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Ericka Stallings's blog

Reflections on Creating Space Detroit 2019

 

 

 

Laughter? Check. Tears? Check. Passion, connections and follow up? Check, check, check! Detroit Creating Space had it all.

 

Detroit was an amazing place to kick off LLC’s Creating Space 2019 regional conversations. On October 30th, in partnership with Community Connections, we were able to put on an event that pushed the edges of our equity in leadership thinking.

 

This year we are approaching Creating Space differently. Rather than having a single national event, we are holding three regional conversations in Detroit, New York City, and the Bay Area, CA. The goal is to share learning from each event so that there is a cumulative impact that culminates in our national convening in 2020, which is also LLC’s 20th Anniversary. 

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Envisioning Change

 

 

I recently had a conversation with a colleague where we discussed the tendency of folks in movement spaces to “eat our own.” We talked about the many implications this has, ranging from reduced effectiveness of our efforts, fractured coalitions, to creating uniquely difficult and painful challenges for Executive Directors of color. During the same time period, I’d found myself in several movement conversations where most of us could very clearly articulate what we thought was wrong, but our ideas about how to make things right were terribly murky.

 

This made me reflect on the way I’d been trained in both higher education and in my movement work to approach problem-solving and goal achievement. I primarily learned to deconstruct, question and critique. All essential skills for changing oppressive systems, but I know my training and subsequent approach leaned far more heavily toward assessing what was wrong with old systems, and less toward finding better replacements.

 

Looking back at the leadership supports I’ve experienced and the programs I’ve staffed, I saw a similar pattern. I wondered if, in our leadership work, we are sufficiently practicing creation, constructing a vision for the communities we want to live in with the corresponding systems and structures, in addition to honing the skills to deconstruct the problematic and oppressive systems we currently live with.

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What Does it Mean to Center Love?

 

When I was first introduced to the concept of love-centered change work, I was actually quite skeptical; something about the idea felt discordant, almost disconnected from the struggle for change that I was accustomed to. So when the topic came up, I would nod appreciatively in a socially appropriate way, but for a long time, I held a pretty sizable kernel of doubt. While I still have many questions about how to best execute this approach in efforts to change concrete conditions and recalcitrant oppressive structures, I have definitely observed an evolution in my thinking.

 

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Get Ready For Creating Space 2019: Six Emerging Themes

 

 

LLC is excited to share with you our developing plans for Creating Space 2019. This year, rather than having one large national convening, we are instead planning three regional gatherings followed by a large national convening.We're currently planning to have convenings in the Bay Area, California, New York City, NY and Detroit, MI, September through November 2019. 

 

After joining LLC as Co-Director in March 2019, as part of my ongoing process, I began holding stakeholder conversations with members of the LLC network. One of the most common needs articulated was a desire for LLC to recommit to regional convenings. It was clear to me that people missed the intimacy and connection generated in smaller regional settings. Given the importance of place, it became obvious to LLC that regional convenings allowed those in the LLC network to center their work in context, in ways not reproduced in national gatherings.

 

So for 2019, we are hoping during the regional Creating Space events we'll dig into the theme of exploring how leadership development can support shifting power for justice. We imagine that each regional convening will approach the larger question differently, reflecting the unique conditions of each community.

 

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What it takes to shift Power

Perhaps because my background is in organizing and advocacy, for me the purpose of my work supporting leadership is to shift power. Looking at who has power and who doesn’t and then shifting that balance. 

 

I think we accomplish shifting power by actually creating opportunities for people with less power, marginalized and directly impacted people, to have real power over the conditions which impact their lives, not just “a voice” which power-holders can choose to hear or not. If we are to build leadership support structures that value equity we must intentionally assess and question how power and authority are distributed, in our society and in our institutions. 

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Creating Space 2019 - Tell us what you think!

The LLC team is excited to be working on the next Creating Space event, tentatively planned for Fall 2019 in Detroit, MI. Creating Space was

first held in 1998 to test the idea that people doing leadership development would benefit from connecting our learning and that first Creating Space became the mandate for LLC's formation two years later. Creating Space is a truly innovative event which brings together practitioners, funders, evaluators, students, and others passionate about leadership. This event is unlike other conferences, and is more akin to an “unconference.” Creating Space is a gathering that allows folks to build authentic relationships and think differently while learning and sharing new tools, practices, and ways of being. Since LLC strives to walk it as we talk it, Creating Space intentionally embodies LLC’s core values. Because equity is an essential value for LLC, we intend for Creating Space to be a convening which pushes the edges of centering equity, particularly centering directly impacted people.

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How do we practice collective leadership when some parts of the leadership development practice feel individual?

 

LLC has spent a great deal of time and energy encouraging leadership funders and practitioners to expand and evolve their thinking on the very concept of leadership. To think about leadership not simply using what is called the “lone hero” model or lens. When the story of social change is told, it usually involves a few brave men, and occasionally women, who through grit, determination, and perhaps a superpower or two, save the day by individually ushering in change. This approach often excludes many from participating, upholds hierarchical, and often oppressive systems, and is frequently ahistoric, invisiblizing all of the non-household names, often less-privileged folks, who labored to make change possible.

 

Instead, LLC has supported efforts to think about leadership in more expansive, accessible, equitable, inclusive and democratic ways. Networked leadership is one example, creating a broad base of leadership rather than one leader to lead them all.

 

But the actual practice of inclusive and networked leadership is challenging. Often, supports are provided to or experienced by individual people, not whole communities, networks or demographic groups simultaneously. Smart and effective leadership processes encourage participants to engage in personal internal reflection, to build authentic relationships with other individuals, attend skills-building training sessions where a person individually chooses to show-up, etc;  So how do we practice collective leadership when some parts of the leadership development practice feel individual?

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