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Lessons in Leadership from the Social Justice Labor Movement

 

Last month I connected with an old friend, Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Labor Center. It was a total shot in the arm to hear him talk about the labor movement in Los Angeles taking up social justice under the new leadership of people of color, women and immigrants (and we definitely need to celebrate all good news in the current political environment). As I listened to Kent talk about Janitors for Justice and car wash workers organizing in L.A.. it occured to me that he would be the perfect catalyst for our virtual Creating Space Session. We were able to record his short presentation here, so if you happened to miss it, you can still listen. Here are a few of the highlights for me:

 

  • Who leads is important

  • We need intentional strategies to support leadership (rank and file workers/community)

  • We need to support people in context to build power

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Takeaways from Creating Space Conversations 2019 - New York (Part 1)

 

 

 

Even folks, or perhaps especially folks, who live in a city that never sleeps need time to stop and reflect. On November 21st, the New York Creating Space, an energizing and inspiring event offered participants exactly that. For me, it was also a bit of a personal homecoming as I got to partner with my former colleagues at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development’s Center for Community Leadership and be in community with people I’ve known for many years, while also connecting with new folks. 

 

This year we’ve developed a different model for Creating Space. Instead of one large event, we are hosting several smaller and more intimate events. So far, in addition to the New York conversation, we held an event in Detroit, as well as a virtual convening and will be hosting the final regional gathering in the Bay Area in January.  

 

Creating Space New York, like the Detroit convening, had a very distinct vibe. New York has a reputation for being a tough place, populated by people armed with sharp elbows and sharper tongues. While the participants at Creating Space New York demonstrated sharp intellect, they also showed gentle spirits, with thoughtful comments and compassionate approaches to differences of opinion. There was a spirit of openness and an eagerness to hear from others that was rejuvenating. 

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Reflections on Creating Space Detroit 2019

 

 

 

Laughter? Check. Tears? Check. Passion, connections and follow up? Check, check, check! Detroit Creating Space had it all.

 

Detroit was an amazing place to kick off LLC’s Creating Space 2019 regional conversations. On October 30th, in partnership with Community Connections, we were able to put on an event that pushed the edges of our equity in leadership thinking.

 

This year we are approaching Creating Space differently. Rather than having a single national event, we are holding three regional conversations in Detroit, New York City, and the Bay Area, CA. The goal is to share learning from each event so that there is a cumulative impact that culminates in our national convening in 2020, which is also LLC’s 20th Anniversary. 

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Centering Equity in Networks: Tools and Processes We Have Tried

 

 

Networks are not inherently more equitable or democratic. They operate within the same dominant white supremacist culture that undermines equity in our organizations. Besides talking about culture, power and equity a lot, we wanted to share three practices which we have implemented to better distribute leadership and decision making to create more equity in our networks. They are early experiments, and we would love to hear about what you are doing in your networks.

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Creating Space Conversations 2019 | New York, NY | November 21

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN FOR CREATING SPACE NEW YORK!

 

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LLC Webinar Series | Scaffolding for System Shifting Networks

 

LLC WEBINAR | Scaffolding for System Shifting Networks

 

Presented by June Holley and Yasmin Yonis

 

November 4, 2019 | 11:00 - 12:30 PST / 2:00 - 3:30 EST

 

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Join our Team! LLC is Looking for a Project Manager

 

Job Summary

We are looking for an experienced Project Manager with an interest in advancing equity through Leadership Development. This role is limited in duration as determined by the project timeline, but may have the opportunity to extend.

 

The Project Manager will work in coordination with the Project Lead and will spend approximately two-thirds of the time on the primary project, and one-third of their time allocated to other projects as needed. The Project Manager will work with the Project Leads to successfully monitor and drive the work of projects. The Project Manager will manage the work of consultant teams, the Project will include 10-15 seasoned consultants. The Project Manager will track project goals, milestones, and deliverables to complete the project on time, in scope, and on budget.

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Creating Space Conversations 2019 | Detroit, MI | October 30, 2019

 

 

The current political moment is increasingly fraught; exposing deep fractures in our society. While the roots of these fissures are old and embedded in the fabric of our country, the expression of these fractures feels quite new. Consequently, communities of color, queer and trans communities, as well as immigrant and other marginalized communities, are experiencing a growing sense of vulnerability; unsure of what new dangers exist on the horizon. While the changing times present new risks, it’s also a time of immense possibility. We hope to use this moment to strategize with one another and create new opportunities for transformative change.  

 

LLC will be hosting three regional Creating Space Conversations in Fall 2019 which will delve into this topic (Detroit, NYC, Bay Area, CA). We will explore the role leadership development can play in shifting power to advance justice and ushering in new innovative models that are responsive to changing conditions. We will also dedicate time to thinking about ways of structuring our leadership development work so that we are moving away from business as usual practices given that we are living in times that are in fact very unusual. 

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Envisioning Change

 

 

I recently had a conversation with a colleague where we discussed the tendency of folks in movement spaces to “eat our own.” We talked about the many implications this has, ranging from reduced effectiveness of our efforts, fractured coalitions, to creating uniquely difficult and painful challenges for Executive Directors of color. During the same time period, I’d found myself in several movement conversations where most of us could very clearly articulate what we thought was wrong, but our ideas about how to make things right were terribly murky.

 

This made me reflect on the way I’d been trained in both higher education and in my movement work to approach problem-solving and goal achievement. I primarily learned to deconstruct, question and critique. All essential skills for changing oppressive systems, but I know my training and subsequent approach leaned far more heavily toward assessing what was wrong with old systems, and less toward finding better replacements.

 

Looking back at the leadership supports I’ve experienced and the programs I’ve staffed, I saw a similar pattern. I wondered if, in our leadership work, we are sufficiently practicing creation, constructing a vision for the communities we want to live in with the corresponding systems and structures, in addition to honing the skills to deconstruct the problematic and oppressive systems we currently live with.

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What's Next?

 

 

On Sunday, I hosted a reunion brunch with a handful of folks who had participated in a program called “What’s Next.”  It’s a program for EDs, and as the name suggests, it’s for EDs who think that they may want to leave their organization in the next 5 years to help them think about managing that transition. I participated in What’s Next  for a number of reasons: I did imagine leaving LLC within 5 years, not necessarily because I am done with leadership work or really going to retire, but because I know that LLC needs to be led by people of color to solidly center equity in the field; I also wondered if I might be able to inject a point of view that the transition of leadership provides an opportunity to bring an equity lens to diversifying leadership of the non-profit section (and I tried); and truth be told, it was being held at Chaminade with gorgeous views of the pacific and yummy food. 

 

The program provided some interesting materials on transitions that were both philosophical and practical. I know that folks in more traditional organizations found the materials useful. One of the folks at our brunch mentioned that he has shared them with his board and staff. There was a lot of talk about ‘when’ and ‘how’ you tell your board, your staff, and your community. I found myself feeling especially grateful to be part of an organization like LLC where we are able to have transparent conversations about leadership and who needs to be leading.

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