Generating ideas, connections, and action


Participate in Shaping our Upcoming Creating Space Meeting in Oakland on May 20-22, 2009

Creating Space, the annual gathering hosted by the Leadership Learning Community (LLC) is scheduled for its ninth year May 20-22, 2009 in Oakland, CA. This year's gathering will be jointly hosted with the Tides Center, which supports a wide range of projects (including LLC) that work on social justice issues. In the wake of the recent election, what questions are you asking? Questions we have heard include: read more »

  • What do we need to do to deliver on the promise of change?
  • What opportunities can we create to work more effectively across our different issues and communities to create a better and more just future for all?
  • How do we open up the leadership paradigm to be more inclusive?

A New Culture for the Non Profit Sector: The Culture of Impact Brokers

Janice Epstein

In an online article titled “ Are Nonprofits Terrible Tech Clients?,” Holly Ross responds to the complaint that non profits are hard for technology providers (read: for-profits) to work with because they demand more and want it for less:
"Most funders won't pay admin costs. Donors expect increasingly large percentages of every dollar to go straight to program. We're not supposed to spend money on rent, phones, or, god forbid, computers. We're not supposed to hire the staff that keep our nonprofits humming -- the bookkeepers and admin folks. And we're not supposed to pay very much to anyone. That's the culture we live in. I don't like it. I wish our culture believed that nonprofits should be well-staffed and have adequate infrastructures. But that's not where we're at right now." read more »

The Lab-Social Capital: What’s Leadership Got To Do With It?

Janice Epstein

Over the 100 plus years of its use, the term social capital has acquired different meanings depending on the context of its usage-economics, politics, sociology. At the risk of oversimplifying the concept, I like Wikipedia’s succinct definition of social capital: “the advantages available to a person or group of people through their position in a network of relationships.” Impact Brokers (IB) is very interested in the social capital of both its members and its members’ constituents. read more »

Leadership for the 21st Century: Can we afford specialization?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Global Youth Leadership Summit in Salzburg, Austria. The customs agent laughed when I said I was going to a “youth” summit so I had to explain that I was invited to attend as faculty. I was asked to bring a leadership lens to support 42 young people from all over the world who were coming together to engage in scenario planning for the year 2030. (The Salzburg Seminars are an amazing opportunity if you are not familiar with them, The scenario model process facilitated by Lawrence Wilkenson, Global Business Networks, looked at four quadrants of potential scenarios along 2 dimensions, the human divide and the future of the planet. I was humbled by the sense of urgency with which the group of 20- to 30-year-old leaders tackled the global issues of human divide and the environment, developing action plans that connected their own work in ministries, as journalists, as community organizers, and as academics to these issues. read more »

Leadership Networks and Social Network Mapping

The Health Leadership Circle held a WebEx learning session on Leadership Networks and Social Network Mapping. Claire Reinelt (Leadership Learning Community) and Bruce Hoppe (Connective Associates) facilitated the call. Claire reviewed key findings from the Health Leadership Circle network survey about what health issues Circle members focus most on in their work and what Circle members most want to learn. The top Circle member focus areas are reducing/eliminating disparities, community health and public health. The Circle member learning priorities are "Impacting Systems Change" and "Network Development and Sustainability." Bruce provided an overview of some key social network analysis concepts and shared the network maps of the Health Leadership Circle for the issues that people address in their work and what people want to learn more about. A handout of the powerpoint presentation is attached to this blog post. We asked Circle members to share their questions for deeper learning regarding impacting health systems change; and network development and sustainability. Also attached is a summary of all the questions we received. read more »

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!


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.