Generating ideas, connections, and action


Sneak Preview: Leadership Development and Large Scale Change

Over the past six months, LLC has taken a deep dive into the question of “leadership for what?”  For example, leadership development programs are often designed with the hope that participants will make more progress on tough social issues; like climate change or income disparities; and that the leadership development  support they have provided will have played some part in this progress on what we are referring to as large scale change.  We are challenging ourselves to raise our expectations; that in addition to individual growth and development we can and should understand the contribution of our leadership development work to changes in communities, improved outcomes for a population of people, or even changes in a system. 

The good news is that we have ample opportunity for learning about leadership and large scale change because we are seeing a shift in the desired results of leadership development and even in the results that are being monitored and evaluated.  During a meeting, where LLC brought together fifty funders and evaluators at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in October 2014, participants were asked to map the results they were seeking on a change continuum, pictured below, that indicated the following change levels from left to right: individual, organization, community, network, movement, field, culture, systems, and population level. The post-its above the line reflect desired results and are placed under the appropriate change level headings.  Post-its below the blue line indicate which of the results will be or are currently being measured.  

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LLC Webinar Series | Leading for Results: From Collective Impact to Large-Scale Social Change



  • Ashley B. Stewart, Senior Associate, Talent and Leadership Development, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Michelle Martin, Chief Operating Officer, Northside Achievement Zone

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Webinar Recap: Building a National Network of Leaders: Replicating the BCLI (March 2015)

Building a National Network of Leadership: Replicating the BCLI
Presenters:  Uma Viswanathan and Terri Thao | March 2015

The Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) is a six-month fellowship that trains and places advocates from low-income communities of color onto local and regional boards and commissions through the Bay Area. Preparing mid-career leaders to leverage and enhance their knowledge, skills, and networks to enter political life, the BCLI is not just an individual leadership development program. It is a strategy to change the face of politics, creating a network of diverse and representative leaders who move racially and economically just policies at all levels of government. 
During this webinar, BCLI directors Uma Viswanathan (Urban Habitat) and Terri Thao (Nexus Community Partners) provided an overview of this innovative program and shared their discoveries about the replication process as partners from different regions and organizations. Participants engaged in dialogue about potential future replications, including individual leader, organizational, and regional readiness for this type of program.

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Continuing To Commit To Racial Equity



As many of you are aware, in the recent months a growing movement is changing perspectives in many communities. People have taken to the streets, conversations have started not only in the privacy of homes but also through social media about how #BlackLivesMatter. LLC has engaged many of you through our own articles and we are continuing to work with the Racial Equity Leadership Network here in Oakland to dive deeper into these important conversations on how we can all contribute to tearing down and healing from the systems of racism we are all a part of.


Towards my own growth in that work, I am always looking for tools and opportunities to reflect. I was therefore open to read about the work of UC Berkeley’s Department of African American Studies in their most recent publication; “Insurgency: The Black Matter(s) Issue.” This issue is a collaborate composition of 20+ writers submitting their personal stories and perspectives to attempt to encapsulate the complexity that is the Black experience in the United States. In the opening statement “About This Issue,” the department recognized that this publication is highly academic and analytical, and yet it portrays so many perspectives and stories from voices not typically heard in the mass media.

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Is your Leadership Development Approach Developing the Capacities that Contribute to Successful Collaboration?

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Leadership programs are often asked the question, “leadership to what end?” In other words, is the purpose of a leadership strategy to help individuals be better leaders in general or is it a strategy for achieving a community benefit, like helping to reduce the number of young people smoking or to increase the number of children staying in school?  There are some interesting examples of leadership programs that are evaluating the contributions of their programs to these larger social purposes, but unfortunately they are the exception.   However, there has been a significant body of research about collaborations that are having a measurable impact on community changes, like school improvements. For example, the White House Council on Community Solutions supported research by Bridgespan on what can be learned from community collaboratives that achieved a 10% plus improvement on indicators.  OMG Center for Collaborative Learning conducted research on investments made by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve postsecondary education systems and The California Endowment has sponsored a number of studies of their investment in the Building Healthy Communities Initiatives. This research can help leadership programs learn about the collaborative capacities they could develop to increase the likelihood that their participants will contribute successfully to the larger social purpose the programs seeks to advance. 

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Tips on Leadership Program Alumni Network Efforts

Many leadership programs would like to see the graduates of their programs remain connected after they complete their program.  A leadership program’s graduate network can be a source of peer learning, continuing education, collaboration, joint action, career advancement or a resource for the program itself.  I am excited to see programs experimenting with how to support these networks and wanted to spark a conversation about what groups are learning and share three early tips and cautions on network purpose, the difference between a service approach and network approach and when inclusion becomes exclusive.

Be clear on purpose:  The most important place to start is with the purpose of the network.  As I mentioned there are many potential benefits of being connected and a leadership network may have multiple purposes.  For example, people may want to remain connected because they are all working on a specific issue, like early education or in a particular geography like Fresno, and they see the value in being able to collaborate or mobilize the network to take action.  Of course they will likely also share information and resources but the clear motivation for connecting is that participants believe that through this network they will be learning and acting more effectively on the common issue they care about.  It may be helpful to ask if the purpose of the network is aligned with the purpose of the leadership program.  A common refrain of leadership programs is “leadership for what?” and this applies to networks as well.  

When programs staff alumni initiatives and the network’s purpose is not front and center, building the network itself can become the goal rather than the approach through which a group is working to achieve its purpose of mobilizing action on affordable housing or producing innovation in alternative energy financing.  This can be a fuzzy difference that shows up in a couple of ways: working at the lowest common denominator, drifting from a network to a service approach and inclusion that becomes exclusive.
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Gratitude and Abundance

There has been a deluge of quotes this past week about thankfulness and gratitude.  While some are kind of corny, I wholeheartedly believe in the practice of gratitude (I keep a gratitude journal) and find myself attracted to quotes that talk about abundance and spirit.  When the Leadership Learning Community launched almost 15 years ago we were testing what at the time seemed like a radical notion…that it is our nature to seek connection and that we can nurture this impulse with an intentional commitment to a spirit of abundance and generosity.  A number of people told us that this would not work because people who work in the same field are natural competitors.  What is natural about feeling the highest level of competition with people who are doing the same work you are fueled by the same passion and values?  Before going all “Polyannish” I do have to acknowledge that this is not always easy.  Sometimes we believe that there is a very small pie and not enough to go around, especially when we are talking about philanthropic dollars (currently only at 1%) for leadership development. 

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Leadership Curriculum: The Pandora’s Box of Leadership Development What does it take to change behavior?

A number of years ago when we did a survey of the per participant costs of leadership development programs the two highest costs were travel for programs that were not place based and curriculum delivery.  I consider this curriculum piece the Pandora’s Box of leadership development because it’s a bit charged being one of the biggest expenses of leadership programming and it can be hard to measure the successful application of ideas or a framework and the value of related changes in the specific context in which a program participant is working.  In post program surveys participants will often give a value of “helpful” or “very helpful” when asked to rate curriculum models on things like communications tools, using data, leadership models, etc.  Most programs however, do not have the evaluation resources to dig deeper into the stories about what was actually changed in the way the participant did things, what in their experience helped them to change their practice and behavior and of course, what difference these changes made in the lives of others.  The lack of significant and longitudinal investment in many leadership evaluations makes it hard for us to learn more rigorously about how people integrate new mindsets and skills to change behavior. 

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