Two recent graduates of a Facilitative Leadership for Social Change workshop Mistinguette Smith and I led in New York, Alison Gold and Juan Sebastian Arias from Living Cities, recently wrote to us about a creative way they are bringing the frameworks and tools they learned back to their organization. So many of you ask us for advice about how to apply this stuff that we thought you’d want to know about it too! Read the rest of this entry »
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Over the past 8 years at IISC I have seen and experienced some interesting progressions. When I first joined the organization, in our Facilitative Leadership trainings, we talked about the “interior condition” of effective collaborative leaders. At the core we mentioned that these leaders and change agents embraced an ethic of “service, authenticity and respect.” Then we made the bold move of changing “respect,” which came across to many as a bit weak, to LOVE. For the first couple of years after making this switch, when I asked “What’s love got to do with it?” with respect to effective leadership and work for social change, there were often uncomfortable silences. Some participants would ultimately want to reframe love as “respect” or “passion.”
Then in 2009 I started noticing a change. More heads nodded in rooms when I mentioned the “L-word.” Less nervous laughter and shifting in seats. In one particularly striking instance, during a training with health care professionals in Maine, a senior and very respected physician responded,
“What’s love got to do with it? Everything! Beyond my technical skills, I am effective in so far as I am able to really see my patients, students, and colleagues, to make them feel seen for who they are.”
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 »
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 »
In a number of the social change networks that I am supporting there is very active and interesting conversation, and experimentation, going on around what I would call the process-action tension. As I have written elsewhere, I see this as a bit of a false and often unhelpful dichotomy, and I have certainly seen and been part of networks that have gotten bogged down in some version of analysis paralysis and never-ending consensus building. Increasingly there is a leaning towards getting out there sooner than later and trying things, learning from experiments and actions, readjusting, etc., which is all well and good. At the same time, I see it as part of my role to raise questions about how the embrace of “do-acracy” might have unintended consequences around long-term alignment as well as sustained and truly systemic impact. Read the rest of this entry »
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.”
It’s good to plan. It’s good to reflect. It’s best to do.
Here at IISC we spend a fair amount of time supporting others in articulating what they want to achieve, including those who must be included, and defining a pathway to action. When done well, this work depends on a fair amount of reflection on practice – how do you think about what you do? What are you learning about what you do?
We also train people. We help them become better facilitative leaders. We introduce specific practices – specific things people can do.
Without the practice the lessons are lost. We learn by doing.
I was just talking about this in our office kitchen with Danielle Coates-Connor, one of our colleagues, and she compared it to meditation.
It is quite hip to talk about meditation these days. Mindfulness is in. At least in theory. People have a sense that stillness of the mind and present moment awareness are powerful ways to live and thrive. But there is a huge gap between knowing this and practicing this. Too many of us still believe that thinking about meditation is a lot like meditation. But it’s not.
The same is true for our projects and our dreams. We can get the right stakeholders together. We can talk about what we want to do. We can visualize it. We can plot it out. But the learning doesn’t begin until we start. The change does not begin until we do.
Do you wonder:
How to integrate more “doing” in your “planning?”
How to integrate more “doing” in your “reflecting?”
How to start experimenting as soon as possible?
How to start learning?
Over the last few weeks I have fielded a number of calls from people who are interested in figuring out how to develop different kinds of networks. I’m always eager to have these conversations, precisely because there is no single right answer, and it really comes down to a process of discovery and experimentation based on the unique nature of the network and system in question. That said, I do like to ask people the question, “What are you doing to feed your network?” Read the rest of this entry »
In “networks-as-change,” effectiveness is grounded in affectiveness.
In an essay that I continue to revisit, the poet/essayist/novelist/farmer/ conservationist and champion of overall sanity, Wendell Berry, talks about what he calls “the turn towards affection.” Having spent many years reflecting on and pushing back against the unfortunate demonstrated human tendency to despoil landscapes and “the other,” he takes a strong stand for both deep rooted connection and . . . imagination: Read the rest of this entry »
When we at IISC look at problem or an opportunity, we look at it through the lens of love. This doesn’t mean we approach the world with rose-colored glasses: it means that we focus on the transcendent possibilities that are apparent when we hold every person in unconditional high regard.
- Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire
This is our second post about the Social Justice Funders Network. Read the previous post here.
- How might women of color working in philanthropy support each other in nurturing our radical selves?
- How might funders advance racial justice and racial equity conversations in our philanthropic institutions in order to inform our practice?
- What is the appropriate role for foundations in support of movements and movement building?
- How might we be stronger allies to and supporters of youth organizing?
For the past year, Carole Martin and I have been co-facilitating a “network leadership program” supported by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund called the Community Practitioners Network (CPN). The overall goal of CPN is to further develop a group of proven and promising leaders as individuals, as a cohort, and as “critical yeast and connectors” (my language, not the Fund’s) in support of community and economic development in a region that encompasses northern New Hampshire, northeastern Vermont, northwestern Maine, and southern Quebec. Throughout, we have been actively exploring a variety of leadership and network development practices for growing personal and interpersonal awareness, connectivity, alignment, resolve, resilience, and skillfulness.
In our most recent session, a two-day retreat in Pittsburg, NH, we engaged in discussion about and embodied practice of “vision.” Over the course of the two days, a robust conversation evolved about what makes vision powerful (in light of many uninspiring experiences) and its relevance in a networked world, in combination and contrasted with values. Read the rest of this entry »
When I told Ceasar about the Thrive Workshop he was excited about it. I remembered that when we interviewed him to become President of the Interaction Institute for Social Change he talked about his ongoing work at MIT. He described the university as a place that is focused on making things work in the real world. That certainly is IISC’s orientation. And it definitely is what the Thrive Workshop is all about.
Thrive is not for everyone. Thrive is for you if you are bursting with an idea and you just can’t get yourself to make it happen. Thrive is meant to get you started. Thrive is about getting you out of your head and into the real world. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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 »
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.
Over the past five years or so of supporting self-declared “networks” for change, I have evolved in my understanding of what is new when we call something a network, versus a coalition or collaborative or alliance. On the surface, much can look the same, and one might also say that coalitions, collaboratives and alliances are simply different forms of networks. Yes, and . . . I believe that what can make a big difference is when participants in a network (or an organization, for that matter) embrace new ways of seeing, thinking, and doing. So let me propose that network approaches at their best call on us to lead with some of the following: Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve spent time the past week reading through Networks that Work, a handy and concise resource for developing organizational networks, written by Paul Vandeventer, President and CEO of Community Partners, and Myrna Mandell, Ph.D. The book lays out some very helpful pointers for more formally constructed networks. I have highlighted 10 points below that resonate with our experiences at IISC around supporting organizational networks for social change. My comments and extensions are in italics: Read the rest of this entry »
Ok. That’s a bit of an over statement. But I was truly intrigued by a German town’s experiment in abolishing traffic lights and codes. Sounds like anarchy? Amazingly enough accidents are almost nonexistent.
“The major problems of the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way people think.”
— Gregory Bateson
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Joel Glanzberg. I had been hearing about Joel and his work from numerous trusted colleagues, including Bill Reed of Regenesis Group and Ginny McGinn of Center for Whole Communities. Joel describes himself as a builder, farmer, teacher, writer, storyteller, naturalist, and permaculturalist. And I would add to that, living systems thinker. Joel has cultivated a practice of seeing and working with patterns of life’s processes, and helps others to do this, for the sake of creating healthier and more whole communities of different kinds.
I was especially interested to hear more from Joel about some of the living systems principles that guide his work, and to think about how these apply to what we at IISC do around network development for social change and focusing on networks as human environments. What appears in quotes and italics below is pulled directly from Joel’s website; the comments in regular text are my own:
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:
Last Friday, I worked with the Network Support Team (NST) of the Connecticut Food System Alliance (CFSA) to facilitate a gathering of over 100 food system and food security activists. This was the fourth convening in the past year and a half, and featured what have become typical elements of fostering connectivity between people (welcoming and introducing ourselves to new people, learning together, making offers and requests) and alignment around the CFSA vision. And to honor what has been growing in the network as both a call for and a question about the possibility of collective action, NST members Melissa Spear, Marilyn Moore, and Jiff Martin created the following exercise to stimulate people’s thinking about how the network could “change the game” in Connecticut and boldly advance the state towards a reality where “everyone has access to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and affordable food.” Read the rest of this entry »
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.”
We work in close partnership with the Barr Foundation. I appreciated this video of my friend Rahn Dorsey, the foundation’s evaluation director, articulating three keys to breakthrough on complex public conversations. I specially like that Rahn’s understanding that even when the will for change is strong, it takes good process to make a way.
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.
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.”
The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did and don’t forget to join the conversation!
We’ve been in the process of setting our direction here at Rockwood. We’re looking at our purpose, our vision, and how we will fulfill our commitments to the world. It’s been an enlivening and satisfying exploration, and as a result, it has become clear that I need to radically shift my role from one of internal management to external relationship building.
It has become a common feeling, I believe, as we have watched our heroes falling over the years, that our own small stone of activism, which might not seem to measure up to the rugged boulders of heroism we have so admired, is a paltry offering toward the building of an edifice of hope. Many who believe this choose to withhold their offerings out of shame. This is the tragedy of the world.
For we can do nothing substantial toward changing our course on the planet, a destructive one, without rousing ourselves, individual by individual, and bringing our small imperfect stones to the pile.
From Alice Walker’s “Anything we love can be saved”
The following article has been reblogged from our friends at NPR. We hope you find it as inspirational as we did!
Bob Moses is 78, but he has the same probing eyes you see behind thick black glasses in photos from 50 years ago when he worked as a civil rights activist in Mississippi. The son of a janitor, Moses was born and raised in Harlem. He’s a Harvard-trained philosopher and a veteran teacher.
The following post has been reblogged from our friends at Grist.org and features our newest colleague Mistinguette Smith. We hope you find it as inspiring as we did!
Gastronomically enlightened Grist reader that you are, you’ve probably participated in a CSA, or at least heard of them. Community-supported agriculture is so common that in many circles the acronym needs no explanation. (Sorry, mini football helmet collectors, we’re talking about farmers who sell “shares” of their seasonal fruits and veggies, then deliver them to members when they’re ripe.) But a pint of locally sourced strawberries says you didn’t know a black man came up with the idea.
A world that loves, honors and respects young black men must first SEE them. This seeing is a political act.
I am consciously seeing black men more clearly since my friend Victor Lewis hashtagged the Charles Ramsey story #WhatBlackMenDo. Ramsey, who acknowledges that he battered his former partner, stepped up without hesitation to rescue the women held prisoner for a decade in a basement in Cleveland, OH. He assumed that he was witnessing a domestic violence situation and intervened because this is #WhatBlackMenDo.
This morning we came into the IISC Boston office ready for a two-hour staff meeting and a four-hour training. We sat down, looked around the table, and began with a question not about what was on the agenda, and instead about what was present in the room. The question was: How does the Zimmerman verdict affect us and our work at IISC?
I’m sharing another great piece from my dear friend Adrienne Maree Brown. I am absolutely moved by the way she speaks of emergence. She is spot on. As you read, I encourage you to remember that evolution “transcends and includes.” There are aspects of our industrial paradigm that can and should be included as we move towards working with emergence. How can you apply what Adrienne is talking about?
Andrea Nagel and I have been facilitating retreats for the Social Justice Funders Network (SJFN) of Massachusetts for the last year and a half or so. What an honor! Network members include individuals who work at foundations both small and large across the state and who have intentionally created a space for learning and relationship-building across roles, institutions, and issues. Read the rest of this entry »
For the third consecutive year, Junxion Strategy is proudly sponsoring Social Change Institute at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, British Columbia. This is one in a series of articles about the conference.
The upcoming Social Change Institute will bring together approximately 100 passionate change agents from across sectors, geography, issues, generations, strategies and points of view for a five-day leadership and skill-building summit.
This experiential convening is designed for high impact and emerging leaders from nonprofits, government and mission-based enterprises who are seeking practical skills and networking opportunities to take their work to the next level.
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.
How often do you hear people saying they wish they were better at multitasking? And what percentage of the people surrounding you on the subway or on the sidewalk or waiting in line for something are peering into their smartphones? Read the rest of this entry »
In January of this year I was privileged to design and facilitate the first ever International OPEN Summit. Today I’m on my way to facilitate the first ever OPEN Summit US. The leadership of our nation’s “Online Progressive Engagement Networks” are coming together to support the development of an informal network by strengthening relationships among the people doing this work. Read the rest of this entry »
The following post has been reblogged from Seth’s Blog. He is a genius and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
You’re not lucky to have this job, they’re lucky to have you. Every day, you invest a little bit of yourself into your work, and one of the biggest choices available to you is where you’ll be making that investment.
Photo provided by Alex Pelayo. Check out the rest of his amazing portfolio here!
This post is Part III in a series on Strategic Planning and Emergence.
Your vision is not your strategy. Neither is your plan. Your benchmarks are not your strategy, nor your complicated grids. Your hedgehog or your very audacious goals are not your strategy either. Your predictions of what the future will look like, no matter how organized and well researched, are definitely not your strategy.
IISC has had the privilege to working with the Barr Foundation to design and facilitate the Barr Network’s learning activities. See what we’ve been up to!
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.
The following post was written by our dear colleague Frances Moore Lappe. We hope you find it as insightful and inspirational as we did.
In his book Violence, psychologist James Gilligan asked a Massachusetts prison inmate, “What do you want so badly that you would sacrifice everything in order to get it?”
We are LOVED. Thank you for all your support.
To Kabul. From Boston with LOVE.
Our hearts and prayers are with those affected by the tragedy that occurred in Boston. Though our hearts are broken, LOVE and compassion will help us heal and move forward.
Photo by: Nora Logue Check out her amazing work!
In the early days, when “normal” people first started using the web, we saw websites that looked just like our pamphlets. We used the new technology to do the same thing we always did – until we dared to experiment.
When we talk about networks we tend to think scale, we think viral. But networks are also about community. Networks can thrive in that mysterious place where the most local intersects with the global.
Years ago before taking up the work of leading Rockwood, I was an organizational consultant. I was paid to be right — to be an expert. However, as I sit here at my current desk, I realize how very little I really knew about the everyday running of and caring for an organization. Now I’m not going to disparage or disrespect the work I did during my many years in organizational development, but I must admit that I would be a much better consultant today, having been in this seat for awhile.
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: www.riverways.com. 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.
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.
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.
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
and that the universe
could operate without
my constant nagging
~ Akaya Windwood
I’ve been on a whirlwind. And it began with my facilitation of OPEN Summit. The first ever leadership gathering of the world’s leading Online Progressive Engagement Networks. Think MoveOn.org as replicated in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Germany and Papua New Guinea. The great (and unbelievably sweet) Ben Brandzel had been dreaming this up for years!
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.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This coming Sunday, my colleague Gibran Rivera and I will be presenting at the Connecting for Change Conference (Bioneers by the Bay) in New Bedford, MA. This is one of my favorite events each year, as it gathers many thoughtful and innovative presenters and participants from local/regional and national/international levels to talk about how to create whole (just and sustainable) communities. In our workshop, “Are You Down With D-I-T? Skills for Change in a Network World,” Gibran and I will guide attendees through an exploration of the convergence of two of today’s powerful memes – the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement, which seems to be fueled in great part through younger generations and social media, and “collective impact,” made popular by FSG in its SSIR articles. Read the rest of this entry »
Winter Solstice is just around the corner. I find it’s a good time to reflect on the past year, and look toward the year ahead. Every year at each of the Solstices, I scan my life and consider what I’d like to let go of and what I’d like to invoke.