Movement Building: What Does a Leader Need?

by , March 28, 2012

Earlier this month, I had the great fortune to participate in a multi-day retreat with other consultants and faculty members from the Move to End Violence Initiative, a 10-year initiative of the NoVo Foundation that is designed to strengthen sector leaders’ collective capacity to end violence against girls and women in the United States. The learning and reflective time I spent with these strategists and capacity builders made me think about some questions (among many!) we’ve been exploring in our leadership work at CompassPoint: What does leadership really look like beyond the individual or the organization? If you’re a leader working on the network, field, or even movement level – what types of skills, support, and experiences would best serve you?  

The Leadership Ecosystem

In our leadership practice, we use a “leadership ecosystem” model as a framework for designing and delivering our programming. This model proposes that leadership exists in many domains and that, depending on which domain you’re currently working in, a different set of skills is needed.
Leader CircleFor example, in leading self, an individual might be focused on identifying her personal purpose or increasing self-awareness. At the organizational level, a leader might be focused on managing change and setting strategy. As leaders move to the outer circles of this framework, they will need to start calling on skills which might feel unfamiliar: thinking beyond their own personal and organizational boundaries, paying attention to where and how power flows within and outside their networks and creating and contributing to a larger and shared
vision for social justice. They will need to experiment and allow (and even encourage) disagreement and disruption.

Image: © 2012 CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. Adapted from the work of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, David Day, and Building Movement Project

Unfamiliar Territory

CompassPoint has been exploring that “unfamiliar territory” with participants in the Strong Field Project Leadership Development Program, a four-year initiative of the Blue Shield of California Foundation. As part of this work, we introduced the inaugural cohort of domestic violence service providers to the concept of network leadership (building off of an informative webinar on movement networks presented by our colleague Robin Katcher of Management Assistance Group, and June Holley’s comprehensive work). We explored what it would mean for these leaders, as a cohort, to be a network and how they might map their connections to one another and beyond their cohort. We talked about the individual roles participants could play in a network – are you someone who connects people and ideas? Do you have a talent for coordinating campaigns? Or, are you someone who can galvanize the conversation and move the work forward? We discussed what strengths – as individuals and as a collective – they could bring to leading this and other networks. We also talked about how creating a space for learning and reflection within the network would be essential not only to network formation but also to more effective network leadership.

We’re looking forward to exploring these questions with the second Strong Field Project cohort, who kicked off their intensive 18-month leadership program in December 2011, and adding some new questions to the mix as they consider what network, field, or movement leadership looks like to them:

  • What’s one thing you might need to stop doing to be more effective as a network, field, or movement leader?
  • How can you (and your organization) engage in cross-organizational work?
  • How can you design spaces for dialogue, questioning, and visioning?

What are your answers to these questions? Let us know your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below. We’ll circle back later in the year to share what we’ve learned through this work on the Move to End Violence Initiative and the Strong Field Project.

By Marissa Tirona, Senior Project Director

More on CompassPoint’s leadership programming:

CompassPoint’s role in the Strong Field Project

Initiatives and Cohort-based Leadership Programs

Intensive Leadership Series

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