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.