Street Lights

Passing the Baton

St. Paul describes the Christian life as a race and writes, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). But what kind of race was Paul talking about? A sprint? A long distance run? A relay? Each type of race comes with its own strategy and approach, and can be relevant depending on our situation. At LF, we have often thought Paul was talking about a long distance relay. Time and again, in our work to make cities better, we have seen the importance of the baton pass: people and organizations coming together to ensure that faithful work happens over generations. Perhaps no greater example of this baton pass is in Delhi, India.


Rev. Dr. Ronald Gier has been carrying the baton in India for many years. Beginning as a church planter in 1975, he has worked tirelessly for spiritual renewal in the area and today serves as the President of One Challenge India, a Senior Member of the International Guidance Team of OC Global, and has been the principal translator in India for Billy Graham. As Dr. Gier watched the population in his beloved India grow, social problems metastasize, and cities seemingly spring up overnight, he knew the importance the next generation of leaders would play in shaping ministry and making India better moving forward. Fortunately, he needed to look no further than his son, whom he handed a baton to many years ago.


Abhishek Gier and his wife, Angelika, began the Catalyst Leadership Foundation ( eight years ago to help build a Resurgent Delhi where people are empowered, educated, environmentally conscious and leading economically sustainable lives. They achieve this through an exquisite array of programs ranging from the provision of homes, education, and life-sustaining skills for trafficked Dalit girls (designation for a group of people traditionally regarded as untouchable in the Indian caste system) to employment initiatives to fostering conversations between disconnected groups in the city. Through these programs they are running the “race” with passion.


Dr. Gier was visiting the LF offices in the States a few weeks ago and stated, “What Abhishek and Angelika have done in Delhi is what I want to help others achieve in cities throughout India.” The Gier’s are running the race that Paul describes: passing the baton, one to another, for the renewal of cities in this great country and beyond.


Loving Our Cities

“How do I love thee?” Elizabeth Barrett Browning begins her 43rd sonnet by asking this question. She answers with: “Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height.” Similar to Browning, Leadership Foundations (LF) asks the same question about cities around the world and answers that there are countless ways depending on the need and desire of that particular city. One of these ways is the Act Six Leadership and Scholarship Initiative and the LF Central Office’s involvement in replicating the program in five cities across the United States.  


At the core of every local leadership foundation (LLF) is the idea that discovering, training and supporting leaders on their journey will serve them, their communities and the world. In 2002, frustrated that too many of Tacoma’s talented future leaders were not completing their college degrees, and inspired by the success of the New York-based Posse Foundation, Northwest Leadership Foundation (NLF) approached Whitworth University with a bold idea. What would happen if NLF selected and trained cohorts of emerging leaders from the urban community and sent them together to college with full scholarships and the charge to be agents of change? 


Knowing that this great idea may never see the light of day if not properly resourced, NLF worked with the LF Central Office to secure a significant investment and give the initiative the love it needed to get off the ground and into five cities across the United States. Since 2002, Act Six has selected and trained hundreds of scholars that represent the very best emerging urban and community leaders. And most importantly, more than two-thirds have returned to live and serve in their home communities.


Marisol Rosado-Carrisalez is one of these bright emerging leaders. A former Act Six scholar, she returned to serve her hometown of Tacoma as the Act Six Program Assistant at NLF. Marisol reflected, “Act Six gave me space to nurture and build on the strengths I had gained from living and serving in Tacoma. Every person is presented with challenges in life, but I can firmly say that Act Six provided me with the training and tools to lead and serve my home community effectively. It taught me that empowerment and leadership are not just concepts. They are an embodiment. I am Act Six.”


Act Six and stories like Marisol’s exemplifies our answer to Browning’s question: How does LF love thee? By providing needed resources to help our members develop programs like Act Six so that they can discover and equip the next generation of leaders.


The Power of Relationship

It is Leadership Foundations’ (LF) firm conviction that relationships are what will grow leaders and heal the world. Over our 50 year history we have stressed the importance of relationships in all that we do, whether building houses, providing affordable medical care or building ministry collaborations. As a result, the LF Central Office makes it a priority to create and capitalize on relationships that can assist our network in making their cities better. A great example of this is the partnership that we have formed on behalf of LF’s Global Youth Initiative with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (BHOF) and Communities in Schools (CIS).


The LF Global Youth Initiative, created out of our recognition that we can do more together than apart in serving youth, changes lives through local leaders who mentor and equip young people to become the next generation of leaders in their cities. Last year, the LF Central Office partnered with CIS and BHOF to expand and support this initiative. Through this partnership, we are committed to building meaningful, intentional and effective relationships between young people and adult mentors for a very simple, but significant reason: our cities will get better.


Last weekend, we saw the power of this kind of relationship first hand at the inaugural BHOF Charity Golf Classic in Naples, Florida. This fundraising event was a unique expression of our commitment to transformative relationships, providing us a platform to connect people across generations and increase capacity in our programs. Along with the golf tournament and live auction that benefited the LF Global Youth Initiative, basketball clinics were held at the local high school and community center for youth involved in the One by One Leadership Foundation in Immokalee, Florida.


“What an outstanding opportunity for the young people of Immokalee,” said Ken Fairbanks, Immokalee High School Principal. “This is a unique opportunity for us as we try to build our students character and become better servants to our community.”


This event is just one example of how the power of relationships, a core value of LF, can positively impact youth. Through the LF Global Youth Initiative and the work of the LF network these transformative relationships are building the next generation of leaders for cities around the world.


The Important Question

So, what can a nearly 1500 year old Catholic monastic community teach Leadership Foundations (LF)? LF is 50-years old, multi-denominational, and organized to engage the postmodern urban realities of the 21st century. The monks of Mount Angel Abbey are a Benedictine community founded in 1882, maintain a monastic tradition that has been a vital part of the Roman Catholic Church for almost 1500 years, and dedicate themselves to a life of prayer and work. Although this ancient community may seem worlds apart from LF, it has had much to offer us over the years and, in particular, this past month.


In early January, the LF Central Office staff visited Mount Angel Abbey in Saint Benedict, Oregon for our annual planning retreat. Surrounded by black-robed monks, ivy covered buildings, and an eight-bell tower, we went to work planning our year amidst these trappings that find their place of origin over a millennium ago. Over the course of four days we created our annual work plan, measuring each decision as to whether it helps further the LF Central Office’s mission to develop, strengthen, and sustain the more than 70 local leadership foundations throughout the world.


Our time together was meant to form this strategy. However, something deeper moved among us: the awareness of all we could learn from this venerable community. What the monks of Mount Angel Abbey have lived out for 133 years is the answer to Robert Greenleaf’s famous question regarding leadership, and a question we often ask of ourselves: Are you a leader who serves or a servant who leads? The monks understand the importance of this question and willingly live into its simplicity and its challenges with grace. For four days they demonstrated this grace and taught us that for a community to prosper we need to be servants who lead rather than leaders who serve.


Join us every month as we seek to live out these deep truths of an ancient but still relevant community in cities around the world.


Training Whole Leaders

Leaders are the foundations of great cities. At Leadership Foundations we help develop better leaders. Whole leaders. Leaders who know their cities and know how to make those cities whole as a result. One of the key ways we develop leaders is through our yearly Leadership Foundations Training Institute (LFTI). As has been the case with past gatherings, a theme emerged for our Institute –Whole Leaders. Whole Cities. Better World.


For three days, 63 LF leaders from 39 cities around the world gathered to learn from each other and to engage in a series of intensive trainings focused around our theme and designed to equip them to do their work more effectively. With topics ranging from Building A Local Leadership Foundation, which took our newest network members through the LF framework and theory of change, to Leadership and Management: Thriving Organizations, which examined why building healthy organizational cultures is a critical success factor for flourishing cities, the workshops focused on expanding our collective knowledge to bring out the best in our local leadership foundations (LLFs). Speakers also focused on the importance of self-care through workshops like Urban Spirituality and Soul Care which took an in-depth look at the importance of attentiveness to your own spirit as you seek out the Spirit in difficult places.


Through the LFTI we provide a common platform for women and men to come together, connect, develop their leadership skills, and learn best practices and strategies for creating effective, whole organizations can take on the challenges in their cities. These trainings are one of the key ways that LF develops whole leaders and equips them for intentional, faith-driven work around the globe.


Better Together: A New Initiative

Leadership Foundations (LF) works with leaders and organizations around the world focused on making cities better. We believe that unless we look at the City as a whole – its systems, structures, multi-sector realities, assets and flaws – we will miss achieving collective impact that is possible and instead end up working within our silos with limited results. The Urban Training Collaborative (UTC) was born out of this idea and with the recognition that we have a global network of experienced urban ministry practitioners with a willingness to share what they know. As a result, LF has partnered with Street Psalms and a number of our local leadership foundations to launch training hubs located in Africa, Asia, Central America, the Caribbean and the United States.


The UTC offers unique training opportunities that equip the “head, heart and hands” of these gifted leaders. This fall, leaders from all over the globe gathered in the name of social and spiritual renewal for our second and third UTC trainings, in Guatemala City, Guatemala and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The training in Guatemala was hosted in September by CMT Guatemala (CMT) and the gathering in Minneapolis was hosted earlier this month by Urban Ventures.


From September 15-19, 70 attendees (from major cities in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and the United States) came together to explore the processes, programs and infrastructure required to accomplish city-wide urban engagement. As well as diving into these topics, attendees explored Guatemala City and the specific work of CMT through guided tours, guest speakers and intensive conversation about peace making. Their time focused on reclaiming life in places victimized by war and poverty, specifically through visits to the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala and other sites around the city, but also by applying this theme to their respective cities.


Tita Evertz, a local of Guatemala City, shared her heart through her story of serving in La Limonada, the largest slum community in Central America where 60,000 plus live in a valley that once had a river running through the bottom. That river is now raw sewage and Tita has been serving this community with reckless abandon for the past 15 years of her life. She led a discussion of the practical elements and the great cost of tangibly sharing your heart and living out your theology.  – Joel Van Dyke, Director de Redes de Transformación, Guatemala City.



From October 31-November 2, 75 urban ministry practitioners gathered in Minneapolis for ongoing training in areas specifically tailored to developing their own leadership and organizations. Workshops were built around two texts: Geography of Grace by Kris Rocke and Joel Van Dyke, and Cities: Playgrounds or Battlegrounds? by LF President, David Hillis.


LF, Street Psalms and our training hubs around the world are excited to build on the momentum of these events and to continue to develop capacity and curriculum to advance our mission through the global network. We are so grateful for this group of people coming together for our cities!


Untold Stories

This past week we have had the chance to read about and reflect on the life and legacy of Maya Angelou. Among the many gifts she gave the world was a lesson on the importance of voice and story. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings she wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou reminded us of the many untold stories waiting to be told in cities throughout the world. This month we are excited to share two previously untold Leadership Foundations stories with you.


LF Book

Our newly published book, Cities: Playgrounds or Battlegrounds? tells the LF story- that “untold story” Angelou is referring to. This story is the story of many; women and men all over the world working for the social and spiritual renewal of their cities; leaders who serve and give voice to the untold stories within their communities. It is the story of beginning to see your city as a playground rather than a battleground.

LF President Dave Hillis traces the 50 year journey of these individuals and LF’s values, ethos, and theory of change, and argues that the city must be seen as a playground if effective work and change is to take place for the good of the whole and for the long haul.


Get your copy today at Seattle Book Company or Amazon.


LF Podcast

LF has also created a podcast called “Leadership Foundations: City As Playground” to tell our story. Each month you can join hosts Rick Enloe and Dave Hillis as they explore the significance of seeing the city as a playground. They will be joined by urban practitioners from all over the world who are using these strategies in their cities.


You can subscribe now via iTunes or our podcast website.


Sailing into 2014: Capitalizing on Given Opportunities

We wanted to take this issue of Street Lights and surface a metaphor that recently appeared in the New Yorker magazine. It captures Leadership Foundations hopes as it embarks upon a new year.


The article, titled “Two Ships” and written by Adam Gopnik, reflects on the comparison and contrast between two boats that set sail in 1914: the Titanic and the Olympic. The first is indelibly etched in our collective memory with the chronicling of its doomed adventure through books and movies (and of course it does not hurt that the film starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet), while the latter carries little recollection because it made it to its New York destination safe and sound. Interestingly, both were made at the same time, by the same people, to do the same job, in the same way, but remembered very differently.


Gopnik uses the “two ships” as a metaphor where he asks the question in light of opportunities before us: Why is it that our imaginations of disaster are dangerously more fertile (Titanic) than our imaginations of the ordinary (Olympic)? He goes on to state the following: “Two boats set sail in those prewar years a century ago: the boat that sailed on and the boat that sank. Olympic or Titanic? Which is ours?”


Because of the extraordinary work of 2013 where LLFs were developed, strengthened, and sustained, strategies ranging from cause-marketing to public sector were set in place, the budget we set out to raise was achieved, projects we put our hands to were accomplished- LF sees itself as “Olympic-like” in 2014. LF is that ship where navigation comes as a result of our deep sense of God’s faithful, grace flowing presence where all is possible as we sail forth to achieve our mission. As such, the theme for LF as it sails into 2014 is “Capitalizing on Given Opportunities.


The following is a brief snapshot of some of these opportunities that you will hear about over the next few months as we seek to develop, strengthen, and sustain local leadership foundations for the social and spiritual renewal of cities around the world:

  • LF Book: We are in the final stages of finishing a book on the history of LF called, “Cities: Playgrounds or Battlegrounds—Leadership Foundations’ Fifty-Year Journey of Social and Spiritual Renewal”. We look forward to sharing more with you about this exciting moment in LF’s development.
  • LF Podcast: Using the theme of city as playground, LF is developing a monthly podcast that will reflect on the some of the big ideas associated with seeing the city as a playground and then highlight how this is being operationalized by LLFs and our partners throughout the world. We will keep you posted as to how you can access this new development.
  • LF Website: In April you can expect to see a newly designed LF Website that will be more accessible for all connected to the LF organization. Stay tuned.
  • Basketball Hall of Fame-Communities in Schools-LF Cause Marketing Partnership: LF has entered into a partnership with the Basketball Hall of Fame and Communities in Schools around mentoring young people. There was a soft launch of the partnership today at NBA All-Star weekend.  We are on the frontend of this exciting development where the talents and capacities of each organization will be used to help young people succeed in life. We anticipate the formal announcement of this partnership in April at the NCAA Final Four weekend. We will be keeping you abreast of all development as we move forward.

As always, thank you for your care, concern, and commitment to LF. You are part of the reason that we are able to sail into 2014 with a deep sense that our future is one of the “Olympic” rather than the “Titantic.”

Basketball Hall of Fame Announces Partnership with Communities in Schools and Leadership Foundations

NEW ORLEANS, LA and SPRINGFIELD, MA.- The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced today during NBA All-Star weekend a partnership with two national organizations, Communities in Schools and Leadership Foundations.  The goal of the cause marketing effort is to inspire youth in need towards success through interaction with Hall of Famers and fundraising efforts.


“This new partnership will bring a world of positivity to underprivileged children and we are thrilled to be a part of something truly special,” said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame.  “The fact that the game of basketball and our Hall of Famers have the power to inspire children to achieve success in life is remarkable and it is an honor for us to work towards making this difference.”


Communities in Schools was founded in the 1970’s by Bill Milliken, one of the nation’s biggest advocates for leading young people towards graduation and its board is chaired by Elaine Wynn, also the Chairman and Director of Wynn Resorts.  The organization is a nationwide network of professionals working towards the enrichment of children.


Leadership Foundations, founded by Reid Carpenter more than 50 years ago, is a global network of nearly 50 cities that consists of individuals and organizations working to transform their cities through effective and collaborative leadership.  Scott Lewis COO of Leadership Foundations and father of Ryan Lewis, famed producer, DJ and musical partner with rapper Macklemore were both present at the announcement.


“Partnering with the Basketball Hall of Fame will not only increase awareness of continued challenges kids face today but will expand the important role of mentors in the lives of thousands of children and strengthen our effort to build community leaders for the future.,” said Scott Lewis.  “We are excited to work with CIS and the Hall to see what kind of differences we can make in the lives of our youth.”


About the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: Located in Springfield, Massachusetts, the city where basketball was invented, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame promotes and preserves the game of basketball at every level – professional, collegiate and high school, for both men and women on the global stage.