Generating ideas, connections, and action


Guest Blog Post: A Racial Equity Leadership Network | Author: Uma Viswanathan, Urban Habitat

During Creating Space’s open space, an invitation to discuss a community of practice for racial equity and leadership drew practitioners with a range of experience and mission-focus on addressing racial equity through leadership development. Rather than discussing the goals and structure of forming a community of practice on this topic, the gathering effortlessly became a community of practice. A culture was set that was safe and open, where participants openly shared their challenges and goals and exchanged resources, perspectives, and support from the others. The fluid conversation touched upon elements central to the intersection of leadership development and racial equity: recruitment, authentic ties of communities of color, diversity of culture and beliefs around leadership, and availability of funding and resources. As we spoke, we all affirmed a number of times the value of expanding and deepening the conversation beyond Creating Space, through online discussions, trainings, and resource-sharing.
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Superpowers and Kryptonite: Practices for Cultivating a Mindset of Generosity

During Creating Space XI I initiated a design studio session during open space to take up the challenge of developing modules or practices that leadership development programs could use to cultivate a network mindset among the participants of their leadership development programs.  A group of 20 or so assembled over 75 minutes to see what we could develop.  We began by talking about what we meant by a network mindset.  We tried breaking it down into different mindsets, e.g. transparency, decentralized decision making, letting go of control, transparency, trust and generosity.   It was daunting but thankfully, Eugene Kim, LLC’s board chair, suggested that he was confident that this creative group of leadership development practitioners could develop some practices for supporting a mindset shift if we were to take 20 minutes to focus on one of these mindsets, he suggested ‘generosity”.   One of the things we had learned earlier from our design thinking orientation during the first day of the event is that you have to be willing to learn by trying some things out without over imagining you can think and talk your way into the perfect solution.  We quickly moved to our groups to see what we could come up with and we were all pleasantly surprised by the fun ideas that were generated in a short period of time.  In fact, we implemented two of the ideas with the participants at Creating Space. Here are some of the ideas that we surface:
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Reflections on Creating Space 2014

It has been over a week since Creating Space; my nerves are still sitting on the top of my skin, anxious for everything that is to come.  The momentum that carried me to this point came from the three days we spent together in Oakland, a group of 65 of us from throughout the country.  In those three days, design thinking was demystified, I saw an incredible network map of our community, and participated in a racial equity simulation (“Save our Ship”) that I can’t stop thinking about.  I met people from Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Minnesota, Boston, and Colorado.  We shared our stories about the challenges our communities face and the economic divides that continue to grow and perpetuate challenges.  Despite the heavy conversation, I was more relaxed in those three days than I have been in three months and came back to work feeling inspired.  This says a lot about Creating Space.


Let me start by naming my own experience.  This was my first Creating Space, and as the newest member of the LLC team, I was advised to just live the experience, to be open-minded and to take it all in without trying to analyze or categorize this event as any other “conference,” because indeed this was far from a conference.  This was a place to learn, to have deep dialogue and make connections that fuel for the leadership fire.  Here are a few things I heard during CSXI that have managed to move beyond the event and into my day-to-day:

  • Consciously standing in the unknown
  • Understanding your superpower and your kryptonite
  • Exercising generosity muscles
  • Acknowledging the assist
  • To care about people, invite them into the spirit of humanity and generosity
  • “Inclusion” and “diversity” are code words for people of color
  • Be respectfully disruptive

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How a Social Network Analysis (SNA) can help leadership development programs

Over the past several months the Leadership Learning Community has had the opportunity to partner with the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York to conduct a Social Network Analysis of their Health Leadership Fellows Program graduate network.   Since many leadership programs could benefit from an SNA, we wanted to share examples about how the HLFP will be able to use social network maps:

  1. The SNA will compliment an evaluation by providing a visual representation of the ways in which relationships cultivated through the program are continuing as a source of peer learning, mutual support and collaborations that are seeking to produce better health outcomes.
  2. The SNA will provide the network with a better understanding of its strengths and opportunities for activating learning and action.

About the program: The goal of the Health Leadership Fellows (HLF) program is to expand a network of skilled leaders that will learn to lead collaboratively from both within and outside of their organizations and become advocates for improved health care delivery, particularly for the elderly and children from communities of poverty.   The program graduated 99 Health Leadership Fellows in its first 3 cohorts, is currently operating its fourth cohort of 40 fellows and will soon launch a fifth cohort.  Collaboration is a hallmark of the program and an SNA can be particularly effective at creating a picture of the extent of collaboration in a network.

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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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2014 Webinar | Supporting Movement and Network Leadership: Creating Space for Emergent Learning

May 15, 2014 | 11am – 12pm PDT

Presenter: Robin Katcher, Management Assistance Group

Supporting Movement and Network Leadership: Creating Space for Emergent Learning


Movements are powerful drivers of change.  They align people and resources – and shift culture, amass political power and advance concrete gains.  Yet, movements and the networked approaches they require also place extraordinary demands on leaders.  Today’s social movements, like our world, are complex, interconnected and buffeted by constant change.  In this turbulent environment, leaders must adapt, innovate and develop new approaches to learning, leadership, organization, networks and strategy.  As a result, traditional approaches to developing and supporting leadership must also evolve.  But, how?  In this webinar we explored one of many experimental approaches – the Network Leadership Innovation Lab – and shared some of our initial reflections.  We also posed some of the real time questions we are facing as we continue to co-create the program with participants so that we might also learn from you.


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Innovation Toolkit: Collaboration, Learning, Generating Ideas

In preparation for Creating Space, I have been researching cool ideas and resources for unleashing innovation.  I wanted to share a fantastic resource that I found, thanks to Beth Kanter’s latest blog post: the DIY Development Impact & You toolkit developed by Nesta and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.  The guide includes a variety of tookits, but I wanted to highlight three that I found particularly helpful:

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My Brother’s Keeper through the Lens of Leadership & Race

Oakland is a hot bed for innovation and collaboration. While recognizing the diverse cultures that make this city vibrant, it is also a community that has been plagued by violence, economic disparities, racial tensions, and questionable public services.  One thing Oakland does not lack is a commitment to improvement; a determination to better our schools, neighborhoods, and infrastructure in the hope that these will support our community to thrive.  Oakland has been the center of controversy, such as the Oscar Grant shooting, the Occupy Movement, and the constant barrage of violence combatted by and at times even committed by the police department.  This upheaval has also inspired people to work together more intentionally; to reframe the dialogue so that Oakland can transform from a city of violence and poverty, into a community where social justice is alive and well, and where change is on the horizon.


Despite these challenges, Oakland is home to many nonprofits and organizations that are working for change.  In addition, Oakland is on the top of the list for My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative recently launched by President Obama focused on building ladders of opportunity for boys and young men of color. The program aims to support them to stay on track to reach their full potential.  The President called on foundations, governments, the private sector, and local businesses to pool resources and expertise to get the initiative off the ground immediately.  With a keen eye on Oakland, the initiative not only looks at critical points of intervention for young men and boys of color but also is committed to changing the narrative about these often stereotyped members of our communities.

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Oakland Culture Guru: Tips for Visiting the Sunny Side of the Bay

If you are visiting Oakland for our upcoming Creating Space event on May 5th – 7th, here are some helpful tips for getting to know our wonderful city. 


The Bart is just one of our fabulous public transit systems; it will get you to and from San Francisco in no time and if you are a baseball fan, Bart will get you right to A’s Stadium in Oakland or the Giant’s Stadium in San Francisco.  You can also use AC Transit for all your in-town getting around.  In Downtown Oakland there is a free shuttle that runs on Broadway Street all the way to Jack London Square, where you will find hot restaurants, a water front view, actual history from the gruff Jack London himself and a farmers’ market every Sunday!  While you are down in Jack London Square, be sure to stop by Souley Vegan to grab a tofu burger and vegan desserts like you’ve never had before.


On your way back, if you are walking up Broadway, take a stroll through Old Oakland for a glimpse into the entrepreneurial nature of our city.  A group of local business owners and organizations came together to form Pop Up Hood to incubate small businesses and help them move into the marketplace surrounded by other likeminded business owners.  There is also a farmers’ market on Fridays in Old Oakland.

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Announcing the Catalysts

Creating Space XI 2014 | Design Challenge Catalysts

Heather McLeod Grant
Creating Space XI Contribution
The Design Challenge Session:  Heather will share a design opportunity presented to her when she was invited to help create the New Leadership Network for the James Irvine Foundation.  After participants have their hand at designing with the same parameters and expectations Heather will reveal the program design she and her colleagues created. From McLeod-Grant Advisors, Heather is a well-known author, speaker, and was most recently a Global Account Manager at Monitor Institute, where her work focused on scaling impact, leveraging networks for social change, and transforming large-scale nonprofits. 

Michael Mcafee 
Creating Space XI Contribution
Program Design Challenge: Michael will share a design opportunity he had to develop a leadership program for the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink.  After participants work in teams to make design recommendations in line with the desired results for the Promise Neighborhoods leadership program, Michael will share the elements of the program that he helped to design. As Senior Director at PolicyLink and Director of the Promise Neighborhoods Institute also at PolicyLink, Michael oversees the Institute’s strategic direction and implementation of strategies that mobilize neighborhood leaders to build communities of opportunity.



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