Generating ideas, connections, and action

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. 

We were joined by two amazing “Catalyst Speakers” who were both vulnerable and authentic while also challenging us to think critically and expansively. Traditionally, at Creating Space, LLC invites individuals from our network to join us and share their experiences, we use the term “Catalyst Speaker” because their remarks are intended to spark new thinking and enliven the broader conversation.  I’m very appreciative of Jennifer Lopez and Stephanie Yazgi whose catalytic comments sparked deep contemplation and robust conversation.  


As a group, we talked about our individual and institutional visions for engaging in Leadership Development in ways that shift power and advance justice, discussed challenges to achieving this vision, and then workshopped concrete solutions. We were able to hold these big complicated conversation topics because of the amazing skill of our fabulous facilitator Cathy Dang


One of the key takeaways from the convening was that this shift requires us to think about some of the things we take for granted, our assumptions and biases related to how we do our work, and how we treat ourselves and each other while doing the work.  


We talked about many things, but focused our conversation on three key topics:


  1. Leading with Love and Rigor: As a group, we asked ourselves “How do we do our work in ways that align our actions with our values?”, collectively unpacking what it means to truly support leadership through a lens of love, while simultaneously retaining the rigor our critically important work demands. 


  1. Interrupting and disrupting oppression: Together we explored ways of structuring our work so that we are interrupting oppression, rather than replicating the oppressive practices we were taught by the dominant culture. We also recognized that individually and institutionally we’ve absorbed these lessons and to effect change, we must intentionally transform the way we engage with ourselves, our peers and our organizations. 


  1. Holding space for different strengths: The group expressed a lot of concern about the way in which dominant culture has taught all of us to appreciate only certain types of knowledge, certain ways of being, and certain skills and strengths. This valuing of a narrow set a contributions limits the leadership development opportunities made available, and to whom. Collectively, the group imagined a far broader view of the contributions individuals can make to movement work. 


We were obviously not able to answer the question of how leadership development can shift power to advance justice in just one sitting, however, we did generate many ideas that are ripe with potential, and several critical questions that could seed very robust conversations in the future. LLC hopes to create opportunities to continue exploring these questions. I’ll share more on both the concrete solutions generated as well as the ongoing questions in a follow-up post.


I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to have been in community with the amazing folks who joined us at Creating Space New York. I know, without a doubt, that an active and engaged collective was started at Creating Space New York, and I'm excited about the work to come.

Many thanks to the Creating Space New York attendees, our facilitator Cathy Dang, Yasmin Yonis, as well as Emily Goldstein, Melanie Breault, Malika Conner, Aixin Li, Armando Moritz-Chapelliquen, staff of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, as well as our hosts, The People’s Forum, for making this such a wonderful event. Please stay tuned to hear more about our learnings from Creating Space Series, and the subsequent Creating Space conversations. Click here to register for Creating Space Bay Area, CA.