Happy New Year, and heartfelt wishes for a transformative year. The start of a New Year, in this case a new decade, is cause for reflection, reckoning, and resolution. It is hard to settle on the appropriate adjectives for what we have seen these past four years, and the harm and injustices inflicted. In an environment that can foster powerlessness and despair, it’s the work of leadership to change the narrative and build power...think of ‘yes we can’ with teeth and muscle. We want to highlight five power shifting strategies we tried in 2019 and our plans for 2020!
2019: The Year in Review
Building Power: Over the last year a central organizing principle in our work has been building power. There are several big steps LLC has taken in this direction:
Creating Space Regional Series: This past year LLC tried something new. We shifted from a national to a regional convening strategy for the Creating Space series: Leadership 2020: Shifting Power for Justice, We believe that you have to grow and anchor power locally, often in tandem with national or larger-scale efforts, working with partners who can continue to share learning, practices, and who can leverage each other’s resources and efforts to shift power. We also need to move leadership resources and supports to those most impacted.
Co-Directorship: We hired Co-Director, Ericka Stallings, who brings a strong organizing lens and power analysis practice to LLC’s strategic direction. In adopting this model, we are also experimenting with power sharing leadership models and shifting power.
Network Leadership: We are helping to activate equity based networks as an important power building strategy, and sharing lessons and tools to help leadership providers equip their participants to lead social justice networks and movement building work.
Ecosystem Partnership: In partnership with like minded justice seeking organizations (who from a market analysis could have been seen as competitors), we are able to leverage our resources and learn more quickly, and connect across multiple issues to disrupt systems.
Leadership Narrative and Framework: We need to disrupt the dominant cultural narrative of the individual heroic leader with a new narrative about the potential for anyone to lead with others that share experiences of oppression and injustice, and want to take action to write these wrongs. LLC worked with one of our funders to develop a framework for this type of leadership grounded in systems, equity analysis, authentic community participation, and collective action. We believe this could be a framework for the field.
2020 Commitments: The Year to Come
Many of the 2019 power building approaches are in their early stages. We will continue to support local networks, experiment and share what we are learning about the co-directorship model, share tools from our network development work, and work through partnerships to muster our collective strength. We are still harvesting reflections which goes to our first resolution and commitment for 2020:
Creating Strong Reflective Practices: We are a learning network, and we can do better. We have a reflections and lessons piece built into each staff meeting, and still we are skimming the surface. We want to build this is as collective practice in several ways. Our board is identifying enduring learning questions that will anchor board learning. We will be developing formal protocols for reflection, and we are interested in yours. The Social Transformation Practice has developed processes for experimentation, and we want to wrap more intentionality around our own process. As part of an ecosystem we have the opportunity to learn at a different scale, and we want to do our part harvesting and sharing what we are learning in real time.
Shifting Resources: Power is not all about resources...and where money flows can tell us something about power. Ten years ago we conducted a survey to find out what leadership development programs were spending on participants. At the time, we found that programs serving grassroots folks were only spending (and being funded) to provide supports at a small fraction of what was being spent on mid-career professionals. We doubt that trends have changed based on first hand experience, and we will be conducting another survey. We will share findings and collectively (with you) develop strategies for shifting resources to people most impacted by the problems being addressed.
Deepening LLC’s Network Model: We are constantly reflecting on our own model and movement to become a more network centric organization. Last year, we talked about the need to go broad and deep and invested in reactivating local networks. We also realize that to unleash power in the network, we need to activate more self-organizing among the participants of the LLC network. To do this, we need to move beyond broadcast communications (like this) and create more ways for folks in our network to talk to each other. To stimulate more self-organizing, this year we will implement a Network Activation Fund that will be network participant driven. The last front of this work in 2020 will be the application of what we are learning about equitable governing systems in our network building to LLC’s board recruitment and decision making.
- Creating Space 2020 and LLC’s 20th Anniversary: We will be culling lessons and tools from the regional/virtual Creating Space Series leading up to an annual 2020 Creating Space this fall. This will coincide with LLC’s 20th year. Both events will bring together folks from the network to sharpen our vision and practices for shifting the narrative about leadership, spreading innovative, grassroots leadership practices, and building power for justice.