Leadership Foundations works to bring social and spiritual renewal to cities around the world. How do we do this? Through LF’s wheel of change: engaging leaders of good faith and good will, building the capacity of others, and developing joint initiatives. We are excited to unveil our brand new video, The LF Wheel of Change: Transforming Cities, which tells this story!
This video is the culmination of months of collaboration among LF staff and Local Leadership Foundations, and it shares how LF transforms cities from battlegrounds to God’s playgrounds. We hope you enjoy learning more about the powerful work Leadership Foundations is doing in cities around the world through the wheel of change.
How you view your city and community has been a central concern of LF’s work. Our conviction is that the way you see will determine how you act: free and generous or confined and malevolent. This is why Joseph Campbell argued “If you want to change the world, you have to change your metaphor.” Campbell understood that the metaphor you choose to interpret reality is going to have more to do with how you behave than anything else. Thus, the weight of this simple statement: LF sees the city as God’s playground rather than a battleground.
We were reminded this past weekend, in a horrific way, what can take place when you see your city and community more like a battleground.
When the layers are pulled back and knots are untied what will sit at the heart of this tragedy in Charlottesville is a clash of metaphors and worldviews- people who saw the world as a battleground and those who saw it as a playground. In this clash we run toward, escape from, navigate through, circle wide around and hide ourselves within these metaphors of ours—for good and for ill. Metaphors that have become so deeply internalized they become unconscious extensions of ourselves. And while there were many of these at play in the case of Charlottesville, two loomed writ large. On one side, a battleground that animated a God of vengeance, stimulated mercilessness and violence toward neighbor, and propelled a belief of scarcity. On the other, a playground lifting up a God of infinite mercy, neighbor as sister and brother, and an economy of abundance.
In a recent Op-ed in the New York Times entitled How to Roll Back Fanaticism, David Brooks reflects on some of these behaviors that LF associates with seeing the city and our communities as battlegrounds: anxiety, conspiracy, dread, and fanaticism. He is convinced—and LF is as well—that the antidote to this battleground is the virtue of modesty and that it is “time for assertive modesty to take a stand.”
While it must be acknowledged that in and through the metaphor of playground there are still many sharp realities that can hurt, maim, and tragically even kill, LF is convinced that seeing the city as playground is the way forward. Our understanding of city as playground forms and informs our capacity “for assertive modesty”: to stand united with those whose metaphor moves them to be people of peace, while opposing those whose view moves them to violence.
And in the end seeing the city as God’s playground as a framework for “assertive modesty” frees us up to do perhaps the most important and challenging thing of all: loving our enemies.
Who is welcome at your table? Leadership Foundations takes this question seriously and recognizes that the answer is not always easy to live out. To welcome someone to your table signifies that they are wanted, heard, and included. Jesus is the perfect model of this welcoming.
Jesus created tables that were different from the tables that were common in his time. All were welcome with Jesus—in a time of strict class, race, gender, and vocational divides—and he paid a high price for this type of inclusion. To be at the same table—literally and metaphorically—is to be in close proximity and intimacy with the other, and it isn’t always easy. Whether we are sharing food, ideas, visions for the city, or organizational responsibilities at this table, we are engaging in the challenging and beautiful task that Jesus passed to us in welcoming all at the table.
At LF, we strive to follow Jesus’ example in creating diverse and welcoming tables. LF’s wheel of change—engaging leaders of good faith and good will, building the capacity of others, and developing joint initiatives—is aimed at creating tables like this. LF and Local Leadership Foundations work to bring people of all backgrounds together because we believe that collaboration—rather than isolation and competition—is how cities transform from battlegrounds to playgrounds.
Following Jesus’ lead, Leadership Foundations seeks to be a place where all are welcome at the table. Jesus has charged his followers not to protect the table, but to fling open the doors and windows and welcome all. We all have the opportunity to participate in this charge. Check out LF’s City as Playground episode 24 and episode 25 to dig deeper into LF’s vision of the Table.
What role do relationships play in transforming cities into God’s playgrounds? Relationships are at the core of what LF does, and ultimately we believe that they are the very thing that transforms people and places. We recognize the individuals and organizations that make up each city’s rich and promising landscape. However, this collective community often shifts into one of rivalry or isolation as organizations silo into their own mission and work. LF works to reverse this trend by building relationships and creating joint initiatives that cultivate a community of collaboration rather than one of rivalry. As part of LF’s wheel of change, joint initiatives help LF leverage the resources of the collective community to improve lives and cities.
One example of these joint initiatives is LF’s collaboration with Young Life (YL). LF will be entering into a partnership—the Student Leadership Project—with Young Life this summer in three LF member cities: Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia. The YL Student Leadership Project is designed to provide students with a discipleship experience in an urban context. The combination of LF’s experience in cities and YL’s history of reaching out to young people makes this a promising collaboration. Through LF and YL’s relationship and leveraging of resources, students will have the opportunity to grow in their faith, friendships, vocations, and more. Students will be equipped to bring lasting change to their communities with a renewed vision of their city as God’s playground.
As exemplified by this joint initiative, LF believes that when we partner with organizations of good faith and good will, the product is greater than the sum of our organizational parts. Joint initiatives allow LF to share with and learn from other organizations as we work together for the social and spiritual renewal of cities.
Is leadership born or bred? The theme of this month’s City as Playground podcast was Eucharistic Leadership. As Dave and Rick discussed, one tenet of Eucharistic leadership is that the ability to lead is just as much, if not more, a product of nurture as it is of nature. At Leadership Foundations, one of the ways this nurturing occurs is through our Senior Associations. In April, all 20 Senior Associates gathered for a three-day Stages of Impact and accreditation training in Dallas. This was a rich time of education, resourcing, and growth as a community in mission.
Senior Associates are committed veteran leaders who have demonstrated excellence in their respective fields of leadership. They come from backgrounds in ministry, non-profits, consultation, and a variety of other environments both inside and out of LF. This experience equips Senior Associates to resource and support LLF presidents.
Being a Senior Associate is no simple task. They play an integral role in LF’s mission as they meet monthly with LLF presidents to deepen the impact of the LF network. Senior Associates serve as a personal coach to LLF presidents delivering LF’s menu of baseline and ancillary services. They are also conduits between members and LF as information and opportunities arise in the LF network. Senior Associates mentor LLF presidents working to operationalize the wheel of change in their city. In addition, they are consultants to LLF presidents as inevitable problems arise. Lastly, Senior Associates are guides that listen to and spiritually support LLF presidents on their personal and professional journeys leading an LLF.
Senior Associates are one of the essential elements that allow LF to equip LLFs to do the difficult and joyful work of turning cities into playgrounds.
We are excited to share the Leadership Foundations’ 2016 Annual Report with you. Last year was filled with a remarkable number of developments that have further positioned Leadership Foundations (LF) and our members as a force of good will on behalf of cities throughout the world. In this report, you will learn about the intentional process LF has taken to cultivate and drive global impact.
How can Leadership Foundations achieve greater impact in cities around the world? In March 2015, we set out to answer this question by launching the Advancement Plus Project (APP). Two years later, we are excited to report that we have made key shifts that have gone a long way to answering this question.
We often describe the experience of APP and working with the Bridgespan Group as engaging a “benevolent agnostic.” The Bridgespan Group’s benevolence was characterized by a caring and empathetic spirit as they listened deeply, asked penetrating questions, and provided positive options. Their agnosticism was demonstrated in the way they demanded corroborating data to support any strategic decisions thereby dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”. This rigorous analysis was applied to LF’s wheel of change, determining if it made cities better, and how LF added value to our members.
Bridgespan’s gift of benevolent agnosticism was a gift to LF and provided the necessary framework to measure organizational shifts moving forward. LF used this clarity to prioritize our time and resources on: a more deliberate focus on member performance improvement; more time and resources for LF function-related services rather than domain-related services; the prioritization of tailored rather than broadcast supports; and an emphasis on growing impact within the existing network rather than by adding new members.
With this focus, LF has made a number of key advances that are bearing great fruit as we continue to drive positive, permanent change in cities around the world.
Many years ago G.K. Chesterton wrote a wonderful book called Orthodoxy. Among other things he wrote a chapter called the Ethics of Elfland where he made an argument for why fairytales had a kind of resiliency and permanence. His answer was quite straightforward: they last because they are true. Recently LF had a Goose That Laid the Golden Egg type of experience that reaffirmed Chesterton’s insight. First, some context.
Over the years, Street Lights has explored one of LF’s niches: we understand cities to be living, breathing organisms. LF approaches each city through a common framework—LF’s Wheel of Change—while allowing each city’s context to determine their areas of focus. This approach, process over product, allows the city final arbitration in deciding what needs to change for the better. This niche, and keeping it sacred, makes all the difference.
And here is where the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg comes in, and it has less to do with the moral of the story and more to do with the content. Recently a new city was interested in becoming a member of the LF network. One of the steps we encourage is to visit an existing LF member city. The new city took this advice and went to hear from an older LF member about all that God had done over the years, reviewed the size of the budget, the amount and impact of programs and the buildings owned. What became obvious is the new city was becoming increasingly awestruck and began to fall prey to seeing its task as one of simple replication.
During the tour a Leadership Foundations staff member stood up and said the following; “you have just had the privilege of hearing about all of the golden eggs that have been laid in this city for many years. These should be celebrated. However I am here to help you discover the goose—LF’s wheel of permanent change—so your city can have its own golden eggs.”
This, in short, is the key to LF’s effectiveness in cities throughout the world: we plan and pray about the “goose”, allowing for cities to have their own “golden eggs.”
How do you make a city better? How do you transform a city into a playground?
These are the questions that Leadership Foundations is devoted to answering. Through over 35 years of field-tested work, we believe the key is developing leaders who drive the wheel of permanent change in their cities by increasing mastery of our three functions: engaging leaders of good faith and good will, building the capacity of others, and developing joint initiatives. Through consistent application of these three functions to a particular place over a given amount of time, cities do in fact get better.
Our members love their cities and we want to help them love their cities in practical ways that make their communities more whole. That is why we focus on resourcing our network. We do this by connecting, developing, and equipping them through a variety of key services. Whether it is the support of a Senior Associate, one of the veteran coaches assigned to each member, or using the Stages of Impact tool to develop a plan to deepen their impact and mastery of the three functions, we are working to strengthen our members. This commitment to better resourcing our network will make our members better, which in turn makes our cities better.
Around the world Local Leadership Foundations are using the LF wheel of change to transform their cities. As we begin a new year, we are excited to report that our members are doing just that- driving positive permanent improvement in their communities to make them more like playgrounds.
Leadership Foundations took many important steps in 2015 that have further positioned us to positively impact cities around the world for generations to come. Through this report you will learn about the processes, decisions, investments, and strategies taken to achieve these impacts. It is our sincerest hope that you sense our deep thankfulness for your contribution to making cities better and that you receive further encouragement to invest in LF moving forward.