Generating ideas, connections, and action

Guest Blog by Cynthia Chavez: The Promise and Potential of Place-Based Leadership Programs

LS Participants Team-BuildingIn the early 1990s, I had an inspiring mentor, Dr. Norm Brown, then-President of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Dr. Brown was a great believer in the value of nonprofit leadership development. He encouraged me to participate in a variety of such national programs. Dr. Brown also enthusiastically introduced me to the concept of place-based leadership development. His excitement was contagious: for 15 years now, I have been at the helm of LeaderSpring, an Oakland, California-based organization that explores the power and promise of leadership development within a place-based strategy.

Cultivating Nonprofit Leadership: A (Missed?) Philanthropic Opportunity, the new report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), invites further exploration into the impacts of place-based leadership development strategies. The growing interest in place-based initiatives complements what we’ve realized for some time – that place-based approaches offer effective strategies to boost impact, especially in addressing issues like poverty. The field also has accumulated a critical mass of experience and informed insight on such initiatives. LeaderSpring’s 18 years of combining a place-based strategy with a peer-based cohort leadership development model yields some core reflections:
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Building Networks and Movements for Social Justice

Building Networks and Movements for Social Justice

Lessons from the Pioneers in Justice Leadership Program

By Heather McLeod Grant and Daniel Lee

As leaders of nonprofits know, the social sector is at a critical inflection point, with external forces challenging many of our old ways of working. As the Leadership Learning Community (LLC) and others have written, new technologies are disrupting traditional approaches and breaking down silos within and between organizations. Simultaneously, collaboration and "networking" is becoming the new norm, rather than the exception.

In response to these trends, in 2010 the Levi Strauss Foundation (LSF) launched a program called Pioneers in Justice, offering intense support to a cohort of Bay Area Gen X leaders who had recently become executive directors of legacy social justice organizations. Over the past few years, with more than $3M invested in capacity-building, collaboration grants, and convening for peer learning, the program has helped these nonprofits leaders build their social media skills, transform their organizations, and mobilize larger networks and movements to drive greater social impact.

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Walking The Talk

As Americans continue to explore racial disparities, we are seeing an increase of conversations. This month alone, coffee-giant Starbucks wanted to jump into the conversation. Although the execution failed for many reasons (haphazard decision without enough preparation, failure to fund a strong execution, did not plan for their customers’ time constraints, and more[1])  the conversations continue every day.

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Sneak Preview: Leadership Development and Large Scale Change

Over the past six months, LLC has taken a deep dive into the question of “leadership for what?”  For example, leadership development programs are often designed with the hope that participants will make more progress on tough social issues; like climate change or income disparities; and that the leadership development  support they have provided will have played some part in this progress on what we are referring to as large scale change.  We are challenging ourselves to raise our expectations; that in addition to individual growth and development we can and should understand the contribution of our leadership development work to changes in communities, improved outcomes for a population of people, or even changes in a system. 

The good news is that we have ample opportunity for learning about leadership and large scale change because we are seeing a shift in the desired results of leadership development and even in the results that are being monitored and evaluated.  During a meeting, where LLC brought together fifty funders and evaluators at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in October 2014, participants were asked to map the results they were seeking on a change continuum, pictured below, that indicated the following change levels from left to right: individual, organization, community, network, movement, field, culture, systems, and population level. The post-its above the line reflect desired results and are placed under the appropriate change level headings.  Post-its below the blue line indicate which of the results will be or are currently being measured.  

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Sharing Our Progress towards Strategic Goals

In 2000, the LLC team and Advisory Board developed a set of strategic goals for 2017.  The goals were divided amongst the core areas of our work, which include knowledge development and network engagement.  To prepare for our next board meeting, we have reflected on our progress towards those goals and have thought of ideas for continuing to accomplish them.  We wanted to share our progress with you, our community, since you are an integral part of our work.

Knowledge Development
Our goal was to develop five additional thought-pieces by 2017 to compliment the publications that we developed as part of our Leadership for a New Era collaborative research initiative.  We are getting ready to launch a publication on Leadership and Large-Scale Change in the next few weeks, which is based on research we conducted through our Funders and Evaluators Learning Circle.  This year, we also plan to write a leadership and networks toolkit and another piece around developing a comprehensive leadership strategy with a network lens.  Through 2015, we will continue to host webinars and discussions to engage all of you with this work!
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LLC Webinar Series | Leading for Results: From Collective Impact to Large-Scale Social Change

 

Presenters: 

  • Ashley B. Stewart, Senior Associate, Talent and Leadership Development, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Michelle Martin, Chief Operating Officer, Northside Achievement Zone

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Webinar Recap: Building a National Network of Leaders: Replicating the BCLI (March 2015)

Building a National Network of Leadership: Replicating the BCLI
Presenters:  Uma Viswanathan and Terri Thao | March 2015


The Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) is a six-month fellowship that trains and places advocates from low-income communities of color onto local and regional boards and commissions through the Bay Area. Preparing mid-career leaders to leverage and enhance their knowledge, skills, and networks to enter political life, the BCLI is not just an individual leadership development program. It is a strategy to change the face of politics, creating a network of diverse and representative leaders who move racially and economically just policies at all levels of government. 
 
During this webinar, BCLI directors Uma Viswanathan (Urban Habitat) and Terri Thao (Nexus Community Partners) provided an overview of this innovative program and shared their discoveries about the replication process as partners from different regions and organizations. Participants engaged in dialogue about potential future replications, including individual leader, organizational, and regional readiness for this type of program.

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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

 

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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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