Generating ideas, connections, and action

Looking back at Creating Space 2014: Did we accomplish our intended outcomes?

According to the event survey responses (25% of CSXI participants), the answer is yes!  According to participants, we accomplished our three main goals: create the opportunity to seed and sustain ongoing learning and collaborative opportunities, engage participants in a fun, interactive learning experience, and develop new knowledge, potential tools and approaches to support leadership practice.  For example, 64% of participants believe that the focus on practical tools and applications was very effective. Some of the tools that participants found most valuable included the network mapping, design thinking, and open space.  Also, participants believe that the event provided a transformative learning experience, thanks to both the interactive format and the mix of participants.

As always, there is room for learning and improvement.  Some of the areas that were highlighted by participants include: continue to increase the diversity of participants, and also in the facilitation role, being more explicit about ‘inclusive’ leadership and having more time to discuss that during the programming, and having more time to discuss tools/application.
 read more »

Making Time For Reflection: Lessons From History

Leaders strive to have a clear vision and purpose in their work. Without it, they risk being distracted, inefficient, and/or ineffective. To build this framework, they need to constantly act intentionally and evaluate themselves, their organizations, community, networks, and movements with this lens. Intentionality means being purposeful and deliberate in action. It is a great metric in the work and yet it can be very hard to make those intentional decisions when the results can be greatly unknown and the work vast.


Recently, I have been really reflecting on the journey towards marriage equality and the intentional and unintentional actions embedded in this long-fought journey. Not out of the blue either, since it’s LGTBQ Pride Month and the media has been promoting some of this history. Recently, PBS’ Independent Lens showcased the documentary “We Were Here,” which tells the story of gay San Franciscans in the 80’s at a time when AIDS was spreading unknowingly throughout the community and the response that many groups had to it and how they were able to fight for their survival against prejudice and social disdain. This, juxtaposed with another Independent Lens documentary, “The New Black,” intersected a different view. “The New Black” follows the fight of the black gay and lesbian community as they fought for equal marriage rights in Maryland in 2012 and how the community’s roots in Christianity as well as racial prejudice intersected around this issue.
 read more »

Guest Blog Post: Reflections On Creating Space | Odin Zackman

By Odin Zackman


When you change the way you look at things,

the things you look at change.

Max Planck


If we are to create the kind of leadership we need to affect transformative change in ourselves, our workplaces, and our communities, we need to create space—regularly—in our lives. We need to claim a time in our day and in our week to do what I call “big thinking” or just to be silent. We need to weave this space into our meetings with colleagues, so that we are not only focused on “getting things done” but in understanding why and how we are achieving our goals. And we need places annually or semi-annually that can serve as a pilgrimage of sorts—a place to return to that helps reconfirm our purpose in the world, reconnects us with colleagues aligned with our efforts, and renews us along the challenging path of seeking greater health, sustainability and justice.

 read more »

Creating Space 2014: Visualizing the Participant Network

Last week, we held our national meeting in Oakland, CA with a group of leadership development innovators and thinkers, ranging from practitioners to funders, researchers and consultants.   The event was a great opportunity to meet new people, build relationships and understand the gaps and opportunities of our work as a collective.  During the second day, I participated in an Open Space session with Ken Vance-Borland, a network mapping consultant that has collaborated with LLC in multiple projects in the past.  This year’s event had a strong focus on practical application and tools.  In preparation for the event, we decided to conduct a social network analysis of Creating Space participants to provide practical experience with the process and its potential application to leadership development programs.  According to June Holley and Valdis Krebs, “A social network analysis is a mathematical and visual analysis of relationships/flows/influence between people, groups, communities and organizations."

To collect data for the maps we sent a short survey asking participants who they were collaborating with and who they wanted to collaborate with, including people outside of the participant group.  For Creating Space, Ken generated several maps that revealed the patterns of relationships among participants.    I wanted to share a few of the maps to provide a sense of the types of connections that existed before the event.
 read more »

Personal Ecology: A Reflection on Community

Here at LLC, we have had a very active last few months; all of our work culminating in our national meeting, Creating Space XI. Since our last Creating Space in Baltimore, I participated in one of Rockwood Leadership Institute’s programs. We spent a generous amount of time learning Personal Ecology, which is the art of maintaining balance, pacing, and efficiency to sustain our energy over a lifetime of activism. Personal ecology is crucial to leadership development because without people doing the work on the ground, the field cannot sustain this work over time and we will not be able to see the results we want. We cannot have programs that are more inclusive, networked, or collective if we cannot sustain ourselves and our partners in this work.

Last year, for Creating Space X, we traveled to Baltimore. Although the meeting was a success and I had a lot of  fun interacting with our community, I must admit that I completely failed at maintaining balance.  The meeting momentum, the change in time zone, the 12-hour flight, plus all the unpacking and repacking, the three-days of waking up at 3am Pacific and going to bed late into the night, compiled by the running around, and a red-eye flight back home; all of that caught up to me the second I arrived home and my body finally gave into the exhaustion in the form of shingles. Yes, I came down with a case of shingles! Even the doctors were surprised that at my age I could get this, but it was a reminder, once again, that I do have physical limits. We all do, and when we are in complete imbalance we all have ways of knowing it; for some our bodies may give out,  for others they may lose the joy they find in their work, or some sacrifice everything outside of their work and lose the space and people that rejuvenate them.

 read more »

Guest Blog Post: Playing Cards for Culture Change | Eugene Eric Kim

Eugene helps groups learn how to come alive and collaborate more skillfully together. He spent ten years consulting with companies across different sectors, from Fortune 500 companies to grassroots movements. He’s now focusing his efforts on helping others develop the same skills that he uses to help groups. You can read more about him at his website, Faster Than 20.

The defining characteristic of Creating Space for me — and the reason I keep coming back — is the quality and diversity of the participants. Everybody is dedicated to learning about leadership development, and the design of the gathering supports us in truly learning from each other at a deep level.

Our most recent gathering offered the perfect opportunity for me to test a very early version of an idea I’ve had for several years now — mindset cards.

When I was a consultant, a lot of my work was about helping groups shift into more of a learning, collaborative culture. Peter Drucker has famously said that culture eats strategy for breakfast, and yet, the reality is that most groups do not pursue culture work intentionally. It seems hard and hand-wavy, and it’s safer to ignore it and hope it works itself out.

 read more »

Guest Blog Post: A Racial Equity Leadership Network | Author: Uma Viswanathan, Urban Habitat

During Creating Space’s open space, an invitation to discuss a community of practice for racial equity and leadership drew practitioners with a range of experience and mission-focus on addressing racial equity through leadership development. Rather than discussing the goals and structure of forming a community of practice on this topic, the gathering effortlessly became a community of practice. A culture was set that was safe and open, where participants openly shared their challenges and goals and exchanged resources, perspectives, and support from the others. The fluid conversation touched upon elements central to the intersection of leadership development and racial equity: recruitment, authentic ties of communities of color, diversity of culture and beliefs around leadership, and availability of funding and resources. As we spoke, we all affirmed a number of times the value of expanding and deepening the conversation beyond Creating Space, through online discussions, trainings, and resource-sharing.
 read more »

Superpowers and Kryptonite: Practices for Cultivating a Mindset of Generosity

During Creating Space XI I initiated a design studio session during open space to take up the challenge of developing modules or practices that leadership development programs could use to cultivate a network mindset among the participants of their leadership development programs.  A group of 20 or so assembled over 75 minutes to see what we could develop.  We began by talking about what we meant by a network mindset.  We tried breaking it down into different mindsets, e.g. transparency, decentralized decision making, letting go of control, transparency, trust and generosity.   It was daunting but thankfully, Eugene Kim, LLC’s board chair, suggested that he was confident that this creative group of leadership development practitioners could develop some practices for supporting a mindset shift if we were to take 20 minutes to focus on one of these mindsets, he suggested ‘generosity”.   One of the things we had learned earlier from our design thinking orientation during the first day of the event is that you have to be willing to learn by trying some things out without over imagining you can think and talk your way into the perfect solution.  We quickly moved to our groups to see what we could come up with and we were all pleasantly surprised by the fun ideas that were generated in a short period of time.  In fact, we implemented two of the ideas with the participants at Creating Space. Here are some of the ideas that we surface:
 read more »

Reflections on Creating Space 2014

It has been over a week since Creating Space; my nerves are still sitting on the top of my skin, anxious for everything that is to come.  The momentum that carried me to this point came from the three days we spent together in Oakland, a group of 65 of us from throughout the country.  In those three days, design thinking was demystified, I saw an incredible network map of our community, and participated in a racial equity simulation (“Save our Ship”) that I can’t stop thinking about.  I met people from Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Minnesota, Boston, and Colorado.  We shared our stories about the challenges our communities face and the economic divides that continue to grow and perpetuate challenges.  Despite the heavy conversation, I was more relaxed in those three days than I have been in three months and came back to work feeling inspired.  This says a lot about Creating Space.


Let me start by naming my own experience.  This was my first Creating Space, and as the newest member of the LLC team, I was advised to just live the experience, to be open-minded and to take it all in without trying to analyze or categorize this event as any other “conference,” because indeed this was far from a conference.  This was a place to learn, to have deep dialogue and make connections that fuel for the leadership fire.  Here are a few things I heard during CSXI that have managed to move beyond the event and into my day-to-day:

  • Consciously standing in the unknown
  • Understanding your superpower and your kryptonite
  • Exercising generosity muscles
  • Acknowledging the assist
  • To care about people, invite them into the spirit of humanity and generosity
  • “Inclusion” and “diversity” are code words for people of color
  • Be respectfully disruptive

 read more »

How a Social Network Analysis (SNA) can help leadership development programs

Over the past several months the Leadership Learning Community has had the opportunity to partner with the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York to conduct a Social Network Analysis of their Health Leadership Fellows Program graduate network.   Since many leadership programs could benefit from an SNA, we wanted to share examples about h