Author Archive

Sep/03/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Dawnn Jaffier, Rest in Peace


Photo credit: Boston Globe

Sadly, I am writing yet another memorial post, in a summer that has seen too much tragedy. This weekend, Boston laid to rest Dawnn Jaffier. By all accounts, she was a remarkable young woman who lived a life of service and love. Over the past several days, many young people have testified to Dawnn’s positive influence on their lives and many promised to continue to live as she lived, investing in the lives of young people. This time, death came at the hands of an 18 year-old young black man, allegedly bent on retaliation. Jaffier was innocently caught in the crossfire. While some are calling for an end to the festival and parade that provided the backdrop for this tragedy, I think her death cries out for renewed efforts to intervene in the complex system of internalized oppression – a system that cultivates within black people ourselves a belief in the marginal value of black life – and in a system of structural racism that allows gun trafficking to flourish despite the costs and continues to lock too many men of color out of the kinds of opportunities that could compete with the call of the streets. Dealing with either side of the equation without the other seems a fruitless endeavor.

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Aug/25/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Rest in Peace Michael Brown

Michael Brown

This morning, Michael Brown is being remembered. The country’s attention is shifting for the moment from the caustic, racially charged circumstances that led to his death, to a celebration of his life. You can watch it live right now via Colorlines.

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Aug/12/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Liberation, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Too serious? Never!

In my early days many of my friends called me too serious because of comments I would make about the racism and sexism in a Disney film or the rampant misogyny and conspicuous consumption in popular music. My kids still think so. But having come to see systems of oppression, it’s hard for me to “un-see” them when I turn to entertainment. Spoken word poet Madiha Bhatti puts out a powerful message. Much better to listen to the whole thing, but check out the refrain to whet your appetite!

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Aug/01/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Blinded by Privilege

University of California researcher, Paul Piff, and his colleagues have been studying privilege.

In one study, they set up a rigged game of monopoly. The players who had been randomly assigned to get more money and other advantages began to demonstrate some disturbing differences from the other players. They began to move their pieces around the board more loudly, displayed “signs of dominance and nonverbal displays of power and celebration,” ate more pretzels, and came “ruder, less and less sensitive to the plight of the poor players, and more likely to showcase how well they were doing.” After the game, the rich players attributed their success to their skills and strategy, not the systematic advantages they had over the other player, even though they knew the advantages were real and were randomly assigned.


In a rigged game of Monopoly, denial of unearned privilege has few consequences, but what about in the rigged game called life?

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Jul/08/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//LoveLiberates, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Love Liberates Communities From Violence

I met Juan Pacheco of Barrios Unidos recently at a gathering focused on creating an affirming narrative about boys and young men of color. He shared his own personal story—a journey from El Salvador to the U.S., from a supportive family to a gang as a substitute for family. He shares the power of love to transform violence and to liberate young people from despair, pain, and confinement within a prism of societal and self-perceptions of failure. Here are just a few of his many inspiring thoughts, quoted from two talks that you can listen to on line.
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Jun/30/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Liberation, Love, LoveLiberates, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Self-love Liberates

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is what the Community Healing Network (CHN), chaired by the late Dr. Maya Angelou, calls a “psychological freedom fighter.” The clip of Dr. King posted here is a portion of his 1967 speech, “Where do we go from here,” which is well worth reading or listening to in full.

The CHN describes the straightforward and deeply challenging struggle of black people (and I think it’s fair to say all people of color in some way) for psychological freedom from racism. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/23/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration, Liberation, Love, LoveLiberates, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Love of her Many Identities

Check out the ways that love of her many identities frees up spoken word artist Jamila Lyiscott to be her full self. She reminds us that a  full, loving embrace of yourself and your cultures enables others to see you more fully and embrace all of your cultures, while it makes space for others to do the same for themselves. That’s change making at a personal level that can radiate outward to the entire community.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/20/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, LoveLiberates, Power, Equity, Inclusion

One for the “Righting a Wrong” File!

The settlement of the case of the Central Park 5 is a great day for the five individuals, add a great day for the cause of racial justice. The case of Antron McCray, Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise is a textbook case of structural racism: implicit bias, coupled with strong-arm institutional police practices used against young men of color, and a media too eager to believe the hype, leading to the conviction of five innocent young black men for a horrendous crime. The documentary about these young men, by Ken Burns, captures the intense impact of the wrongful accusation and imprisonment on the lives of the five young men and their families.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/19/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration, Love, LoveLiberates

Love Liberates.

We continue to explore the power of love. Listen to Dr. Maya Angelou speak about the power of love to liberate the human spirit. She speaks of how her mother’s love liberated Maya to become her fullest self and how Maya’s love liberated her mother at the end of her mother’s life. She speaks of the unconditional love that frees a person to make their highest and best contribution to the world—a love that is at once personal and public, individually meaningful and essential to our collective lives.

“Love liberates. It doesn’t bind.”

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May/21/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration, Love, Power, Equity, Inclusion

We’ve Lost an Unsung Hero—Remembering Vincent Harding


Vincent Harding died on Monday and our world is emptier for it. Vincent is an unsung hero of the Civil Rights era, whose work as a speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was essential if not widely known. His best-known speech was Dr. King’s speech Beyond Vietnam, where Dr. King boldly extended his critique to U.S. foreign policy, connecting the struggle for civil rights in the U.S. with struggles for justice in other parts of the world. You can hear Vincent explain the significance of the speech in an interview with Democracy Now! You can hear or read some of his thoughts on spirituality and justice in an On Being podcast called Dangerous Spirituality. Read the rest of this entry »

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May/19/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

How We Invented Illegal Immigration

This might be the most important seven minutes of your week. For, me, it was one of those beautiful moments when understanding history – a hidden story that isn’t widely told – helped me think much more clearly about an important contemporary issue. Aviva Chomsky, author of “Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal,” explains how recently the concept of “illegal immigration” was developed and how it was developed specifically as a way to discriminate against Mexican workers in the U.S. At the time, visas were not needed to enter the country; people from Mexico, many of whom returned seasonally, were considered workers not immigrants; people from China and other Asian countries were not allowed to enter the U.S. at all; and only people from Europe were considered “immigrants.” And, preceding all of that history of course, there were a couple hundred years of European settler/ immigrants who carried no documentation and were not considered “illegal.”

Link to audio

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May/12/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Be Color Brave

Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments and chair of the board for DreamWorks Animation challenges us to be “color brave” instead of “color blind.” Here are a few snippets from her TED talk. Well worth listening to in its entirety.

“[R]esearchers have coined this term “color blindness” to describe a learned behavior where we pretend that we don’t notice race. If you happen to be surrounded by a bunch of people who look like you, that’s purely accidental. Now, color blindness, in my view, doesn’t mean that there’s no racial discrimination, and there’s fairness. It doesn’t mean that at all. It doesn’t ensure it. In my view, color blindness is very dangerous because it means we’re ignoring the problem… this subject matter can be hard, awkward, uncomfortable — but that’s kind of the point… If we can learn to deal with our discomfort, and just relax into it, we’ll have a better life.

“So I think it’s time for us to be comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation about race: black, white, Asian, Hispanic, male, female, all of us, if we truly believe in equal rights and equal opportunity in America, I think we have to have real conversations about this issue. We cannot afford to be color blind. We have to be color brave. We have to be willing, as teachers and parents and entrepreneurs and scientists, we have to be willing to have proactive conversations about race with honesty and understanding and courage, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do, because our businesses and our products and our science, our research, all of that will be better with greater diversity…

“I’m actually asking you to do something really simple: observe your environment, at work, at school, at home. I’m asking you to look at the people around you purposefully and intentionally. Invite people into your life who don’t look like you, don’t think like you, don’t act like you, don’t come from where you come from, and you might find that they will challenge your assumptions and make you grow as a person…

“I’m asking you to show courage. I’m asking you to be bold. As business leaders, I’m asking you not to leave anything on the table. As citizens, I’m asking you not to leave any child behind. I’m asking you not to be color blind, but to be color brave, so that every child knows that their future matters and their dreams are possible.”

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May/02/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Who’s Actually in Charge?

“Our minds automatically justify our decisions, blinding us to the true source, or beliefs, behind our decisions. Ultimately, we believe our decisions are consistent with our conscious beliefs, when in fact, our unconscious is running the show.”Howard Ross, Kirwin Institute, 2008

Pages from 2014-implicit-bias Read the rest of this entry »

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May/01/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion, What We Are Reading

Telling a New Story

TellingOurOwnStory_PDF_1275 x 1542

Last week, Curtis Ogden wrote about the power of narrative to build engagement and shape the action in networks. We’ve also been taking a deep dive into the role of narrative in racial healing. That is, focusing on the need to expose and transform the deeply embedded narratives about race that allow racism to persist through unconscious bias, individual behaviors and micro-aggressions, institutional practices, and structural arrangements in this society. The report “Telling our Own Story” describes the ways in which narratives about race have shaped the U.S. culture and values, and laid the foundation for social structures based on false stories about the value of people based on a racial hierarchy. Here are a few opening ideas. We hope you will read the full report.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Apr/21/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Cities, Power, Equity, Inclusion

One Boston?


“Is there really One Boston? Boston Strong? Is the violence that occurs on a day-to-day basis acceptable? Is the reaction and response to violence different depending on where it happens or whom it happens to? Have we become desensitized to ‘regular violence’?” These are the questions the Blackstonian newspaper raises in a report detailing the 237 shootings in Boston since the Marathon bombings. Read the rest of this entry »

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Apr/14/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Cities, Collaboration, Love

Love is a Process

Picking up where Gibrán’s post about our interior condition left us last week and my recent viewing of César Chávez, I wanted to lift up a description of love offered by staff of LUPE on a visit I took there last fall. “Love is a process, not a destination. Love is a set of actions that arise from an emotional state or a cognitive commitment.” Recently, I wrote about the power of strong emotions to create the space for breakthroughs. Today, I want to focus on the processes and commitments rather than the emotional states related to love.

When I read and listen to the reflections of people who are deeply committed to social justice, I am struck by their commitment to engaging with people and engaging the struggle in ways that proceeds from a powerful internal compass, even in the face of strong resistance. Think of the standard bearers of nonviolence during the Civil Rights Movement, who practiced non-retaliation in the face of attacks. Think of the painstaking and beautiful reconciliation process in the wake of Sierre Leon’s civil war, where the restoring right relationship between perpetrators and victims began with a public expression of remorse and a request for forgiveness.

In these cases and many others, there was as much attention to the interior condition of the people involved as there was to designing the processes by which they would catalyze change.

How are you attending to your own interior condition as you work for justice? How are you encouraging others to attend to theirs? How does that translate into processes that embody your commitments to love?


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Mar/31/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

What needs changing in here?

Sail Away

This post continues a conversation that Curtis Ogden started last week. (Process is Where Change Happens) It’s a conversation we’ve been having for years at IISC. On one hand, we recognize the importance of understand how thinking shapes the systems we produce and reproduce. And it’s important to understand that inequities and oppression are not just a matter of thinking that can be changed simply by changing our minds. I’ve often been impatient with the “change your thinking, change the world” discourse because I’ve seen it used as an excuse for avoiding discussing the systems dynamics and the resulting inequities they produce. Still, I think there are a few ways in which focusing on the change “in here” can provide power for changing conditions “out there.”

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Mar/24/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Got anger? Get action

Anger is Energy

We talk a lot at IISC about the power of love as a force for social change. But what about anger? I’ve seen a couple of recent examples where anger—cleanly and clearly expressed—created space for breakthroughs that I don’t think would have happened otherwise. Anger helped people in power to “get it” about something that they had not otherwise “gotten” when the volume and heat were lower.

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Mar/17/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

First Food Fiesta

Into the Lense

What do IISC’s lenses of networks, power and love have to do with breastfeeding? Turns out, a lot! I had the privilege of facilitating the second annual First Food Forum: Every Child, Every Mother, Every One of Us, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for its first food grantees. Participants connected the dots between networks, power and love in powerful ways. Love is probably the easiest connection to make.

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Mar/03/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Getting in Shape as a Change Agent

Reflecting on Leadership

Four compelling questions came to me via the monthly newsletter of Conditioning Leaders, led by our colleague Madeline McNeely. She’s reflecting on 20 years of work and asking herself some great questions that we should all be asking ourselves as our year gets into full swing:

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Feb/26/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Remembering Chokwe Lumumba

Chokwe LumumbaWe are deeply saddened by the news that Mayor Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, Mississippi, was found dead yesterday.

Lumumba, a founding member of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and a widely respected human rights attorney, was in the initial stages of launching a sweeping set of economic reform initiatives, built on a foundation of broad-based civic participation in Jackson.

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Feb/24/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Social Innovation

Why Movement Is the Killer App for Nonprofits


Enjoy these simple and powerful guidelines from Beth Kanter about how movement makes meetings and workshops more productive. This is great advice for getting beyond designing for “brains on sticks” as my colleague Curtis Ogden likes to say.

As a trainer and facilitator who works with nonprofit organizations and staffers, you have to be obsessed with learning theory to design and deliver effective instruction, have productive meetings, or embark on your own self-directed learning path. Learning theory is an attempt to describe how people learn. There are many learning theories and can be categorized in different ways:

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Feb/18/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion


All Lives Matter

8/14/14 Update: Sadly the list of names in this post has grown in the past week with the deaths of Eric Barnes and Mike Brown. In both cases it appears that aggressive policing of minor offenses escalated, resulting in deaths that did not need to happen. #blacklivesmatter 

I find the fact that we need a conversation called #BlackLivesMatter disturbing. But it’s a badly needed conversation and one that needs to catalyze effective action. It’s urgent that we create a context where it’s no longer “understandable” that someone could be afraid enough of an unarmed black person to justify killing him or her.

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Feb/11/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Debunking Myths, Revealing Truths

Debunking Myths

Bill Gates’ 2014 annual letter debunks three myths about poverty and foreign aid. It reminds me about the power of narrative to drive decision making and action, even when the narrative is not backed up by facts. Here are the debunked myths in short form. Read the full letter for the longer version.

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Feb/03/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Three Big Questions to Change the World


The following post has been written by Royve Holladay at The Adaptive Action. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

Can three questions really change the world? Well, maybe. Let’s think about it for a minute. One thing we know about schools is that nothing stays the same for long.  Each year brings the latest “best practice.” Each week brings a new procedure and its paperwork. Each day, our students pose new challenges. Each hour, the media bombards us with news about the latest crisis. What might possibly help us keep our balance as the world shifts beneath us?

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Jan/26/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Leadership and Personal Development

The following post has been reblogged from our friend August Turak.  Check out more of August’s amazing work!

The industrial age led to the compartmentalization of life.  We turned everything into a silo.  We even siloed ourselves.  Here I am spiritual, here I am fun, here I work…  We have been looking at personal development through that limited lens.  But August Turak points us in a different direction.  He invites us to make “personal development” the central purpose of our lives.   When we make our own evolution a central purpose in our lives we become active contributors to the evolution of consciousness and culture as well as the material changes we want to see in the world.  I hope you enjoy this post from August Turak as much as we did. 

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Jan/19/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Love

Changed People Changing the World

Check out this relaxed conversation between Dr. King and Merv Griffin. Dr. King reflects on the political context in Atlanta, which he called the most progressive city in the South—and the opportunities it afforded for progress for civil rights. Toward the end, Dr. King reflects on the progress to date in civil rights.

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Jan/13/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, IISC:Inside

Making Meaning Together


At IISC, we began the year with some heavy-duty thinking. We’ll be writing about those ideas in future posts. Today, I want to tip my hat to my colleagues and to IISC’s Board of Directors. After spending a day on Board business, our Board members spent a day with the staff thinking about emerging new directions for IISC.

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Jan/06/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, What We Are Reading

Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

Across That Bridge

The most inspiring book I read in 2013 was Across that Bridge: Life Lessons and A Vision for Change, by Congressman and Civil Rights legend, John Lewis. He built the book around several practices that are essential for social justice work: faith, patience, study, truth, peace, love and reconciliation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec/30/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Sustainability

Long-Term Trend in Nonprofit Funding

The following post has been reblogged from our friend Kim Klien. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

“I would love to give to the Film Festival, but I really have to devote all my giving to my children’s public school.” This sentence, said by a long-time donor in response to a request for funding renewal from a board member at a local Film Festival, helped to start a project called “Nonprofits Talking Taxes.” Starting about 10 years ago, many of us started to hear things like this from our donors.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec/23/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Inspiring Movement Moments of 2013

The following blog post was written by our friend Julie Quiroz  at The Movement Strategy Center.  We hope you enjoy it at as much as we did! 

Remember this spring, when the Associated Press finally dropped the I-word, and youth of color defeated prison-to-pipeline policies in Los Angeles public schools?

Or remember back in February when 50,000 people rallied in DC against the XL Pipeline?  And then in October when the protests of 5,000 young people linked the pipeline, fracking, and the whole mess of fossil fuel development?

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Dec/16/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Empathy + Equity → Justice

Last Friday, Curtis posted a clip by Brene Brown. She argues that “empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection.” I want to take her thinking one step further. Empathy fuels connection. Lack of empathy fuels injustice.

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Dec/09/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Got trust?

Even before I read in the Boston Globe that trust is at an all-time low in the U.S., I was planning to write about trust. Our colleagues at Interaction Associates have been tracking the connection between leadership, trust and business performance for years. Their 2013 Trust Report reinforces earlier findings that higher levels of collaboration, trust within a company are correlated with higher performance.

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Dec/06/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Liberation

Honoring Madiba: Love comes more naturally

VIDEO LINK: South Africans speak to the Meaning of Mandela

We join the world in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela; a giant of a man; the very embodiment of the intimate link between power, networks and love. His grace and humility was unrivaled, his insistence on reconciliation was an inspiration to millions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec/02/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

Ask Not . . .

Much has been written and said in the past month about President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. I think the one important gift President Kennedy gave the country was a certain hopefulness about what people could do at their best and what government could do at its best. Listen (starting at 36:30) to an excerpt from President Kennedy’s inaugural address, read by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. He enjoins the listeners to “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” In these days of Washington gridlock and partisan gamesmanship, it’s a message we can stand to hear afresh!

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Nov/28/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Reframing Thanksgiving

Like Indigenous People’s Day (aka Columbus Day), Thanksgiving is fraught with historically inaccurate mythology. Check out these children’s books that tell a different story, from the point of view of Native Americans. And, if you’re in New England, consider joining United American Indians of New England for the 44th National Day of Mourning. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nov/18/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

The lost art of democratic debate

One of the most important courses I took in college was Justice with Michael Sandel. (These days, anyone can “take” the whole course on video.) In a TED talk, Sandel spells out a way to think about justice and a way to improve democratic discourse. Here are a few highlights from the talk:

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Nov/11/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Remembrance Day

What we now know as Veterans Day began as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, commemorating the end of “The War to End All Wars.” Sadly, World War I paved the way and was quickly followed by World War II. And countless lives have been lost in wars since. Sara Robinson’s description of the relationship between Remembrance Day and pacifism in Canada struck me as a powerful reminder on this Veteran’s Day. Here’s an excerpt from a longer post.

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Nov/04/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Keeping the People at the Center

Since my recent visit to LUPE in San Juan, Texas, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes LUPE’s community union model so different from most of our efforts (IISC’s and the social sector at large). César Chávez spelled described the core premise succinctly. “From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.”

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Oct/28/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Keeping our promises

“We can’t retreat, we will win… We are winning because our revolution is one of the mind and the heart.” César E. Chávez

During a visit to LUPE, the community union founded by César E. Chávez and the United Farm Workers, Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Partner Organizations of Color explored the connections between child welfare, juvenile justice, community organizing and immigration. One participant spoke a word of caution to capacity builders and organizers who seek to engage and mobilize community residents. “We can’t be another broken promise to the people.”

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Oct/21/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//What We Are Reading

The Gift of Power

I just started reading Playing God: Redeeming the gift of power by Andy Crouch, thanks to a book reading group at my church, Grace Chapel. I’m already drawn in by the premise that power is a gift and by his central question: How do we use our power to make people and things around us flourish?

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Oct/14/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Reflecting on Indigenous People’s Day

In middle and high school, I challenged (and most likely annoyed) my teachers around this time of the year. I went to school in Plymouth, MA and wondered out loud why Native Americans would want to celebrate Columbus Day. “Shouldn’t it be a day of mourning for them?” I’d ask. I don’t recall any teacher having a good answer to my question or even being willing to engage in meaningful dialogue.

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Oct/06/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

How will you use power?

We often focus on the understanding of power as a process and as a social construct rather than a fixed asset. As Beth Roy says, “power is not something you have; it’s something you do.”

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Sep/30/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Washington Gridlock

I have been thinking about today’s post for days. But, with the possible shutdown of the federal government, I wanted to raise a few questions and concerns. We have a (theoretically) representative form of government, which begs the question whose interests are actually being represented by the gridlock in Washington? Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/23/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Where’s the Growing Edge?

Several persistent questions keep us learning and experimenting.

How do we avoid re-traumatizing people of color in this work? Often, people of color in racially mixed learning spaces bear the burden of teaching through telling their own stories. While sometimes liberating, this can also re-open wounds and create resentment at having to prove one’s reality to people who may be reluctant to accept what they have not experienced. And, over time, it can be disheartening to keep extending grace to different people in different spaces for the same mistakes. Racially homogeneous caucuses are one useful antidote. How else can we avoid these dynamics, particularly working in mixed-race settings?

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Sep/15/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Ways of Being: Collaborative Strategies

The following post is part 2 of a 2 part series on some collaborative tools and strategies to help us change our selves, change our organizations and change the world.  We hope you find it helpful.  We encourage you to join the conversation! 

We are compelled by a quote from Theory U, attributed to William O’Brien “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.” Collaborative tools and strategies are only truly useful in the hands of practitioners whose hearts are big enough to hold the complexities, struggles, hopes and fears that accompany the work of transforming racism. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/08/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Ways of Being: Collaborative Tools

The following post is part 1 of a 2 part series on some collaborative tools and strategies to help us change our selves, change our organizations and change the world.  We hope you find it helpful.  We encourage you to join the conversation! 

We are compelled by a quote from Theory U, attributed to William O’Brien “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.” Collaborative tools and strategies are only truly useful in the hands of practitioners whose hearts are big enough to hold the complexities, struggles, hopes and fears that accompany the work of transforming racism. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/26/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Networks

Nurture Networks

We partnered with a foundation as they built a network of leaders who shared a deep passion for their city. In the beginning, many of the leaders wanted to do something together quickly. We encouraged them to pause, build deeper relationships, and see what emerged. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/19/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Transforming Racism- ways of doing

The following blog post is Part 3 of a series dedicated to Race and Social TransformationWe encourage you to share and comment!

Transforming racism is hard work! The complexity doesn’t automatically mean current efforts aren’t working. Still, many are searching for new ways to deepen their effectiveness. At IISC, we see focusing both on content (what can we do about racism) and process (how we engage with one another) as a powerful way forward. Consider a few examples that flow from our practice.

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Aug/16/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured

Living in Love

We worked with a national network of mostly white social change activists. We supported members of the network to increase the number of people of color at their annual gathering from 5% to 40% in a single year. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/11/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Transforming Racism- personal and social transformation

The following blog post is Part 2 of a series dedicated to Race and Social TransformationWe encourage you to share and comment! 

Race and racism continue to be defining features of U.S. society. As such, they show up in most of our projects, either explicitly or implicitly.

For example:

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Aug/05/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Transforming Racism- linking the personal and the social

The following blog post is Part 1 of a series dedicated to Race and Social Transformation. Special thanks to Gibrán Rivera, Miriam Messinger, Curtis Ogden, Sara Oaklander, Mistinguette Smith and Maanav Thakore for their support in completing this series! We encourage you to share and comment! 

In the U.S., the work of transforming racism is often stuck in an unproductive binary: either transform people or transform systems. Fortunately, more and more people recognize that we have do both and more. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/29/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Engaging and Building Power

We facilitated a network focused on improving early childhood education and care. The initial focus was to build leadership capacity and facilitate strategy development with stakeholders across a state to design a more holistic statewide structure for decision-making related to early childhood. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/21/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

President Obama on Trayvon Martin

On Friday, President Obama spoke about the Trayvon Martin tragedy, in terms that were both personal and presidential. If you haven’t heard his talk you can listen hereRead the rest of this entry »

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Jul/14/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

How Do We Grapple with Racial Injustice?

The following post has been reblogged from our friends at The Huffington Post and written by Judith Brown Dianis.  Important to consider during this painful moment of glaring injustice.

It is distressing that George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was gunned down last year by a man who saw him as a threat, not because he posed a threat, but because of the color of his skin. We call on the Department of Justice to act on the violation of Trayvon Martin’s civil rights. There is no more fundamental right than the right to live.

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Jul/01/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

Hat Chat

Thanks to our friends at for calling this post to our attention! Read on and ask yourself, what does it take to be able to create this kind of a “teachable moment” with such poise, grace and clarity.

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Jun/24/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Unfinished March

Thanks to our colleagues at the Economic Policy Institute for “Unfinished March”—an initiative highlighting the original demands of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the work that still remains unfinished. Decide for yourself how many of the demands have been met and what’s still on our collective to-do list. Read the entire report here.

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Jun/09/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

Keep Calm

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May/27/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

The danger of a single story

Enjoy this TED talk by Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as she explains the power of a single story to define and limit our humanity. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Here’s to telling our many stories in a way that affirms all of our humanity.

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May/14/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Lead Me On

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May/13/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

There is Beauty Everywhere

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Apr/25/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Immigration Reform and Movement

Hope you enjoy this article as much as we did! It’s a great illustration of the kinds of connections we need to make between movements–in this case immigrant rights and environmental sustainability–to stand a chance of seeing the kinds of transformation we’re seeking.

Philip Radford of Greenpeace and Bill McKibben of recently joined the growing crowd of people calling for comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship.

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Apr/15/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Social Media

Four Essential Facebook Updates for Nonprofits

The following post has been reblogged from our colleagues at Nonprofit Tech 2.0.  We hope you find it as useful as we did.  Check out the complete blog post here!

Hopefully your nonprofit has grown accustomed to the fact that Facebook is a constant work in progress. That said, some recent upgrades to Facebook Pages have a big impact upon your nonprofit’s presence on Facebook and with the site-wide launch of the new News Feed and Social Graph Search coming soon, many more changes are likely to come.

Before you fall behind, make sure that your nonprofit is current with these four recent Facebook upgrades:

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Apr/08/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

The Importance of Scheduling Nothing

The following post has been reblogged from Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner. We hope you enjoy this post along with some of his other blog posts! 

If you were to see my calendar, you’d probably notice a host of time slots greyed out but with no indication of what’s going on. There is no problem with my Outlook or printer. The grey sections reflect “buffers,” or time periods I’ve purposely kept clear of meetings.

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Apr/01/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Power and Persistence

I walk by this tree every so often and have been struck by the power of its roots to move the grate meant to contain them and to break the concrete meant to cover them. What are your roots? How are they giving you the power to break free from constraints?

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Mar/18/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Got Bias?

A big shout out to our colleagues at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Their recently released report “State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2013” reviews what science can tell us about what implicit bias is and how it works, why it matters and how to reduce it. Here’s a quick recap:

Implicit bias results from the way our brains process data and experience. We’re wired for pattern recognition and our    brains use lots of shortcuts to make sense of the world around us. In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. But, so many of the implicit associations we make are laden with stereotypes—say, between women and family, vs. men and careers. (Check out the Project Implicit to explore your implicit biases.) We absorb these associations from the world around us and they become part of our unconscious “operating system.”

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Mar/11/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

What is Play Fundamentally?

The following post has been reblogged from our friend Rob Fletcher at Quixote Consulting. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Play can easily get short-changed in daily work. Like music and arts education in schools, when budgets, deadlines and tempers are tight, it’s the first thing to go. Play is so important to me and yet I notice the number of posts I write about persistence go up and up…but not so much about play.

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Mar/04/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Closing the Presence Gap

The following blogpost was rebloged from our friends at Speaking Presence. We ope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

(This article, in its original form, was written in 2009 and posted on my website: I’ve since reworked it slightly and wanted to share it in this blog space. The three people described below are each composites of a number of clients who have come through my public speaking programs and services.)

Jane was bright, experienced, and the only female on her work team. Frustrated, she felt that nothing she said at team meetings was taken seriously and her participation was frequently discounted or ignored. When she came to me, she wanted to become more visible as a strong member of her team.

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Feb/24/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Collaboration, Featured

Racial Healing

Shout out to our colleagues at Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center for their Youth Racial Healing Project—making the connections between health, social determinants of health and racism; making the connections between what folks know, see and feel; and making the deep connections between young people across racial differences.

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Feb/18/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Networks

Network Organizing

Our colleague Bill Traynor describes essential inputs and outcomes of network organizing. See what you think!

In a recent presentation to the Ways and Means Staff of The Community Builders, we discussed the primary inputs and resulting added value that the Network Organizing practice can bring to a service environment. This slide captures the essence of this.

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Feb/11/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

What adults can learn from kids

Twelve year old Adora Svitak called for mutual respect and reciprocal learning between adults and kids. Her TED bio calls her a “child prodigy” but I think that exceptionalizes her talents and perspective and implies that she is very unlike her peers. I think she models a poise and wisdom that is all around us if we just look for it.

Here’s a little taste of her talk.

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Feb/04/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

A Decision Made

I made a decision not to worry.


I began to understand that

it was a habit of my mind.

My heart doesn’t worry,

my body doesn’t worry,

only my head does.

I chose to establish a new habit

of consideration and trust—

trust that people are

tremendously resilient

and that the universe

could operate without

my constant nagging


~ Akaya Windwood

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Jan/27/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

A Down-to-Earth Economy

The following post has been reblogged from our friends at yes! Magazine. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

Nature surrounds us with expressions of the organizing principles that make possible life’s exceptional resilience, capacity for adaptation, creative innovation, and vibrant abundance.” Read on as David Korten outlines how paying attention to natural systems can help us develop human systems that will sustain us for the long haul.

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Jan/14/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

“The World Needs Us to Be Fearless”

As they neared their 15th anniversary, the Case Foundation published “To be Fearless” as both a reflection on its work and a challenge to philanthropy and the social sector. The following are excerpts from this report, written by Cynthia Gibson and Brad Rourke for the Case Foundation. (“To Be Fearless,” The Case Foundation, 2012.)

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Jan/07/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Six Rules for Allies

The following post has been reblogged from our friends at Community Change Inc.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

Community Change, Inc. is a Boston-based resource for people working for racial justice. Enjoy this resource from their series “Creating the Counter-Narrative, challenging the post-racial, colorblind public discourse on race and racism.” Enjoy this talk by Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance and of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.

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Dec/17/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Spiritual Activism

Managing Effectively: Slow Down; It’s The Holidays

The following post has been reblogged from Pinnacle Performance Improvement Worldwide e-newsletter. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

“We need to slow down; stop, look, listen and appreciate the talent around us.” – Sam Zell, Chairman, Equity Group International

“Is there room for our souls in this holy season?” — The Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III, Priest-In-Charge, Trinity Church in the City of Boston

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Dec/10/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Race + Class → Justice

“Justice is when…

  • The well-being of all people is prioritized on an individual and collective level
  • All people and communities have enough to prosper and there is interdependence
  • All people have dignity, safety and security
  • Land, wealth and power are equitably distributed
  • Mechanisms of power and decision making are transparent and accountable, and led by those most marginalized”

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Dec/03/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Networks

All our Grievances are Connected

Thanks to Beth Tener for pointing me in the direction of this graphic from Occupy NYC. The headline reads: “Let’s acknowledge the reality: The future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members. Our increasingly interconnected world obscures the underlying truth that all of our grievances are connected.” What connections do you see between economic inequality, ecological irresponsibility, concentrations of political and economic power, racism, sexism, and more? How are you making those connections real in your life and your work? (P.S. Click on this hyperlink if you want to see the article that follows the graphic).


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Nov/26/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Settle for Freedom

“If I can’t have what I want, I will settle for great free public education for every kid; fair wages for every kind of work; a guaranteed right to vote; an end to segregation in our hospitals, neighborhoods, airports, child welfare departments. I will settle for justice. I will settle for love. I will settle for freedom.”

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Nov/19/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Facing Race

A group of us from IISC attending Facing Race, the Applied Research Center’s bi-annual conference. For me (and many others, judging by the #FacingRace Twitter stream), it was an energizing, affirming and enlightening experience. Over the next few days, we will offer details about what we heard and learned. I want to begin with a few big picture ideas.

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Nov/12/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Say What?

In the discussion of my post from last week about human connections across political divides, we were exploring the challenge of engaging with people whose views we do not share or even necessarily respect, without disrespecting the person or doing damage to relationships. This week, a young woman named Denise Helms gave me a real challenge.

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Nov/05/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Spiritual Activism

Human connections, political divides

I don’t usually find listening to public radio overly stressful, but this weekend’s edition of This American Life had me churning. The episode Red State Blue State featured a series of stories of relationships among friends, family members, neighbors and more that were damaged or severed over political affiliations and whom they intended to vote for. In a country where most people live in communities that are largely blue or red, people with minority political views in their community need increasing courage to speak their convictions, or even, sometimes just to live their lives. I found the story of a pair of sisters especially heartbreaking.

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Nov/01/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Undoing racism-By Design

On virtually every indicator of individual and community health and well-being, people of color in the U.S. experience worse outcomes and more barriers to success than their white counterparts. Intervening to reverse these trends requires intention and attention: intentionality about understanding the historic and present-day manifestations of racism and attention to effective ways to intervene.

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Oct/15/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

What is Good Work?

“No good work is ever done while the heart is hot and anxious and fretted.” Olive Schreiner

I couldn’t agree more! We’re fond of a related quote that “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.” Bill O’Brien

I know that it’s hard for me to do good work when I’m fretful, exhausted or feeling insecure.

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Oct/08/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

How to Design Culture

The following blog post was reblogged from Emergent By Design.  We hope that you enjoy it as much as we did!  

*Our source was initially and inadvertently omitted. We apologize for the mistake.  

I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of organizations over the years that want to shift their culture to become more diverse, inclusive and equitable. The article we are posting below is about changing culture in general. What specific applications do you see for shifting organizational culture toward greater diversity, inclusiveness and equity?

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Oct/01/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

Finish Each Day

Years ago, Bob Moses of the Algebra Project gave me some feedback I response to my request. He said “You have to make peace with the fact that there’s more to do than you can get done.” I’ve been trying to make that peace ever since!

What helps you to “finish each day and be done with it?” What gets in the way?

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Sep/17/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Networks

Change your map, change your world?

Beth O’Neill, of Interaction Associates recently led a session on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). It’s the only thing she has seen in her many years as a coach and consultant that actually helps people change beliefs. NLP gets at the deep structure of what we’re trying to communicate, rather than focusing on what comes out at surface structure of our communication. It explores how our thoughts, actions and feelings work together right now to produce our experience. It’s a practical way to get at the unconscious, looking at what’s running our patterns, and creating opportunities for us to make conscious changes that bring forth the outcomes we seek.

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Sep/03/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Happy 130th Birthday

Happy 130th Birthday, [Organized] Labor Day!

On this Labor Day, let’s remember its origins in the ranks of organized labor. But first, a look at which workers we’re celebrating today.

Who’s unionized now?  (Source: Huffington Post: Labor Day History: 11 Facts You Need to Know)

Service station attendants 96,000

Musicians, singers and related workers 179,000

Bakers 183,000

Pharmacists 232,000

Firefighters: 258,000

Chefs and head cooks: 281,000

Taxi drivers and chauffeurs 286,000

Hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists: 718,000

Farmers and ranchers 825,000

Teachers 6.5 million

Not to mention health care workers, police and many other professions.

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Aug/20/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am

and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

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Aug/13/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

For One Who Holds the Power

The following poem  was written by John O’Donohue, from his last book, To Bless the Space Between Us

May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation,

Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.

As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,

May your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills.

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Aug/06/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

To be of use

The people I love the best

jump into work head first

without dallying in the shallows

and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,

the black sleek heads of seals

bouncing like half-submerged balls.

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Jul/30/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Collaboration, Featured

Economic justice equals economic prosperity

We have had the privilege of working with Year Up since 2008, when they launched a diversity and inclusion process. That learning journey has built a broad-based understanding and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion as central to achieving Year Up’s mission of bridging and closing the “opportunity divide” that prevents so many urban young people from connecting to educational and economic opportunities.

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Jul/23/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Collaboration

Differential Impact

The following post was re-blogged from Working Wikily written by Dana O’Donovan.  We hope that you find it as inspiring and enriching as we did.  

The key themes of the 2012 Social Impact Exchange were all about collaboration. Collective intelligence. Community solutions. Needle-moving collaborations. Collective impact. Much has been made of this new brand of collaboration and it was clear at SIEX12 that many of us who spend our days (and nights) looking for ways to scale solutions to our most vexing social problems see enormous potential in this approach.

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Jul/16/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Engagement before Efficiency

In this post, Jeremy Liu (an esteemed IISC Board member) encourages the community development field “to figure out how to embrace the strengths of our past as a movement, even more so than becoming more established as an industry.” I think this is wise advice for many fields in the nonprofit sector, where so many organizations and institutions emerged from resistance movements and have passed through various stages of institutionalization and even bureaucratization. Jeremy ends with an important invitation for the community development field that could easily be for all of us: “it will continue to be important for our field to question itself, to ask itself what we want to create for our communities, to ask ourselves how to best achieve that vision for the future. We must be prepared to put aside past industrial practices and perhaps embrace emergence and people once again.”

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Jul/09/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Love

Love: Simple and Practical

We spend a lot of time at IISC thinking about how to talk about and practice love as a force for social change. Mike Edwards claimed in 2003 that “that the future of our world depends on how successful we are in developing and applying a new social science of love… applied in and through the systems that are essential to the functioning of all successful societies…[This kind of love is best illuminated by Rev. Dr.] Martin Luther King’s philosophy of the “love that does justice”, signifying the deliberate cultivation of mutually-reinforcing cycles of personal and systemic change…

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Jun/18/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, IISC:Inside

On Transitions

For those of you who follow our blog or know IISC, you know that our founding Executive Director, Marianne Hughes, will soon transition out of her role. Today is our last staff meeting together with Marianne. We will mark the moment with ritual, celebration and a meal. We will invite our whole selves into the experience, just as we have been invited to bring our whole selves to IISC’s community and work over the years.

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Jun/04/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Creating Space to Perform

This is a re-blog of a newsletter article by Brian Fraser of JazzThink. I was particularly struck by the invitation to consider how we “manage our voice” in conversations.

“Fatima Amarshi, Executive Director of the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society that runs the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, began her spring appeal letter with this wonderful quote from jazz guitarist.

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May/21/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Ode to unsung heroes at IISC and beyond!

You’ve heard that “it takes a village to raise a child.” It also takes a village to make an IISC engagement happen. I want to raise up a shout out and express my grateful for the excellence with which our colleagues do the detailed behind-the-scenes work that makes IISC’s practice possible.

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May/14/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Networks

Connection by Design

Two things reminded me of the power of design and physical space this week. First, in a workshop for Juvenile Justice leaders, the 12 participants were seated at three tables. It was a cozy arrangement and the tables were useful for handling the volume of materials they were using. After a morning focused on race, class and culture dialogue skills, we brought the chairs together in a circle in the front of the room to close a segment of the conversation. I asked folks how that arrangement felt and they say “Good!!” There’s nothing like removing physical barriers and enabling everyone to see everyone else easily to foster relational and conversational intimacy!

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May/08/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

The Power of Connection

Racial justice work can be soul depleting or soul enriching. A lot depends on how we do the work and who we do it with.

Last week, six of us from the Boston area gathered to reflect on our experiences at Transforming Race.  Sponsored by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Transforming Race brought together academics, students, advocates and leaders of a wide range of nonprofit organizations to explore Visions of Change. We were challenged to consider: What would a generation or two of racial progress look like?  What seeds of change are in place right now?  How do we get from here to there? The theme was inspiring all by itself, and the many speakers, workshops and activities engaged our hearts as well as our and minds. All of that was very good.

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