Generating ideas, connections, and action


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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LLC Embarks on a Taproot Grant

LLC is excited to announce that we have been awarded a Taproot Service Grant for a Salesforce Implementation!  The Taproot Foundation provides pro-bono service grants to support the capacity of nonprofits to more effectively achieve their mission.  LLC has our sights on a strategic expansion over the next few years, prioritizing fundraising and relationship management as critical elements to successful growth and engagement.  Salesforce is an ideal solution for our organization as we have 15 years’ worth of data and contacts representing leadership development practitioners, members of the philanthropic community, evaluators, academics and community based organizations – throughout the United States and abroad.  Over the next six months, LLC will be working with a pro-bono team of five individuals who have extensive experience with database solutions for nonprofits.  The Taproot Team came to visit LLC this week to launch the project; we had dinner together and learned a little bit about each other to officially kick off the project.  The next step will be exploratory interviews with our team and stakeholders to understand exactly what LLC is looking to achieve Salesforce.  We will be scrubbing our data, looking at our history of relationships, donor profiles and convenings to generate a high-level view of our community.  Working with the Taproot Team, we’ll determine what types of reports we’ll need, how dashboard will be developed, and will be trained on how to use Salesforce.  
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We Are Developing Modules on Network Leadership and We Hope You Will Help!

LLC is about to embark on a cool new project and we want to invite you to join us.  We are going to be convening a community of practice on network leadership to examine what has worked to develop network leadership capacity and develop/prototype tools as well as practice approaches that build the capacity of leadership programs to better equip their participants to effectively utilize network strategies and tools.  The focal point of the Community of Practice will be a one day Design Lab to be held in September in the Bay Area lead by Heather McLeod-Grant who is a well-recognized author who has written about network strategies, Transformer: How to build a network to change systems and Forces for Good.  We also hope to hold a Design Lab in Boston. Everyone is invited, that is until we reach the size limit for the group.  Watch for the announcement if you are interested or write to let us know you want to participate.


Why this project? There are hundreds of formal leadership development programs focused on developing or supporting the leadership of thousands of nonprofit leaders every year. At the same time, non-profits are beginning to explore ways in which network strategies could increase innovation, reach and influence.  However, the leadership needed to build networks and move them to action requires new behaviors and skills that are often the antithesis of what is considered good organization management. 

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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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