Generating ideas, connections, and action

Ericka Stallings's blog

Responding to COVID-19: LLC's Next Steps

 

The COVID-19 pandemic presents the leadership field with the challenge of both responding to the crisis in our communities while learning to operate in fundamentally different ways. It also offers us the opportunity to reimagine how leadership in a Post-COVID-19 world could look. The “new” normal doesn’t have to just replicate the imperfect and inequitable old normal. It would be a missed opportunity, and a disservice to our communities to just go back to business as usual. There is a huge danger if we were to do so; just as many of us are seeing the opportunity to make the world more just and equitable, others are seizing the opportunity to make it far less so, as several contractions of democracy and liberty across the globe indicate. 

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Recklessly Reimagining Leadership

 

In the midst of all of the fear, anger, and anxiety I, like perhaps many of you, am experiencing right now, I’ve been pushing myself to focus on appreciation for areas of abundance in my life.  I’m thankful to have my health, a safe and healthy family, meaningful employment and an amazing network of friends, colleagues, and friend-colleagues (frigues?), who have reached out to connect with me during this scary time. I’ve felt fortunate to be in relationship with them, to share virtual space with them, and to have the opportunity to continue to learn from them.  Every webinar, conversation, internal LLC conversation, virtual coffee or brunch I’ve joined in the last few weeks has really helped me think about how leadership can adapt to the new reality precipitated by COVID-19. What has struck me is how generous folks are with their amazing ideas, rather than proprietary.  

 

Given the fundamental shake-up COVID-19 has done to the world, one of my amazing friend-colleagues, Stephanie Yazgi, has been encouraging folks to consider “reckless reimagination” as a way to think about what our work and world could be like. This has inspired me to begin recklessly reimagining leadership. As I have been talking with folks and thinking about what leadership could look like, three questions arose:

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Collective Leadership Responses to Covid-19

 

LLC has been a completely remote organization for several years, so the move to social distancing, work from home practices to slow the spread of COVID-19 hasn’t changed the mechanics of how we work, but it has most certainly changed the feel of our work. We are all concerned about the welfare of our families, friends, and communities. We contemplate the contributions our work can have in these times, and the role of leadership during a crisis like this one.

 

Reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 has made me re-connect with LLC’s mission, underscoring why equity-centered, networked, and collective leadership working to advance justice really matters. It has illuminated the need for connection and collaboration, care and compassion, reflected in the thoughtfulness of many in our communities who are working hard to support others. This crisis has further exposed the huge number of people in our country, and in the world, who have been marginalized, the gaps in our safety nets, and in too many cases, weaknesses in our leadership.

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Welcome our Newest Team Member!

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LLC is happy to welcome Tamitha Walker McKinnis to the team as our new Senior Project Manager.  Joining us from St Louis, Missouri, Tamitha brings with her a wealth of knowledge from her impressive and varied career path as a trainer and facilitator, grantmaker, researcher and most recently, as a consultant. 

 

In addition to the professional skills she will add to LLC, we are also excited to note the great values alignment between LLC and Tamitha.  When asked about what values are most important to her, Tamitha quickly listed “transparency, collaboration, diversity, trust, shared power and leadership, and centering equity.”  These are values that live at the heart of LLC. It appears this connection is also clear to Tamitha who said, “I knew I was in the right place, with the right set of folks when the first conversation I entered on my first day prompted me to respond to questions about shifting the dominant narrative and building power.”  

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Pondering Liberatory Leadership Development

 

 

Pondering Liberatory Leadership Development

By Ericka Stallings

 

Throughout the Creating Space 2019/2020 multi-region conversation series, we’ve explored what it would take for our Leadership Development work to center equity and shift power for justice. In each conversation, at some point, we explored what a liberatory future could look like, and how our work fighting for equity and justice could help us make this future real. To further dig into these questions, the Bay Area convening Co-Facilitator, Patrick Brown, explicitly asked a panel of Catalyst Speakers to explain how they think about liberation, specifically how they distinguish between equity and liberation (For more on this conversation see Deborah’s blog entry here).

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Takeaways from Creating Space Conversations 2019 - New York (Part 2)

 

 

The New York Creating Space event was filled with reflection, as well as focused attention on practical application. LLC and the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development were happy to host such a thoughtful and rejuvenating conversation. Together we concentrated on three key ways to structure our work to shift power for justice, and then workshopped concrete practices to help us achieve this goal.  (Click here for Part I of this event recap)

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Takeaways from Creating Space Conversations 2019 - New York (Part 1)

 

 

 

Even folks, or perhaps especially folks, who live in a city that never sleeps need time to stop and reflect. On November 21st, the New York Creating Space, an energizing and inspiring event offered participants exactly that. For me, it was also a bit of a personal homecoming as I got to partner with my former colleagues at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development’s Center for Community Leadership and be in community with people I’ve known for many years, while also connecting with new folks. 

 

This year we’ve developed a different model for Creating Space. Instead of one large event, we are hosting several smaller and more intimate events. So far, in addition to the New York conversation, we held an event in Detroit, as well as a virtual convening and will be hosting the final regional gathering in the Bay Area in January.  

 

Creating Space New York, like the Detroit convening, had a very distinct vibe. New York has a reputation for being a tough place, populated by people armed with sharp elbows and sharper tongues. While the participants at Creating Space New York demonstrated sharp intellect, they also showed gentle spirits, with thoughtful comments and compassionate approaches to differences of opinion. There was a spirit of openness and an eagerness to hear from others that was rejuvenating. 

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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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