Generating ideas, connections, and action


You’re Invited: October 9th Peer Assist – “How Power, Privilege and Race Show Up in Networks”

When LLC conducted a recent survey of leadership development programs about the relevance of networks for those leading social change over 80% of the respondents felt that being able to use network strategies and tools was an important leadership competency. Interest in networks is growing and often with the belief that networks are flatter, more democratic and inclusive.  Networks do have different dynamics and are not devoid of power.  These issues came up in sessions at our national meeting elevating the conversation to an important and needed level.  For example, networks are based on cultivating trust, and as you develop exercises for encouraging trust how do you consider the issue of expecting people who are not part of (or beneficiaries of) the dominant culture to extend trust in the same way that people in the dominant culture might?  We need more of these types of conversations and investigations of how power, privilege and race play out in networks. 

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In Response to Darren Walker’s Message on September 2nd: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead

In September, the Ford Foundation’s President, Darren Walker, sent an email reflecting on his experience in the first year of his role at the Foundation. It was refreshing to read and was, for me, an experience in breaking down walls to reveal the relationships that are at the heart of philanthropy and social change work.  We’ve all been in a situation where we go to the front lines to experience firsthand the challenges of a community.  As leaders and movement builders, often we come with a lens of “how can I help improve these conditions so people have opportunity.”  Walker’s experiences gave him a look both backward, to the early investments from the Ford Foundation, and forward as the Foundation continues its bold vision of human dignity and social justice. 


I was humbled in reading Walker’s reflection and inspired by his notion of intellectual curiosity.  In conversations with program officers, board meetings, presentations, and workshops, everyone seems to be grappling with the same question of what’s next.  For the nonprofit sector, the challenges are more complex, our communities have evolved and in general our world is much different than it was even 10 years ago.  Technology is a factor in this as we continue to be more and more connected, constantly and inundated with more messages than our brains can actually process, or so I’ve read somewhere in the social media atmosphere.  It is clear that courageous leadership and innovative risk taking will be a driver in the changes we seek for our communities and our world. 

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Guest Article by Stacey Millett: Libraries as Networked Health Equity Leaders

Over the past several years we have begun to realize that some of the most innovative approaches to leadership development are happening under our radar because they are embedded in the day to day work taking place in organizations, communities and initiatives.  I recently found myself marveling over the impact of a grants program that supported and connected library leaders committed to strengthening public health in their cities and counties. I am on the board of Blue Cross Blue Shield MN and was first inspired by this grants program as a creative strategy for furthering health equity when it was introduced by Stacey Millett, Senior Program Officer for Health Equity.  Recently I have become impressed by the leadership achievements of this program, a network of library leaders engaged in peer learning, reaching out to connect with networks in their respective communities and collaborating on a toolkit to for other public libraries leaders to help them bring a health and equity lens to their work.  I asked Stacey to share the story of this work and I invite you to listen with a leadership lens and imagine what we might borrow from this story in our own leadership thinking and practice.

“Libraries as Networked Health Equity Leaders”

 “What do libraries have to do with health?” a colleague queried when I suggested making grants to public libraries in Minnesota.  “Everything” I replied, “libraries are more than just a great place to get books.”  When joining Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation as Senior Program Officer for Health Equity I envisioned cultivating a network of local public library staff committed to strengthening local community health.  As trusted institutions they often have strong community ties.

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2014 Webinar: Cultivating Results-Driven Leadership for Meaningful Change | Dr. Michael McAfee

On Thursday, September 11, 2014, Dr. Michael McAfee led the group in a discussion around the challenges of leading collective impact initiatives that aim to challenge and dismantle our nation's inequities. 
During the discussion, he engaged the group to consider the ways in which results-driven systems can be used by leaders to focus and accelerate sustainable change. He also described the system of technical assistance that he and his team employ in their work, and its impact within the Promise Neighborhoods movement.
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2014 Webinar | 10 Lessons about Virtual Network Leadership Development | Panelist: June Holley

In August 2014, June Holley presented 10 Lessons about virtual network leadership development based on principles of learning and behavior change. This webinar was relevant to leadership programs and networks that want to augment face to face time with virtual learning opportunities that can address the geographic, time, and cost challenges of working only through face to face connections. One of the lessons learned was the importance of "having the capacity to have breakout group capacity to increase engagement around content."


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What The Loss of Michael Brown Means to The Leadership Development Field

Once again, the US finds itself facing a tragedy that is a result of the systemic racism and the implicit bias of those in power. In fact, the names of the victims of racial profiling have piled up so many of them happening after the death of Trayvon Martin. The recurring dehumanization of brown bodies has haunted Americans since before slavery and has devolved and been injected into all aspects of society. And as the divide widens among different groups, there is no doubt that in this moment courageous, collective leadership is needed most.
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Resource Review: Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World, published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review

At LLC, we are ambitiously reviewing research and conducting interviews in preparation for the upcoming Funders & Evaluators Circle.  We are looking for resources, feedback, innovative ideas and models for investing in and evaluating leadership development for large scale change.  This has proven quite an adventure, because large scale change requires an examination of many components – environment, populations, economic conditions, social norms, and so on.  When we look at leadership development, and in talking with a number of folks who invest in this, it is clear that we can’t just look at the individual but rather looking at the individual in relation to the system in which they are working is a more appropriate approach.  We don’t have a magic class, curriculum or degree for leadership development; it is a process, a relationship in which skills, networks and knowledge is developed and put to use in service to the community, to the organization, to the betterment of the world.


This interconnectedness was brought to the surface in an article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World.  The article calls on the philanthropic community to re-examine the focus on strategic philanthropy in favor of a model that better fits our rapidly changing and complex world. 

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What are you learning about Network Leadership? Interview with June Holley

Introduction:  I had a sneak preview of June’s latest synthesis of research, “What we know about Network Leadership”, drawn from extensive reading and interviews with people leading networks.  I asked to interview her about some of the big ideas as a preview to the learning summary which will be published in the next couple of months.


Can you start by talking about what you mean by Network Leadership?

Take an example like the response to Hurricane Sandy.  A small group of people who had been part of Occupy Wall Street converged on the Rockaways, a strip of land devastated by the storm, and began to mobilize their networks to provide food, supplies and shelter for the many people in need. Over the next few months, more than 50,000 people volunteered and self-organized to provide meals, shelter, and medicine.  As time went on, increasing numbers of those involved were local residents.

These efforts were not organized by the Red Cross or FEMA, but by an ever-expanding group of network leaders who identified needs and then worked with small groups of others to meet those needs. As new volunteers arrived, they were encouraged to plug into an existing effort only until they saw an unmet need they could take responsibility for meeting. As a result, these network leaders were able to shift quickly from meeting basic survival needs in the communities to organizing local mold remediation crews and the YANA (You are Never Alone) Medical Clinic.

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Just a few slots left for the Network Leadership Action Research Project!

You may have been following our posts (and findings) from a Network Leadership Research and Development Project that the Leadership Learning Community launched in 2013 with support from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.  We set out to:

  1. Identify key leadership competencies and skills needed for utilizing network strategies and tools and leading effectively in networks.
  2. Scan the field to identify key practices and processes that leadership programs and successful networks are utilizing to develop network leadership capacity.

The Network Leadership Research Collaborative (NLRC)– composed of the Leadership Learning Community (LLC), June Holley (author of the Network Weaver Handbook) and the Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC) is excited to now be entering the second phase of our project, the Action Research Project.  

Having identified key structures and processes needed to develop network leadership, the NLRC will move to a phase of experimentation, innovation and collaborative learning.  In the Action Pesearch Phase the team will identify and match resources to the needs of participants, provide individualized coaching in the use and application of resources, offer web based trainings and facilitate peer learning through a community of practice.  Through the process Action Research Project participants will test and modify existing resources and prototype new tools and approaches through concrete application in both a networks and leadership program context.
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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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