Generating ideas, connections, and action

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.



LLC has been leading a team of pretty amazing network consultants who have been supporting the emerging Well-being and Equity Bridging Network which is receiving funding support from Robert Wood Johnson

Foundation. Over the past year LLC helped to nurture, or some might say incubate this network and has in this role been the governing group making decisions. Now we are excited that the network is ready to move to the next level of self-governance and this raises really good, juicy questions.


We convened a Governance Advisory Group to talk about ‘network governance’ although I now wonder if this might be more appropriatelycalled, ‘equity-based governance’. June Holley, a deep thinker about ‘all things network’ kicked off the conversation pointing out that even in networks, most groups start with a small group of people making decisions for a larger group and that results in these problems:


  • Network participants are not engaged and feel left out while the board or governing body feels overburdened

  • The network does not benefit from the wisdom of all of  the network participants, does not have a pulse on the energy of the network and is not able to respond to those interests in ways that created buy in

  • The processes recreate systems of hierarchy and oppression


The hard and fun part is that we need new processes. I really enjoyed hearing from Tracy Kunkler of Circle Forward about how they are thinking about governance design for networks. She introduced the Principle of Consent from Sociocracy. I won’t try to explain it though I did resonate with examples about how this process avoids consensus models that are not very democratic when one person can hijack the work, even though I like so much of the concept. In one of Tracy’s slides she pointed out that, “Culture change is deeper than governance change.   Governance gives form to power -- it defines the power relationships and rules or agreements. The dominant institutions in our western culture do not operate by consent. The dominant culture can undermine or distort the norms and practices of Consent. Adopting the principle of Consent often means learning new practices, structures, habits, and assumptions.”


Perhaps this is the new innovation and I recommend that others who are interested check out this video and maybe we could have a virtual brown bag with Tracy to talk about it more.


What was most exciting to me was the conversation we had at the end of our meeting about what was on folks minds and it was how culture, specifically the dominant culture permeates governance so that governance reinforces power relationships. If we want to disrupt racism and inequity we can try to innovate in governance spaces. Reminders of this came from participants in the governance conversation:

  • Think about this as deprogramming

  • We have to name the values necessary for creating a culture where everyone feels valued and heard.

  • We need to be aspirational. We need a vision that captures purpose and ways of being to help us reach our vision

  • We need to hold onto the basic work of dismantling the dominant culture


For the most part those of us leading (and being developed to lead) do not have models and processes for decision making and joint work that are anchored in values of shared power and that create and reinforce an equity based culture for how we who care about equity will lead.