforming Privilege: A 21st Century Leadership Competency’ curriculum. If you know someone who could help fund this or you are a funder who could help, let us know so that we can support the amazing women who developed this curriculum.


We encourage you to join in and find an opportunity close to you. We will also be supporting communities of practice for people who attend these trainings, and want to support each other in figuring out what this means for your leadership work: is there anything you can do differently in the way you approach recruitment; are the models of leadership you introduce inclusive; do you help people understand how and why our current systems are perpetuating inequity; how do you honor and support the wisdom among participants?


You hopefully read the article by Miriam about our innovation seed fund. Volunteers from the LLC network are selecting proposals focused on supporting the leadership of people of color. The awardees will be part of a practice group to share what they are learning, and we look forward to hear lessons from these great projects at Creating Space.


We will also be lifting up leadership development practices that we think are innovative through our newsletters and blog. I am a partner to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health leadership program being run by the National Collaborative for Health Equity and Common Health Action. I have been impressed by the diversity of the pool they attract, and I am sure we could learn from their outreach and what it took to reach a diverse pool of grassroots activists, health professionals, academics and people from business who all see their role in promoting a Culture of Health across issues and sectors. So, here is a shout out to them for their recruitment and selection process. A couple of things in the selection struck me: 1) There are reviewer instructions which offer definitions of things like equity, which is core to the program, and one of the instructions draws a distinction between clear communication and grammar; 2) In addition to a written application, there is a video portion of the application; 3) There is weighted criteria for a demonstrated commitment to make an impact on inequitable conditions in their community.

As you can probably tell, we are excited about this event and working with our partners Greenlining Institute, Management Assistance Group (MAG), and the People’s Institute for Survival who are leaders in the field of equity. We are also excited that you, our community, have embraced equity practice in a powerful way by  helping to contribute to the equity fund to make sure that everyone who feels that they should be there can attend. Already, in less than a week since announcing Creating Space, 57 people have responded to our attendance survey and of these, over 7 people felt that their organization had the resources to support the participation of someone who did not have the same access to resources. We hope you will join us, and if you have not completed the survey to let us know how likely it is that you will attend. It’s not too late, and in fact would be very helpful to our planning for Creating Space in New Orleans. Stay tuned for more.