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The Beloved Community: Systemic Change Starts with Systems

 
Cross sector partnerships. Collaboration.  Building coalitions. Networking.  All these concepts speak to the human experience, which by nature is social.  We desire to be connected to others who share our values, who live and work with us; we desire understanding and human contact to remind ourselves that indeed we are sharing this existence.  In writing this piece, I am inspired by (1) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Beloved Community and (2) the White House Initiative, My Brother’s Keeper.  The overlap is undeniable if not critical to the success of our nation’s boys and young men of color.
 

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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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Guest Blog Post: Reflections On Creating Space | Odin Zackman

By Odin Zackman

 

When you change the way you look at things,

the things you look at change.

Max Planck

 

If we are to create the kind of leadership we need to affect transformative change in ourselves, our workplaces, and our communities, we need to create space—regularly—in our lives. We need to claim a time in our day and in our week to do what I call “big thinking” or just to be silent. We need to weave this space into our meetings with colleagues, so that we are not only focused on “getting things done” but in understanding why and how we are achieving our goals. And we need places annually or semi-annually that can serve as a pilgrimage of sorts—a place to return to that helps reconfirm our purpose in the world, reconnects us with colleagues aligned with our efforts, and renews us along the challenging path of seeking greater health, sustainability and justice.

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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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Guest Blog Post: Playing Cards for Culture Change | Eugene Eric Kim

Eugene helps groups learn how to come alive and collaborate more skillfully together. He spent ten years consulting with companies across different sectors, from Fortune 500 companies to grassroots movements. He’s now focusing his efforts on helping others develop the same skills that he uses to help groups. You can read more about him at his website, Faster Than 20.


The defining characteristic of Creating Space for me — and the reason I keep coming back — is the quality and diversity of the participants. Everybody is dedicated to learning about leadership development, and the design of the gathering supports us in truly learning from each other at a deep level.

Our most recent gathering offered the perfect opportunity for me to test a very early version of an idea I’ve had for several years now — mindset cards.

When I was a consultant, a lot of my work was about helping groups shift into more of a learning, collaborative culture. Peter Drucker has famously said that culture eats strategy for breakfast, and yet, the reality is that most groups do not pursue culture work intentionally. It seems hard and hand-wavy, and it’s safer to ignore it and hope it works itself out.

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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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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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