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The Lab: The Impact Brokers Virtual Learning Laboratory

Janice Epstein

Welcome to the Impact Brokers virtual learning laboratory where your thoughtful input is seriously welcome! What is Impact Brokers (IB), you ask? In a nutshell, IB is a radically different way of ‘doing’ social change. We are a group of nonprofit organizations, funders, consultants, and community members who have been meeting since January 2008 to solve complex social problems together by identifying common issues, discovering root causes and strengthening our collaborative capacity for change. We meet quarterly for Learning Community Meetings to, among other things, review individual and shared capacity building projects and otherwise strengthen our relationships for the benefit of the whole.

LLC awarded IB’s Boston Member Circle a Community Seed grant to support an online learning lab to explore the themes of social capital and networks within the framework of adaptive and collective leadership. If you are choking on that sentence like I am, here’s a Heimlich: we’re going to deepen our understanding of what we do and how we do it so that we can capitalize on our relationships for the benefit of all involved.

So, to christen this learning laboratory, we want to talk a bit about leadership and, specifically leadership that is not carried out by one person. For in the IB Boston Member Circle, there purposely is no one leader. In A New Look at Leadership in Collaborative Networks: Process Catalysts, Mandell and Keast write that leadership in collaborative networks is “the process of getting all members to interact in new ways that tap into their strengths” and that “leadership…is about focusing on the processes of building a new whole rather than primarily focusing on more efficient ways to deliver services.” read more »

Impact Brokers Boston: Member and Partner Biographies

Janice Epstein

Who we are: Consultants, Nonprofits & Investors

Our Consultants read more »

An Introduction to Impact Brokers

Janice Epstein

Impact Brokers Summary

Impact Brokers is a cooperative of nonprofits, investors, consultants and community partners that is coming together to improve our collective capacity to tackle complex social challenges. Our Boston member circle has been engaged in individual and shared capacity building activities, leadership development and peer learning since the beginning of 2008.

Our Boston circle members are a diverse group of people who share a common passion for bridging differences and a deep commitment to making the world a better place for our children and families, starting in our own community. We all live, work, and/or volunteer in Greater Boston and represent diverse ethnic, racial, cultural, linguistic, gender and sexual orientation backgrounds. The organizations and practices span many sectors, fields and constituencies and vary in age, organizational stage and geography. In many ways we represent a “network of networks.”

Our goals include:

  • Building leadership capability to maximize mission sustainability and adapt to rapid change.
  • Enhancing our effectiveness by developing tangible skills in organizational and community development.
  • Leveraging cross-sector networks to create innovative approaches with increasing returns to scale.
  • Catalyzing our community to identify common problems, discover root causes, strengthen collaborative capacity, and contribute to a financially vibrant, innovative, and sustainable sector.

We are accomplishing these goals with four complementary strategies:

 read more »

Momentum - The Title

Momentum 2008 thus far, has been a terrific gathering. Well worth the time, in fact, exponentially so. I have so many notes and thoughts though that I've finally come up with an approach to lite digestion and sharing. My plan is to go topic by topic as the event was structured and talk about what resonated. I begin with looking at the title followed by the premise for bringing us together.

The Title

Wikipedia describes Momentum as the product of the mass and velocity of an object (p = mv) in its classic definition.

This all makes sense to me. And for a moment this morning, I wondered as I recalled and heard people talk about the experience of grandparents that propels them forward - a strong hand in the small of the back - and about visions of a different world that draw others forward into an imagined future, does momentum come from experience or from hope? It only took a few minutes to realize that both are necessary for momentum to matter at all and momentum is essential.

Wikipedia also tells us that Momentum is "a conserved quantity, meaning that the total momentum of any closed system (one not affected by external forces) cannot change." So are the systems we are trying to impact open or closed? If they are open then what are the external forces that are effecting them and in what direction? What does this mean for a sector? What does it mean for how we lead?

John Edwards spoke about breaking down silos, the intersection of systems of oppression, and the necessity of national leadership in the opening plenary session on Sunday night. But I'm getting ahead of myself! Stay tuned for more!

Momentum

Greetings from Momentum 2008 put on by the Tides Center. The format this year is inspired by TED and is packed with inspirational folks. Stay tuned for missives from the gathering. In the meantime, checkout the conference site and its WiserEarth page.

Notes from Boston Circle Meeting on 7/14/08

Leadership Learning Community
in partnership with Connective Associates and The Berkana Institute
Notes prepared by Aerin Dunford read more »

Building Community in a Network Environment

LLC recently funded two Community Seed Fund projects that are designed to explore and assess different learning approaches about how to cultivate and support learning communities. read more »

Social Media: Changing How Change Happens

The power of social media for change is being talked about and leveraged all over the place.

  • John Fontana's recent post on Network World highlights the value of "citizen" engagement, social media and web-based networking in the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans.
  • Clay Shirky's recent book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations talks about how social media has removed or lessened many of the barriers to self-organizing (and in my thinking lessened the relevance of the nonprofit model so that many things can be accomplished with "adhocracies"). The book itself has a blog too, where readers are active commenters.
  • The Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) and Beth Kanter are facilitating a wiki project to develop a social media curriculum specifically for nonprofits and change initiatives called Be the Media: The Social Media Empowerment Guide for Nonprofits.
  • And, over at NetSquared - Remixing the Web for Social Change, there's a veritable cornucopia of stories, examples and how-to's regarding social media and geared for nonprofits and change initiatives.

    Indeed, social media is changing how change happens. So what does this mean for leadership development - how programs are structured and supported, how are people recruited and selected, what's included in curriculum and how do we evaluate? My general instinct is that the term "leader" will be thought of as a fixed definition of a singular individual less and less. And we will talk more and more about leadership as a context-specific process exercised both by people and groups of people at different points in time. What is nonprofit leadership for 2020? What do you think?

Leadership and Language: The Boundary Crossing Dilemma

2008 Boundary Crossing Gathering

LLC has been involved with The California Endowment in a project to convene leadership programs that share a focus on supporting “boundary crossing” leadership. This work and use of the term boundary crossing took shape in response to the civil unrest in Los Angeles and concerns about racial divides. Boundary Crossing Leadership in its early days was rooted in a social justice and oppression perspective with a focus on the need to build solidarity across racial divides and other ‘ism’s. Eventually ‘boundary crossing’ came to encompass a broader range of boundaries including boundaries that separate organizations, sectors, and disciplines. The language of boundary crossing has met with mixed reviews for a number of reasons worth trying to learn from. read more »

How to Create a Stronger Nonprofit Sector?

Over on Perspectives from the Pipeline, the blog of ever insightful nonprofit leader, Rosetta Thurman, Rosetta is addressing the question of how to create a stronger nonprofit sector. Her answer? "It's the people, stupid."

She outlines three opportunities we need to examine and pursue as we move from crisis to action concerning leadership in the nonprofit sector.

They are:

  • A Renewed Sense of Individual Responsibility
  • Accommodation of Innovative Ideas
  • and, A More Inclusive Model of Leadership

It is a thought provoking post, check it out now.