Generating ideas, connections, and action

Deborah Meehan's blog

Supporting Community Entrepreneurship: What’s Money Got to do With It?

This past week I had the opportunity to attend a meeting in Detroit sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation called “Building Networks for Change”, #BNFC13. The meeting explored a number of important themes that included community organizing, advocacy and racial justice. I was excited that one of the site visit was to the Detroit Community Connections Grant Program, a program we have written about in earlier blogs as an innovative approach to leadership development…one worthy of our attention. The Detroit Community Connections Grant Program is administered by Prevention Network and funded by an innovative funding arrangement between The Skillman Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The opportunity to see this program up close only strengthened my conviction and understanding of the unique value of their approach. Social entrepreneurship as a concept has been popularized in the past couple of decades by programs like Ashoka and Echoing Green that focus on young people with new ideas for producing social innovation that are supported to launch programs or projects that often become non-profit organizations. As I visited the Detroit Community Connections Grant Program, I found myself thinking about the idea of community entrepreneurs, people deeply rooted in their communities with neighbors, networks and constituents who are ready to be part of change. 

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Is the Pipeline Metaphor Serving us Well?

We are excited to be writing the story of a program called On the Verge that is developing young leaders in Napa who are launching programs for emancipated youth, LGBTQ youth, young teachers and young parents. Many of these programs are being incubated through an umbrella organization, On The Move (OTM). We approached On the Verge about collaborating on a case study because we were excited about the impact the program was having on schools, neighborhoods, and its success in creating opportunities for young people to lead. Napa has a large Latino population (33%) and yet people of color are significantly underrepresented in leadership positions in business, government and the non-profit sector. On the Verge hopes to change this and has some big dreams about shifting the leadership demographics in Napa over the next ten years.

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Welcome New Philanthropy and Partnerships Manager, Elizabeth Lanyon!

If you have been following LLC’s transition and restructuring series, we have been implanting new strategies these past few months, which come at the recommendation of our board. Our board strongly suggested it was time to try something new to build LLC’s capacity to deliver on some very ambitious goals for 2017 – stay tuned for more info!


Earlier this summer, we conducted a successful search for a development staff member. With the support and guidance of CompassPoint, LLC was able to move forward on one of our goals and recruit an amazing Philanthropy and Partnerships Manager. Elizabeth Lanyon was interviewed by the entire LLC team and was a big thumbs up all around. She brings an impressive background in fund development, which we share below. We are impressed with her entrepreneurial spirit, a “can do” enthusiasm, a social change ethos and history of advocating for youth. read more »

Leadership in Networks

I just returned from the Center for Ethical Leadership’s annual Confluence, a meeting that brings a diverse group of people for 2-3 days to explore specific topics.  This years’ Confluence was a meeting on Network Principles in Play that brought together 65 network practitioners who are supporting networks focused on hunger and food insecurity, aging and a number of other issues.  I am still mulling over several questions that emerged for me in the course of conversation and the one that has the most traction of course… is about leadership.

I found myself thinking that it may be useful to draw on the parallel distinction between leadership and management that we bring to organizational leadership as we think about the type of leadership needed to help networks innovate and take action.  In her blog post last month, Miriam shared some observations she gleaned from a CompassPoint session on Leadership that explored the difference between management and leadership:

“Management concentrates on the details; what needs to be done now to reach our goal (agenda), the logistics, producing order and systems. Leadership keeps its eye on the larger picture; the mission, visualizing the larger goal (agenda). Success cannot be achieved if you do not have both in our projects.” read more »

Three Promising Lessons from the National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health

LLC is always on the lookout for leadership programs that are testing new approaches, especially innovations that are going after big results.  We were excited when we were approached by the Center for Health Leadership and Practice, Public Health Institute to be part of a curriculum team that was helping to develop a new Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded leadership program.  What was most intriguing to us about the program was it's commitment to recruiting multi-sector teams who would receive leadership support as they worked together across their organizations on a community health improvement project.  We also appreciated the programs willingness to experiment with virtual learning platforms, combined with a face to face retreat, and personalized coaching to the teams.  This unique combination supports applied action learning through leadership project coaching, relationship/network building through the retreats and delivery of leadership content and skills development through online modules that help to mitigate the travel costs associated with many leadership delivery strategies.  

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Leadership Development Hiding in Plain Sight: Reflections on Creating Space X


In reading the survey responses from our national meeting, Creating Space X in Baltimore this past May, a funny thought crossed my mind.  Aren’t many of the things that people benefited from at CS elements of good leadership development?  A number of participants even talked about replicating some of these methodologies like open space, self-organizing, and the design challenge into their leadership programs.   Here are some examples of some of the major themes and what people said: read more »

  • Diversity: A lot of people talked about the value of connecting with others who share a passion for being change makers and meeting people who are different, “the wonderfully diverse mixture of researchers, consultants, program staff, funders and community organizers.”
  • Relationship Building and Peer Learning:  Small group interactions facilitated relationship building and peer exchange, “talking one on one with people about their program models and what they’re working on to exchange ideas and learn from each other.”
  • Deep Conversation: A number of people mentioned the importance of time and space for deep conversations, “Inviting people to come into the conversation with openness, without judgment and not forcing an outcome, especially on topics like race.”
  • Application to Real Problems/Issues: The design challenge harnessed the group’s creative energy around real time issues and problems and was very popular with survey respondents.  “The Design Challenge is something I have used several times with a lot of success.”

Transition Process: Early Wins from Leadership Transition Experiment


Natalia and Deborah strike 
"power poses" - Watch the TED Talk that inspired this practice around our office!

By Natalia Castañeda and Deborah Meehan


Over the past few months we have been sharing our experience of transitioning leadership and some of the external and internal trials of creating a new leadership formation within LLC.  We will continue to share these insights but thought it would be fun to share a couple of the wins. 


Improved Staff Development and Supervision:

We start with our basic assumption that the role of Executive Director is loaded up with responsibilities that are usually more than one person can sanely do.  However, most nonprofit organizations do not have COO, or Managing Director, types of positions common in the corporate sector unless they are pretty large.  For the last few years, the operations side was the area in our organization that took the biggest hit.  In trying to balance the programmatic work, fund development, and consulting work, operations got less attention.  It could also be a larger problem in the sector that we are not paying enough attention to the need of investing in senior operations staff that can help keep the work going within the organization. 

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LLC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Community Vitality Advisor, Jane Leonard

Understanding, Measuring, and Leading Complex Community Change Work


Jane Leonard is a community vitality advisor currently in private practice based in St. Paul, Minnesota. We met Jane in 2011 when Jane contracted with LLC to conduct a scan of leadership development work in MN, SD, and ND.  We were excited about this work because we shared a passion about community leadership or how to build the leadership capacity of a community to tackle it issues and thrive.  Jane was able to be a great bridge between the leadership development and community development fields.  In fact, she’s the recent (this month) recipient of the Community Development Society’s Duane L. Gibson Distinguished Service Award for her long-standing and superior contributions to the field of community development and to CDS.


She’s quick to point out that CDS, an organization that believes in and promotes inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches to community development, has helped her as much as she has helped it.  “I’m someone who sees and acts on connections everywhere – connections that are necessary and helpful for people, communities, and organizations to be resilient and vital in an era of great complexity and constant change.”

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Consultative Sessions/Peer Assists: An Exercise in Collective Leadership

Over the years, as part of LLC’s consulting services we have from time to time conducted what we call consultative sessions. Other people call them peer assists. June Holley describes the process she uses in the Network Weavers Handbook. Regardless of the language I am sure we all share some similar premises: read more »

  • There is great learning value in digging into concrete examples to apply our best thinking on a question, problem or issue.
  • Our applied thinking is enriched by a diversity of perspectives, and not just the usual suspects. 
  • All participants benefit from the learning produced by an exchange among diverse peers, not just the subject of the consultative session. 
  • The group can generate thinking that goes beyond the ideas of any one participant in the process.
  • Despite the assumptions we make about busyness, people are very generous with their time when it comes to helping a project/program doing good work and the chance to hang out with cool people.

How Can Leadership Development Programs Make a Difference in the Challenges of Tackling Racism?

There was no business as usual at our first staff meeting since the Trayvon Martin verdict.  We all needed to talk about the issue that had weighed heavily on us through the week and process our sense of grief and outrage. We asked ourselves the question, “How can the work we do (leadership development) make a difference in something as persistent and ugly as racism? The staff had lots of thoughts about what we could do as individuals or even within LLC as a team and we decided to channel our despair into a call to action, a call to ourselves and our community. We will be reaching out to folks who do leadership development in the Bay Area to help us host a conversation about our roles as leadership development practitioners and funders in undoing racism. Please stay tuned for details of the meeting and additional blog posts from LLC team members who will be sharing perspectives on this important topic.

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