Generating ideas, connections, and action

Our Stories

Over the last ten years, the Leadership Learning Community (LLC) has engaged over hundreds of leadership development practitioners, funders, researchers and consultants across the nation.  We are thankful for each one of our members' contributions to the learning community. 


 Practical Resources

  • Dr. Taigy Gooding, Jemmott Rollins
    • “When I think about leadership and network leadership, I think about LLC. I know I can go there for best practice strategies. You come at conference planning in a different way than other people do. This creative art side that allows others to think outside the box.” 
  • Odin Zackman, DIG IN
    • “Creating Space is always a place where I feel buoyed about my work, inspired by others, and filled with learning that I can bring back to my leadership development activities on a community, regional and national level.” 
  • Jean Burkhardt
    • "LLC is a signature voice in the world of leadership development. While others study management, command and control and heroes, LLC steadfastly focuses on communities and the everyday effort that creates justice and hope.  Creating Space is the "must get there" event on my calendar!"
  • Milano Harden, The Genius Group
    • "Creating Space is one of the rarest of places for individuals supporting, evaluating and developing curriculum for social sector leaders.  The space is authentic, the participants are smart, interesting and often with such a broad range of leaders.  Finally, it is a great space to learn, breathe, refresh and contribute!"
  • Elissa Perry, Think. Do. Repeat.
    • "Creating Space is one of the few places where it all comes together for me - the tools, the people, the understandings, and the commitment.  I've so been missing this gathering and can't wait for May 2013!  Baltimore here I come!"
  • Kathy Reich, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
    • “I find that LLC is a really powerful vehicle for learning. And I find that the contributions that you’re making, in particular with the Leadership for a New Era project, are really helping to shift the field’s thinking away from traditional and hierarchical models of leadership to more inclusive 21st Century models of leadership. I think that is going to have long term and tangible benefits throughout the nonprofit sector. And when I think about who is researching this work, and who is talking about it, and who is bringing it to light, and who is really legitimizing it through high quality research, it is LLC.”
  • Georgia Sorenson, Visiting Professor of Leadership Studies at the Carey School of Law, University of Maryland
    • "I've been excited about the work of LLC for many years and consider it to be the premier leadership development and evaluation institution. LLC has always generated the ideas on the horizon for leadership practitioners and scholars. The learning community culture and the transparency of its work were firsts in the leadership field."
  • Manuel Gutierrez, Metis Associates (Member since 2003)
    • "LLC has made me more aware and sensitive to different leadership development issues; leadership development modalities; different ways in which it’s expressed; and also, made me more aware of techniques and methodologies for doing program evaluation and for sharing best practices."
  • Jean Burkhardt
    • "LLC has been a wonderful partner. They convened a consultation for leadership funders to look at their logic models and theories of change together. They helped leadership funders analyze how they allocate resources. And, most recently, they are working with funders to look at how community leadership development can transform communities. I have been so honored to work with them both as a foundation staff person and as a civilian! LLC remains one of my most cherished networks of colleagues.”
  • Kelly Hannum, Center for Creative Leadership and LLC Board Member (Member since 2004)
    • "I've attended quite a few LLC meetings and other events and always walk away knowing more and feeling like I have something valuable to share as well. One of my favorite experiences with LLC was creating the Handbook of Leadership Development Evaluation. I got to know wonderful people and learned a great deal from them all. While we were not able to include everything I would have wanted in the book - I am very proud of the product we created together. I know I can count on LLC folks to provide, shape, and respond to ideas in meaningful and constructive ways. When I leave an LLC event I'm filled with curiosity and energy - I know more than I did before the event and (paradoxically) I have more questions that I am motivated to pursue."
  • Esther Tahir, Public Health Institute (Member since 2005)
    • Esther Tahrir, who directs the Youth Leadership in Sexual and Reproductive Health Program (GOJoven) at Oakland’s Public Health Institute (PHI), recently ran a youth leadership development summit in Manila, Philippines. Twenty delegates representing 12 youth leadership development programs from six countries, including Ethiopia, Egypt, Pakistan, India, the Philippines and Guatemala participated in this Youth Leadership Learning Summit, which took place June 11-12, 2010. To help enhance learning and networking opportunities, and ensure that the meeting was participant led, Esther used Open Space Technology and World Café facilitation methods. The Summit was organized and co-facilitated by the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Leadership for Mobilizing Reproductive Health and funded by the Packard Foundation. Esther was a member of the Design Team for the Leadership Learning Community’s 2009 national meeting, Creating Space IX, Seize This Moment: Igniting and Sustaining Leadership for Social Justice, and was able to apply to the Manila Summit the creative and innovative design and facilitation processes of Open Space. She also used an Art Wall to share voices, reflections and participation that she learned through her experience with the LLC Creating Space conference. In addition, Esther applied the Conversation Catalyst methodology from the LLC Creating Space Conference to the March 11-13, 2010 GOJoven Regional Meeting of over 65 Central American and Mexican youth leaders in Peten, Guatemala that gathered to share best practices in adolescent sexual and reproductive health programming and design country specific strategies to advocate for comprehensive and youth-centered sexual and reproductive health education in Latin America.
  • LLC Member
    • “I used LLC resources to develop a curriculum for young leaders; I plan to use more for peer learning of emerging non-profit leaders. Great resources on the website!”

 Informative Events

  • Tim Wolfred, CompassPoint (Member since 2004)
    • "I have been to several of the Creating Space convenings. I most enjoy two things about them, connecting with the other participants from around the country and the cutting edge content that stimulates me to innovate in my consulting work with community nonprofits. And I especially remember my first convening, which was at Fort Mason on San Francisco Bay--such a beautiful meeting spot. Congratulations to LLC on ten years of creativity and provocation!"
  • Laura Smith, Associate Director of Programs and Services at the Tides Center
    • “Whether it’s in my work life at Tides or my work in theatre, nothing strikes me as a better metaphor for what LLC has added to my toolbox than the name of its gathering: Creating Space. It’s a lesson that I have had to learn several times, and will probably have to learn again in the future: there is no way to innovate, be thoughtful and capture learning, make meaningful change, without creating the space and being willing to spend time with the process and intentionality. Any time spent with LLC creates that space, and I’m grateful to be a member of the community that makes that possible.”
  • Deborah Frieze, The Berkana Institute
    • “Together, we can learn how to walk on to the ideas, beliefs and practices that will support us in creating healthy and resilient communities. This is the power of leadership learning communities, where practitioners offer their knowledge and questions to one another to accelerate our collective learning. What has been so valuable for me about LLC is how deeply this community understands this learning dynamic. Every time I gather with other LLC members, I find myself in stimulating conversations that challenge my beliefs and assumptions and stretch my sense of what's possible."
  • LLC Member (Participated in a Shared Leadership Learning Circle in 2010)
    • “I am so fortunate to have learned about the DataCenter's shared leadership model and to have delved into some tough topics in their 3-part series. So many networks that I'm part of are craving tools and critical inquiry about shared leadership models. This was a rare space where we shared skills and I actually walked away with specific things to try in my organizations and networks.”
  • LLC Member (Participated in a Shared Leadership Learning Circle in 2010)
    • “I believe the learning circle I recently attended will help my organization develop clear, non-hierarchical internal organization structures and decision making processes.”
  • Karna Ruder, Center for Ethical Leadership (Member since 2004)
    • Karma Ruder is the Director of Community Collaboration at the Center for Ethical Leadership, an organization based in the Pacific Northwest that works nationally and regionally to cultivate leadership and build capacity for change, helping communities tap collective wisdom in service of the common good. She first became involved with the Leadership Learning Community (LLC) in 2004 when she attended a Creating Space meeting in Oakland. After that, she helped organize several learning circles in Seattle, and in 2006 was on the planning committee for Creating Space in Baltimore.

      When Karma first met with LLC, she and her organization were interested in being part of a community learning more about collective leadership – specifically, the principles, intentions, and challenges of bringing diverse groups of people together. During the 2006 Creating Space planning session, understanding and promoting collective leadership was her primary concern.

      “I appreciated that as we were planning Creating Space, Deborah brought this great intention to embodying the energy that we wanted to show up. We raised questions about whether the way we were doing this was really collective leadership, and how we worked together to make decisions.” Read more!

  • Grady McGonagill, Independent Consultant, LLC Board Member (Member since 2009)
    • "My story about LLC begins with how I heard about it and went on to become a member of the Board. In 2009, while researching a report I was writing for the Bertelsmann Foundation on leadership best practices in the U.S., a colleague suggested that I speak to Claire Reinelt. In a very engaging interview she pointed me toward a large body of research with which I was not familiar, on leadership development in non-profit organizations. I noted that some of the best research had been done by Claire and/or Deborah Meehan, on behalf of LLC. I incorporated and built on some of it to create one of the most useful elements of my report. By coincidence, my client at Bertelsmann, Tina Doerffer, recommended me as a board member. Although I had never been a board member (despite having consulted to many boards in my 27-year practice as an independent consultant), I accepted the invitation to apply. To my delight I was accepted.

In the year and a half since my knowledge of LLC has deepened, as has my respect for the organization. What principally strikes me as how much the organization accomplishes with such a small staff, all of whom are top notch and paid far less than they deserve. And I’ve been very impressed with the diversity and depth of knowledge and experience of my fellow board members.

I feel that I have gained much more from LLC than I have contributed. For example, the Leadership for a New Era online forum connected me with a rich conversation about collective leadership. I participated in a learning circle in the Boston area, where I met some new colleagues and deepened my relationship with ones I already knew. I joined a webinar of the excellent Leadership and Race report. And I attended a workshop led on collective leadership led by Deborah and Board Chair Eugene Kim at the annual meeting of the International Leadership Association.

Members of the LLC community have become close colleagues. Claire joined me in writing an article for the Foundation Review on how foundations can make strategic investments in the social sector, which will appear in the spring of 2011. And Board Chair Eugene Kim will team up with me and another colleague to co-lead a workshop next June for the Authentic Leadership In Action (ALIA) Institute, on building and leading network-centric organizations in the digital era.

LLC is in fact a network-centric organization that has pioneered the transition to the digital era. I just now recall that I first heard the term “social media” from LLC staff. They were among the first to learn about it, and soon began using it to serve LLC’s wonderful mission.

It's been stimulating and fun. I only hope I can add value to the enormous contribution I believe LLC is making to the world."


Meaningful Connections

  • Eugene Eric Kim, Blue Oxen Associates, LLC Board Member
    • "One of the projects I worked on last year (2008) was a project funded by the Packard Foundation, working with population and reproductive health leaders in developing countries. All of that work was directly initiated through people I met through LLC. The different parties involved in that are all active in some capacity, both the Packard foundation and also the Institute of International Education, which was the active eventual client. Both of those groups are very active in LLC, and the work came out of a conversation we had at a Bay Area learning circle. There have been a lot of other conversations I've had as well with people I've met through the community that have been very valuable, none of the least of which with Claire and Deborah."
  • Ginny Oehler, Community Health Foundation and Tracy Patterson, Center for Creative Leadership (Members since 2006)
    • "In March 2007, the Leadership Learning community (LLC) held a Health Leadership Learning Circle retreat near Napa, California. The retreat gathered 30 health leadership development funders, practitioners, and evaluators to share resources, tools, information and successful approaches to supporting, developing and connecting health leadership. Ginny Oehler and Tracy Patterson were both at the retreat. Tracy was researching what other health leadership programs, with similar goals, were doing to effectively develop and support community-focused health leadership. Tracy thought attending the Health Circle retreat would give her an opportunity to meet people doing similar programs.

'I went with the intent to network with people to get ideas for the program. Ginny had a program like ours and she was willing to share it. She shared their evaluation plan and their community needs assessment. We also wanted to do a mentoring program and were interested in what did and didn’t work.'

When Tracy returned to CCL the team began the process of narrowing down where they might offer the program. Central New York emerged on the list, and Tracy remembered fondly her connection with Ginny and how helpful she had been. CCL was looking for contacts in community foundations to explore potential partnerships for implementing the leadership program. In the end CCL partnered with the Community Health Foundation to launch the inaugural site of the new Ladders To Leadership (LTL) Program." Read More

  • Odin Zackman, Dig In (Member since 2001)
    • "The Leadership Learning Community has been the strongest thread connecting and supporting so much of my work and learning over the past 10 years. I first learned of LLC while directing a statewide leadership development program in the sustainable communities arena, and was drawn in by the innovative approaches to leadership and learning and the integrative thinking that framed leadership in a new way. I was most taken by the depth and diversity of people attracted to exploring leadership to affect social change.

In addition to participating in learning conversations and attending Creating Space gatherings over the past decade, which I always find inspiring and informative, I also served on the LLC Board for a couple of years, helping to guide the development of a community seed fund and ways in which to maintain linkages among leadership development programs. I transitioned from the Board to serving as a consultant for LLC, guiding a project around building cross-program networks and serving as a co-facilitator for a couple of Creating Space gatherings.

I continue to do work that weaves together collaboration, leadership, and social change and work with LLC helped me as I started on this path nearly 7 years ago. LLC provides a way for me to connect with others doing similar work and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in supporting social change leadership. While there are times when I have fallen out of touch with the LLC community, I feel a consistent bond with the work being done regionally, nationally and internationally, and I always feel warmly welcomed when I reconnect.

I look forward to more learning and collaboration in the future, and it's great to feel that there is a professional setting where I can always return for inspiration, camaraderie and shared learning.

Congratulations on 10 years of groundbreaking and hopeful work in the leadership development field, and I'm eager to participate in what's to come over the next decade!"