Generating ideas, connections, and action

Early Reflection on Creating Space

Last week, we were honored  to spend three days convening with 85 members of the LLC community in New Orleans. We discussed, analyzed, and practiced Freedom to Lead and Leading for Freedom. To hold the container for these conversations, we trusted that the design team and everyone present were all catalysts with stories, strategies, and the capacity to create solutions to dismantle systemic problems. Our time together was focused on sharing and listening to our experiences and holding a container for healing, and strategizing solutions.

Participants were greeted with color pencils, blank journals, and their pictures were immediately taken. We opened with a creativity wall, where those pictures were printed in real time as stickers and could be decorated to showcase those in our space. The tables had many creative outlets, e.g., playdough, and participants were invited to use them to express their ideas. Participants were then challenged to think outside of their preconceived notions, before getting to know a little more about each other in pairs.

It was, at times, emotionally tough holding a space filled with pain and so many questions. At the same time, it was a space filled with hope, compassion, and healing. In this transformational space, where there was both certainty and uncertainty, there was plenty of room for participants to turn to each other for learning opportunities. The container was purposefully created to allow immediate response to the needs of the group to leverage deeper learning. This was evident in day two, where a significant number of participants felt we had not completed a conversation around how we individually/collectively embody racism and pain. Very quickly the design team pivoted, and made space for the room to collectively decide how to proceed and created a process, in real-time, to allow that conversation to take place.  

We concluded our days with music, poetry, and ceremony. We incorporated physical movement. We spoke about deeper questions of process and impact. We analyzed how philanthropy and the leadership development field are complicit in creating systems of oppression, and more than that, how we could become change agents in our fields.

We studied the structures of governance around us in our organizations, our government, and industries, and asked ourselves the tough questions about who we are really, how we are complicit, how we are accountable, and how we will transform those structures and systems. We left the space open-ended, humbly acknowledging that we alone cannot undo hundred of years of oppression in three days. Collectively, we made a commitment to continue this work in ourselves and with the youngest in our society, which is what it will take to create that lasting change we all so very much want as we move towards liberation.