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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. 

The beauty of regional conversations is that it grounds each conversation in the local context. As we have engaged in planning for each event, I have been pleasantly surprised by how different each event feels. We have so far succeeded in encouraging the tone and overall vibe of each event to reflect the culture(s) of the host location. This is particularly significant for an event like Creating Space because we take the name quite literally. We both create space for attendees to have the conversations they need to have, and for participants to collectively create the space or container in which the conversations are held.


At the Detroit Creating Space, with the help of Gwen Bailey Winston, our amazing facilitator, participants were able to actively co-create the event, articulating what they needed and wanted from the convening.  At Creating Space we didn’t merely co-create a meeting agenda, we also built community. For example, at one point during the day, participants felt we were moving too quickly and wanted to spend even more time connecting as individuals. I have never been pushed so nicely to adjust an agenda; because we took the time to build community, when we challenged each other it felt constructive and generative. It was actually fun and invigorating to change course and collectively re-imagine a path forward. As a result of this change, we pulled back and made more space for relationship building, engaging in a series of paired conversations where we shared our “Freedom Dreams,” our dreams for a liberatory future.


We closed the event with a training on Networks, and an introduction to the Wellbeing and Equity Bridging Network (WEB) by Yasmin Yonis. The WEB is a network of multiple organizations, groups, and people working on multifaceted issues to develop solutions that optimize the opportunities people have to lead the healthiest lives possible. While in its early formation, the WEB is being facilitated by LLC with financial support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (see this blog post and this blog post by Deborah to learn more about the WEB). The excitement in the room was palpable, with folks eager to join and nourish a network ecosystem in Detroit. 


Although we are still processing the learnings from Detroit, a key reflection point for me is the importance of internal transformational work. As a group, we explored the ways in which the dominant culture shapes us as individuals and the institutions with which we work and engage. Participants in the group, actively taking on the role of co-designers, pushed us to conscientiously name specific oppressive systems such as white supremacy and patriarchy, among others. This felt important to many because one goal of the convening was to explore the ways in which we can avoid replicating oppressive systems, adding demographically representative leadership to old oppressive systems. This distinction between true equity and mere representation was a critical component of the conversation.


This eagerness for transformation was also reflected in a repeatedly expressed desire to move away from fractured individualized approaches. Participants shared a longing for wholeness, connection, and collective and collaborative action. At Creating Space Detroit, we developed a foundation to begin satisfying that longing. Participants built relationships, making arrangements to connect after the event, in fact, a Facebook group was already created and populated before the meeting ended. Attendees also requested, volunteered and shared resources. And several individuals are working together on projects that reflect overlap in their Freedom Dreams, with some seeking to resource collaborative projects through the WEB network. 


I left Creating Space encouraged, excited and inspired by the people I met, and the amazing work they are doing. I’m confident that the work resulting from the connections made at the convening will have concrete and meaningful impacts on communities in Detroit. 

Many thanks to the Creating Space Detroit attendees, our facilitator Gwen Bailey Winston, Yasmin Yonis, as well as Kayla Perrin and Kathy Wyzacki-Durham staff of Community Connections led by Lisa Leverette for making this such a wonderful event. Please stay tuned to hear more about our learnings from Creating Space Detroit and the subsequent Creating Space conversations. Click here to register for Creating Space NY