A Network Way of Working

IISC views collaboration through three lenses, one of which is the power of networks to leverage social change. In an IISC blog post entitled “Network Thinking,” IISC Senior Associate Curtis Ogden reflected on the differences between networked and more traditional organization-centric ways of getting things done. In the post, he wrote about the values we must hold in order to make good use of networks. And now, in the of the Nonprofit Quarterly, the editors included Curtis’ reflections in a compilation of what they call “considerations about effectiveness in networks.” Read the full article here.


Philanthropy and Resident Engagement: The Promise of Democracy

During 2012-2013, IISC Senior Associates Cynthia Silva Parker and Jen Willsea were pleased to have the opportunity to serves as facilitators of the Cultivating Community Engagement Panel for CFLeads, an organization with a mission to help community foundations advance the practice of community leadership to build thriving communities. The work of the Cultivating Community Engagement Panel is featured in the Fall 2013 issue of the National Civic Review. “Philanthropy and Resident Engagement: The Promise of Democracy” examines the vital role philanthropy can play in cultivating strong, connected communities where residents are actively engaged in shaping their community’s future.



Working Better Together: Building Nonprofit Collaborative Capacity

IISC Senior Associate Curtis Ogden was a thought partner in the development of the insights offered in a new publication from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO). In Working Better Together: Building Nonprofit Collaborative Capacity, Curtis shared this reflection: “Underlying successful collaborations is a different kind of logic. It’s not about knowing and expertise; it’s about helping things emerge and responding successfully to change. It is also about taking the long view and understanding that collaborative work delivers its own unique returns in the form of stronger connections, increased trust and more robust networks. These, in turn, can create lasting changes in a community over time.”


Connectivity is Us! Embracing Connectivity to Advance Mission

“Collective impact” and networks have fired the imagination of many in the nonprofit sector as we realize that organizations are not necessarily a sufficient unit of change. And yet networks do not only exist outside of or beyond organizations; rather, organizations are networks, comprised of smaller networks, and operating within other larger networks – all living systems of connectivity, learning, alignment, and action. Join IISC Senior Associates Andrea Nagel and Mistinguette Smith on October 29 at Solutions 2013 as they explore how we can adjust our thinking – within and beyond organizations – to see ourselves as part of fluid, open and adaptive networks and to maximize network potential. Andrea and Mistinguette will lead participations through an interactive experience of network theory, thinking, and tools to advance their work in any domain.


Join us as we explore ways to bring clarity, respect, and joy into our work for racial justice

In our work as leaders, knowing about structural racism and understanding the difference between “inclusion” and “equity” are one thing; being effective at helping other people talk about them is another. Join us forFundamentals of Facilitation for Racial Justice Work – on July 23-24 in New York City and experiment with a variety of ways to help people connect in authentic ways that yield productive conversations and solid agreements.

Are you looking for new ways to help people who are different from one another talk about racism and then figure out what to do together?

Have you ever been leading a group and stopped in your tracks by someone’s comment?

Fundamentals of Facilitation for Racial Justice Work will teach you how to:

  • Design and facilitate conversations about racial justice work that foster authentic engagement
  • Use what you know about racial justice and equity to build understanding and agreement
  • Know which facilitation tools to use when you are faced with a hot button issue or other challenging situation
  • Lead emotionally charged conversations about race with presence, grace and authority

This workshop is designed for participants who have a strong familiarity with racial justice concepts such as institutional and structural racism, racial justice framing, and privilege. The workshop assumes this working knowledge and is not an appropriate learning environment for individuals for whom this is new material.

Class size is limited to twenty-two. Register now! Or contact us for more information.


IISC Staff: Six Word Memoirs

Just for fun the other day, IISC staff members created their six-word memoirs of the moment. If you’re not familiar with this project, check it out.

Here they are…without attribution of course. 🙂 Maybe you can guess?!

  • Happy Open Optimistic Curious Active Learner
  • Always wondering; often frustrated; forever hopeful
  • Live fearless with love in mind
  • Somewhere in between beginning and end
  • Loved us all into being free
  • A life long work in progress
  • Laugh, love, go forth and connect
  • Healing through loving courageously and freely
  • Show up with love and courage
  • Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll Forever
  • Dig Learn Listen Give Grow Breathe
  • Live love; Liberate self; Justice all
  • Holder Caretaker Space Children Voice Change
  • Change the world together? Let’s go!
  • Lover of food, books, water and justice
  • What a trip, I love it!


Are you Down with D-I-T (Do It Together)? Skills for Change in a Network Age

If we look at social change efforts today, two of the most notable “memes” are found in the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement and “collective impact,” or multi-organizational approaches to change. If we bring the two together, we get “Do It Together” (DIT). At its best, DIT embraces a creative and self-organizing entrepreneurial spirit, and does this with an understanding that the larger “beneficiaries” are diverse, resilient, and thriving communities and ecosystems. DIT leverages the best of emergent network and coordinated action to broaden and deepen change. So how do we really get down with DIT? IISC Senior Associates Curtis Ogden and Gibrán Rivera will explore this question as they focus on practices for bringing DIT fully to life, through more skillful collaboration, systemic awareness, de-centralized network action, inquiry, listening, and dialogue. This workshop will be presented on Sunday, October 28, 2-4 p.m. at Bioneers by the Bay in New Bedford, MA.


IISC’s Gibrán RIvera on Active Citizenship, Active Spirituality

Join IISC Senior Associate Gibrán Rivera and senior teacher of Evolutionary Enlightenment Amy Edelstein as they share and explore a perspective on life that reveals our own potential to contribute to the life process in a way that really matters: Friday, September 21, 7:15pm – 9:30 p.m. at Samadhi Integral in Newton Centre.

As we head into election season, our news media is filled with messages of alarm and promise, hope and caution-and a call to participate in the process. We’re asked to exercise our privilege, rights and obligations as citizens of a longstanding democracy. We care about our country and our future, but wonder how to make our contribution really count. How do we affect our future?

[EnlightenNext Boston]( is hosting this unique and revelatory dialogue between two people who have dedicated their lives to changing the world and creating a better future, albeit from different directions. Through rigorous philosophical and spiritual inquiry, Edelstein has decades of experience cultivating inner awakening and fortitude and also supporting transformation in both individuals and collectives. Rivera has immersed almost his entire life in grassroots work for social transformation and receives ongoing recognition for his evolving impact on the urban community, which he often credits to his spiritual discipline and commitment.


Musings from the Blogosphere

IISC is proud to release our first eBook, Musings from the Blogosphere, featuring the writings of our founding Executive Director, Marianne Hughes. Marianne recently left her position as executive director to take some well deserved time off before returning in the fall to continue her client work as a senior consultant. Click here to take a look at this special compilation of posts from our blog, or look for it in the iTunes bookstore to read a free, interactive iBook version. And, stayed tuned for more free eBooks from IISC in the coming months!


Introducing IISC’s New President, Ceasar McDowell

The Interaction Institute for Social Change is delighted to announce Dr. Ceasar McDowell as our new President, effective July 1, 2012. Ceasar is joining IISC as Marianne Hughes steps away from her role as founding executive director after 19 years. Marianne will take some time off before she returns to IISC in October as a senior consultant.

As IISC’s president, Ceasar will continue part-time as aProfessor of the Practice of Community Development at MIT where his focus is on building the capacity of people and organizations to use reflection to “know what they know.” His current work is on citizen engagement and democracy in the emerging intelligent city, wherein he is pioneering civic engagement tools that bring people at the margins of society into the center of framing a public agenda.

The synergies between Ceasar’s work at MIT and the work of IISC are evident. We both believe that process – the ways in which people engage with each other in creating change – plays a pivotal role in determining the equity and justness of the change created. While IISC work has focused on Facilitative Leadership, Ceasar’s work has focused on self-learning and reflection.

Ceasar holds an Ed.D. and M.Ed. from Harvard. In addition to the areas mentioned, his research and teaching interests include the use of mass media and technology in promoting democracy and community-building, and the development and use of empathy in community work, civil rights history, peacemaking and conflict resolution. Ceasar is also founder of MIT’s Co-Lab (previously named Center for Reflective Community Practice) and co-founder of The Civil Rights Forum on Telecommunications Policy. He is a founding board member of The Algebra Project, and also serves on the boards of Center for Neighborhood TechnologyCambridge Community Television, the Full Frame Initiative, and MassImpact.

Ceasar is also no stranger to IISC. In fact, while he was directing the Center for Reflective Community Practice at MIT he engaged IISC staff in center projects and the two organizations exchanged facilitation services.

Ceasar can be reached at He looks forward to meeting and engaging with IISC clients, colleagues, and thought partners as he enters into a time of inquiry and discovery, explores synergies with the work he’s been doing at MIT, and prepares to lead IISC into its next phase.


Spotlights on the Barr Fellows Network

IISC is delighted to share the news of two articles recently published that tell the story of the Barr Fellows Network, launched in 2005 by the Barr Foundation with IISC as a partner.

The first, Networking a City, was published in the Summer 2012 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and tells the story of the evolution of the Barr Fellows Network and its impact on the City of Boston. See the link below.

Networking a City

The second, “First Relationships. Then Results”, is in the summer edition of the Journal of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. This piece builds on the Stanford Social Innovation Review case study and goes deeper on network theory. It discusses the different types of networks and features the Barr Fellowship as distinct in that it is a network focused primarily on connectivity, allowing Barr to focus on being responsive, rather than directive, about collaborations that emerge from the network. The importance of disruption to enabling Fellows to bridge across difference is also highlighted.

IISC has been honored to partner with Barr since the inception of the idea and in the building of the network. The original title of the SSIR article when submitted – What’s Love Got to Do With It? – more accurately captured the creative and provocative approach taken to make fundamental and sustainable change in the city and beyond. In both articles, you will see that the story of the Fellowship speaks for itself with regard to the power that disruption, authentic relationships, and ongoing learning have on a group of social sector leaders. These are the elements we at IISC believe are essential to developing leaders capable of creating a positive future.


“Ancestors in Training:” An interview with IISC Senior Associate Gibrán Rivera

Check it out in the May 2012 issue of Transform: Vision and practice for transformative social change. Gibrán talks extensively about his own thinking and approach to the work of social change. He also lifts up the work of IISC in this way:

IISC seeks to make the invisible visible. When we are successful, people find themselves working in ways that are life-giving, generative, and unlike most of their experiences of working together.

We achieve this by paying close attention to process. Process works best when everyone knows what it is and where we are [in] it. But process is not enough. We seek to create spaces and conditions that foster connectivity at the level of authentic relationship. When we are working in authentic relationship with one another, when we learn to connect to each other in the place where our shared purpose meets, then it can feel like the work is happening all by itself. But these spaces have to be designed; they have to be held and they have to be tended to. This is where we come in. And this is how interconnectedness becomes palpable.


Fundamentals of Faciitation for Racial Justice Work: May 8-9

Exploring ways to bring clarity, respect and even joy to dialogues and work for racial justice.

Are you looking for new ways to facilitate dialogue and action to deal with racism and pursue racial justice?

Do you find it challenging to work with folks who have different understandings of the issues, different lived experiences and different notions about what to do?

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by a meeting participant’s comment?

You ask yourself, “What’s the best way to handle this?! Should I answer the question? Get the person to talk more? Get the group to handle the issue? Something else entirely?”

In this two‐day learning laboratory, learn the “how,” “what” and “who” of facilitation for racial justice work:

HOW: Collaborative process skills to design and facilitate conversations and meetings that foster engagement, nurture authentic connections, generate deeper understanding, and build solid agreements

WHAT: Racial justice concepts and content that can guide meeting design and facilitation

WHO: Ways to maintain grace and presence while facilitating and to use our ourselves as tools to advance the work

This workshop is designed for participants who have a strong working familiarity with racial justice concepts such as institutional and structural racism, racial justice framing and privilege.

Register here


Stand Against Racism at IISC!

IISC joins the YWCA in taking a Stand Against Racism on Friday, April 27, 2012 from 10:00 – Noon. We will meet in our offices for a free and interactive session led by one of our Senior Associates as we take a stand for peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. If you’d like to participate, call us at 617-535-7152 as space is limited. For more information visit Stand Against Racism




On March 20-22, IISC is offering its Pathway to Change workshop in Boston. This training focuses on practical tools and frameworks for designing and facilitating collaborative change processes, from small scale team efforts to large scale complex multistakeholder initiatives. In this time of growing recognition of the potential of and need for creating “collective impact,” we are excited to offer this hands-on course for thinking through critical questions of how to frame change efforts, identify and engage key stakeholders, create a structure to guide the work, and handle opportunities and challenges as they arise.

Participants are invited to bring with them a real multi-stakeholder change opportunity and to work through a variety of questions on their way to creating a pathway to help move co-creators from where they are to where they want to be. Click here for more information in the form of a blog summary of the course, and click here for a fuller description of the workshop on our website.


Interaction Associates Named a Top 20 Leadership Training Company

IISC is proud to announce that our partner organization,Interaction Associates, has been selected by as one of their 2012 Top 20 Leadership Training Companies. IA was selected based on their ability to demonstrate thought leadership, industry innovation, breadth of programs and delivery methods offered, strength of clients and geographic reach. The award recognizes the organizations that encompass all of the traits and services found in a great leadership training company. For more details visit


If You Till It, They Will Come: Nurturing Collective Leadership

IISC Senior Associates Curtis Ogden and Gibrán Rivera explored stories of and practices for creating the conditions to unleash leader-full momentum that embodies and leads to the social change we seek. Given the complexity of the issues we face and the diversity of perspectives in our various systems, it has been recognized that we cannot rely on individual, expert, or command-and-control leadership to move us forward. We must unleash more robust and adaptive collective intelligence. In the webinar, Curtis and Gibrán shared their thoughts about how to create the conditions for emergent and collective leadership to move us in more just and life-affirming directions. Check out the webinar slides and two follow-up blog posts: Gibrán’s and Curtis’.


Strategies for Designing Social Change: Webinar (free!) with IISC’s Melinda Weekes and IA’s Ashley Welch

Join IISC’s Melinda Weekes and our colleague from Interaction Associates (IA), Ashley Welch on Wednesday, December 14 at 1:00 p.m. EST in exploring ways leaders in any sector can succeed when leading change. This webinar is part of IA’s “LeaderLens” series which regularly features Ashley Welch in conversation with leading thinkers and experts across a broad spectrum of leadership issues.Click here to register or access archived LeaderLens conversations.


Racial Justice and Health Equity Initiative at the Boston Public Health Commission

IISC’s Cynthia Silva Parker and Jen Willsea have been working with the Boston Public Health Commission on several tracks within their Racial Justice and Health Equity Initiative. Most recently, BPHC staff piloted a two day workshop for staff that makes the connections between racism, health outcomes and the role of a public health agency in promoting health equity. IISC guided the internal team that developed the workshop content and will be facilitating a training for trainers process for BPHC employees.



Diversity and Cultural Competency at Year Up

IISC’s Andrea Nagel and Cynthia Silva Parker recently facilitated a Diversity and Cultural Competency session at the annual Board Summit of Year Up. Year Up has a ten year track record of “bridging the opportunity divide” for young adults who are disconnected from the labor force and educational opportunity by providing job training and internships. In part based on IISC’s work with them, Year Up has expanded their strategy to include focusing on “closing the opportunity divide” by working with others to combat systemic racism and other barriers to opportunity for urban young people.


IISC and the Vermont Farm to Plate Initiative

IISC’s Curtis Ogden and Beth Tener of New Directions Collaborative were selected as the team to deliver two network trainings to the Vermont Farm to Plate initiative. The Farm to Plate Initiative directs the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, in consultation with theSustainable Agriculture Council and other stakeholders, to develop a 10-year strategic plan to strengthen Vermont’s food system. The Farm to Plate Strategic Plan provides statistics and detailed analyses of Vermont’s food system, from soil-to-soil. It contains 33 goals and 60 high priority strategies that will lead to job creation, greater economic output, and increased access for Vermont and regional consumers to healthy, fresh food over the next 10 years.


Community Innovation: Lifting up Voices from the Field

On Saturday, April 9th IISC co-hosted a convening at UMASS Boston to share lessons learned from the last two decades of place-based community change efforts, and to begin to build a community of practice for further learning and collaboration among those who are involved in the work of place-based community transformation. Over 200 people from Boston, Lawrence, and Worcester gathered for a very full and fun day! The featured speaker for the day was Anne Kubisch, Director of the Roundtable on Community Change at The Aspen Institute. Another highlight was a panel conversation with the three Massachusetts Promise Neighborhoods grantees: Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (Boston), The Community Group (Lawrence), and United Way of Western Massachusetts (Worcester), moderated by Judith Kurland, Director of the new Center for Community Democracy and Democratic Literacy at UMASS Boston. The leaders of each of these efforts, from both the grantee organizations and the public school systems in all three cities, spoke to the challenges they’ve faced so far, and their highest aspirations for a Promise Neighborhood (in each city, as well as across the state and nation) where “All children… have access to effective schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and career.”

For photos of the day, check out the album on the Boston Promise Initiative Facebook page!


Diversity and Cultural Competency at Year Up: ongoing work and Freedom House’s Adrienne Foster Williams Diversity Award!

Andrea Nagel and Cynthia Silva Parker of IISC and staff and board of Year Up were the recipients of the Adrienne Foster Williams Diversity Award from Freedom House, a community-based nonprofit organization with a long history of service to Boston’s urban communities. IISC was pleased to be recognized alongside Year Up Staff – Gerald Chertavian, Sue Meehan and Tamika Mason – and Year Up Board Chair Tim Dibble for their part in driving issues of diversity and cultural competency throughout Year Up. IISC worked with Year Up staff and Board members to design and facilitate their Diversity and Cultural Competency Initiative, and trained staff members to support their facilitation of the ongoing work. Year Up has a ten year track record of “bridging the opportunity divide” for young adults who are disconnected from the labor force and educational opportunity by providing job training and internships. In part based on IISC’s work with them, Year Up has expanded their strategy to include focusing on “closing the opportunity divide” by working with others to combat systemic racism and other barriers to opportunity for urban young people.

The Adrienne Williams Spellman Diversity Award is presented each year to corporations and individuals with a commitment to making diversity a core business practice and incorporating a focus on diversity into its values and strategies. The late Dr. Adrienne Williams Spellman was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. She was Director of Diversity Development at Reebok international. In that role, she provided leadership in building workforce diversity and workplace environments that value diversity in business and society. Throughout her life and professional career, Adrienne was dedicated to building bridges across racial, cultural and economic lines in communities and organizations. Adrienne Williams Spellman was a dedicated Board Member of Freedom House. She actively supported diversity initiatives of many organizations and companies during her lifetime. Freedom House established the award in honor of her memory to be given to corporations or individuals that champion diversity.


Gibrán Rivera, Facilitative Leadership, and IISC

Gibrán Rivera, Facilitative Leadership, and IISC were featured in the newsletter of the Chao Pang Yen Family Foundation in Taiwan, thanks to colleague Keli Yen’s interest in new approaches to leadership. Read the article here.


Global Action Networks: Creating our future together…by Steve Waddell

Steve Waddell’s newly published book, Global Action Networks: Creating our future together profiles new, innovative networks that are addressing critical global issues like climate change, poverty, health, education, and human security. In consulting IISC Executive Director Marianne Hughes on the barriers to realizing the potential for multi-stakeholder change strategies, Marianne is quoted in Steve’s book: “A great obstacle is our capacity to see system relationships, capacities to see and move through processes of real innovation with multi-stakeholders coming together, transcending differences.”


Facilitative Leadership® in New York City

IISC is pleased to announce the first ever New York City-based public offering of our acclaimed Facilitative Leadership® workshop. This practical, relevant, and interactive learning opportunity will take place on the campus of Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy on Thursday, March 31 and Friday, April 1, 2011. Secure your seat today by registering now.


Social Justice: A Public Health Imperative

IISC’s Cynthia Parker will be speaking at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting about our work with the Boston Public Health Commission’s Anti-Racism Advisory Committee. Read more about this workshop andfind out more about the APHA’s commitment to exploring why certain populations bear a disproportionate burden of disease and mortality and what the public health community can do to better address the causes of these inequities.


Collaborative Social Change: Designing for Impact

As Clay Shirky writes in Here Comes Everyone, “We are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action…Most of the barriers to group action have collapsed and without those barriers we are free to explore new ways of gathering together and getting things done.” IISC Senior Associate Melinda Weekes will facilitate an interactive learning laboratory at the international conference on Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINS) in Savannah, Georgia on October 8. The laboratory will offer an opportunity to explore practical ways to organize people who want to solve problems, enact visions, and further social justice. Participants will be introduced to frameworks, strategies and tools that will help them design and host multi-stakeholder processes, while building networks that have the broad-based and sustained impact called for by these challenging and promising times. For more information, check out the conference website.


Facilitation Fundamentals: Keeping Meetings about Race on Track

IISC Senior Associates Andrea Nagel and Melinda Weekes presented a very well-received workshop at the Facing Race: Define Justice, Make Change conference sponsored by the Applied Research Center. Their session, entitledFacilitation Fundamentals: Keeping Meetings about Race on Track spoke to how challenging it can be to facilitate discussions about race. A lack of information, different lived experiences, unspoken assumptions, varying definitions and differing interpretations of problems and solutions are just a few things that can get in the way of authentic communication and solid agreement building. Melinda and Andrea explored key concepts for facilitating with grace, guiding meaningful conversations that stay on track and using effective techniques for intervening when conversations stray, as well as the impact of how we “show up” as facilitators on our work with groups around issues of race and racial justice.



Web of Change: Celebrating Innovation and Collaboration to Change our World

IISC Senior Associate Gibrán Rivera is part of this year’s Web of Change facilitation team, a convening that connects the foremost thinkers and do-ers in the growing community of social change and technology from across North America. To learn more about this powerful intersection of movements you can read his framing thought piece on the Web of Change Community Blog –Paradigm Next and the Intersection.


IISC partners with IA at the Greater Than Conference in Portland, Maine

Nearly 200 leaders, innovators and “doers” from all sectors gathered on the coast of Maine in July 2009 and made it very clear — the time is now to break down barriers and work together to make big things happen. IISC Senior Associate Curtis Ogden joined Ashley Welch and John McGah of Interaction Associates jointly presented about the Accelerator Expedition and process design for cross-sectoral work. Learn more at


IISC Senior Associate Curtis Ogden speaks at Antioch New England’s 2009 commencement

IISC Senior Associate Curtis Ogden spoke at Antioch New England’s commencement on May 3, 2009. A popular adjunct faculty member in ANE’s Department of Organization & Management, Curtis teaches Change Models and was nominated as commencement speaker by students. Curtis called on everyone to bring their full selves to the work of social change. “This is not just about responding to need in the world, it’s about bringing ourselves fully to life,” said Curtis. “If we lead like that, who wouldn’t want to join us?” He continued by asking if the graduates were ready and willing to bring it all, mind, body, and spirit to the work ahead. “I can assure you that we need more of you, more of your full-bodied brilliance. It will take nothing less…” Read more here.


2009 Indiana Nonprofit Town Hall Meeting Leveraging the Lean Times: Building Community

IISC Executive Director Marianne Hughes was a featured presenter at a recent gathering of nonprofit leaders in central Indiana. Leadership Ventures, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing collaborative leadership and developing organizational capacity in the not-for-profit sector, hosted the event in partnership with the Central Indiana Community Foundation, the United Way of Central Indiana, and the Indiana Grantmakers Alliance. These three presenting sponsors share with Leadership Ventures a commitment to strengthening nonprofit services in central Indiana, supporting a message of collaboration, consolidation, and cooperation to survive a tough economic climate.

Marianne spoke about the magnitude and gravity of the challenges we face in today’s world – from the economic meltdown to the global climate crisis to the sheer extent of human suffering at the hands of war and poverty. She spoke of how the social safety net in the U.S. is unraveling right before our eyes: state and local governments are slashing services; foundations have lost large portions of their endowments and nonprofits are cutting programs and jobs. In this context, Marianne raised up the question, “How do we leverage the lean times and build community?” In response to that question, she explored these four core ideas in her remarks:

  • a social justice framework creates coherence and lays the foundation for restructuring our work and our sector;
  • a new more collective definition of leadership is needed;
  • networks not organizations are the “unit of action” in the 21st century; and
  • in the words of Cornel West, “justice is what love looks like in public.”

The full text of Marianne’s remarks can be found here.


Gibrán Rivera invited to join Web of Change Hollyhock planning group

IISC Senior Associate Gibrán Rivera has been invited to join the planning group for Web of Change’s flagship annual retreat: Web of Change at Hollyhock, scheduled for September 23-27, 2009. Web of Change has become the leading convenor of North America’s social change and technology community. The retreat connects senior technology and social media leaders with some of the most exciting social change campaigners and provides them with the opportunity to share their world-class work, ideas, and inspiration with a powerful community of deeply committed peers. IISC is honored that Gibrán will participate and we look forward to having this opportunity to contribute to the inspiration and learning that takes place at this transformative event.


Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace

Staff from the Interaction Institute for Social Change had the distinct privilege over the past two years of facilitating the efforts of the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace. This group of leaders from grantmaking foundations, related philanthropic organizations and advocacy organizations came together with IISC (and supported by the Ford Foundation) to design an interactive and engaging convening of 100 key individuals from around the globe who are engaged in some way in philanthropic giving directed at issues of social justice and peace. The convening was held in February in Cairo, Egypt and attended by people deeply involved and interested in exploring the meaning and methods of philanthropy that challenge injustice in varied contexts throughout the world. Staff from IISC designed and facilitated conversations to build connections and relationships between and among the participants and to provoke their thinking about ways to move this important work forward. The convening revealed the passion and commitment to issues of social justice held by the participants and the interest of many in taking further action toward building a field of philanthropy for social justice and peace.


A Letter from Executive Director Marianne Hughes

Read Marianne’s musings about the election and the extraordinary hope and dire urgency of this moment in time, as well as news of the ways we are seeing evidence of real leadership throughout the social sector as people come together to respond thoughtfully and strategically with innovative solutions that will ensure the social impact to which we are all so committed.

Read Marianne’s letter here.


Marianne Hughes on leadership: Keynote address at the annual conference of Delaware Valley Grantmakers

On October 23, 2008, Marianne Hughes was honored to speak to an audience of 150 grantmakers and nonprofit leaders at the annual conference of Delaware Valley Grantmakers in Philadelphia. The theme of the conference – Shifting Tides: Leadership for the Sea Change Ahead – gave Marianne the opportunity to tell the story of the development of her own leadership and of the Interaction Institute for Social Change’s understanding of the face of leadership in our sector:

As we embrace leadership as being first and foremost about shared responsibility, as a leveraging and unleashing of much needed collective intelligence and commitment, we see in fact that the central task of leadership today is to create the conditions for others to flourish and to thrive, to step into their own power. We see that the roles that leaders play in these times are more aptly described as catalysts, champions, connectors. We see that these leaders are strategic, collaborative, and flexible and they are most often rooted in real authenticity, service, and love.

The full text of Marianne’s remarks can be found here.


Collaboration Across Boundaries

IISC Senior Associate Gibrán Rivera was one of two keynote speakers at the 42nd annual New England Environmental Education Alliance conference: A Journey Home: Fostering Ecologically Centered Communities. The conference invited participants to take a close look at strategies for building communities around basic ecological principles and to explore approaches for creating and nurturing communities through systems thinking.

Gibrán spoke about collaboration across boundaries. The immediate and global nature of the environmental crisis, Gibrán asserted, demands that we transcend the historical and seemingly insurmountable boundaries of race, class, and location, as well as those of political affiliation and economic ideology. Where traditional coalition approaches and deal-making have failed us in the past, it now becomes extremely important to re-imagine a framework for collaboration across boundaries, which might make possible the significant shift needed if we are to get ourselves out of this burning hole.

To read the full text of Gibrán’s comments, click here or here.


Engage for Results: Involving grantees in grantmaking strategies

The Interaction Institute for Social Change, in partnership with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), has designed and presented a new skill-building workshop designed specifically for grantmakers. In response to the commitment of GEO members to grantee involvement, we worked with GEO staff to create a two-day learning experience that provides grantmakers with the tools and skills needed to authentically incorporate nonprofit and community experience and perspective into their grantmaking. Grantmakers who attended the program had the opportunity to learn: * The benefits and impact of inclusive grantmaking. * The criteria for effective stakeholder engagement within philanthropy. * The appropriate balance between results, process and relationship.



A Sisterhood for Peace in Sudan

 A collaborative women’s network, Sisterhood for Peace works to end genocide in Sudan and create conditions for sustainable peace. Led by a core strategy group of diverse Sudanese and African-American women leaders, the Sisterhood is a partnership My Sister’s Keeper, its founder Gloria White-Hammond, and the Interaction Institute for Social Change. Engaging Sudanese women within Sudan and among diaspora, the Sisterhood’s social activists design and implement strategies to mobilize under-represented populations and key constituents in organizational leadership, capacity building, and other efforts to achieve peace.

Sisterhood for Peace convenes grassroots leaders and policy and advocacy organizations to communicate the urgent need for a global women’s movement for peace in all of Sudan. Core to the Sisterhood’s mission is amplifying the voices of Sudanese women, strengthening the role of women in Sudan’s ongoing peace process, and weaving the perspective of these women into the international advocacy movement and current debates. The Sisterhood has partnered with a wide variety of NGOs, political leaders and change agents in the transnational anti-genocide movement, engaging women leaders in every part of the social change process and ensuring that peace and justice are sustained throughout all of Sudan.

The Sisterhood also fosters inter-regional dialogue among Sudanese women, a key component to its strategy for peace throughout the country. In October 2007 the group convened in the United States for a landmark women’s forum designed by and for Sudanese women, which initiated a growing movement to fill the void of cross-regional dialogue in Sudan and among diaspora. In June 2008, the Sisterhood co-convened a group of women from Darfur, eastern Sudan, the Nuba Mountains, and northern and southern Sudan. At a recent convening in Juba, southern Sudan, grassroots women leaders from different networks began the crucial process of building relationships across conflict. The Sisterhood designed activities and facilitated conversations that successfully created a platform for engagement, skill development, and relationship building. In the process, key concerns of Sudanese women were presented to a visiting Nobel Women’s Initiative delegation forum.

The Sisterhood for Peace is seeding the capacity for movement building that depends on the abilities of women to step across boundaries, begin healing, and become agents of transformation so that in collaboration, they can bring about new possibilities for lasting peace in Sudan. Beyond Sudan, Sisterhood for Peace looks to build a global social movement to end genocide and other mass atrocities.

Pictured at a gathering of Sudanese women activists in Juba, Sudan, in August 2008 are the project director Gloria White-Hammond, left, Mona Tazorah Elsharif of Darfur, center, and IISC’s Cynthia Parker.


Collaborative Social Change: Designing for Impact in a Networked World

IISC is proud to announce the launch of our newest skill-building offering: Collaborative Social Change:Designing for impact in a networked world. This workshop takes what was previously known as Facilitating Change to a new level in response our shared realization: that it takes more than the focused and passionate efforts of individuals or single organizations to have broad-based and sustained impact. The new three-day workshop offers participants the opportunity to explore the implications of working in a world where barriers have collapsed and people have extraordinary potential to connect in new ways. Participants will develop the skills to design collaborative, multistakeholder process and build networks for social change. Read more about Collaborative Social Change in the Workshops section of our website. And if reading more about it inspires you, please consider joining us at one of two upcoming workshop dates:

  • San Francisco, CA– September 16-18, 2008
  • Boston, MA– September 23-25, 2008


Massachusetts Institute for Community Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts has just completed its third Massachusetts Institute for Community Health Leaders, graduating a class of 18 men and women from across the Commonwealth who work on issues related to health care access and quality for low-income and uninsured residents of the state. IISC was an integral contributor to the Institute, designing and delivering several of the curriculum modules. Participants were engaged in reflecting on their leadership roles, on identifying the impact they want to have individually and collectively in the field, and in building their collaborative skills to achieve that impact. Between now and the fall, the participants will be engaged in practicum projects to put the skills they have learned about convening multiple stakeholders to work together to define and address complex challenges. Learn more on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Mass website.


Engage for Results: Involving grantees in grantmaking strategies

The Interaction Institute for Social Change, in partnership with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO), piloted a new skill-building workshop designed specifically for grantmakers. In response to the commitment of GEO members to grantee involvement, we worked with GEO staff to create a two-day learning experience that provides grantmakers with the tools and skills needed to authentically incorporate nonprofit and community experience and perspective into their grantmaking. Grantmakers who attended the program had the opportunity to learn:

  • The benefits and impact of inclusive grantmaking.
  • The criteria for effective stakeholder engagement within philanthropy.
  • The appropriate balance between results, process and relationship.

Thanks to the invaluable feedback gathered at the launch, the workshop will be offered with upgrades in San Francisco in September. Learn more


Nonprofit Collaboration – Making It Real and Making It Work: Experiences from the Field

IISC Executive Director Marianne Hughes was pleased to be a panelist at the 2008 Philanthropy Partners Conference sponsored by the Maine Philanthropy Center. The day-long event provided a unique opportunity to learn, network, and explore common goals and interests in strengthening the impact of philanthropy. Marianne was one of three to speak in a session entitled: Nonprofit Collaboration – Making It Real and Making It Work: Experiences from the Field. The panel, designed and moderated by Common Good Ventures, explored what funders, staff and board members can do to encourage and support collaboration and networks. Speaking to an audience of some 100 nonprofit and foundation leaders, Marianne explained that “Collaboration takes more than good intentions and fairy dust.” She shared eight Principles for Collaborative Social Change that IISC has distilled from its years of facilitating large and small scale collaborations in the US and internationally.

  • Relevant stakeholders must be included in order for a collaborative planning process to be successful.
  • Participants in a planning process must “own” the process; they must be involved in designing the collaborative effort.
  • Commitment of key leaders is critical to any planning effort
  • If you don’t agree on the problem or the scope of the opportunity, you won’t agree on the solution.
  • Successful collaborative planning requires an assessment of strengths and assets as well as challenges and problems.
  • It is often necessary to Go Slow to Go Fast.
  • Successful collaborative planning requires a commitment to win-win solutions.



A letter from Executive Director Marianne Hughes

“Networks are present everywhere. All we need is an eye for them.”
– Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Physicist

Dear Friends,

Granville Sharp may not be a name with which you are familiar. Sharp was a musician and attorney who lived in London and who, in 1765, began an unlikely campaign to abolish slavery. Fueled by his experience of representing a 16-year-old slave who had been beaten and left for dead by his owner, Sharp was moved to fight the prevailing social acceptance of the (mis-)treatment of some human beings as the property of others. For 18 years he led a tireless campaign, making little progress, and then he reached out to the Quakers. Tapping into this marginalized but nonetheless robust religious community of some 20,000 people living throughout England, Sharp was finally able to create a significant platform and catalyze a movement that successfully rendered slavery illegal in England in 1833.

For authors Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, the story of Sharp’s partnership with the Quaker community is an illustration of the power of networks to spread an idea and mobilize people on its behalf. In The Starfish and the Spider, Brafman and Beckstrom write of numerous examples of the proven ability of networks to spread information, activate people, build resilience, and influence decisions. Their book joins a growing body of work echoing Barabasi’s words – networks are indeed everywhere, and they merit both our attention and our intention.

Here at the Interaction Institute for Social Change we are paying attention to and setting our intention based on what we are learning about network theory and its application to social change. We are designing and facilitating the work of social change agents who are intentionally tapping, activating and building on their social networks to create and implement effective strategies for action. For example,

  • In a small urban community, organizers and residents are creating an open network to better offer services, create opportunities for connection, and foster spaces for self-organized social and political action.
  • A foundation has initiated a network mapping and building process among nonprofit leaders by funding a fellowship program to intensify connection, trust, and relationship while fostering previously unexplored possibilities for collaborative action and innovation.
  • A partnership of philanthropists concerned about environmental issues is looking to build and connect to a network of stakeholders that can pool resources, create shared visions, and ratchet up their impact.
  • Grassroots activists, scholars, and funders concerned about the state of US foreign policy have created a network that convenes itself and shares resources in order to reframe peace and security issues and regain lost political relevance and effectiveness.

At the heart of IISC’s methodology is our commitment to tapping the power of participation and the collaborative principle that we should all be participants in the decisions that affect our lives. The freedom of decentralized networks and the emergent power in self-organized systems are clearly taking our field in a new and exciting direction. We are integrating these lessons into our work with multistakeholder change efforts, organizations, schools, and communities, and into new versions of our Facilitative Leadership® and Facilitating Change™ workshops. It is also our goal to build a new training experience for “network weavers.”

IISC has a deep belief that we must take our change efforts to scale in order to confront the global crisis that is at hand. And we believe that our change efforts must be rooted in an unlimited love for one another and the planet. Network building not only takes change to scale but by necessity prioritizes the building of relationships of trust. These two factors are what is needed to realize the extraordinary potential of the new world we must and will build together!

Please stay tuned, and as always, feel free to send us your thoughts and reactions.

And thank you for your continued good and important work in the world.


Marianne Hughes

p.s. In addition to The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, we recommend the following books about networks, network theory, and network building:

  • Net Work: A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and in the Worldby Patti Anklam
  • Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emergesby C. Otto Scharmer
  • Inside-Out: Stories and Methods for Generating Collective Will to Create the Future We Wantby Tracy Huston


Latest new from Sisterhood for Peace: Transforming Sudan

Sisterhood for Peace has tuned a corner in recent months from design to implementation. The Core Strategy Group of Sudanese and African American women leaders continues to meet monthly to support one another, make key decisions, and move the implementation plan forward. The women are finding that this is a unique space where they can be themselves, voice opinions and receive support without judgment. In this difficult work, rife with conflict, this is unusual and something we will work to maintain and grow as others join us in our efforts to build a peaceful Sudan. We believe our perspective of women in leadership, focus on healing and dialogue, and strengthening the network of grassroots efforts in Sudan and in Diaspora is critical for obtaining lasting peace in Sudan. We are working to reframe the internationally policy agenda to include this perspective. For more aboutSisterhood for Peace, go to


IISC participates in GEO’s annual conference: Ideas to Action: Grantmaker Practices that Improve Nonprofit Results

IISC had the privilege of participating in GEO’s annual conference in San Francisco, and in a centerpiece of this year’s conference: an afternoon of Café Conversations. The afternoon open space session was designed and facilitated by IISC Senior Associate Daryl Campbell in collaboration with GEO Director of Programs Courtney Bourns. Inspired by Open Space Technology, Café Conversations created the space for participants to engage in dialogue around their most challenging and burning questions.

In addition to Café Conversations, Daryl Campbell presented a session on Facilitative Leadership in a Networked World. The premise of this session was that if we are to believe the world is flat and interconnected and that the “unit of action” is shifting from organizations to networks, there are implications for the way grantmakers lead and act as change agents. Increasingly, there are calls for more collective, participatory, and collaborative approaches to change. The workshop explored elements of a collaborative model of leadership, IISC’s Facilitative Leadership®, including a framework and language to understand, design and apply the collaborative change process.


IISC Presents at the annual gathering of fundraising professionals in Massachusetts

In a first time engagement with the Massachusetts chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, IISC facilitated two sessions at AFP’s invitation: “A Collaborative Approach to Leadership” and “Facilitating Change in a Networked World.” Participants in the first session were introduced to the profile of collaborative leaders who seek to involve others in decision-making in strategic ways. The second session featured a lively conversation about the role of networks in and across organizations and introduced participants to a framework for moving diverse stakeholders through a series of conversations and agreements that move them towards achieving a shared goal.


IISC’s Gibrán Rivera honored with a Rockwood Institute fellowship

Gibrán Rivera was invited to join 23 other progressive leaders from across the country in the Rockwood Institute’s yearlong advanced training fellowship: “Leadership from the Inside Out.” In November Gibrán participated in the first of three retreats, from which he returned to IISC invigorated and inspired by a deeper and more connected approach to the leadership challenges facing our world.



IISC Presents “Transformational Leadership: Cultivating our own and others’ capacity for transformation”

This all day workshop, led by IISC’s Cynthia Parker and Gibrán Rivera at Third Sector New England’s annual Nonprofit Workout, engaged participants in asking themselves a series of questions: Where am I leading people? Why? Am I genuinely committed to collaboration and inclusion? How do I get in the way? How can I close gaps between my intentions and the outcomes I produce? Cynthia and Gibrán then joined with participants in considering the power of self-transformation as a way to lead organizational or community transformation by offering a collaborative, results-focused, other-centered leadership approach. They worked to identify factors that shape behavior and used a powerful coaching tool to explore personal leadership gifts and challenges.


Check out our first animation!

We just completed our first ever animation! We hope you like it and please feel free to share it with your friends. You can view it here.


IISC and My Sister’s Keeper announce the launch of The Sudan Initiative to end genocide.

The partnership between IISC and My Sister’s Keeper to build a global social movement for change in Sudan and beyond has been launched and is rapidly gaining momentum. Twelve incredible women, including seven Sudanese and five African Americans, are serving as the Core Strategy Group for the Sudan Initiative. Individually, these women are leaders within their communities. As a group, they share a deep reservoir of experience in grassroots community organizing, advocacy, media, research, action, and reflection that will continue to inform and build the strength of the initiative.

The Core Strategy Group held its first convening in June of 2007 and will continue to meet monthly throughout the next year. Building across the many cultural, political, and social divides that stand in the way of our solidarity as sisters, the women are engaging in deep dialogue toward building relationships with one another. Together, they have embarked on the critical work of designing an outreach strategy that will reach Sudanese and African American women and engage them in global citizen action to end the genocide in Sudan. A Sudanese Women’s Forum is planned for October which will host a larger group of Sudanese women both from Sudan and living in the Diaspora within the United States. In addition, the Core Strategy Group plans to reach out to younger Sudanese and African American women to strengthen the youth voice for the future of Sudan.

There are several features which make this initiative distinctive and historically unprecedented among the many efforts to facilitate peace and end genocide in Sudan and around the globe. These include the leadership role of the Sudanese women; a focus on women’s experiences during wartime, including the use of rape as a tool of war; and the opportunity to highlight stories of resistance and resiliency as well as the legacy of trauma endured.

The Sudan Initiative is working to connect and build social networks to support global citizen action. We are not building another organization. Instead we are using web-based technology and other tools to connect constituents, groups, organizations, and unaffiliated individuals into a network based strategy of social movement building to end genocide in Sudan and beyond.


Citizen Schools Teaching Fellows participate in Facilitative Leadership/Community Building

IISC just completed this year’s participation in a visionary collaboration between Citizen Schools and Lesley University. For the fourth consecutive year, staff from IISC had the privilege of offering a Facilitative Leadership/Community Building course to Citizen Schools Teaching Fellows enrolled in Lesley University’s Masters Program in Out of School Time. The students are extraordinarily bright, passionate, committed young adults who have chosen to dedicate two years of their lives in service to urban middle schoolers. This year’s teaching team included Andria Winther, IISC’s managing director and leader of our education practice; Daryl Campbell, senior associate in the education practice; and Paul Lewis, an IISC affiliate consultant/trainer and life-long community builder and humanist. For more on Citizen Schools, see their website at


Barr Foundation Learning Journey to Africa

The Barr Foundation, in partnership with the Berkana Institute and IISC, launched the latest Barr Fellowship Program for nonprofit leaders with a learning journey to Africa. IISC Executive Director Marianne Hughes had the privilege of contributing to the design and facilitation of the experience and of accompanying the group on the journey. Throughout the experience, Marianne was struck by how powerful it was to launch the Barr Fellowship by disrupting these leaders on so many dimensions – geographically, physically, emotionally, spiritually. The group was exposed to the incredible resilience of so many of the Africans they met who, in the face of tremendous adversity and against all odds, remain in touch with joy, with love, with music and dance, creativity and innovation. As Marianne described the time spent in their homes, she said, “My heart was breaking for us for our lack of joy and life…and my heart was breaking for them for their suffering and poverty.” Marianne came home with the conviction that these communities of hope have the power to teach us how we need to live as we come up against the impact of our consumption and the limits of our natural resources. They are lighting the way to the future.



Marianne Hughes joins Barr Fellows, Class of 2005, on their learning journey to New Orleans.

IISC recently trained a cohort of nonprofit leaders in New Orleans in Facilitative Leadership and subsequently had the opportunity to connect these grassroots leaders with the Barr Fellows – 12 executive directors from Boston-based nonprofit organizations. The trip was undertaken as an opportunity to express solidarity with those struggling to overcome the ravages of Hurricane Katrina and to rebuild their communities. The hope is that the connections made will result in a network of support for grassroots leaders in New Orleans, and increase the commitment of the Boston-based leaders to raising awareness and involving others in the extraordinary rebuilding effort in which we all must be engaged.


Spring reflections from Executive Director Marianne Hughes

Dear Friends,

I recently handed out copies of Daniel H. Pink’s A Whole New Mind to the entire IISC staff. This fascinating and fun little book makes the claim that we are on the verge of a new era for right-brained thinking, or what Pink calls “The Conceptual Age.”

Pink points to three different trends that are spelling trouble for knowledge workers who, until very recently, have been the toast of the economy. Through new technological developments, material abundance, and globalization, Pink anticipates the passing of the Information Age and with it the strong reliance on reductive and analytical skills. In their place, he sees emerging the call for those who can create, empathize, synthesize, make connections and craft meaning. Good news for you artists, designers, counselors, caregivers, storytellers, and big picture thinkers!

Many of these Conceptual Age skills are precisely what IISC relies upon in our efforts to plumb the potential of collaboration in order to realize high impact social change. In our experience, skillfully designed and facilitated collaborative learning, planning, and action initiatives create the environment that brings out the best in people, taps into the creativity, collective intelligence, and deep commitment needed to tackle the complex issues of our time.

Take for example our recent work with the Ford Foundation and its US foreign policy grantees. The Ford Foundation had the bold vision to commit to bringing its grassroots activist and think tank grantees together to explore the big foreign policy challenges this country now faces. In February, the second convening of the Laboratory for New Thinking in Foreign Policy engaged participants in considering what it would mean to bring a justice lens to US foreign policy. The intent was not to set strategy, but to learn.

IISC’s challenge was to design and facilitate an interactive, boundary busting, multiple media experience to encourage new thinking, new alliances, and new possibilities. This included incorporating elements such as poetry, music, FLASH video, youth perspectives, panel discussions, small group work, and open space for participants to determine portions of the agenda.

Our closing “plus/delta” evaluation of the convening indicated that many found the event to be unique and valuable for the diversity of the participants, appreciated the multiple ways of engaging the topic, the non-competitive and liberating atmosphere, and the opportunity to step outside of one’s issue area to try on new perspectives. I am reminded of the basic message of another of my favorite books, The Medici Effect, whose author Frans Johansson states that innovation and remarkable ideas sit at the intersection of fields, cultures, and different perspectives.

All of this to say that I believe that we are being called to be bold; to step outside of our silos and comfort zones; to cross boundaries; to engage both sides of our brains, our hearts, and each other in pursuit of the kind of change in the world that we are seeking to make..

I thank you for the important work that you do and am always eager to hear your thoughts and reactions.

Sincerely, Marianne Hughes

p.s. Here are two intriguing opportunities for you to consider and share with others!

Awakening Global Action: Leadership, Indigenous Wisdom, & Dialogue for a Transforming World. July 31-August 7, 2007 in Ubud, Bali. Presented by Bali Institute for Global Renewal and Global Youth in Action Series.

Individuals of all ages (18-80+) are invited to participate in an extraordinary gathering designed to offer cutting-edge leadership training, deep listening, shared experiences and collaborative cross-cultural learning that promises to shape your future as a committed global citizen. In the midst of major world challenges, something profound is being reborn—a recognition that ordinary people with concern, vision and commitment can make significant contributions to transforming the planet. Find out more at The Bali Institute

The Berkana Exchange Learning Journey to Mexico. September 30 – October 10, 2007. Join the Berkana Institute on an extraordinary journey to two of Mexico’s most unique regions, Oaxaca and Chiapas. Known for the vibrancy of their indigenous cultures, these southern states will inform an exploration of the tensions between ancient wisdom and the modern world. For more information, visitThe Berkana Institute.


Humanity United funds IISC and My Sister’s Keeper to build a global social movement for change in Sudan and beyond

Humanity United has made a $950,000 grant to IISC and our partner, My Sister’s Keeper (MSK), to mobilize African American, Sudanese, and Muslim women in support of ending genocide in Sudan and beyond. In collaboration with Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, Executive Director of MSK, IISC is designing and facilitating a process to build the leadership and collaborative capacity of these change agents and to amplify and weave their voices into the larger network of policy analysts, nongovernmental organizations, influential individuals, grassroots organizations and activists, students, thereby strengthening the movement for change in Sudan. Our approach to achieving this goal is the formation of three core constituency advocacy groups as critical components of the larger global social movement. By starting with a network of Sudanese, African American, and Muslim women, we will create an inclusive base with the legitimacy and power necessary to help the movement grow internationally.



Creating a Culture of Collaboration

IISC is pleased to announce the release of Creating a Culture of Collaboration from The International Association of Facilitators (Jossey Bass, August 2006). In this important book, a diverse group of practitioners and researchers provide proven approaches to creating collaborative cultures within and among groups, organizations, communities, and societies. It includes a chapter entitled “Collaboration for Social Change: A Theory and a Case Study” co-written by staff members of IISC and the Public Schools of Brookline about our work with the Brookline school district to devise system-wide strategies for eliminating the racial achievement gap. The book also includes a chapter co-written by Interaction Associates founder and IISC Board member David Straus entitled “Theory in Action: Building Collaboration in a County Public Agency.” For more information consult the publisher here.


2006 Member’s Choice Award

IISC was recently honored as the recipient of the 2006 Members’ Choice Award from the OD Network. This award gives the OD Network membership an opportunity to weigh in on different aspects of the field of organizational development that have exercised the greatest influence on their learning and practice. In its first year, 2004, the category for which members voted was the most influential OD books; in 2005, the choice was a mentor who shaped their life and practice; in 2006, the Members’ Choice Award goes to a nonprofit organization that consistently uses OD practices in achieving its mission and goals, and exhibits the values of organizational development. In late October, IISC Executive Director Marianne Hughes attended the OD Network conference in San Francisco to accept the award on behalf of IISC, Interaction Associates, our affiliates, and our clients–all who have contributed to IISC’s work and to building our presence in the world in such a way as to invite this recognition.


What’s stakeholder engagement got to do with it?

With a growing spotlight on cultural competency as a critical path to nonprofit effectiveness, we ask “What’s stakeholder engagement got to do with it?” IISC’s Cynthia Parker and Andrea Nagel, two seasoned experts in building nonprofit capacity with attention to cultural dynamics, offered a framework for thinking about this important skill at a webinar sponsored by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management as part of the Alliance’s Cultural Competency Initiative.

During the webinar, participants had the opportunity to develop an appreciation of the power of stakeholder engagement for culturally competent practice, and explore principles, strategies and tools for engaging diverse stakeholders. As the nonprofit sector seeks greater accountability in all the ways that we work, this session provided a chance for participants to understand another dimension of due diligence, and even go beyond.

Look at the webinar slides


Meet the Newest Members of IISC’s Family!

Daryl Campbell, Charlie Jones, Gibrán Rivera, Julia Santiago, and Melinda Weekes

Daryl Campbell When Daryl joined the IISC staff in July 2006 as a senior associate, he brought with him a strong familiarity and understanding of our work from his role as an educator and administrator in the Public Schools of Brookline (MA), a client of IISC’s. Since joining the staff, Daryl has done content management, been T4T’d in FL, trained countless public and client FLs, and is serving as a co-facilitator and consultant on a number of client projects.Read Daryl’s bio

Charlie Jones Charlie became the newest member of IISC’s support team when he joined the staff in September 2006. Charlie came to IISC with a wealth of administrative experience that he readily put to work on behalf of our senior associates and our clients.
Read Charlie’s bio

Gibrán Rivera Gibrán is IISC’s newest senior associate. Already an affiliate trainer with IISC, Gibrán joins IISC with great interest in the application of network theory and a desire to bring skillful means for social transformation to grassroots efforts throughout the country.
Read Gibrán’s bio

Julia Santiago We are more than delighted to have welcomed Julia onto our staff after many years as a core member of our affiliate team. Julia is now splitting her time between IISC and IA, serving as a critically important liaison between our two organizations while also serving clients as consultant, facilitator, and trainer. Read Julia’s bio

Melinda Weekes Melinda joined IISC in January 2007 as an Associate on a six-month contract. During this time of getting acquainted, Melinda will be engaged in content management, case study writing, and new market strategy development.
Read Melinda’s bio


When a Grantmaker is a Facilitative Leader

What makes a facilitative leader of social change? And how can grantmakers model such leadership? Curtis Ogden, Senior Associate at the Interaction Institute for Social Change, tackles these questions and more in a piece written for IMPACT: An e-newsletter published by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) Read More


A message of reflection and news (and love!) from Marianne Hughes, Executive Director

  • Reflections on love as a lever for social change
  • IISC wins the OD Network Members’ Choice Award
  • Collaboration for Social Change is published!

Dear Friends,

I got home late the other night, at least late for me, and in looking for the news on television, I stumbled on a documentary about Daniel Pearl, the reporter who was gruesomely murdered in Pakistan in 2002. I was immediately pulled into the incredible account of the people who were touched by that horrific event. In one interview, Pearl’s wife Mariane, who was pregnant with the couple’s first child when Daniel was killed, explained that her act of resistance since the loss of her husband has been to refuse to be bitter. Pearl’s parents, as I’m sure many of you know, started a foundation for understanding among religions in response to their son’s slaughter. And, as relayed by his killers, Daniel himself faced his death reciting a Buddhist mantra even as he received the fatal blow. Watching this program, I was absolutely spellbound and profoundly moved by who Daniel Pearl was as a person and by who his wife and parents are as people. The power of their courage and their love is a triumph over an unspeakable atrocity.

This story of the Pearl family connects with something that I have been thinking about for some time — the power and potential of love as a lever for social change. At a recent IISC staff meeting, we engaged in a critical reading of a talk given by Michael Edwards, Director of the Ford Foundation’s Governance and Civil Society Program, at a conference entitled Works of Love: Scientific and Religious Perspectives on Altruism. In his speech “The Love That Does Justice,” Edwards, a trained social scientist, claimed that “the future of the world depends on how successful we are in developing and applying a new social science of love.”

Edwards refers to the conference’s working definition of love as “affectively affirming as well as unselfishly delighting in the well being of others, and engaging in acts and care of service on their behalf, without exception, in an enduring and constant way.” From his perspective, the absence of this critical element and orientation in work for peace and social justice often results in the failure to build the necessary alliances and collective wisdom that could lead to significant and sustainable social change.

We at the Institute have reached the same conclusion. Love is the key that unlocks the door leading to an awareness of our shared being, an awareness that enables such improbable acts of forgiveness as those demonstrated by the Pearl family. We believe that our collective failure to enact large scale and high impact social change stems in large part from our inability to experience ourselves as connected rather than separate from and different than others. Love, as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, is the “supreme unifying principle of life.” The opportunity before us now is to be as bold as possible, to look for ways of articulating this awareness and bringing it more fully and intentionally into our work, challenging ourselves and others to consider love’s potential as a lever for transformational change.

As we move forward at the Institute, there are a number of questions that we will continue to wrestle with and I invite you to consider them as they apply to your own work:

  • How does love currently show up in our organization and our work in the world?
  • What might it look like to act more deeply out of love?
  • What is the root cause of love not being more present and active in our work and in the world?
  • What is the risk of integrating love into our work?
  • What is the risk of not integrating it? I would very much enjoy hearing your reflections on any of these questions and encourage you to consult the resources referenced below on this topic.

On a different note, I have some fun news to share. First, I am honored to announce that IISC is the recipient of the 2006 Members’ Choice Award from the OD Network. This award gives the OD Network membership an opportunity to weigh in on different aspects of the field of organizational development that have exercised the greatest influence on their learning and practice. In its first year, 2004, the category for which members voted was the most influential OD books; in 2005, the choice was a mentor who shaped their life and practice; in 2006, the Members’ Choice Award goes to a nonprofit organization that consistently uses OD practices in achieving its mission and goals, and exhibits the values of organizational development. I will be in San Francisco at the OD Network conference to accept the award on behalf of IISC, Interaction Associates, our affiliates, and our clients — all who have contributed to our work and to building our presence in the world in such a way as to invite this recognition.

Secondly, we are pleased to announce the release ofCreating a Culture of Collaboration from The International Association of Facilitators (2006: Jossey Bass). This important book features a chapter entitled “Collaboration for Social Change: A Theory and a Case Study” co-written by staff members of IISC and the Public Schools of Brookline about our work with the Brookline school district to devise system-wide strategies for eliminating the racial achievement gap. The book also includes a chapter co-written by Interaction Associates founder and IISC Board member David Straus entitled “Theory in Action: Building Collaboration in a County Public Agency.”

All of us at IISC are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the bold and important work of change agents around the region, country, and world. And we are always delighted to hear from you with your comments, reflections, and the lessons of your experiences.

Wishing you the best,

Marianne Hughes
Executive Director

1. HBO, The journalist and the jihadi: The murder of Daniel Pearl (2006). USA: HBO.
2. Edwards, M. (2003). The love that does justice, Works of love: Scientific and religious perspectives on altruism. Philadelphia, PA. (see
3. hooks, b. (2001). All about love: New visions. New York: Harper Collins.
4. Ackerman, D. (1994). A natural history of love. New York: Random House.
5. Schuman, S. (Ed.). (2006). Creating a culture of collaboration. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.


IISC presents at the National Conference of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, March 2006

Catalyzing Change: Core Skills for Change Agents and Leaders in Philanthropy
Individuals within philanthropy are increasingly stepping into their roles as catalysts for social change within their organizations and among their grantees. They recognize they need to approach this role skillfully, that it requires living out of a set of values, a commitment to lifelong learning, and the ability to acquire the necessary skills and tools. This hands-on, interactive session provided participants with an opportunity to reflect on the role of a “change agent,” identify the inventory of essential skills needed for change agents to be effective, and have an experience of applying a few of these skills to their current work situations.


A letter to IISC clients, workshop participants, and other friends from Marianne Hughes, Executive Director

Dear IISC Colleagues and Friends:

I am writing to take this opportunity to share with you some thoughts related to our work at the Interaction Institute for Social Change.

As part of what has been an inspiring and all-consuming strategic planning process, IISC’s entire staff has been engaged in deep conversations about the change we believe must take place in the world and the contributions to that change we are committed to making with you and other partners in the years to come. This process has challenged our assumptions about everything from the nature of change to our priorities for action. Along the way I have been influenced by the wisdom of an array of incredible thought leaders about social transformation. In particular, I want to tell you about three books that I have found especially provocative and meaningful.

Promise Ahead: A Vision of Hope and Action for Humanity’s Future by Duane Elgin. (New York: Quill, 2000.) Through this book, Elgin identifies where we find ourselves in this moment as a civilization – at the point of an “evolutionary bounce or an evolutionary crash.” He provides a framework for our conscious evolution and articulates a “vision of hope and action” that is a roadmap to a more promising future. As we all seek to locate ourselves in a time of deep confusion, Elgin’s framework gives us a way of understanding how we evolved to this moment in time and how we can move toward the “promise ahead.”

The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Peace Buildingby John Paul Lederach. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.) Everyone at IISC was profoundly affected by the power of this book because of the way Lederach frames the work of social change agents as an exercise in what he terms the “moral imagination.” He addresses the aesthetics of social change and proposes that at its core, the process of social change is more art than technique. As social change agents or “artists” he suggests that “certain disciplines are required from us. Be attentive to image. Listen for the core. Trust and follow intuition. Watch metaphor. Avoid clutter and busyness. See [the] picture better. Find the elegant beauty where complexity meets simplicity. Imagine the canvas of social change.”

Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age by Duncan Watts. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003.) Watts is one of the architects of network theory and in this book sets out to explain the innovative research that he and others scientists are spearheading to create a blueprint of our connected planet. Through the application of network theory to our large-scale social change initiatives, IISC has learned that the creation of a concentration of diverse, connected organizations and dense networks of committed individuals generates the momentum needed to reach tipping points for change. Building flexible, ongoing networks within and across boundaries – sectors, fields, issues, geography, and racial and cultural backgrounds – is becoming a central feature of IISC’s social change work.

All of us at IISC are excited to be moving into the implementation of our new strategy in pursuit of our visionary goal, which is to have a profound and far-reaching impact on social change by radically influencing how change efforts are initiated, designed, facilitated, and experienced.

I look forward to opportunities to continue the conversation. Thank you for all of the good work that you do.


Marianne Hughes Executive Director


IISC presents at the Alliance for Nonprofit Management Annual Conference, August 2006

Multi-stakeholder initiatives create powerful social change engines. The application of “new science theory” (network, chaos, complexity, quantum physics) teaches us that a concentration of diverse, connected organizations and dense networks of committed individuals generate the momentum needed to reach tipping points for change. In addition, experience from collaborative planning and social change work suggests that building the ongoing capacity to think, plan and act together is as important as creating an initial shared plan of action. Building flexible, ongoing networks then becomes a central feature of social change work. The Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC) is doing innovative work in the area of multi-stakeholder collaboration which leads to robust, collectively owned and implemented change supported by networks that can carry out the change. At the Alliance conference, Marianne Hughes presented an example of IISC’s methodology in practice, looking at the case of The Peace and Security Initiative, where stakeholders from across the United States including think tanks, activists, funders and policy-makers concerned with arms control and security issues came together to create a shared vision for a secure and peaceful future. IISC supported the design and facilitation of a process that led to this shared vision, a set of strategies to reach this vision and a plan for implementation. After a review of the case, there will be discussion of lessons learned and suggested strategies for maximizing collaboration across stakeholder groups as well as dialogue among practitioners present.


Member Spotlight >> Activism and Collaboration: Marianne Hughes

From Enhance: The Newsletter of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management (October 21, 2004) By Brigette Rouson

Activism and collaboration. This winning combination is the way forward, if you ask Marianne Hughes, who heads the Interaction Institute for Social Change (Cambridge and San Francisco). As the founding executive director, who returned earlier this year from a 4-month sabbatical, she is more dedicated than ever to the simple premise of people gathering and working skillfully together for the transformation of society.

In Marianne’s words, it is a “new era we’re in, the evolution of the connectivity and creativity of human beings. Some say that civilization is at the moment of an evolutionary bounce or an evolutionary crash.” As an example of how this new reality affects capacity building, she offered the theme of a new Interaction Institute program—“Leading with Wisdom.” It is intended for key figures in the movement for social justice.

The Interaction Institute offers consulting, training, and coaching to guide nonprofits in assembling all the partners and reaching for ambitious social change goals. Starting with the “social sector,” Marianne acknowledged, makes sense because it is perhaps the most innovative, risk-taking, and open to sharing and learning. The work of nonprofit capacity builders, then, is to provide the necessary understanding, process design and implementation, to take our communities from A to Z and to influence social policy.

Seeking the impossible is not new to Marianne. “My rootedness in the work of social justice transformation goes back years. I was one of the very first VISTA volunteers, in ’65-66, like the second class,” she said. VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) was an early home-front counterpart to the Peace Corps, and like its successor Americorps, engaged people typically in one-year stints working to improve communities. “I had grown up in Boston, in an Irish Catholic enclave, with the values of social justice, however naïve and uninformed…. So going off as a VISTA volunteer was another version of going into the convent.”

The effect it had on her was anything but familiar, she recalled. “It was an unbelievable political and spiritual awakening at a very young age. I lived on the border in Laredo, Texas. We truly lived with poor families. It was 95 percent Mexican American, there were dirt roads, it was basic community organizing 101, and I was based with people far more sophisticated in their analysis. It set me on my path for the remainder of my life….” Her awakening led her into the civil rights movement, the antiwar and disarmament movements, and that evolved into working in the public policy arena. As a human services lobbyist, she was based at two women-owned firms “known throughout Massachusetts for giving voice to the voiceless.” Then in 1992, just as a new consciousness about management and leadership was taking hold, “One of the things that became clear to me was we had to have more strategies in our toolbox. The strategy we used consistently was advocacy, based on ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, and I’m going to convince you how right I am and how wrong you are, thereby expecting you to change your mind and more importantly your position.’

“I was so frustrated, because what I believed was that at a much deeper place, we were allies; in many instances, if we had more capacity to discover the places where we actually had shared interests and build agreement, we could have a deep lasting impact on public policy,” said Marianne. She contrasted this path with getting stuck in the debate, experiencing paralysis or policies and processes that were fragmented and failed to represent the best thinking or action. “I was very clear on what was the problem; I was unclear on the solution,” she admitted. “I had almost hit a wall.”

Then came the call from Thomas Rice, a friend who was the CEO of Interaction Associates (IA), a for-profit training and management consulting firm that created and supports Interaction Institute. He asked her to head a new vehicle to bring new depth to the collaborative leadership model in the social sector. IA, she said, “had become distinguished by their collaborative methodology developed over the years,” which is “absolutely extraordinary in its power” and provided a method to get beyond the win-lose scenarios of issue advocacy that had frustrated her in the past.

Marianne went on to create the vision and mission for the Institute, develop strategies to achieve them, launch and operate the new venture.

Now, as Executive Director, Marianne puts special energy into ensuring that the Institute staffs’ background and experience has the right balance to achieve the vision. “We’re about building the human capacity,” said Marianne, based on “really understanding what the constraints are within the [nonprofit] sector around resources, the kind of resilience it takes, the kind of commitment it takes…. We’re not having to reach, to translate. We ourselves have all worked within the social sector, and in community organizations…. It’s a ‘being with’ that I think creates immediate trust and an environment for co-learning.

“And now after 10 years, we have a wealth of stories on both what worked and what didn’t, and the lessons learned…. Our tagline is ‘social transformation by skillful means.’ We believe social transformation requires change from individuals, organizationally, the community, the systems level. What we feel so excited about is our ability to enter the river anywhere in the social transformational stream. Because we believe it has to happen bottom up, top down, and across all the sectors. The only way that we’re really going to be able to break through our collective sound barrier in these incredibly difficult times on our planet is if we can in fact have a shift of mind and heart and skill set.”

With Marianne’s leadership, Interaction Institute has worked guiding initiatives, for instance, to:

  • Ensure the health and well being of all children in Springfield, Massachusetts,
  • Bring together antiwar, disarmament, and national security advocates to find common cause across the political spectrum, and
  • Develop leadership programs in the Corporation for National Service using a train-the-trainer model.

Reflecting on the toughest challenges for nonprofits today, Marianne has found a tangible cynicism in place of a sense of possibility. She attributes it to whether organizations have found their “soul.” Building collaborative organizations, she believes, provides “that absolute foundation of functioning as a soulful organization,” and “appreciating the power and wealth of diversity is just a part of that.” The path ahead, she underscored, will mean an understanding and practice of diverse leadership at a much more advanced level than many organizations yet embody.

Working within the nonprofit sector to guide change initiatives, Marianne observed, is no less significant than breaking the sound barrier. “That’s the metaphor for how we want to be in the world,” she said.

To say that Marianne Hughes takes this quest to heart is an understatement. She relishes talking about the proven potential of collaboration. Her only higher calling is to see collaboration realized throughout the nonprofit sector, and ultimately society.

Contact information:
Marianne Hughes
Executive Director
Interaction Institute for Social Change