Generating ideas, connections, and action


Can leadership strategies catalyze innovation, networks, and radical change and if so, how are they doing it?

In 2013 LLC published “Leadership and Collective Impact”, a guide for strengthening the impact of leadership development work.  The publication highlights leadership strategies that contribute to more tangible progress on tough issues like health access or school readiness or neighborhood safety. Recommending that programs consider introducing a systems thinking module or that they help participants become more comfortable with social media will require new tools, models and resources.  This year, LLC’s national meeting, Creating Space XI, (CSXI) will focus on introducing and developing resources that can help leadership programs retool and experiment with new strategies.  In preparation for CS XI we will be highlighting the exciting and innovative work of this year’s participants.  This is just a teaser of more to come at CSXI so don’t forget to register.

As we scouted the field we found one program that is implementing many of the ideas that LLC has been recommending to promote leadership that is more inclusive, networked and collective.  And, the program is getting impressive results, even as a new program.  We are enthusiastic about sharing some highlights from this program now and we are especially excited about what they will bring to Creating Space.  In 2011 the James Irvine Foundation invested in a regionally based leadership network in the San Joaquin Valley based on feedback solicited from focus groups with young leaders.  I had a brief chance to speak with Heather McLeod-Grant, of McLeod-Grant Advisors who is the Managing Director for the James Irvine Foundation New Leadership Network in San Joaquin Valley.
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March Newsbrief

This month, as you walk into Preservation Park, where the LLC offices are located in downtown Oakland, there are a few noticeable differences in the flora and fauna. We see the cherry blossom trees and roses blooming and the birds seem to be chirping louder. As we begin this Spring season, we deliver a few leadership resources to guide and rejuvenate you in your work. Happy Spring time!


On Leadership and Networks
Check out the Interaction Institute for Social Change’s Curtis Ogden’s book review of Mila Baker’s Peer-to-Peer Leadership: Why the Network is the Leader.  The book calls for a network mindset change in paradigm with regards to solving complex social problems. Looking to networks and their organization might be the key to unlocking greater adaptability, resilience, and collective potential. At LLC we are incorporating social network analysis to  our consulting work and mapping the networks of leadership programs.  If you want to learn more about network science check out the free PDF book published by the Network Science Project that goes into the beauty of network visualization.

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Reflections on Star Power: A Simulation

At the end of February, the Leadership Learning Community hosted the powerful learning simulation known as Star Power. In partnership with facilitators Dave Nakashima and Kathleen Rice, LLC was able to offer this tool used by some leadership programs for no cost to our community. Star Power is a powerful learning simulation that is meant to demonstrate how systems of oppression are experienced in our societies. Whether at the community, organizational or systems level, Star Power is a powerful demonstration of societal conditioning and its effect on individuals and how this gets carried out into policies, practices and belief systems.  As much as Star Power is meant to be a tool for self-learning, it is also meant to be an experiential learning opportunity to examine institutionalized segregation and difference that make up our daily lives.  With about 20 participants, we engaged in a half day event complete with community building and a debriefing session as bookends to the simulation. While certainly many of us that participated are continuing to debrief and reflect on what we learned, the LLC staff has aggregated our thoughts on our different experiences in the simulation in an effort to start a dialogue on disruption and how the role of leadership that is more inclusive networked and collective can play a role in this disruption.
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Experimenting with Social Network Analysis? Check out Key Resources!

At the Leadership Learning Community, we have been leveraging social network analysis (SNA) for the last few years to help leadership programs understand and catalyze the impact of their networks.  We have experimented with SNA in innovative ways, including applying this method to analyze social media conversations, and even providing seed funding for groups to conduct their own experiments.  Since this is a topic of increasing interest in leadership and evaluation, we wanted to aggregate key content, examples and resources to help guide your network mapping efforts: read more »

  • Self-organizing Initiative and Collaboration At Its Best (2014)
    • Dr. Georgia Sorenson is the former founding director of the Academy of Leadership.  While she was the director, she received funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to bring together leadership scholars and practitioners from various disciplines and universities for the purpose of building a solid theoretical foundation for leadership studies. The Kellogg Leadership Studies Project (KLSP) was launched over 20 years ago (1994-1997).  As part of a presentation for the International Leadership Association’s Annual Conference, Georgia asked LLC if we would be interested in helping her do a Social Network Analysis (SNA) that would map the new collaborative relationships that were developed as a result of this original investment in building new connections among scholars across both disciplines and universities.

MAR Vignettes: Stories of Collaboration, Sustainability, and Community in Leadership Development

Collaborative, sustainable, and community engaged are some of the perpetual words that describe the fellows that have participated in the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership program and their projects.  Last year, LLC completed a six-month evaluation of the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program (MAR-L). And LLC is very excited to present stories from our travels meeting with fellows face-to-face on three weeks of site visit travels and working closely with MAR-L staff, funders, other supporters, and of course the unforgettable fellows and their families.


What is the MAR-L Program?

MAR-L is a leadership development program designed to support and build leadership capacities of young environmentalists from Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras working to conserve the world’s second largest coral reef system in the world; the Mesoamerican reef. The program has been in existence for three rounds of leadership cohorts, with a total of 35 participants, and is now interviewing candidates for the fouth cohort. The program operates in cohorts of 10-12 fellows each year that come from a variety of backgrounds and sectors; including local tourism entrepreneurs, media professionals, government agencies, community leaders, and others- as long as their professional endeavors bear a direct connection to the health and wellbeing of the coastal/marine environment.

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Design Meetings that Foster Innovation: Learn from a Hands on Peer Assist

Are you a little bit of a facilitation geek?  We are looking for you - anyone who loves the idea of bringing a fresh perspective to the questions of how to design a gathering that engages participants in creative work, e.g. ingenious problem solving or innovative development and prototyping.  

What we are asking:  We are looking for 8-12 people to participate in a peer assist to review and provide feedback to the Leadership Learning Community about the optimal design for this year’s Creating Space gathering, “Tools for Transformation: Supporting Leadership that is Inclusive, Networked and Collective.”   CSXI this year hopes to achieve two ambitious results:

  • A set of practical tools and resources that support breakthroughs in leadership development practice
  • An engaged network to continue innovating and learning around the breakthroughs and their application in creating transformative change

This is our design challenge.
We have been conducting interviews to identify fresh resources and interesting methodologies.  We will engage participants in the peer assist in learning from our own experiences about approaches that support application, working in teams on a mock up design, and offering recommendations about processes and an integrated design that unleashes creativity and makes risk taking fun, even normative.
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A Sneak Peek: What are Leadership Programs Saying about Network Leadership?

As you may know from following our blogs, we are part of a cool research project focused on learning about how to support effective network leadership.  We have great partners; the Interaction Institute for Social Change, June Holley from Network Weaver and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, who is funding our work.  Over the past few months, we have sent a survey to over 450 leadership development and network practitioners to help us learn about challenges, progress, and resources that are being used to build the capacity of:  1.) networks to be more conscious about how to develop leadership in the network; and 2.) leadership programs to better equip their participants to effectively utilize network strategies and tools.  Early findings are supporting the relevance of both of these objectives.

The leadership development practitioners felt strongly about the importance of helping their participants to develop network competency.

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Nonprofit Leadership Newsbrief: February 2014

This month has been a fascinating month; from news reports from the Sochi Olympics, the Revolution in Kiev, Ukraine to the Stand-Your-Ground Law in the Michael Dunn case.  What do these current events have to teach us about Leadership Development? What can the field learn from these events? This month, we dedicate the nonprofit news brief to lifting up important leadership lessons from current events and sharing inspirational quotes as we celebrate and learn from African American History.

On Leadership and History

February is African American History Month and to honor this important month we bring you a collection of quotes from social justice warrior and poet, Audre Lorde, to help guide your social justice work through leadership. To access an interactive timeline and other important facts about African American history in the United States, PBS has a collection of resources.It's important to remember and learn from our history as we move forward in our work.
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Leadership as a Process: Implications for Emerging Leaders

At the Leadership Learning Community, we are working to promote a metashift in the way that the nonprofit sector thinks about leadership (more inclusive, networked, and collective) to make greater impact on complex challenges.  We believe that this change will help support how emerging leaders and innovators are realizing their potential and creating openness for their work and contributions.  We recently had an opportunity to engage members of the Global Youth Leadership and Engagement Working Group, a sub-committee of a network of funders working on global health, who wanted to understand the implications of this leadership metashift for emerging leaders.  As part of the research for the presentation, we interviewed Ashok Regmi from the International Youth Foundation, who also happens to be an LLC board member. He shared some interesting perspectives from his experience and research conducted by the International Youth Foundation.  We wanted to share some of the ideas that we discussed and invite you to add your thoughts to the conversation.

We believe that leadership is the process of engaging others to identify and act on behalf of a larger purpose – such as greater equity. This is not exactly a new paradigm but it challenges what has been the dominant paradigm in Western cultures – i.e. the individual heroic model.  Some cultures around the world are more collective by nature, such as African and Indigenous cultures, to name a few.  We need a much more expansive view of leadership that credits those models and replicates them.  Not one individual or organization alone can tackle complex problems.   It will take all of us learning to work together in new ways.   We need to embrace models that will move us beyond silos and connect our efforts across the systems that are producing today’s problems.
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Transparency: Opening Doors to Open Dialogue

“Truth never damages a cause that is just.”-Mahatma Gandhi

On a clear day, there is a pull-off on the top of Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley, from which you can see the entire Bay, from Alameda to Marin and past the Golden Gate Bridge. When the fog rolls in, it looks as if the city does not extend much past the clusters of buildings that are UC Berkeley. Transparency, an honest representation of the actual, the quality that makes something obvious or easy to understand. This concept can be applied just as much to the work we do in our nonprofit organizations in which case the fog rolling in is keeping quiet a process, a decision, or challenge; for instance a financial hardship, unexpected leadership transition, or programmatic decisions. It can also be applied to philanthropy, in making available the funding guidelines, applications, and making grant awards public.

A recent study by GrantCraft entitled Opening Up: Demystifying Funder Transparency, explores the layers of transparency with which grant makers are grappling. The areas discussed included grantee selection process and data, sharing performance assessments, improving relationships, improving the practice of philanthropy, and improving communications. The GlassPockets website, a service of the Foundation Center, also champions transparency among the philanthropic community, through the lens of sharing knowledge and moving from isolation to communication. The theory behind glass pockets is that everyone can “see” the inner workings of the foundation to better understand their value to society. This level of familiarly, of openness, inspires confidence rather than perpetuating a divide between the funder and the grantees, or the community for that matter.
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