Street Lights
31
Oct

Changing the World

The old adage—dream big or go home—certainly applies to LF’s vision of cities and communities becoming playgrounds instead of battlegrounds. Farfetched, outrageous, impracticable, might all be adjectives attached to this vision…unless Margaret Mead, who we quoted last month, is correct.

 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

 

Here is another example of one of those leaders Mead is imagining—this time in Delhi.

 

In 2007, Catalyst Leadership Foundation was born out of Abhishek Gier’s deep dive into one of Delhi’s poorest areas. Amid severe poverty, Abhishek also encountered an abundance of grace as he built relationships with the children of that neighborhood. This, he decided, is what the Kingdom of God looks like in all of its sharp-edged glory. So he and his wife, Angelika, said yes to Jesus’s call to seek justice, defend the oppressed, and take up the cause of the orphaned- regardless of the consequences.

 

Catalyst’s big idea was to connect local leaders with neighborhoods like the one Abhishek and Angelika first encountered and change things from the grassroots up: a unique approach within the caste system of Delhi. Through these connections—powerful to vulnerable; young to old; religious to nonreligious—Delhi is beginning to be relationally rewired.

 

One of the particular projects built by Catalyst and its partners to rewire the city is an initiative that rescues girls and women from a life of poverty and sex trafficking. Catalyst’s work provides everything from education to employment opportunities to a supportive community—offering a future previously unthinkable.

 

Searching to build organizational capacity and drive further change in their city, Catalyst became a member of the LF network in 2008. A decade later, Abhishek describes the LF approach and wheel of change as exactly the tonic Delhi needs: a focus on leadership, support from a global community, and an emphasis on working together to address a city’s greatest challenges. Because of his journey, Abhishek now coaches other LLFs in Southeast Asia.

 

Beginning with seeing grace in street children to now coaching others, Abhishek is one of the reasons LF is confident that cities are becoming God’s playgrounds. Investment in LF is an investment in leaders like Abhishek to “change the world” into playgrounds.

29
Sep

Changing the World

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

 

Leadership Foundations is graced with just such a reality: LLF presidents and their staff around the world. These leaders are the “group of thoughtful, committed citizens” that LF is convinced “can change the world” through increased mastery of the LF wheel of change. Stay tuned over the next couple of months as we introduce them to you!

 

Lisa Slayton is one such president. While remaining committed to loving Pittsburgh into a playground, Lisa has a particular passion for helping business leaders integrate their faith life and vocation. This vision came about working in the corporate world, where she realized many of her colleagues had a deep desire to build relationships with other leaders and dream about how to effectively leverage their business skills and shared values across the city for its betterment. Under Lisa’s leadership, PLF created the Leaders Collaborative (LC). The idea that if the participants saw their work as ministry, an indelible impact would be made in the lives of their employees, and ultimately, the city of Pittsburgh. The LC does just that; it helps leaders use their God-given skills to find the place where passion meets need in the city. Through the LC, leaders from across city sectors spend six months together being coached in the power of relationships to “transform the city of Pittsburgh into a city of truth, beauty, justice, and human flourishing.”

 

As PLF continues to take on this large vision for its city, Lisa believes that Leadership Foundations strengthens PLF’s work significantly. The LF wheel of change takes context seriously, not only allowing, but embracing PLF’s unique model. The LF Accreditation process made a series of recommendations to sustain and build a viable organization. The Senior Associate strategy, where Lisa not only receives coaching from Senior Associate but also serves as one, provides practical support, strategies, and fellowship with like-minded leaders.

 

These kinds of services are replicated throughout the LF global network, as leaders like Lisa and their organizations dream about their cities and drive the wheel of change to see them improved. Investment in LF is an investment in leaders like Lisa to “change the world” into playgrounds.


Communities of Practice

For a movement like LF to flourish, organizational theorists talk about developing a learning culture—that particular way in which knowledge is gathered, packaged, and delivered.  Richard McDermott, in the Harvard Business Review, coined the term “communities of practice” to describe how this process works. Indeed, we need look no further than Jesus’s training of the twelve to see evidence of this theological reality.

 

McDermott goes on to write that every community of practice shares a basic structure consisting of three parts: a domain of knowledge, a community of people, and a shared practice. It is this structure that has energized and animated the creation of an online training curriculum called City As Playground: LF Training Essentials.  Done in partnership with our training partner, Street Psalms, this resource allows us to keep up with our ever-growing list of cities (now over 30) expressing desire to affiliate with LF.

 

Through the City As Playground: LF Training Essentials we have created six 90-minute sessions offered on a monthly basis by a variety of seasoned voices to ensure that LF’s gift of seeing the city as God’s playground instead of a battleground, first given to Sam Shoemaker and Reid Carpenter in 1962, is passed forward in faithful and generative ways.

 

In this context the City As Playground: LF Training Essentials is a result of three primary elements: a domain of knowledge of how the city can become a playground which provides common ground and a common identity; a cultivated, nurtured, and modeled community of colleagues that understand transformation is not primarily about the transmission of information, but relationship; and surfacing the prominence of the wheel of change as our shared practice by highlighting current LF work around the world.

 

Through the City As Playground: LF Training Essentials we have created a training platform by which many cities and communities will be able to develop LF affiliates to help transform cities from battlegrounds to playgrounds.


Colangelo Carpenter Innovation Center Launch

Embedded in the very marrow of Leadership Foundations (LF), is the adage that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. This idea emanates from Jesus who, in his first public debut, acknowledged his sense of indebtedness to his cousin, John the Baptist (Matthew 3). In this context, and with LF’s 40th anniversary afoot in 2018, the LF Board asked itself: how can we honor those whose shoulders we stand on and ensure that this veneration has a real-time benefit for the LF global network?

 

 

In response to this question, LF created the Colangelo Carpenter Innovation Center (CCIC), named after Jerry Colangelo, LF’s first board chair, and Reid Carpenter, LF’s founder. Launched this month, the CCIC is based in Washington D.C. and will generate and scale innovative practices, programs, and polices in support of the LF network and cities around the world. It also allows us to say a hearty amen to two leaders on whose shoulders we stand.

 

Dag Hammarskjöld—the Swedish diplomat, second United Nations Secretary-General, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient articulated something that captures the very essence of this moment in LF’s history. “For all that has been, thank you.  For all that is to come, yes!” Through the CCIC we say “thank you” to Jerry and Reid and “yes” to the glorious future of seeing cities and communities become playgrounds.

 

Learn more about the Colangelo Carpenter Innovation Center on our website!


Interview with Jack Fortin, LF Board Chair

Leadership Foundations Board Chair Jack Fortin was awarded an honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Divinity honoris causa) on May 19th during the 118th Annual New York Theological Seminary Commencement. We chatted with Jack about this high honor and his experience being recognized for a lifetime of achievements in ministry and theological thought. To watch Dr. Fortin’s sermon, click here

 

This is a big deal to be given this honor. What was your feeling when NYTS approached you about this?

Dale Irvin, President of NYTS, is a Leadership Council member and a wonderful supporter and friend. We’ve had several conversations about life and work and meaning. Dale came to me one day and said, “We’d like to honor your work.” The honorary doctorate is really the honoring of a person’s life work and having your peers recognize it and that meant a lot to me. More importantly, institutionally, I believe God loves organizations as much as God loves people because people in organizations create more change than they do individuals. I told Dale I wanted to give myself not just to people but to institutions like Leadership Foundations which is biased for action and creates stronger communities which allow God’s mission to be carried out. Dale and I both wanted to connect our institutions and decided one of the ways to do that would be through this honor.

 

It is also a momentous occasion for Leadership Foundations to have its Board Chair validated in this way and to be on that stage.

One of my goals was to lift up the two organizations where I am giving my time and that share the values and direction of NYTS; Augsburg University and LF. They are not about building a bigger organization but they’re about impacting the community through their area of expertise and doing so in a collaborative manner, and I wanted to elevate that and reflect on the commissioning coming out of Augsburg and LF, and biblically justify the uniqueness of the two.

 

“What a fantastic time to be alive participating in and leading faith communities with all of the expressions found among us; knowing we can be a vehicle of transformation of life where cities will no longer be battlefields but will be playgrounds of safety and hope and shalom.”.  Jack Fortin, from his sermon “Through Closed Doors…Sent“ NYTS Commencement Service May 19, 2018

 

What did you want to communicate to this 118th graduating class of NYTS?

I wanted to reflect the occasion and give a particular commission to the graduates. I wanted to acknowledge that you graduated from not just any old Seminary but one whose point of view is critical to the world today and to demonstrate that LF and Augsburg are two institutions that are living out the work that NYTS has uniquely trained you for. But there were also families there as well–brothers and cousins and sisters and I wanted to make sure that the Gospel was clear enough that they could understand the power of the Good News when it is delivered through action and reflection, not just reflection.

 

The Church where you delivered you sermon is full of history. The building was commissioned by John Rockefeller and MLK Jr, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and more who have spoken from the same pulpit. Was the historical relevance significant to you?

Oh yes. I was very aware of that. It was a phenomenal privilege in my career to speak from the same platform as these great leaders. But it was only after it was all over when I stepped back and really reflected on what had just happened, the way that God has used me, and how the experience strengthened my own fervor for the work that we are doing. Very humbling.

 

Dale introduced you and must have gone on for 5 minutes on your lifetime of achievements. I hope this is not a period at the end of your work.

I can never retire! My calling isn’t about my job. My calling is about my work and when I quit work, I die. Until I die, I will continue to do my work. This experience simply fires me up.


Mentoring Youth for Leadership

The Department of Justice must think that Leadership Foundations (LF) is doing something right in mentoring at-risk youth. Since 2015, LF has received two grant awards from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) totaling $4.5 million to provide mentoring relationships to more than 4,500 youth through a network of 23 Local Leadership Foundations (LLFs) across the U.S.

 

Administering these grants is a great privilege and a great responsibility for LF. We put LF’s wheel of change to work as we seek to build the capacity of local leaders and their mentoring programs. The grants allow LF to provide local leaders with training and resources, sub awards, coaching, and assistance in developing joint initiatives with other local organizations to better serve youth in their communities.

 

Two LLFs recently shared their reflections on how the training they have received from LF has built their capacity as mentoring programs:

 

“We feel that we have a strong mentoring program; however, we always know there is room for growth. Through the training webinars, we have gained insight from other cohorts on best practices that have been proven effective. Through the in-person training, we are better prepared to deal with challenges that could develop. We also gained helpful insight from having a regional coach who has the ability to push our thinking and challenge us to be a better mentoring program that will benefit our community.”  
– Anthony Branch, Vice President, Memphis Leadership Foundation

 

The Metro Atlanta Leadership Foundation has been able to touch the lives of more than 150 students through evidence-based mentoring practices as a sub awardee of the OJJDP grant. Alongside exceeding our mentor-match target goals, we have been able to provide training to our mentors and establish organized processes of data collection. With the accountability of the grant systems in place, we have been able to increase our effectiveness and meet recognized benchmarks.”
–Bianca Singleton, Director Mentoring Youth Collaborative, Metro Atlanta Leadership Foundation

 

We are grateful not only to have the opportunity to serve youth through mentoring but also to build the capacity of LLF mentoring programs so that they can continue to truly transform communities from battlegrounds into playgrounds.


Highway of Hope

Our members transform communities around the world by driving the LF wheel of change. This work was on clear display at a series of meetings in Nairobi in early March. Hosted by CTM Kenya, the Local Leadership Foundation, the time featured everything from board training to basketball clinics.

 

CTM Kenya was founded in 2006 by Gideon Ochieng with the mission of changing geography into community. One way they work toward this goal is the Highway of Hope (HOH) program in Kibera, East Africa’s largest informal settlement with a population of over 1 million people. As a part of the LF Global Youth Initiative, HOH seeks to bring hope and transform Kibera through basketball, mentoring, and educational opportunities for local youth.

 

The CTM Kenya team looked to the LF wheel of change to give them a framework to take on this large endeavor. They began by engaging leaders of good faith and good will across the city and shared the vision for HOH. The program would build the capacity of local leaders by providing them mentoring and basketball skills training. These leaders would then be able to deliver a robust joint initiative to local youth at the 16 courts that would be built in Kibera. The idea resonated with the community, government officials like Kenneth Okoth who is a member of the Kenyan Parliament and a lifelong resident of Kibera, the local Kibera Basketball Association, and principals of government and faith-based schools in the area.

 

Over the last few years, HOH has gained momentum. They have built courts and had diverse partners from around the world like the Jr. NBA, Texas A&M, and Athletes In Action join the work. Earlier this month, the partners came together to provide training to mentors and coaches, deliver programming to 140 athletes from Kibera, and connect the youth to other resources in the community.

 

Antony Maina, the Principal of Little Prince Primary School shared, “What makes basketball most important [for the youth] is the presence of an adult. They need a mentor, someone that can help them make correct choices. Someone who transmits not only a skill, but a way of life. Because, essentially, at the end of it all, it’s about how they live their life.”

 

That is the hope; that as CTM Kenya and other LLFs around the world drive the wheel of change, individual lives are transformed and communities like Kibera become more like playgrounds.

 

Click here to watch a short video about the Highway of Hope project.


Board Training Initiative

William Blake famously stated, “Execution is the chariot of genius.” Execution can take on many different forms, or “chariots.” Often, for nonprofits, chariots are programmatic in nature: youth, housing, and the like. For example, we desire good health care for the underserved, so we create a clinic. Efforts like this are good and should be roundly applauded. However, and for the long-term health of an organization, there are other important chariots.

 

Nowhere does a chariot take on a deeper meaning than boards of directors. Over the years we have come to believe that the primary determinant of the success or failure of LF members and partners is the state of their boards. Boards are the proverbial canary in the mineshaft: healthy boards equal a healthy organization; unhealthy boards equal an unhealthy organization.

 

Two years ago, LF was approached by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to participate in a program to strengthen boards. The Trust came to recognize their grants yielded a much better return on investment if the grantees had healthy boards. They also recognized that in order to scale this program they would need partners who not only share this vision but also have the capacity to execute it. The Trust asked LF to apply and we received a three-year grant to provide training to 30 LF members and partners globally. We call it the Board Training Initiative (BTI).

 

Over these first two years of the BTI, LF has developed a curriculum and has trained 15 LLFs and partners with plans to train another 15 next year. Sam Skillern, Executive Director of the Salem Leadership Foundation, reflected on their organization’s experience in the BTI, “Even an organization that’s been effective and healthy for 21 years can learn new ideas and deepen proven practices.  The LF Board Training Initiative was time and treasure well spent.  The training not only provided sound and useful information, it was fun and relational. As a result of the time, board meetings are more focused, more interesting, more inspiring, and more generative.” The program has been so successful that the LF members in Africa have created a contextualized version of the BTI that will launch next year.

 

At its core the BTI builds more effective boards- the chariots that allow its participants to execute their mission more faithfully as they help make cities more like playgrounds.


Wheel of Change

Leadership Foundations is in the business of transforming cities. But, how can this kind of large-scale change actually take place? We believe that leadership, committed to an entire city over time, is the key to transformation. Through over 40 years of field-tested work we have created a theory of change that equips our members to take on their city’s greatest challenges. These leaders drive the wheel of change in their cities through 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, cities do in fact get better.

 

Our members want to see their cities transformed, and we want to help them do this 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, a veteran coach and mentor assigned to each member, or using the Stages of Impact tool to develop a plan to deepen their impact and effective use of the three functions, we are working to strengthen our members. This commitment to developing the leadership in our network makes 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 2018, we are excited to report that our members are doing just that: driving positive permanent improvement in their cities, making them more like playgrounds.

 

Watch our video to learn more about the powerful work Leadership Foundations is doing in cities around the world through the wheel of change.