Session 5 | Studying Liberatory Leadership

LLP Webinar Series 2021 | Session 5

Studying Liberatory Leadership


  • Dr. Audrey Jordan is the Jerry D. Campbell Professor of Civic Engagement and DEI Specialist at Claremont Lincoln University, and is a certified executive life coach, focused on “accompanying social justice leaders and teams to unchain power for transformation.” Audrey is also currently an independent consultant with her own practice – ADJ Consulting and Coaching. Audrey’s consulting areas of expertise are in capacity building for constituent-centered, place- based community change; cultivating community democracy; strengthening organizational and collaborative partnership capacities for learning and accountability; and teaching about and facilitating conversations to promote racial equity and social justice. Two examples of her most recent consulting work include: developmental evaluator and facilitator/documenter for The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative (6/18 – 12/21); and learning and documentation consultant for the Best Start initiative for First 5 LA (10/19 – 2/21). Audrey provides ongoing training services as a race equity consultant and coach with Race Matters Institute.
  • Zuri Tau is deeply committed to practicing research and evaluation in service of equity and liberation. She has over 16 years of experience in advancing social justice through on the ground organizing and evaluating government programs and non-profits, facilitating workshops and partnering with community-led organizations. Currently, she is the CEO of Social Insights Research and advises international organizations like Open Society Foundation and RAND Corporation on best practices.
  • Zuri has developed curriculum for decolonizing research, trauma-informed care, and practicing evaluation from a racial equity lens. She is the former managing editor of the academic journal, City and Community, a licensed therapist, yoga teacher and is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology. Zuri is also the founder of Liberatory Research, a community that supports BIPOC researchers and provides tools for equity in research and evaluation.

Session Recap

  • The fifth session with Dr. Audrey Jordan of Claremont Lincoln University and Zuri Tau of Social Insights Research discussed ways to shift thinking about research in ways that advance liberatory leadership. Audrey and Zuri shared their personal and professional journeys and their developing roles within the ecosystem of liberatory leadership. The discussion touched on how to practice research in a way that advances liberatory leadership and how to hold oneself accountable to this vision. Over the course of the conversation we discussed the role of power and ownership in liberatory leadership research. Exploring how to define community, how to engage people in learning and evaluation, and understanding the relationship between researchers and the community. Both presenters shared a spectrum of ways we can show up and exert or share power. Zuri and Audrey offered Human and love centered approaches to liberatory learning less mechanistic approaches.

Session 4 | Resourcing Liberatory Leadership

LLP Webinar Series 2021 | Session 4

Resourcing Liberatory Leadership


  • Kaytura (Kay) Felix, MD, joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in 2016, bringing her technical and lived experience in leadership development, collaboration, and coaching to the Foundation’s mission to advance a Culture of Health through leadership. She heads RWJF’s efforts to develop leaders through its many programs. These programs support leaders in developing the vision as well as the conversational skills and capacities to come together—across health care settings, disciplines, and sectors—to build healthier and more equitable communities where everyone has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being.
  • Lisa Cowan is the Vice President and in this capacity she helps with strategy, development and oversight of foundation programs and grantmaking. Lisa has been working with community-based organizations for the last 25 years, first as a community health educator and program director at several youth-serving agencies, then as a Senior Consultant at Community Resource Exchange. Lisa was the Co-Founder of College Access: Research and Action, where she continues to act as an advisor. Most recently, Lisa was the Principal Consultant at Hummingbird Consulting from 2013-2016.

Session Recap

The fourth session with Kaytura Felix of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Lisa Pilar Cowan of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation discussed what it takes to fund Liberatory Leadership Development work. Kay and Lisa shared their individual experiences making space for emergent work, both within their funding portfolios and in the culture of their institutions.  Both panelists highlighted the importance of continuous learning and boundary pushing and discussed how this impacts both grant making and internal institutional functioning. This discussion touched on power, access and accountability as well as risk assessment, absorption and distribution. The conversation left us with a series of questions, including: 

  • How can this be a real transformative moment for philanthropy, not just a change in language?
  • What are the practical steps foundation staff doing to create greater alignment around liberatory practice?  
  • What does a call to rigor require, how do we continue to get deeper and more aligned around liberatory practice so it is something we can hold each other lovingly accountable to?

Session 3 | Liberatory Leadership in Practice: Transformative Organizations

LLP Webinar Series 2021 | Session 3

Liberatory Leadership in Practice: Transformative Organizations


  • Nikki Uyen Dinh is the daughter of boat people refugees who instilled in her the importance of being in community. Though she grew up in an area that was founded by the KKK, her family’s home was in an immigrant enclave. Her neighborhood taught her about resistance, resilience, joy and love. Her lived experiences led her to a career in social justice and advocacy. She has served in various roles as a grassroots community attorney, funder and strategist. Mostly, she is a parent who strives to instill in her two children the importance of being in community.
  • Ananda Valenzuela is the interim executive director of RVC, co-founder of the BIPOC Executive Director Coalition of Washington, and co-chair of the board of Change Elemental. Their work centers on organizational development, with a particular focus on equitable self-management and liberatory practices. Ananda grew up in Puerto Rico and slowly made his way across the United States, holding a variety of consultant, governance, and activist roles along the way. Before RVC, Ananda worked at TSNE, a nonprofit capacity building firm, where she managed a consulting program and developed a fellowship program.

Session Recap

The third session with Ananda Valenzuela of RVC and Nikki Dinh of Common Counsel Foundation discussed our organizations and how they need to evolve to create the conditions for liberatory leadership and the tools and organizational change processes that support this transformation. The discussion touched on the inherent tension between taking a liberatory stance that holds both individual sovereignty and a commitment to community/collective care, The Speakers also discussed rooting this work in relationship building and trust. This rooting requires a lot of space, time, facilitation, outside support etc. for developing trust. This work entails both the building of something new and an undoing of previous habits, the development of a different set of norms, and new ways of dealing with the inevitable conflict so that it is generative. This work is not just about internal facing work, it is also about being effective, negotiating power and values alignment.

Session 2 | Liberatory Leadership in Practice: Transformative Leadership Programs

LLP Webinar Series 2021 | Session 2

Liberatory Leadership in Practice: Transformative Leadership Programs


  • Neha Mahajan is the daughter of South Asian Punjabi immigrants and brings nearly 20 years of experience fighting for social justice. Over the last 13 years, Neha has led multiple philanthropic and community organizations in the Colorado ecosystem. Neha co-founded Transformative Leadership for Change (TLC) in 2017, and is honored to now step into a paid position to help make TLC’s vision a reality. She is also currently on the board of Cultivando (Commerce City, Colorado) and on the coordinating committee of the national NorthStar Network. In addition to her role at TLC, she weaves together social justice, healing, and spiritual practices in her consulting and coaching business – NehaDevi Consulting.
  • Denise Perry has more than 35 years of labor and community organizing, dedicated to developing strong grassroots leaders, democratic organizations, and progressive social movements. She has been a labor union organizer and trainer. Internationally she worked with a team to develop the Women’s Global Equity Project, which took her throughout Africa and the Caribbean to train and work with women labor activists. She co-founded Power U Center for Social Change, rooted in Miami’s historically Black community of Overtown. She has served on a variety of Boards. Today she is the Director and co-Founder of Black Organizing for Leadership & Dignity (BOLD) which is developing leadership for transformative organizing amongst Black organizers across the country.

Session Recap

  • The second session with Denise Perry of BOLD and Neha Mahajan of Transformative Leadership for Change mapped out how transformative leadership programs prepare leaders to carry these practices into their orgs and into the field. Often the way transformative change makes its way into organizations is through individuals but the goal is not for liberatory transformation to stay with these individuals, the goal is to transform organizations so we can transform systems and society. What we heard from Denise and Neha is that the required transformations in our organizations begins with individuals and the way these transformations happens is that we give people space to create a set of commitments that they want to live by and giving them a set of practices that help them to embody and return to those commitments all while recognizing that they are existing in a culture that does not support those liberatory commitments. Finally they are connected to a network of support to practice movement interdependence as they learn and build it.

Liberatory Leadership Webinar | Distributed Leadership at LLC: What's Working and What's Hard

Liberatory Leadership Webinar

Distributed Leadership at LLC: What's Working and What's Hard


  • Ericka Stallings, Co-ed at Leadership Learning Community

Session Recap

Over the last year, LLC has experimented with distributed leadership at the staff and Board levels, incorporating Co-Director and Co-Chair models.  Join this conversation to hear about what LLC is learning,  including what’s worked well for us and what hasn’t, and our thoughts on expanding distributed leadership beyond this model.

LeaderSpring in Reset: Rethinking Leadership and Risk Taking

LeaderSpring in Reset: Rethinking Leadership and Risk-Taking

Our thinking about leadership is evolving, as is the world in which more significant numbers of people are coming together to take actions that will create more substantial equity. To keep pace, those supporting leadership for racial equity and social justice must pause, reflect and reconsider our approaches to leadership development. Because most leadership programs receive positive feedback from those participating, it can be hard to try something different…who wants to mess with what works, even if the payoff could be more dramatic results. It takes courage to do this, and we are excited to have our friends from LeaderSpring share their “reset” process and what they are learning.


Sonia BasSheva Mañjon, Ph.D., Executive Director

Dr. Mañjon has over 25 years of experience in higher education, nonprofit, and government administration. Sonia is a LeaderSpring Alumna, class of 2006, who returned to the Bay Area from Columbus, Ohio, to become the 2nd executive director of LeaderSpring. Her focus for the organization is to redefine product and service delivery, develop a business model for leadership development, leverage the alum network, and introduce racial equity and social justice systems change work.

Before returning to California, Sonia was the inaugural director of the Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise, Associate Professor of Arts Administration, Education and Policy, and Affiliate Faculty in Latinx Studies and The STEAM Factory at The Ohio State University (OSU). Dr. Mañjon mentored undergraduate and graduate students whose interests led them to entrepreneurship, community collaborations, and civic engagement activities. A cultural anthropologist, her research focus includes collecting community and individual narratives using a participatory action methodology, photography, and video.

Dr. Mañjon began her academic career at the California College of the Arts (CCA) as the Center for Art and Public Life executive director, founding chair of the Community Arts major, former chair of Diversity Studies, and the Simpson Endowed Professor of Community Arts. She created the Community Arts major, the first BFA program of its kind in the United States, the Center’s Visiting Artists and Scholars program, and raised over 8 million dollars for CCA initiatives.

Dr. Mañjon has completed numerous projects, video documentaries, and publications. Including 100 Families Oakland: Art and Social Change (a community-wide collaborative program), Invisible Identity: Mujeres Dominicanas en California (a video/ photographic installation), Crafting a Vision for Art, Equity and Civic Engagement: Convening the Community Arts Field in Higher Education (a compilation of essays, narratives, and workshops), and A Snap Shot: Landmarking Community Cultural Arts Organizations Nationally (case studies of national art and cultural organizations). Dr. Mañjon also directed and produced two video documentaries, Pieces of Cloth, Pieces of Culture: Tapa from Tonga and the Pacific Islands (a 50 min. DVD on Tongan Tapa Making and community collaboration), and The Experience of Immigration and Acculturation of Four Generations of Dominican Women in California, (a 10 min short on four generations of Dominican women in California).

Dr. Mañjon earned a Ph.D. in Humanities, specializing in transformative learning and change in human systems, and an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Social Transformation from the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco. She received a Bachelor of Arts in World Arts and Cultures with an emphasis in Dance from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Mañjon lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her sons Zyan and Ezra.


Safi Jiroh, Deputy Director

Safi brings over 25 years of experience in public and non-profit sectors as a leader, grantmaker, nonprofit consultant, and certified integral coach with significant planning, facilitation, training, and public speaking experience. Her Oakland-based leadership positions have included: Executive Director of the Marcus Foster Ed Fund, Community Faculty Fellow with the Center for Art and Public Life at the California College of the Arts, and Grants and Nonprofit Management Analyst for the City of Oakland’s Cultural Arts Department. In each position, Safi brought a social justice and equity lens to work; in policy development, program design, community building and organizing, staffing, fundraising, and budgeting.

Notably, in her role as a grantmaker with the City of Oakland, Safi created several programs and initiatives; a capacity-building multi-year grant and technical assistance program, a neighborhood cultural arts investment program, a youth-to-youth arts policy and grantmaking apprenticeship, an individual artist fellowship for established and emerging artists, an artist in education initiative and, an out of school teaching artist residency in each of Oakland’s public libraries. Her local, state, and national cultural equity policy work engaged the Congressional Black Caucus to take a stand in support of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), helping members to understand the NEA’s critical partnership in sustaining art and culture development from and in communities of color across the United States. As a Community Faculty Fellow with the Center for Art and Public Life, they provided vital in-service to faculty and student on cultural sensitivity, socio-economic class differences and assumptions, and mentoring public school students.

Safi has been a certified Integral Coach from New Ventures West since 1999 and served for six years on its coaching certification committee and as a cohort mentor. She is licensed to teach its 2-day course, Coaching to Excellence. As a 25-year nonprofit consultant, some of her clients have included the City of Oakland, the City of Richmond, the City of Berkeley, the San Bernardino County Public Health Department, LA Care Health Plan, Berkeley Unified School District, Oakland Unified School District, California Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, San Francisco Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Social Justice Learning Institute, Black Women for Wellness, and Parent Voices Oakland. Safi is an alumna of 3 cohort-based leadership development fellowships, including LeaderSpring’s class of 2008, holds a BS in Organizational Management, graduating summa cum laude, and is a licensed minister practicing spiritual formation and soul care.