Generating ideas, connections, and action

Elizabeth Lanyon's blog

Invest in Leadership for the Future: Opportunities to Engage with LLC this Giving Season

For many, November is the beginning of the holiday season.  This is the time of year that we travel, eat and celebrate.  If you are like me, you are also receiving lots of invites to events and appeal letters from an array of nonprofit organizations who share my values of equity, justice and social transformation.  This is an opportunity to support the causes near to our hearts and minds while contributing to the change needed in our communities.  LLC is proud to offer opportunities to engage our community in advancing a more just and equitable society through leadership development that is more inclusive networked and connected.   


The Foundation Partnership Program was designed for the philanthropic organizations that focus on leadership development.  Through this program, organizations have access to the expertise of LLC’s senior staff, with opportunities tailored to the needs of your leadership programs.  Members of the program are included on our website, have exposure to our extensive network of nearly 4,000 organizations throughout the country, and have priority for high-quality consulting services such as evaluation of leadership programs, network development and strategic research.  Annual membership rates are based on the amount of grant funds your organization awarded in the most recent fiscal year.  For full information, please visit the LLC website

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Reflections on LLC’s 2014 Funders & Evaluators Circle

Language, Metrics and Equity

It was dark when we landed in Baltimore; the city seemed to hum, waiting enthusiastically for our arrival.  I hadn’t been back to Baltimore for several years following a very short stint between college semesters; all I remembered was the streets paved in asphalt with recycled glass.  When I set out on Monday to complete a few last-minute tasks for the 2014 Funders & Evaluators meeting, I found myself pausing to snap pictures of the historic buildings, the bronze statues and churches that shadowed my path.  I felt the city’s bones and could see that time had helped shape this place.  I knew this was going to be a meeting that would change me - as a development professional, as a community organizer – and I was eager to jump into dialogue.   

Over the course of a day and a half, LLC in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation brought together 52 folks representing philanthropy and the evaluation fields.  With the support of American Express, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W.K.Kellogg Foundation, a rich environment for learning and exploration was cultivated.  Let me paint the picture by providing you with the following framing questions: read more »

  1. What are key elements to leadership development approaches that are effectively contributing to measure progress on significant social problems?
  2. What evaluation approaches are being utilized or developed to successfully measure and document the impact of leadership development that results in large-scale change?
  3. What opportunities exist to replicate, spread, adapt or apply lessons from these models to increase the impact of leadership development programming and investments?

In Response to Darren Walker’s Message on September 2nd: Taking Stock, Looking Ahead

In September, the Ford Foundation’s President, Darren Walker, sent an email reflecting on his experience in the first year of his role at the Foundation. It was refreshing to read and was, for me, an experience in breaking down walls to reveal the relationships that are at the heart of philanthropy and social change work.  We’ve all been in a situation where we go to the front lines to experience firsthand the challenges of a community.  As leaders and movement builders, often we come with a lens of “how can I help improve these conditions so people have opportunity.”  Walker’s experiences gave him a look both backward, to the early investments from the Ford Foundation, and forward as the Foundation continues its bold vision of human dignity and social justice. 


I was humbled in reading Walker’s reflection and inspired by his notion of intellectual curiosity.  In conversations with program officers, board meetings, presentations, and workshops, everyone seems to be grappling with the same question of what’s next.  For the nonprofit sector, the challenges are more complex, our communities have evolved and in general our world is much different than it was even 10 years ago.  Technology is a factor in this as we continue to be more and more connected, constantly and inundated with more messages than our brains can actually process, or so I’ve read somewhere in the social media atmosphere.  It is clear that courageous leadership and innovative risk taking will be a driver in the changes we seek for our communities and our world. 

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Resource Review: Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World, published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review

At LLC, we are ambitiously reviewing research and conducting interviews in preparation for the upcoming Funders & Evaluators Circle.  We are looking for resources, feedback, innovative ideas and models for investing in and evaluating leadership development for large scale change.  This has proven quite an adventure, because large scale change requires an examination of many components – environment, populations, economic conditions, social norms, and so on.  When we look at leadership development, and in talking with a number of folks who invest in this, it is clear that we can’t just look at the individual but rather looking at the individual in relation to the system in which they are working is a more appropriate approach.  We don’t have a magic class, curriculum or degree for leadership development; it is a process, a relationship in which skills, networks and knowledge is developed and put to use in service to the community, to the organization, to the betterment of the world.


This interconnectedness was brought to the surface in an article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World.  The article calls on the philanthropic community to re-examine the focus on strategic philanthropy in favor of a model that better fits our rapidly changing and complex world. 

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LLC Embarks on a Taproot Grant

LLC is excited to announce that we have been awarded a Taproot Service Grant for a Salesforce Implementation!  The Taproot Foundation provides pro-bono service grants to support the capacity of nonprofits to more effectively achieve their mission.  LLC has our sights on a strategic expansion over the next few years, prioritizing fundraising and relationship management as critical elements to successful growth and engagement.  Salesforce is an ideal solution for our organization as we have 15 years’ worth of data and contacts representing leadership development practitioners, members of the philanthropic community, evaluators, academics and community based organizations – throughout the United States and abroad.  Over the next six months, LLC will be working with a pro-bono team of five individuals who have extensive experience with database solutions for nonprofits.  The Taproot Team came to visit LLC this week to launch the project; we had dinner together and learned a little bit about each other to officially kick off the project.  The next step will be exploratory interviews with our team and stakeholders to understand exactly what LLC is looking to achieve Salesforce.  We will be scrubbing our data, looking at our history of relationships, donor profiles and convenings to generate a high-level view of our community.  Working with the Taproot Team, we’ll determine what types of reports we’ll need, how dashboard will be developed, and will be trained on how to use Salesforce.  
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The Beloved Community: Systemic Change Starts with Systems

Cross sector partnerships. Collaboration.  Building coalitions. Networking.  All these concepts speak to the human experience, which by nature is social.  We desire to be connected to others who share our values, who live and work with us; we desire understanding and human contact to remind ourselves that indeed we are sharing this existence.  In writing this piece, I am inspired by (1) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Beloved Community and (2) the White House Initiative, My Brother’s Keeper.  The overlap is undeniable if not critical to the success of our nation’s boys and young men of color.

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Reflections on Creating Space 2014

It has been over a week since Creating Space; my nerves are still sitting on the top of my skin, anxious for everything that is to come.  The momentum that carried me to this point came from the three days we spent together in Oakland, a group of 65 of us from throughout the country.  In those three days, design thinking was demystified, I saw an incredible network map of our community, and participated in a racial equity simulation (“Save our Ship”) that I can’t stop thinking about.  I met people from Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Minnesota, Boston, and Colorado.  We shared our stories about the challenges our communities face and the economic divides that continue to grow and perpetuate challenges.  Despite the heavy conversation, I was more relaxed in those three days than I have been in three months and came back to work feeling inspired.  This says a lot about Creating Space.


Let me start by naming my own experience.  This was my first Creating Space, and as the newest member of the LLC team, I was advised to just live the experience, to be open-minded and to take it all in without trying to analyze or categorize this event as any other “conference,” because indeed this was far from a conference.  This was a place to learn, to have deep dialogue and make connections that fuel for the leadership fire.  Here are a few things I heard during CSXI that have managed to move beyond the event and into my day-to-day:

  • Consciously standing in the unknown
  • Understanding your superpower and your kryptonite
  • Exercising generosity muscles
  • Acknowledging the assist
  • To care about people, invite them into the spirit of humanity and generosity
  • “Inclusion” and “diversity” are code words for people of color
  • Be respectfully disruptive

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My Brother’s Keeper through the Lens of Leadership & Race

Oakland is a hot bed for innovation and collaboration. While recognizing the diverse cultures that make this city vibrant, it is also a community that has been plagued by violence, economic disparities, racial tensions, and questionable public services.  One thing Oakland does not lack is a commitment to improvement; a determination to better our schools, neighborhoods, and infrastructure in the hope that these will support our community to thrive.  Oakland has been the center of controversy, such as the Oscar Grant shooting, the Occupy Movement, and the constant barrage of violence combatted by and at times even committed by the police department.  This upheaval has also inspired people to work together more intentionally; to reframe the dialogue so that Oakland can transform from a city of violence and poverty, into a community where social justice is alive and well, and where change is on the horizon.


Despite these challenges, Oakland is home to many nonprofits and organizations that are working for change.  In addition, Oakland is on the top of the list for My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative recently launched by President Obama focused on building ladders of opportunity for boys and young men of color. The program aims to support them to stay on track to reach their full potential.  The President called on foundations, governments, the private sector, and local businesses to pool resources and expertise to get the initiative off the ground immediately.  With a keen eye on Oakland, the initiative not only looks at critical points of intervention for young men and boys of color but also is committed to changing the narrative about these often stereotyped members of our communities.

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Oakland Culture Guru: Tips for Visiting the Sunny Side of the Bay

If you are visiting Oakland for our upcoming Creating Space event on May 5th – 7th, here are some helpful tips for getting to know our wonderful city. 


The Bart is just one of our fabulous public transit systems; it will get you to and from San Francisco in no time and if you are a baseball fan, Bart will get you right to A’s Stadium in Oakland or the Giant’s Stadium in San Francisco.  You can also use AC Transit for all your in-town getting around.  In Downtown Oakland there is a free shuttle that runs on Broadway Street all the way to Jack London Square, where you will find hot restaurants, a water front view, actual history from the gruff Jack London himself and a farmers’ market every Sunday!  While you are down in Jack London Square, be sure to stop by Souley Vegan to grab a tofu burger and vegan desserts like you’ve never had before.


On your way back, if you are walking up Broadway, take a stroll through Old Oakland for a glimpse into the entrepreneurial nature of our city.  A group of local business owners and organizations came together to form Pop Up Hood to incubate small businesses and help them move into the marketplace surrounded by other likeminded business owners.  There is also a farmers’ market on Fridays in Old Oakland.

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