LF Blog and News

2015 Annual Report

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.


Click here to download the 2015 LF Annual Report



The Table- Episode 25

Take a moment to listen to the latest episode of the City as Playground Podcast.


Including diverse voices and expanding the table was core to Jesus’s work. In this episode Rick Enloe, Dave Hillis, and Rev. Dr. Jean Milliken look specifically at the historical inclusion and exclusion of the female voice and how this has shaped our view of the world. Join them as they use psychology and theology to explore this idea and invite us to embrace a fuller language and understanding of God.


We Must Rise

In August, 250 leaders from across Africa and around the globe gathered in Pretoria, South Africa for the Urban Ministry Consultation. For 20 years, this event has represented a space in which urban people working in the trenches of post-apartheid South Africa, or in urban slums and inner cities elsewhere in the world are able to connect deeply, share experiences and struggles, and discern together what God would have for them back in their cities.


The 12-day, three-part event which included the LF Africa gathering, brought together urban ministry practitioners, activists, students, and scholars to explore how to be prophetic communities taking local ownership for reconciliation and justice. The theme of this year’s Consultation was We Must Rise: Healers-Dreamers-Jesters and was inspired by recent student movements that swept campuses across our nation, pursuing aims of decolonization; addressing university fee structures to give increased and just access to poor students; fighting for an end to outsourcing and exploitation of workers; and changing language policy and curricula to be in line with the South Africa of 2016 and beyond.


This has come to be known as the #Fallist movement as the focus was on constructs of colonization and oppressions that had to fall! As faith communities in cities, our concern is with the vacuums that might be left after certain constructs have justifiably fallen. How do we ensure that these vacuums are not filled by even more oppressive forces? What do we rise to? What do we put in its place? How do we take local ownership to build ethical, aesthetical, healthy and vibrant communities- cities that are playgrounds- where all of God’s people can live with dignity and meaning, sharing in the abundance of God’s resources? These kinds of questions are central to the work of Leadership Foundations, and we took them up at this year’s Consultation.


Continue reading about what took place and take-aways from Stephan de Beer- Director of LF Africa and Senior Associate

The Table Whispercast- Episode 24

Take a moment to listen to the latest episode of the City as Playground Podcast.


How do we create tables of inclusion? In this Whispercast, Rick Enloe and Dave Hillis explore the dominant Scriptural image of the table and how Jesus’s radical use of it draws a new portrait of God and serves as a model of inclusion. This sets up our next full length podcast where we will be joined by Rev. Dr. Jean Milliken, an Episcopal priest, pastoral psychotherapist, and a formative voice throughout the history of Leadership Foundations to discuss the inclusion of women’s voices at the table. Listen here and send in any questions you would like answered to info@leadershipfoundations.org.



Report Cards

Report cards! For all but a few of us, the very words produce a low-grade nausea that can quickly mature into a high-grade paralysis. Whether a good or poor student we intuitively sense the news will be less than hoped.


This tendency exists because we either are not as accomplished as we desire or we simply lack confidence in our own capacities. If, however, we are fortunate enough to receive a good report card very few things satisfy as completely and need to be celebrated as fully. We are excited to let you know of two good report cards.


Nicholas Kristof recently wrote an Op-ed piece titled The Best News You Don’t Know. Against many of the reports suggesting our best days are behind us, Kristof argues that the data suggests the opposite. Some of the most positive “rapid gains ever recorded” around things like health, poverty, literacy, and inequality are currently taking place in cities and the world. While making clear that this does not allow permission to gloss over many difficult things, he does advocate this “good report card” should empower us because of the very obvious success we are experiencing.


LF also continues to make great progress. Through the Bridgespan Group’s work with us in 2015, LF is finishing the first year of a 3 year plan to achieve greater impact in the cities we serve. Whether it is the development and deployment of the Stages of Impact (SOI) Tool among the 70+ members, developing the capacity to compensate our Senior Associates to provide coaching for Local Leadership Foundations, or recruiting new board members: all speak to a “good report card.” One of the most exciting things to report is the hiring of Cassie Wyssbrod for the position of VP of Development. Through Cassie’s leadership we are confident LF will continue to have the resources necessary to contribute to what Kristof described.

There is much to do and many more report cards in front of us, to be sure. However, we pause to take a breath and savor this good report card.


Click here to read more about Cassie, LF’s new VP of Development!

A Goodly Way- Episode 23

Take a moment to listen to the latest episode of the City as Playground Podcast.


Cultivating your city into a playground requires many things, among them dedication, collaboration, and innovation. In this episode, Rick Enloe and Dave Hillis argue that the essential component of this kind of transformation is a commitment to go about work in a goodly way. Join them as they look at examples from across Leadership Foundations global network of leaders dedicating themselves to transforming their cities into playgrounds.



A Relational Investment: Senior Associates

Leadership Foundations people are often asked, “How did you end up leading a local leadership foundation?” More specifically, “What were the variables, factors, and important moments that account for you leading this organization or running this program? And while we are tempted to provide a variety of answers that would lift our individual effort up, the answer we invariably give, when honest, is the power of relationship. I am here and I am doing this work because someone invested their time and talent in me.


This central idea that who we become is a result of relational investment in us is, at first glance, deceptively simple. So much so that we are forever tempted to describe our effectiveness with more sophisticated responses ranging from comprehensive program models to efficacious training to robust spirituality. All, of course, are helpful, but these factors miss the mark if they do not become vehicles to build and strengthen relationships.


The Senior Associates is LF’s primary strategy to keep the power of relationship as the primary currency of our network. Upon joining the LF network, each member is connected with a Senior Associate who meets with them on a monthly basis. Senior Associates are women and men who have run successful organizations, have a demonstrated track record of mentoring colleagues and embody LF’s vision, mission, and values. Their singular focus is to deepen our member’s impact by growing their mastery of the Wheel of Change. The only way to do this with any sense of confidence is when members—as they work to see their cities become playgrounds rather than battlegrounds—are provided the power of relationship through the gift of a Senior Associate.


Visit our staff page to see the roster of Senior Associates.

A Goodly Way Whispercast- Episode 22

Take a moment to listen to the latest episode of the City as Playground Podcast.


In this Whispercast, Rick Enloe and Dave Hillis prepare to give key updates from around the Leadership Foundations’ global network. Using stories, biblical passages, and even greek translations, they explore the importance of not only the good work being done in our cities, but also the goodly way in which it is done. Listen here and send in any questions you would like answered to info@leadershipfoundations.org.




Demonstrations of Work

Benjamin Franklin and Jesus had at least one thing in common. Franklin once stated, “Well done is better than well said.” Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Both move us toward an understanding that words—if they are used at all—should simply be an explanation of a living demonstration.


But of course, like most things, there is an inherent tension in this reality. How does a person, let alone a global network like LF, create a framework for demonstrated outcomes, neither falling prey to a bureaucracy of requirements that pushes toward success as one of compliance nor fostering an ethos of laissez-faire where you are the sole arbitrator of success?


LF has stepped into this vortex of competing realities. We have created a space to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit needed to engage the spiritual and social renewal of cities, and help ensure that the results we claim are getting accomplished in demonstrable and measurable ways. LF has employed two tools to achieve this outcome. The first is the Stages of Impact (SOI) tool that takes LF’s wheel of change (the three functions) and creates an annual analysis. The SOI measures how an LF member is increasing their mastery, synergy, and sustainability of that wheel. The second tool is the accreditation, occurring every three years, which requires an onsite visit from the member’s Senior Associate and other colleagues in the LF network. Over the course of 1 ½ days a review of finances, board, programs, staff health, and related material is assessed and a decision is made on whether to grant accreditation. All LF members will complete the SOI annually and will be accredited by the end of 2017. We believe that these are rather remarkable displays of letting our work do the talking.


This was brought to life this past week when the Northwest Leadership Foundation (NLF) completed its SOI and accreditation. Given the facts – NLF has been around for 27 years, has created best-practices and programs replicated by others, and has helped launch several local leadership foundations – one could ask why NLF would need to go through such a rigorous process? The answer is that they believe they can still get better, they can make their city better, and that Franklin and Jesus are correct: living demonstrations of work speak volumes and move us toward a better world.

The “Faith Factor”

This blog post was written by Samuel Acevedo, Pastor and Executive Director of Boston HERC, the Local Leadership Foundation in Boston, Massachusetts.


I often ask God, “What is the role of the church and faith-based institutions – what is the role of ‘people of good faith’as we seek to serve and love the youth of this increasingly skeptical city? How do we make it a playground for our young people? We certainly have a role in convening ‘people of good faith’ and ‘people of good will.’ But is there more? Should there be more?”


In the summer of 2015, the Boston School Committee asked me to serve as the Co-Chair of a body called the Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Task Force. Of the 19 members of the Task Force, I was perhaps the sole person of good faith (as a vocation, anyway) among some of the brightest, most committed people of good will I have ever worked with. Two weeks ago, the Task Force, with great relief, presented to the Boston School Committee the results of our twelve months of toil. We had competed our revisions – really, a thorough re-casting – of a ten-year-old policy aimed at closing the gaps in academic performance afflicting Boston’s primarily black and Latino youth as long as anyone could remember. This achievement gap influences, more than anything, the long-term likelihood these youth will ever achieve a college degree, break into a profession, or earn a decent living.


The goal is that Boston would be the first city in America to close these gaps. It is perhaps the most ambitious challenge the School Committee has taken on in decades. Whether we achieve it, however, may depend on the role that the church (Boston’s “people of good faith”) plays in the days and months ahead.


What should that role be? What is the role of people of good faith in addressing the challenges facing black, Latino, and other children of color? Indeed, what was I, a Pastor and Executive Director of a church-based resource center, doing co-chairing this Task Force to begin with?


Four years earlier, the Boston Foundation (one of our city’s leading philanthropic institutions) launched this conversation by convening fewer than a dozen of Boston’s “Black and Brown” clergy. They gathered us around the idea of finally reversing what they referred to as the “underperformance of black and brown boys.” I had the privilege of being in the room that morning.


But why the clergy? I posed this question to the Foundation. I am not sure that even they realized why this, decidedly-secular, institution felt compelled to begin this conversation with a gathering of the city’s clergy. One reason the Foundation may have been interested in the clergy was the sense that they have an important constituency; these clergy men and women are significant “civic leaders.” But that only begs the question — what makes them “civic leaders”? Is it purely a manifestation of Black and Latino historic tradition? Or is there more than mere tradition at work here? Is it that our community’s churches and religious institutions possess a unique galvanizing and life-transforming power that could be harnessed to reverse the destructive trends that would otherwise claim another generation of our young men and women of color? And if we were to discover that they do possess such a life-transforming spiritual energy, would Boston have the courage to do what is necessary to unleash it?


There is actually a good amount of social science indicating that church involvement is one of the factors contributing to the success of those youth who grow up in “high-risk neighborhoods,” and still manage to complete college and achieve great things. (One seminal study- by no means the only one- is the federally-funded National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. After studying 13,500 adolescents in 80 communities across the nation, the study concluded that youth living in “high-risk neighborhoods” were far more likely to stay in school and do well if they attended church regularly, than if they did not. See: http://www.baylorisr.org/wp-content/uploads/ISR-Making-Grade_071.pdf)


But determining the proper role of the church in attempting to close the achievement and opportunity gaps haunting our youth is not so simple a thing as merely following the data. There is a sense (shared even among those who do not consider themselves religious) that a kinetic energy is locked in our houses of worship that could be unleashed to transform the lives and vision of our failing youth and the shape of our cities. But the “governing community” – the government, philanthropic institutions, corporations, etc. – is nevertheless reluctant to unsheathe that energy as a consequence of legitimate, countervailing considerations such as the separation of church and state, or a host of other issues emanating from operating within a diverse, pluralistic society. Releasing that spiritual energy, at least in its purest form, may be too high a price to pay. Even if we knew it worked.


I continued to contemplate these questions and ideas as I drafted the preamble and much of the language of the six core goals of our new Opportunity and Achievement Gap Policy. I think what Boston is attempting is truly heroic and noble. I pray for its success, and would be honored to contribute whatever time and energy is needed to arrest and reverse these trends that have clouded the future of our youth for far too long. Something has to change; whatever is broken needs to be fixed.


But the “fix” may require that Boston – and its carefully-assembled collaborative community of “people of good faith” and “people of good will” – implement solutions too unsettling for our current comfort zones. Solutions that allow the church to be “the Church”; the Church assuming the soul-saving, life-transforming role that it was created for, but has all but forgotten. To work for both its social and spiritual renewal, so that the city can truly become a playground. A role for which our broken cities, and our lost youth, have no substitute.