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Continuing To Commit To Racial Equity

 

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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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The Racial Equity Leadership Network Has Been Launched!

An amazing group of people came together on November 18th to launch the Racial Equity Leadership Network, the brainchild of Claudia Paredes, Patrick Brown and Uma Viswanathan  of the Greenlining Institute and Urban Habitat.  The vision grew out of conversations with LLC over the past year about the value of building community among people bringing a racial justice lens to leadership work, a community that could be a source of learning, moral support and collaboration.   We were happy to serve as humble host for the tremendous planning work (a real labor of love) by Claudia, Patrick and Uma.  The response was strong testament to the need as we were full to capacity.  The close quarters did nothing to diminish the energy. 
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Invest in Leadership for the Future: Opportunities to Engage with LLC this Giving Season

For many, November is the beginning of the holiday season.  This is the time of year that we travel, eat and celebrate.  If you are like me, you are also receiving lots of invites to events and appeal letters from an array of nonprofit organizations who share my values of equity, justice and social transformation.  This is an opportunity to support the causes near to our hearts and minds while contributing to the change needed in our communities.  LLC is proud to offer opportunities to engage our community in advancing a more just and equitable society through leadership development that is more inclusive networked and connected.   

 

The Foundation Partnership Program was designed for the philanthropic organizations that focus on leadership development.  Through this program, organizations have access to the expertise of LLC’s senior staff, with opportunities tailored to the needs of your leadership programs.  Members of the program are included on our website, have exposure to our extensive network of nearly 4,000 organizations throughout the country, and have priority for high-quality consulting services such as evaluation of leadership programs, network development and strategic research.  Annual membership rates are based on the amount of grant funds your organization awarded in the most recent fiscal year.  For full information, please visit the LLC website

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What If?!!! Thinking outside of the box about leadership program delivery

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There are so many benefits to individuals who attend leadership programs, some might wonder why we should consider different approaches…if it’s not broken why fix it?  After all, people who attend traditional leadership programs report increased self-confidence and new skills that they believe enable them to perform more effectively in their leadership roles, often within organizations.   As times change so are our ideas about leadership.  Complex problems need a new level of connection and collaboration across organizations and work on single issues.

 

Ten years ago the benefits of relationships developing among the participants of a leadership program were often unintended Now, leadership programs see the opportunity for leadership programs to connecting diverse individuals across their organizations, especially in programs that are recruiting participants who work in the same region or share a common focus on school readiness or the health of seniors. The peer learning and collaborations that occur among program participants often benefits their individual and collective work, their communities long after the program’s completion.
 

LLC recently interviewed over 30 funders with a rich history of investing in leadership development and the theme of supporting people and groups in the context of actual work was prevalent. This is an approach that tailors leadership supports to the real time needs of people engaged in working with others on issues they care most about. 
 

This was also a strong focus of LLC’s publication on Leadership and Collective Impact.  In the publication we suggest thinking strategically about who to recruit to a leadership program.  A leadership program can be a container for seeding new relationships among individuals, groups and organizations who share a common concern or vision and for supporting their learning and work together. While we have explored how to bring people to a program to help build their capacity to work effectively together, we haven’t explored what it could look like to bring leadership supports to ongoing work instead.
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