The opportunities and challenges of leadership development efforts are powerfully illustrated in the story of a young leader I will refer to as David. As a handful of us sat listening to David’s story we were humbled by his accomplishments, commitment, and connection to his community. In his early 20’s he had helped to negotiate the first truce between two of the largest rival gangs in his community. He was subsequently chosen for a leadership development program and given a sizeable award with very few strings to advance his great work. He immediately quit his job as a shoe salesman and devoted himself full time to this work of providing alternatives and options for young men in gangs. He talked about how he used his award, “When someone is hungry you can’t tell them not to grab someone’s purse or break into a car so I would give them a couple of hundred dollars so they could eat or feed their families. Then we would talk.” During his two years he began recruiting these young men and building a support organization that he operated from his home.
He was very successful for a time, and then his money ran out. While he was very grateful that he had had this chance to do good work he was frustrated and angry when he had to give up this work to look for another job so that he could feed his family. David moved his own children out of the city to stay with his sister in the suburbs because he believes that unless things change this city is going to erupt. He found another job and spends the little free time he has commuting to visit his kids and working with young men in his community on weekends.
David would not have used the term ‘leader’ to describe himself before he was chosen to participate in a leadership program. He is one of the many community grassroots leaders who have been unrecognized by the traditional, “positional” models of leadership. There is no question of the value and importance of programs that can support the efforts of people like David who have the wisdom, experience and roots to make a tremendous difference in their community. From this example also emerges the critical importance of identifying and providing the training and capacity building that would enable a leader like David to build his work in a sustainable way with greater access to resources.
The ‘What? Who? How? And Why? Of Leadership:
There is much that can be learned from numerous and varied leadership programming efforts about how to support emerging grassroots leaders and community change efforts. In fact, many of the existing leadership development programs have taken a break from programming in an effort to surface the lessons and gain a deeper understanding of the design elements which have contributed to both the successes and frustrations. Many are now revisiting their original assumptions about leadership; ‘what is leadership’, ‘who is a leader’, ‘how can leadership be developed’, and ‘why? …the for what and to what end?’ TCE is to be commended for undertaking this analysis and evaluation on the front end of programming in order to draw from the richness of models in supporting leadership programming efforts that will unleash the talents and full capacity of the many David’s in our communities.
Thinking about Leadership – Scholars and Literature
Leaders as Learners and Communities of Learning: Sometimes the discussion about leadership gets stuck at the level of “Is leadership developed or innate?” What matters most is the discussion about how leadership can be developed. An important contribution to this field has been the work of Peter Senge who introduces the ideas that leadership and learning must be intrinsically linked. This is an important move away from the idea that a leader is a person with all of the answers towards a model of the leader as a lifelong learner who can initiate a learning process that will engage the synergy and wisdom of broader communities. In a time of unprecedented change leadership development programs must become learning communities where people closest to the problem are supported to question, explore, analyze and interact in order to develop solutions and innovative approaches. Senge points out that those of us engaged in change must operate “in a mode of inquiry, knowing that nobody knows and everybody can learn continually.” (Senge, l990) It is consistent with this approach that TCE has chosen to convene focus groups of grantees to surface and identify from this process the innovations and leadership development solutions that will best meet the needs of the communities you serve.
Leader/Follower and Dynamic Empowerment: Grassroots Perspective: It is not surprising that David and many other active agents of change do not chose to think of themselves as ‘leaders’. Even before the media debacle around Clinton’s ethics and status as a leader, the notion of leadership has had mixed popularity. At the grassroots community level, leaders have often been regarded as the enemy…it was often unresponsive political or corrupt positional leaders that communities needed to organize ‘against’. Many reject the idea of leader as a hierarchical, paternalistic or presumptuous model that does not value the dynamic relationship between leaders and followers. Even though attention has been paid to the importance of followership there is still a, “top-down cast to the definitions, despite the emphasis in the leadership definition on leaders and followers. While leadership aims at ‘realizing goals mutually held by both leaders and followers’, it seems that these goals are largely defined by leaders acting for both entities.” (Burns, l998)
James MacGregor Burns describes the leader as an initiator who operates within a complex web of dynamic relationships with partners who support ideas, opponents who respond negatively, and those who are passive or isolated, who may agree but remain uncommitted because of apathy. Most leadership writers and scholars today write about the importance of relationships. Burns elaborates the value of paying attention to conflictual relationships in the leadership process. “I believe conflict---both within and between groups---is a more powerful force working for change because it forces actors to dig down beneath superficial, transient attitudes to the motivations that, when the chips are down, most closely influence their actions.” (Burns, Empowerment for Change, l998) Burns suggest that by dropping the limiting leader/follower dichotomy it is possible to understand leadership as a process which allows for the mutual empowerment of those in a multiplicity of roles as they chart directions for change
Collaborative Leadership: Across the board from corporate to community leadership efforts there is increasing recognition of the importance of collective leadership and authentic collaboration. Scott Peck speaks to the importance of collaboration in building community in his work. He describes the leader as, “a facilitator whose role is to create and hold the “safe space” where people can discover themselves and learn to relate to one another authentically. The focus is shifted from the individual leader to the group, community or organization.” (Peck, l987) There are clear implications. Leaders need to facilitate learning and develop collaborative models of information sharing, consensus and decision making.
John Gardner elevates the discussion of collaboration to the level of cross-sectoral problem solving required to address the complex problems of local communities. “The key is to get people talking and working together across the boundary lines that traditionally divide and diminish a community --- people from government, corporations, social agencies, ethnic groups, unions, neighborhoods and so on. Relationship building is the key to breaking political gridlock and being able to take action in the public interest.” (John Gardner ‘Boundary Crossers’, l998). Within the field of leadership development many programs have begun to ask how to design programs that are diverse and bring together a broad mix of leaders across different lines of race, class, profession, sectors and issues. Some programs are asking how to build multicultural competencies and raising questions about the pipeline and the danger of overlooking grassroots leaders while promoting leaders who exist within the narrow context of the cultural mainstream.
Grassroots Perspective: Initial discussions with TCE have revealed an understanding of the need in working with grassroots leaders to ‘bring them to the table’ with the mainstream political and policy shapers. An important tenant of community grassroots leadership development is the need to “focus on moving leaders from an isolated, special interest or problem focused approaches to community issues to an approach that embraces the community’s overarching and inter-connected concerns in order to achieve system-wide change.” (Campbell, “Lessons Learned About Grassroots Community Leadership”, l997).
Service Leadership: The idea of service leadership or stewardship is integral to collaborative leadership. It focuses on serving the needs of others opposed to exercising privilege, power or control in the service of ones own interests or agenda. Robert Greenleaf in his work “The Servant as Leader” (Greenleaf, l99l) explains, “As people feel respected and valued as partners they can create a community of shared vision and responsibility.”
Grassroots Perspective: An evaluation of 24 grassroots leadership programs found that issues of motivation are critical to engaging people in the grassroots who often feel disenfranchised, “People respond most enduringly to some sense of higher purpose and some motivation that is larger than their individual self-interest. A successful grassroots community leadership program must call on people to move beyond their personal interests and limitation. It must connect them to a calling.” (Campbell, l997).
Spirituality and the Inner Work of Leadership: Greenleaf placed great emphasis on the importance of the inner work and self-understanding in order to bring humility and authenticity to the leadership process. The idea that we must devote this time to inner reflection in order to fully integrate our values and practice resonates with the words of Mahatma Ghandi that personal transformation is at the heart of leadership: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”.
Spirituality and inner work receive increasing attention as leaders attempt to implement change under increasingly difficult circumstances that challenge the best of intentions and motivations. Authentic, ethical leadership cannot flourish without the opportunity for disciplined reflection. Despite the structure of curriculum and organized learning many participants in leadership development programs describe ‘rejuvenation’ as one of the most significant benefits of their involvement. With the survival of people and the planet at risk, there is an increasing demand for the integration of spirit in all aspects of our lives. The challenge of how to integrate the inner life of spirit with the outer world of service is captured by Rob Lehman, “As we enhance our inner capacity for wholeness and freedom we strengthen our outer capacity to love and serve.”
Leadership Challenges for the New Millennium
The discussion about leadership development has to be placed in the context of a world very different from that of ten years ago. Underlying most leadership development programming is a desire to promote positive change. A number of leaders and scholars committed to developing leaders who could build a more caring, just and equitable world came together in a leadership study project to identify leadership issues for the 21st century. This leadership team with the Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership, (Kathleen Allen, Juana Bordas, Gill Robinson Hickman, Larraine Matusak, Georgia Sorenson, and Kathryn Whitmire) identified several significant trends and leadership implications. They suggest that 21st century leaders must be prepared to understand and lead under conditions of globalization, increasing stress on the environment, increasing speed and dissemination of information technology, growing diversity, rapid change, unprecedented complexity, increasing interdependence, and an ever widening gap between the haves and have nots.
Leadership Skills for the 21st Century: Most programs hold implicit or explicit assumptions about the competencies that will support the success of a leader or change catalyst. Several of the competencies which emerge in the TCE literature are also supported by the work of the Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership which identifies the importance of systems thinking, multicultural competencies, collaborative leadership, creativity and innovation, life-long learning, self-reflection, computer and media literacy, and a basic understanding of the global economy. This list of course expands and contracts with regards to leadership in specific areas and issues but it is becoming clear that there are some universally important skills. As these skills are surfaced the question then emerges as to what is known about how to train, foster and develop these leadership competencies.
Trends in Leadership Development – A Scan of the Field
History and Scope: There are a tremendous number and variety of programs and training efforts that share the goal of developing leadership capacities. Although the field of ‘leadership development’ is recognized as a relatively new occurrence capacity building efforts have existed for decades. Within academia you will find a variety of fellowship programs. Specific models of leadership development and skills capacity building emerged 50 years ago with the Coro Fellowships followed in the last 25 years by the Kellogg Fellowship program. Corporations have long invested in professional development programs constantly introducing and testing out new management theories. At the community level you have organizer schools, the Highlander Institute, the Industrial Areas Foundation, the George Meany Institute. In the last 10 years there have been a number of grantmaking efforts targeted at developing grassroots leaders. Until recent acknowledgement of the field of leadership development there has been little effort to understand the basic principles of skill and capacity building as it cuts across these diverse sectors. There has also been little opportunity for these programs to share lessons in order to advance this field and work.
This report will attempt to group the skill and capacity building approaches into major trends with an emphasis on existing grassroots community leadership programs and lessons that can be drawn from the field to strengthen community development. These groupings will be made for the ease of discussion and illustration, and are not meant to be rigid classifications. Many of these programs are hybrids drawing from the best of different models. Best practices are drawn from all models and many of these innovations can be applied to any leadership development undertaking.
The Grassroots Community Model:
Grassroots Community Leadership programs have been charged with identifying, training, and supporting people at the community level to create their own solutions and develop leaders who can carry forward their vision. Much of the understanding, lessons and challenges being shared are drawn from an evaluation of 24 grassroots community leadership development programs funded between l992-97. The report, which will be sited in this section, “Lessons Learned About Grassroots Community Leadership”, was commissioned by the Kellogg Foundation and written by Campbell and Associates. A sampling of the programs evaluated includes: ACORN Institute for Social Justice, Highlander Education and Research Education Center, Grassroots Leadership, Democracy Resource Center, Interdenominational Theological Center, National Coalition Building Institute, National Council of La Raza, Robert Greenleaf Center, Southern Empowerment Project, and Western States Center.
The report describes the unique niche of grassroots leadership programs as distinct from other leadership efforts in the following ways: an ability to move leaders from focus on specific interests and problems to a broad community perspective that strives for system-wide change, the ability to move people to a higher calling, ethic or commitment to their community, and the ability to work across wide-ranging areas of expertise, differing positions on issues and across divisive boundaries so that the outcome reflects the common good of the community. (Campbell, l997)
Features of the Grassroots Community Leadership Model:
There is a great deal of variety among community leadership programs but those scanned for this report recruited individuals who were situated within organizations and committed to social change; the leadership group sizes varied from 10-25; the period of leadership development usually spanned 9 months – a year; the leadership group usually met 3-4 time a year and in a intensive seminar/retreat setting removed from work and family; there was some form of support between meetings from staff, mentors, or technical assistance providers; most of the programs required an applied leadership program in the individuals communities. There was an effort made in most programs to recruit a diverse group ethnically and with a clear grassroots representation.
Grassroots Leadership Curriculum:
From a number of experiences the following important leadership competencies have been identified for grassroots community leaders:
A systems perspective that enables the leader to understand specific issues and needs within the framework of overarching community vitality and development.
A spiritual base of operation driven by values and commitment which enables the leader to articulate vision and inspire others.
A grasp of democratic principles for informing, involving and empowering community members around shared vision and action.
An ability to work with diverse groups of people across many lines of difference.
An understanding of the impact and implications of the new devolution environment.
Strategic Community Alliances: The Eureka Communities Fellowship Program has offered another model of community leadership development as an organization that builds relationships among organizations to provide peer technical assistance. In the next year Eureka aspires to move more to a model of strategic collaboration across their specific sectors and organizations. As a regionally based program there exists potential for bringing a broad cross section of groups together to leverage their work in the interests of a common agenda for community development, very much in the model of the grassroots leadership programs.
There are two similar projects attempting this type of strategic collaborative leadership team development. The Pew Civic Entrepreneur Initiative has selected 10 cities which receive funding to bring together a group of civic leaders from different sectors of the city for training and strategic planning. The Center for Reflective Community Practice will select 9 leaders from each of 3 targeted communities for an intensive 3 year training program that would include a 9 month rotation at MIT. Fellows from the community would be chosen to represent a variety of interests and experiences including youth, community development, and education. Many local chambers offer leadership training programs called, Leadership (the city name). These programs are not as intensive or as grassroots in their focus, but do bring together community civic leaders and expose them to local issues and organizations helping to build important civic networks.
The Organizer/Advocacy Grassroots Training Program: There are a number of esteemed organizations that provide basic training in organizing skills. In this group are institutions like the Industrial Areas Foundation, the Center for Third World Organizing, the George Meany Institute and some of the organizations reviewed as part of the grassroots leadership initiative. These programs have not traditionally been encompassed within the scope of leadership development programs because the training is usually of a much shorter duration with a specific focus, and often not subsidized. A few of these programs place participants in internship experiences. As a distinction, some of the organizer schools and training sessions are based on the model of being the opposition.
This difference can be understood in the context of the bias towards ‘positional leadership’. These programs generally support the leadership efforts of those that do not hold power and are therefore often not recognized within the mainstream of leadership development programs. As the leadership development field strives to broaden its understanding of grassroots leadership is can learn from the history of these organizations which have long understood issues of empowerment, strategic alliances, collective leadership, consensus building and community. These organizations can contribute and also benefit from being brought into the mainstream where their understanding of partnership and coalition can be expanded providing access to new resources.
Evaluation – Grassroots Leadership Strengths and Limitations:
Evaluation found that grassroots leadership programs succeeded in the following areas:
Individual skill development
Developing vision and commitment to the community
Ability to involve diverse, grassroots participants
Increased networking and opportunities to learn from each other
Willingness to tackle tough projects with some success
Evaluation found the following limitations in the model.
Lack of attention to train leaders in organizational development
Lack of indicators for community impact
Inability to apply specific lesson to models for community development
Difficulty discerning between a successful project and systems change.
Need for ongoing support and renewal.
The Individual - A Skills/Capacity Building Model: The Coro Fellowship Program was one of the first individual skills based programs. The Kellogg National Leadership Program emerged as a significant model 25 years ago. The Kellogg program selected fellows over a three-year period, provided a financial award for individually designed learning plans, and conducted formal experiential seminars to provide leadership training around specific themes. Many programs have designed themselves in the Kellogg model with some variation in the amount of award, time commitment and particular focus. Among those modeled after Kellogg are the Kellogg International Leadership Program, the William C. Friday Fellowship Program, the Asian Pacific Islanders Women’s Leadership Institute, the Rockefeller Next Generation, the Fetzer Fellowship, the RWJ Executive Nurse Fellows, the Join Together Fellowship Program, the Commonwealth Fellows Program, and the Healthcare Forum Fellowship. A number of additional programs were reviewed also within this model including: the California Agricultural Leadership Program, the Annie E. Casey Fellowship Program, the CDC Public Health Leadership Institute, Women’s Health Leadership, the Bush Fellows, the Rockefeller Brother’s Fund Fellowship for Minority Teachers, the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Program, the Henry J. Kaiser Media Fellowship, the Robert Wood Johnson Urban Health Initiative Fellows Program, and the Open Society Community Fellows Program, Features of the Individual Leadership Development Model: The programs included within this trend all share an assumption that they can positively effect social change and development through an investment in leadership. All of these programs offer some formal training to a group of fellows/leaders convened for the purpose of skill development. There is a great deal of overlap in the types of skills offered but no clear agreement across programs about what are critical leadership competencies. Many of the programs offer training in computers, media, conflict resolution, public speaking, strategic planning, multi-cultural competencies, and team building. Some of the programs offer seminars in overarching issues like democracy, systems thinking, and globalization and those with a specific focus offer specific training in theories on violence prevention, or healthcare reform.
Many of these programs offer some form of experiential learning and require the development of individual learning plans initiated by the fellow. Some of these programs, Casey and Coro require a full time 9-month commitment. In most cases there is an applied leadership project, usually in the last year of the fellows’ training. These fellowship programs underwrite travel study expenses for fellows and many provide additional award monies that can support the individual learning plan and applied leadership project. (These programs are generally set apart from the grassroots leadership model just described by a financial award for fellows that may range up to $50,000 and by the longer duration of the fellowship period, usually 1-3 years.)
The Social Entrepreneurial Model
Unlike the individual leadership development model this approach supports the development of ideas and projects to advance the public sector. These programs provide seed money for projects that might not be developed enough to secure grant funding. Programs may run 1-3 years and provide $15,000-$30,000 year in addition to medical benefits. They also offer coaching and technical support to enable creative and innovative entrepreneurs to launch programs that might not otherwise receive funding. The focus of these programs is on the successful implementation of the project or idea. In addition to coaching some of the programs sponsor conferences, retreats where fellows can support and learn from each other through the trials of implementation. There is often training specific to organizational development. One program surveyed their participants about training interests and formed a curriculum around the 4 top vote getters. Sometimes the programs help to find sponsors who will incubate a new service or program. The programs reviewed in this model were Echoing Green Fellowship, Ashoka, Youth Service America Social Entrepreneurs, Southern Community Partners, the California Wellness Community Leaders Fellows Program.
The Award Model
There are several well known leadership recognition award, of course, The Nobel Peace Prize, the Pulitzer Prize and the MacArthur Award along with lower profile awards, the California Wellness Foundation Peace Prize, the Betz Award, the Norman Cousins Award, and the Lyndhurst Career Prize. The general mission for awarding prizes ranges from rewarding good work to the notion that if you give money to people who are already doing good things they will use it to do more good. It is important to clarify intentions as revealed in the controversy explored in a New York times article investigating the types of award expenditures which included vacations and in one case new aluminum siding.
With a ‘no strings attached’ award it is important to be comfortable with the idea of rewards that may serve only as an appreciation or acknowledgement of accomplishments. That said, recognition can serve as an opportunity to inspire similar efforts and achievement in others. It has also been found that when a group of notable leaders were interviewed there was only one strong correlation among them, i.e. someone they admired had recognized all of them for their leadership potential. The simple value of recognition and appreciation should not be underestimated.
The Organizational Model: Eureka Communities Fellowship, the Frances Hesselbein Fellowship, and the Denali Initiative Fellowship Program all share the unique distinction of focusing specifically on developing the capacity of organizations by focusing on the executive directors or comparable leaders within non-profit organizations. The leaders of these organizations are brought together for training in skill areas basic to organizational development. The Eureka Communities Program focuses on developing a system of peer technical assistance matching leaders with other non-profits organizations. They spend 2 separate week long internships with other organizations who have an identified strength in the participants target area of learning. The Denali Initiative will focus the first 18 months on training and second 18 months on technical assistance that would enable participants to implement their development plans. It is their outlook to develop a sustainable support network for peer assistance as well. The Drucker Foundation offers a series of seminars on innovation in non-profit management and access to their best thinkers and practitioners in the field.
The Academic Research Model: Fellowships have long been associated with academia and research. The majority of fellowship programs fund academic study. In most cases the mission supported by investment in these fellowships is to support research that will advance a discipline or a breakthrough, often in medical science or technology. Some of the fellowships support studies abroad and occasionally are intended as an enrichment and development opportunity for a particularly successful student. Almost all of the academic fellowships involve financial support for study in a specific field, i.e. the Pew Environmental Scholars, the Greenling Institute Fellowship – public policy for minorities, Packard Fellowship for International Fellows, Ford Public Policy Fellowship, Bernard Osher Public Neurology Fellowships, Carnagie UCLA Journalism Fellowships, Klingenstein Fund Stanford Hospital Fellowship, the California Wellness Foundation Research Fellows. Although these fellowships have traditionally not been included within the leadership development field they could become a resource to inform the work or change activists and practitioners through the merger of theory and practice.
The Community Service Model:
Many of today’s leaders trace their initiation back to Peace Corps experiences. The community service movement is still strong today with Peace Corps, Americorps, Vista, Youth Service America, the UC Joint Medical Students Program, the Center for Leadership Studies and Service Learning, College Leadership New Jersey, City Year, and Public Allies. These programs are included because much can be drawn from these experiences about the value and design of experiential learning opportunities that expose individuals to new cultures, concepts and experiences. The service movement on colleges today encourages new citizen leaders with a greater awareness of social inequities and cultivates a sense of responsibility and commitment to change.
Specific Focus, Issues, and Target Populations: Across all of these fellowship and leadership development approaches there are programs which apply leadership learning to specific issues like healthcare reform, violence prevention, children and families, spirituality, public policy, democracy, and media. Many of these fellowship programs target specific populations for service, e.g. Asian American Women, Women in Health, Nurses, Native Americans, grassroots leaders, teachers, and people who live in the South or other specific regions.
Summary: “Do”s and “Don’t”s
Common sense ‘bests’:
Mentoring/Coaching: The value of individual attention and coaching was a constant across all leadership programs and an important way to augment staff resources.
Recognition: Across the board all of the recipients of fellowships express the significance and motivational value of being recognized for their work.
Cohorts: Fellows universally acknowledge and value the experience of learning as part of a group that develops an ongoing support relationship. These groups coalesce most successfully when team building exercises or seminars are incorporated into the curriculum design early in the program.
Individual Learning Plans: Although there may be general leadership competencies there are a wide variety of individual learning needs that cannot be addressed by a common curriculum. Individual Learning Agendas/Plans enable fellows to design a learning opportunity to address their specific interests and capacity building goals.
Family Involvement: Several programs, Southern Community Partners and the Kellogg National Leadership Program sponsored the involvement of family in specific fellowship activities. This is an important way to: increase the legacy of the experience by extending it to family, maintain the fellow’s most important community of support, and honor the sacrifice and commitment required by family members to support the fellow’s full participation in their learning opportunity.
Feedback and Assessment Tools: In order to develop your skills and effectiveness as a leader it is critical to have an accurate assessment of your strengths and limitations. This involves knowing how other people see your skills and work style. This feedback is critical to learning how to work effectively with different kinds of people while maximizing your talents and managing your weaknesses. Most leaders outside of the business community to not have access to evaluation and assessment tools.
Alumni Involvement: Many of the leadership development programs see the value of maintaining the involvement of the alumni as a resource to their foundations and as mentors for on going programs. It is also a way of increasing the resources and synergy of the fellows through their continued involvement as part of a post fellowship learning community. This has been accomplished in some areas by providing funding to seed alumni projects and collaboration, by hosting regional gatherings for active fellows and alumni, by designating a senior fellows status of those asked to serves as mentors to new fellows, and by offering continued financial subsidization for conferences and learning seminars.
Open Learning Communities: The most successful programs are those that can model the learning environment at the heart of leadership development. The California Wellness Foundation convened meetings of the fellows and alumni to actively solicit their feedback to evaluate and strengthen the program. A hallmark of success for some programs might be the mutiny, as fellows feel empowered to take initiative in redesigning their seminars. Their flexibility and ability to learn from and integrate constructive criticism midstream may measure the hallmark of a successful training program.
Best and Promising Innovations:
Subsidized release time: Intensive learning requires a strong commitment of time and reflection. In many cases time devoted to fellowship activities created stress at home, in the community and on the job. The Kellogg Foundation provides subsidization for excused work time along with site visits from staff to validate the fellows activities and ease tensions at work.
Fellowship Teams: The Grace Workers, a new fellowship program is looking at accepting fellows who have identified a team from their community willing to support them in their fellowship projects. The danger with leadership development efforts is that in an effort to strengthen a leader’s success in their community they are pulled away from their community by the requirements of the program.
Peer Technical Assistance: The Eureka Communities Fellowship practice of developing peer technical assistance within their groups creates a community of support that will be sustainable beyond the life of the formal fellowship experience.
Seed Grants for Collaboration: The William C. Friday Fellowship offers additional funds for fellows who collaborate on a project. This seed grant encourages fellows to explore opportunities to work on joint project. As they work together they learn a great deal about the valuable ‘process’ of creating a common vision, collective planning and decision making.
The Unfellows: The Fetzer Foundation has undertaken a study of the needs of those applicants who were not selected in order to understand how to design broader range of offerings that could provide support at various levels.
New Knowledge: The Center for Reflective Leadership will choose 9 leaders from a community and mentor and train them for 2 years in their community and then bring them to campus (MIT) for 9 months of training (as trainer and trainee.) They feel that in the mix of community knowledge and academic knowledge they will generate a new knowledge that will inform the work of those in academia and in the community.
Common Cautions: Core Curriculum: Most leadership development programs experience varying levels of dissatisfaction with group seminars which inevitably will not satisfy the variety of learning styles, interests, needs and priorities of a diverse group of fellows.
Accountability/Expectations: Fellows are often chosen because of their exhibited leadership activity within their communities, agencies or institutions. It should come as no surprise that fellows are extremely busy, over committed and inclined at times to question the value or priority of fellowship activities. If participation is diffused by the lack of commitment of the entire group the sense of community will break down. It is critical to have clear rules for participation and some leverage for enforcement; e.g. award payments tied to program participation.
Clear Program Goals: One program interviewed described itself as an individual skills building program and operated more like a social entrepreneurial program. The fellows all felt they were supposed to use their funds for projects and work. They were not provided with the level of technical support that project development would require and felt very disappointed that the general curriculum was not meeting their needs.
Technology: There is no question that computers could be an invaluable resource increasing communication among fellows between gatherings, serving as a data bank to increase fellows access to each other, and of course increasing fellows leadership competency and understanding of the information age. Many programs buy computers, incentivize their use or strongly encourage fellows to access technology. In most cases there is a gap in the skills levels and use of computers among fellows. The cursory training programs offered do not seem to address these differences in skill and interest.
Challenges: Diversity: Many of the best leadership programs have made conscious efforts to select ethnically diverse groups of fellows. (Very few programs reflect class diversity.) In the course of intensive training most of these programs have had the opportunity to deal with issues of race as they engage specific issues, in their curriculum design, during experiential travel, and in the relationships among fellows and with staff. Most programs in trying to build the multi-cultural competencies of their fellows offer as part of their curriculum, seminars in “Diversity/Multiculturalism”. Many programs seem to be managing the tension rather than utilizing this microcosm of experience to develop a deeper analysis, understanding of personal responsibility, and a change agenda for community action that can challenge institutionalized racism and advance race relations in this country.
Spirituality: Within leadership development programs many fellows find that issues of spirituality emerge in unanticipated ways during the course of intensive learning. There is some conjecture that this interest surfaces in the course of intensive learning; or simply when fellows are given an opportunity for disciplined reflection and provided with a break from the usually hectic pace of leadership life. Those experienced in the grassroots community leadership agree that some form or personal transformation or deepening of commitment to a larger good is at the core of effective grassroots leadership. While most programs have not consciously integrated ‘spirituality’ within the formal design of their programs, fellows in some cases have addressed this need by redirecting retreat agendas, through individual learning plans, and through fellow initiated meetings/study seminars and in some cases in rituals and ceremonies which fellows have integrated into seminars.
Most programs are reticent to formally incorporate ‘spirituality’ into their program because of a concern about how this could be done in ways that fully respect the diverse range of spiritual and religious practices of fellows. Still, it is important to recognize the necessity to find ways to support the inner work of fellows as they reflect and connect to their own personal spiritual sources. This space and time need to be created for the inner journey along with an inclusive environment where fellows can express the ‘heart and soul’ of their leadership through ceremony, ritual, song, poetry, writing, solitude, music, and the natural environment.
Community: A number of leadership development programs have expressed concerns about the tensions between fellows, their families and their communities that emerge during the fellowship. The source of tensions seems to be the additional time commitments demanded by the experience. One approach adopted in community grassroots leadership is to balance development and action through an approach of ‘learning by doing’ – developing skills in the course of community work, perhaps under the guidance of a mentor or with technical assistance.
In some cases resentments surfaced over the idea that fellows had been selected or anointed and because fellows who were less available for family and work responsibilities were also the beneficiaries of tremendous benefits and privileges. An additional and quite possibly related concern was the transition following the fellowship. While there is general agreement that relationship building is essential in strong leadership programs most of the individual development models pull fellows from their communities for training. Many fellows express difficulty trying to share and apply what they have learned with their support communities and as they return to their organizations in an imperfect world.
The premise of many leadership development programs is that by developing leaders they will strengthen the capacity and development of communities. This would suggest that more attention should be paid in the design of the curriculum to overcoming the fellow’s dislocation and strengthening their connection to their community. One study of grassroots community leadership programs found that participants would benefit from more training in organizational development so that they could build the capacity of the organizations in which they are based. Ideas for strengthening ties to community include: recruiting a fellow with an identified support team that will be involved in some aspects of training and projects, the recruitment of teams instead of individuals from communities, activities for members of fellows’ communities, site visits and training for fellows’ colleagues, and funding for projects or applied leadership practices that support the fellows in their primary area of community work. These issues should also be addressed in the curriculum by offering training and mentoring in collective leadership.
Sustainability: One of the clearest frustrations across fellowship experiences was the issue of sustainability. Often in the grassroots and individual leadership development programs when fellows planned their ‘applied leadership project’ there was not sufficient attention given to what might be accomplished in a years time and what would occur at the end of that year. In this and the social entrepreneurial model there is a tendency for fellows to want to start their own organization or institution. There is often not adequate discussion about who may already be doing this work or how to accomplish the objectives by accessing or leveraging existing work. Fellows need to be asked if they can accomplish their goals by facilitating a partnership between existing organizations or initiating a process by which consumers might change the scope of services within an existing organization, or how to test or incubate an idea within an existing institution.
Expectations are very important here. Is success measured only by the implementation of a project or might it be found in the lessons learned from the ideas that did not fly? Many times fellows experience a conflict when their organizations do not embrace the spirit of risk taking. Are risk taking and a safe environment for mistakes fostered in the applied leadership project or the social entrepreneurial venture? How are these lessons disseminated to strengthen the learning of the entire fellowship group? Is it possible to create this environment in the social entrepreneurial programs?
When successful projects or programs are launched, have fellows developed the necessary skills and support systems to sustain these projects beyond the funded fellowship period? One of these programs reported that 5 years after inception 1/3 of the original projects and programs were still in existence.
A final issue raised by the grassroots community leadership effort is the issue of sustainable community impact. A concern was raised that while a project may solve a problem or have a positive value, often times these strides do not contribute to new models or systemic change that will contribute to the overall, long term well being of the community.
What’s Missing and Potential Innovations:
Community Boundary Crossers: Unusual partnerships and strategic alliances within the community have catalyzed the most innovative and successful community revitalization and development initiatives. An understanding of the 21st leadership challenges of globalization, disparity of wealth, complexity, interconnected systems, change and diversity all call for strong cross sectoral collaboration and solutions. Surprisingly, there are few established leadership development programs to foster the development of these teams. Business and civic leaders rarely sit at the table with grassroots community leaders engaged in collective problem solving. A fellowship program which could maintain all of the strengths of the grassroots community leadership programming successes while broadening its reach within the community could foster the development of new leadership models and processes that will promote collaboration and shared power in the interest of community-wide collaboration and development.
Strategic Collaboration: Each year new leadership programs are initiated. This implies a possible leadership void. A scan of any large urban community or region will probably reveal at least 30-50 programs that hold the aim of developing leadership. The graduates of these programs often number in the hundreds. There is no organized attention paid to how to harness the investment in the development of these leaders by bringing them together to create a leadership initiative that can link these leaders within their communities. Minimally these networks could serve to increase the resources of these leaders, provide opportunities to leverage their work through collaboration, and deepen the intelligence of the entire group and connection to the issues and needs of the community. The real challenge would be to find ways to focus this group on the development and implementation of a strategic agenda for community growth.
Agricultural Leadership Fellowship
Ashoka – Innovators for the Public
Asian Pacific Islanders Women’s Leadership Institute
California Wellness Foundation Community Leaders Fellows
California Wellness Foundation Research Fellows
Casey Children and Family Fellowship Program
CDC Public Health Leadership Institute
Center for Leadership Studies and Service Learning
Center for Third World Organizing
College Leadership New Jersey, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Colorado Trust Fellows
Coro Fellowship Program
Echoing Green Public Service Fellowship
Eureka Communities Fellowship
Fetzer Fellowship Program
Frances Hesselbein Fellows
Fund for Social Entrepreneurs, Youth Service America