Generating ideas, connections, and action

Appreciation for our Taproot Team

Photo Courtesy of Deborah Meehan

A few months ago we were awarded a Taproot Service Grant for Salesforce implementation.  As we mentioned in a previous article, we are focusing on strategic expansion over the next few years, prioritizing fundraising and relationship management as critical elements to successful growth and engagement.  Salesforce is an ideal solution for our organization as we have fifteen years worth of data and contacts representing thousands of leadership development stakeholders across the nation and beyond.  We are glad to announce that our Taproot team delivered a Salesforce platform that will allow us to optimize our efforts across the all fronts!   We would like to sincerely thank Taproot for awarding us this grant, and our outstanding team of consultants; Hugh Hui, Badri Devuni, Frances Francia, Rini Iyju and Tim Tran; for making this possible for LLC.
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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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Racial Equity Leadership Network: Weaving and Mapping Connections

Last week I participated in the second meeting of the Racial Equity Leadership Network (RELN), an initiative launched by Urban Habitat and the Greenlining Institute last year to bring together key stakeholders who are working at the intersection of racial equity and leadership in the Bay Area. As Deborah mentioned in a previous blog post, “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.”

The underlining theme for the entire event was that the network belongs to all of us, and we are all co-creators, so the organizers built in multiple opportunities for participants to share with each other what they needed and what they could contribute to the network.  To provide some grounding, the first part of the meeting was spent trying to define three key terms: leadership, racial equity, and networks.  As a group we struggled with finding the balance between developing a definition that would work for RELN but could also be broad for others who are not currently part of the network but may be interested in joining. This exercise also uncovered other terms that could provide grounding, such as community.
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Farewell from Elizabeth

As of December 31st, Elizabeth will no longer be working with LLC. 

This has been an exciting year for LLC and we are grateful for the support, insight and direction Elizabeth provided in fund development efforts.  As Elizabeth mentioned, "I have learned a lot and had many opportunities for growth this year.  The lessons from LLC will stick with me in my career."  We wish her the best of luck in her endeavors and her continued contributions to the nonprofit sector.
Please direct all future fund development inquiries to Deborah Meehan, Executive Director:
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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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2014 Funders and Evaluators Circle: Survey Results

In October 2014 we conducted our Funders and Evaluators Circle in Baltimore, MD, which brought together 44 participants from across the country to discuss leadership strategies for large scale change.  Following up on a recent article about preliminary insights, we wanted to share the results of the survey from the meeting, which was completed by 34 participants (17 funders, 14 evaluators, and 3 participants who are both funders and evaluators):

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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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