Generating ideas, connections, and action


The Community Connections-Marygrove College Partnership: A Powerful Collaboration

Last May, after Day Two of Creating Space X, I had the honor of joining a self-organized dinner.  Among the group were Brenda Price, the director of Marygrove College’s Office of Urban Leadership Initiatives and who also oversees the Building Our Leadership in Detroit (BOLD) and Lisa Leverette, the Program Manager at the Detroit Community Connections Grant Program. That night, it became clear that Lisa and Brenda had amazing insights into many of the systemic social problems of their city. Also present were Dawn Wilson and Darnell Adams, who are both on the grant review panel for the Community Connections Small Grants Program.  Over dinner folks helped to paint a holistic picture that transcended the typical media characterizations  of Detroit with an unparalleled richness. So deep was their collective knowledge, so compelling, that all the non-Michiganians at the table (which included Tides Client Specialist Bella Celnik, LLC Chief Board Member and Independent Consultant Eugene Kim, and I) left committed to visit Detroit. As the night ended, Brenda and Lisa made a commitment to work together when they returned to Michigan. Now, seven months later, I reconnected with Brenda and Lisa to hear more about their collaboration.
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Self-organizing Initiative and Collaboration At Its Best

Creating Space catalyst, June Holley, network weaver extraordinaire and author of the Network Weavers’ Handbook made a very generous offer during her remarks.  In the spirit of the self-organizing initiative she said, “I will help coach the first person to reach out to me for network support.”  Georgia Sorenson pulled out her phone and instantly texted June.  She already had an interesting project in mind that was a collaboration between Georgia and the Leadership Learning Community.

Dr. Georgia Sorenson is the former founding director of the Academy of Leadership.  While she was the director, she received funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to bring together leadership scholars and practitioners from various disciplines and universities for the purpose of building a solid theoretical foundation for leadership studies.  The W. K. Kellogg Foundation has been a leader in the leadership development field funding scholarship and practice.  The Kellogg Leadership Studies Project (KLSP) was launched over 20 years ago (1994-1997).   As part of a presentation for the International Leadership Association’s Annual Conference, Georgia asked LLC if we would be interested in helping her do a Social Network Analysis (SNA) that would map the new collaborative relationships that were developed as a result of this original investment in building new connections among scholars across both disciplines and universities.
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Collaborating from the Place of Common Ground

Written by Beth Tener

Case Study of the Energy Action Network of Vermont

While the news is full of partisan politics, an alternative model is emerging for how to make progress in addressing large scale challenges: collaborative networks. Through network initiatives, parts of a system can come together, find common ground, and pursue solutions and collective action from those points of agreement. The Energy Action Network (EAN) in Vermont is a compelling example of this approach. EAN not only created a way to find common ground among people/organizations with divergent views, but also created a structure for on-going collaboration toward a goal that is decades away. At the December 2013 Leadership Learning Community Boston Learning Circle, Jennifer Berman shared the story of EAN’s formation and Andi Colnes, the Executive Director of EAN, shared how collaborative work has continued in a networked way. Their story and the discussion offered many valuable insights about how networks can affect change in a large system and what collaborative leadership means.

Jennifer shared the impetus for EAN. As Executive Director of Maverick Lloyd Foundation, a family foundation in Vermont, she received many proposals for similar and overlapping work, by organizations that were not connected. As the Foundation explored how to fund work focused on environmental issues, “we talked to about 40 people across the state and no one had same interpretation of the problem and no one agreed on a solution.” The foundation took an innovative approach to EAN logoinvest in a process to bring together diverse people who had not worked together from across the energy system, build a common sense of the problem, set an audacious goal, and align the work of many players to move toward the goal. Today, EAN is a collaborative network of over 70 non-profit, business and government leaders working to ensure that 90% of Vermont’s 2050 energy needs come from renewable energy and energy efficiency. read more »

Guest Blog Post: Leading with a Network Mindset

By Beth Tener, New Directions Collaborative
Originally Posted on the New Directions Collaborative Blog

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Working in a network is different than working in an organization. When we invite people to join a network, we cannot expect people who have spent their entire careers working in organizations to know how to “show up” to work in networked ways. Traditional organizational structures are based on certain way of seeing the world (i.e., a mechanistic model of reality.)  Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of Visa International, makes the point in this article how unconsciously this shapes our views and behaviors:
So for four hundred years we've been trying to build all our organizations as though the Newtonian mechanistic internal model of reality were universally applicable. You know, this person reports to that person who reports to that person. Planning comes from the top and is distributed down. Everything else—money, power—is distributed up. Everything has linear cause and effect, which leads to endless manuals of rules and regulations.

If you think about it, you realize that every institution you have experienced in your lifetime is consciously or unconsciously based on that metaphor and that model. Your school operated that way, and your church, and your community, and your state. Your internal model of reality is the machine. So it doesn't surprise me at all that it's difficult to think otherwise or even to really understand that you are thinking in a mechanistic way. 

Follow up on First Relationships, Then Results Webinar: Guest Blog Post by Stefan Lanfer


Author: Stefan Lanfer, Knowledge Officer, Barr Foundation

Note: This is a follow up article for the recent webinar First Relationships, Then Results: A New Paradigm for Leadership Development, featuring Kimberly Haskins and Stefan Lanfer of the Barr Foundation


A New Paradigm for Leadership Development

What if, instead of barreling ahead, relentlessly focused on keeping their organizations afloat (until they burn out trying), effective nonprofit leaders started delegating more and more responsibility to staff – at once paving the way for a next generation of leaders, and freeing themselves to think about their own leadership in more expansive ways?  What would it take to affect such a shift? And what would emerge if, at the same time, a critical mass of these great leaders become a great network? read more »

2013 Webinar: First Relationships, Then Results: A New Paradigm for Leadership Development | Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Presenter: Kimberly Haskins and Stefan Lanfer of the Barr Foundation
Topic: First Relationships, Then Results: A New Paradigm for Leadership Development
Date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM PDT

This webinar explores the idea that leaders can be rejuvenated and inspired and great collaborations sparked by the same thing – social capital. · After years of leading social-sector organizations in an environment where competition is more the norm than collaboration, many gifted leaders are near burnout, unable to maximize their individual or collective gifts. Since 2005, the Barr Fellowship has been changing that in Boston – through an investment in personal growth and connections among social change leaders. Recently profiled in the Foundation Review (and before that, in a Stanford Social Innovation Review Case study in May, 2012), the Barr Fellowship is proving to be a powerful force for transformation of individual leaders, their organizations, and their city. read more »

Nonprofit Leadership News Brief: January 2012

On Collective Leadership... read more »

  • Curtis Ogden highlights four key concepts underlying the roots of the Interaction Institute's approach to collective leadership: epistemology, cosmology, ontology, technology.  Epistemology is that it’s not just about what we know, but how we know it – intuitively, intellectually, analytically. Cosmology is looking to the complex living systems and networks as the complicated reality we all live in. Ontology is the idea that each of us is evolving and capable of both learning and unlearning. Finally, technology/methodology is the idea of looking to the practices that create the best conditions for collective leadership. 
  • Stowe Boyd discusses concepts from a Sara Horowitz’s talk on mutualism and creates a “mutualist manifesto”.  At the heart of the manifesto is finding common cause and growing mutual associations locally and globally, associations such as coops, unions, and policy organizations. Boyd thinks that associations supporting one another, governance by members, seeking benefits not profits, and cooperating in resource allocation will all make great headway towards directing change in a systemically chaotic world.

Nonprofit Leadership News Brief: October 25, 2011

On Civic Engagement... read more »

  • Volunteering and high levels of civic engagement have helped certain communities weather unemployment with greater ease. The National Conference on Citizenship has created a report based off of U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Labor Statistics. Working with neighbors in one’s community resulted in a decrease of .256% unemployment. The report calls on community and business leaders to foster a local discussion in their community on civic engagement.
  • This follows a new study where social change was found to be a priority for Americans. Walden University and Harris Interactive conducted a survey of 2,100 people and found that 85% believe that their individual actions can effect social change and more than 50% plan to engage in creating social change in the future.

News Brief: Network Weaving, Collaboration, Transparency

On Network Weaving…

A recent webinar talked of the role of networks in creating scale. Nonprofits have been quicker than enterprises in their understanding of their emerging role as facilitator. Social network analysis has been key in letting organizers see their network more clearly, and will hopefully help them answer key questions such as what are the relationships like and how easy is it to break in to a network.


On Collaboration and Technology…

Data is one of the new platforms for change. Philanthropy 2173 gives four examples of data making a difference, including a Web page that crowdsources data on Japanese radiation and a site that matches analysts with nonprofits to unlock what the nonprofits already know. 

Data, sharing information and collaboration often come together to effect change. In the new Project HealthDesign from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, patients are encouraged to share more day-to-day information in order to facilitate better diagnoses.

Information by itself may not be enough. The Communications Network blog talks about Tina Rosenberg’s concepts of peer pressure. Though the word often has negative connotations, valuable information can be gleaned from the idea that it’s not just the information that will bring about change, it’s the information coming from the right source.

Facilitating cooperation is also about perspective, positivity, play, and preference, as explained in The P's of Regenerativity. Curtis Odgen explains how these important concepts help us to understand the system behind whatever form of collaboration you are participating in.

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News Update: Leadership and Networks!

News Brief 03/31/11

This week's newbrief focuses on giving some examples of organizations, programs, and articles that demonstrate the power of leadership and networks. read more »

  • Spark is an organization that seeks to build a community of young, global citizens who are invested in changing patterns of inequality that impact women throughout the world. Its strategy, which focuses on community building, education, advocacy, and grant-making, is to identify and fundraise for outstanding women's organizations around the world. It is now striving to create a global network of philanthropists dedicated to supporting women who are inciting change in their communities.
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