Generating ideas, connections, and action

Miriam Persley's blog

How To Avoid Alienating People Through Your Work

This weekend, my husband and I stopped by a well-known grocery store in what is becoming our gentrified neighborhood in Oakland. From the moment we stepped foot through the door, an armed security guard followed us throughout the store and remained within ten feet of us, his arm resting on his gun the entire time. When for a moment I stepped away to grab another item on our list, he followed me and radioed for backup. Although my husband and I remained calm, avoided any sudden movements, and pretended ignore him, I felt angry to be treated so aggressively in what was an unmistakable case of racial profiling. When we left, although angry, I also felt relieved to know that we were able to walk away unharmed in what could have easily escalated into a worse situation had this guard decided to go on a power trip. In the leadership development field not many organizations run stores where there may be armed security guards entrusted with “protecting” their investments, but rather most run programs and interact with their “investments;” developing people and communities; in a much different way. However, this experience made me question the blind spots where programs may inadvertently create traumatic experiences for others.


Most commonly, alienation occurs through language. The use of highly technical jargon or cliquish terms do not welcome multiple experiences. To make programs more inclusive analyze the language used in applications, eligibility requirements, and curriculum. The language used can have many definitions and as a result many unintended impacts. Making materials clear and digestible for multiple audiences is key to keep expanding the positive reach of your engagement. Take the time to create clear definitions as an organization and make these easily accessible all of which will help all of participants understand your intent and may even guide your purpose.

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Making Time For Reflection: Lessons From History

Leaders strive to have a clear vision and purpose in their work. Without it, they risk being distracted, inefficient, and/or ineffective. To build this framework, they need to constantly act intentionally and evaluate themselves, their organizations, community, networks, and movements with this lens. Intentionality means being purposeful and deliberate in action. It is a great metric in the work and yet it can be very hard to make those intentional decisions when the results can be greatly unknown and the work vast.

 

Recently, I have been really reflecting on the journey towards marriage equality and the intentional and unintentional actions embedded in this long-fought journey. Not out of the blue either, since it’s LGTBQ Pride Month and the media has been promoting some of this history. Recently, PBS’ Independent Lens showcased the documentary “We Were Here,” which tells the story of gay San Franciscans in the 80’s at a time when AIDS was spreading unknowingly throughout the community and the response that many groups had to it and how they were able to fight for their survival against prejudice and social disdain. This, juxtaposed with another Independent Lens documentary, “The New Black,” intersected a different view. “The New Black” follows the fight of the black gay and lesbian community as they fought for equal marriage rights in Maryland in 2012 and how the community’s roots in Christianity as well as racial prejudice intersected around this issue.
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Personal Ecology: A Reflection on Community

Here at LLC, we have had a very active last few months; all of our work culminating in our national meeting, Creating Space XI. Since our last Creating Space in Baltimore, I participated in one of Rockwood Leadership Institute’s programs. We spent a generous amount of time learning Personal Ecology, which is the art of maintaining balance, pacing, and efficiency to sustain our energy over a lifetime of activism. Personal ecology is crucial to leadership development because without people doing the work on the ground, the field cannot sustain this work over time and we will not be able to see the results we want. We cannot have programs that are more inclusive, networked, or collective if we cannot sustain ourselves and our partners in this work.
 

Last year, for Creating Space X, we traveled to Baltimore. Although the meeting was a success and I had a lot of  fun interacting with our community, I must admit that I completely failed at maintaining balance.  The meeting momentum, the change in time zone, the 12-hour flight, plus all the unpacking and repacking, the three-days of waking up at 3am Pacific and going to bed late into the night, compiled by the running around, and a red-eye flight back home; all of that caught up to me the second I arrived home and my body finally gave into the exhaustion in the form of shingles. Yes, I came down with a case of shingles! Even the doctors were surprised that at my age I could get this, but it was a reminder, once again, that I do have physical limits. We all do, and when we are in complete imbalance we all have ways of knowing it; for some our bodies may give out,  for others they may lose the joy they find in their work, or some sacrifice everything outside of their work and lose the space and people that rejuvenate them.

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Creating Space XI | An Update and Quick Guide

Last month, I wrote about “Creating Space: The Experimentation of Design” with some insights on this year’s design process. Now, days away from our convening, we are witnessing all the pieces come together. Last week, the agenda was shared with all of you, and the names of participants that have volunteered as catalyst with offerings for this hands-on workshop were also released and have been updated.
 

This year, in the spirit of innovation, LLC is experimenting with our tried and true format; moving from our traditional meeting format to a learning lab format.  To create a roll up your sleeves tinkering and prototyping environment focused on practical implementation we decided to limit participation this year to no more than 60 innovative practitioners who are willing to take a deep dive into the "how to" nuts and bolts of designing and delivering leadership development that promotes inclusive, networked, and collective leadership. Not only will participants be able to have space for meaningful conversations; the ability to participate in an experience unlike any other in the leadership development field; but also many opportunities to share their own experiences, tools, and find applicable solutions to their program’s challenges. Whether you’re new to the field, one of the core fixtures to leadership development, or somewhere in between, the group creates space for all these voices to come and learn from one another. In keeping with the tradition of a non-conference, there will be plenty of space and time to integrate anything you may wish to learn from our peers.
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The Community Connections-Marygrove College Partnership: A Powerful Collaboration

Last May, after Day Two of Creating Space X, I had the honor of joining a self-organized dinner.  Among the group were Brenda Price, the director of Marygrove College’s Office of Urban Leadership Initiatives and who also oversees the Building Our Leadership in Detroit (BOLD) and Lisa Leverette, the Program Manager at the Detroit Community Connections Grant Program. That night, it became clear that Lisa and Brenda had amazing insights into many of the systemic social problems of their city. Also present were Dawn Wilson and Darnell Adams, who are both on the grant review panel for the Community Connections Small Grants Program.  Over dinner folks helped to paint a holistic picture that transcended the typical media characterizations  of Detroit with an unparalleled richness. So deep was their collective knowledge, so compelling, that all the non-Michiganians at the table (which included Tides Client Specialist Bella Celnik, LLC Chief Board Member and Independent Consultant Eugene Kim, and I) left committed to visit Detroit. As the night ended, Brenda and Lisa made a commitment to work together when they returned to Michigan. Now, seven months later, I reconnected with Brenda and Lisa to hear more about their collaboration.
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The Power of Networks - Donate to LLC!

Support leadership that inspires change!

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Creating Sustainable Social Change: Step 1

Courtesy of Maria Ramos-Chertok
Mayacamas Ranch, Calistoga, CA October 2013
Rockwood Art of Leadership: Women in Racial Justice

A subgroup of these women worked on the Charter for Humanizing the Social Sector

At the end of October, I participated in the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s Art of Leadership for Women Leaders in Racial Justice and Human Rights, in Calistoga, CA. Twenty-seven women (including myself) and two facilitators learned, laughed, and connected deeply during a weeklong training. I participated to learn more about leadership development in practice, as well as to take a moment for self-reflection and evaluation. I can feel the change in myself and have been able to see others through a very different lens; having a deeper understanding of what impact leadership development can have on people and their organizations. There are countless moments of learning, but one particular conversation struck me very deeply. It was a collective conversation in a small group looking for long-term Personal Ecology strategies to maintain a lifetime of commitment to the social sector.

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The Bare Basics of Budgeting

At the end of September, I attended CompassPoint’s Budgeting for Programs, Grants, and the Organization Training with Sarah Gort. Although I have been monitoring and creating financial reports for LLC for over a year, this session gave me concrete tools and challenged me to continue to improve LLC’s financial monitoring to ensure sound management of our finances and promoting sustainability.

 

Most people get overwhelmed by numbers and want to run away from the process. Yet, money is what allows our organizations to keep the doors open, foster staff talent, and produce the important work that leads to social change. It does take effort, but these simple approaches can take the financial headaches out of our organizations and ensure sustainability.

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Management ≠ Leadership

Eleanor, Marla, and Miriam at CompassPoint’s “Take Control of Your Leadership Development: Frameworks for Emerging and New Leaders” Workshop

As part of our own leadership growth, Eleanor and I from the LLC team, were able to participate in CompassPoint’s workshop “Take Control of Your Leadership Development: Frameworks for Emerging and New Leaders.” Our facilitator, Marla Cornelius, shared many resources with us to help frame the conversation for the leadership workshop. With Marla’s permission, we are sharing some of these resources with you in this blog post.

 

At the workshop, Marla shared a timeline demonstrating some common Leadership Theories and dates of when they were prominent. Since leadership is a social construct, it is difficult to define leadership when there are many interpretations of what leadership is and how it shows up. You will note that many of the assumptions that show up on the timeline are still prominent today.

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