Engaging Leaders

How do you make a city better? This is the question that gets Leadership Foundations (LF) up in the morning, and the last issue of Street Lights explored our answer. Through 35 years of field-tested work, we believe the key is developing leaders who connect and drive the wheel of permanent change in their cities by increasing mastery of LF’s three functions: engaging leaders of good faith and good will, building the capacity of others, and developing joint programming initiatives. Through consistent application of these three functions to a particular place over a given amount of time, cities do in fact get better.


The first of these three functions—engaging leaders of good faith and good will to tackle a city’s greatest challenges—carries with it particular importance. It is hard to overstate how imperative this function is in making a city better. This is true for two reasons. The first reason is the recognition that nothing—no amount of money, programs, grants, outcomes—can compensate for a lack of resourceful, reflective, and resilient leadership. Many cities in the world have had more than their fair share of resources and are worse off than they were before. The answer—at least from LF’s vantage point—is that the question of leadership is overlooked. The second reason is that cities are filled with a dizzying array of needs that push people toward isolation. And, if individuals or groups do work with others, it is often only with those similar to themselves – whether it be particular work, preferred faith, or cultural background. Connecting and engaging leaders from all walks of life and sectors within a city; religious and non-religious, for-profit and non-profit, white collar and blue collar, etc. is beneficial for the whole city.


Tshwane Leadership Foundation (TLF) in Pretoria, South Africa is using this function – engaging leaders of good faith and good will – to make their city better through their annual event, Feast of the Clowns. What started as a small street festival has established itself as the only annual event in Pretoria’s inner city that combines celebration and social justice. Annually it welcomes 25,000 people from all walks of life to engage in music, performances, activities and good food, as they launch campaigns around various matters of social justice. This past year the theme was Counter Trafficking and Rebranding Homelessness. TLF sees the Feast of the Clowns as one way to make their city better by engaging a wide range of leaders from Pretoria to host the event and work together on Pretoria’s most critical issues. (If you are interested please click here to read Dr Stephan de Beer’s wonderful scholarly article on the festival).


LF is called to transform cities by engaging leaders of good faith and good will to tackle a city’s greatest challenges. We celebrate the success of many local leadership foundations and continue to work together to seek new ways to live into this function, and live out Helen Keller’s insightful and true observation: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

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