Avi Chai History of the Future Project

The Avi Chai Foundation has engaged RCLA for assistance with its strategic planning. In 2007, RCLA used the innovative 'History of the Future' methodology to support the foundation's efforts, and work with Debbie Bing, a consultant from CFAR and a 'History of the Future' expert, and Professor Roy Sparrow, a Wagner faculty member who has extensive expertise in strategic planning and Judaic studies, to lead the process.

Calculus of Courage

The Special Initiative for Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector offers senior nonprofit managers several leadership development opportunities. RCLA's programs in this area are unlike conventional development programs in that they do not focus on the development of particular skills. Rather, they build from the knowledge participants bring to the table and offer structured reflective opportunities for individual learning. They create opportunities for the participants themselves to identify the leadership challenges they want to explore, thereby ensuring that the content of the conversations remains relevant to the "front-burner" concerns of those participating. Further, because these are intimate conversations sustained over time, they offer excellent opportunities for participants to create important personal connections that can be a continued resource for them.

In further contrast to traditional leadership development programs, each of these initiatives invites participants to contribute to the field by collaborating to build a leadership theory from the ground-up. By capturing the detailed knowledge that will be shared in these reflective conversations about how senior managers meet urgent leadership challenges and sustain the effective work of their organizations, the authenticity and relevance of leadership theory is enriched.

The Calculus of Courage: An Inquiry for Senior Executives in the Public and Nonprofit Sectors

The first inquiry, The Calculus of Courage, began on February 3, 2003 over a series of five evening meetings. Participants examined the multiple influences that spur courageous action, using carefully structured exercises and their own experiences.

Participants Explored:

  • What is courage? And what is its relationship to risk taking and exercising leadership?
  • What are the critical elements-both external and self-imposed-that influence your willingness to take courageous action?
  • How can you create and nurture organization and community supports that make courageous action possible?
  • What new knowledge can we generate for the field about this critical element of leadership?

From Practice to Theory

RCLA is a member of a working group - the Practice to Theory (PTT) group - formed by practitioners and scholars from several universities and non-profit organizations working to support practitioners' capacity to be reflective and derive knowledge from their practice. The Practice to Theory (PTT) working group is concerned with promoting the explicit examination of the knowledge, theory, and values embedded in everyday practice, and their use for building social movements and promoting social change. Members of the PTT working group use their work experience to develop a distinct framework, From Practice to Theory, and will develop an agenda to further expand the network to other individuals and organizations interested in its applications to social change.

The Research Center for Leadership in Action is a member of a working group - the Practice to Theory (PTT) group - formed by practitioners and scholars from several universities and non-profit organizations working to support practitioners' capacity to be reflective and derive knowledge from their practice. The Practice to Theory (PTT) working group is concerned with promoting the explicit examination of the knowledge, theory, and values embedded in everyday practice, and their use for building social movements and promoting social change. The current operating purpose for the Practice to Theory working group is:

To learn from and with each other about the work of building knowledge from practice - knowledge for the purposes of creating a just, equitable and sustainable society - through reflection, and to contribute to developing this framework as a field of practice in new ways

PTT Members' Organizations

Members of the PTT working group use their work experience to develop a distinct framework, From Practice to Theory, and hope to develop an agenda to further expand the network to other individuals and organizations interested in its applications to social change. Members of the group are diverse in terms of institutional affiliation and geographical location. Some work at Centers embedded in higher education institutions: the Research Center for Leadership in Action at New York University (New York City), the Center for Reflective Community Practice at MIT (Cambridge), the Veterans of Hope Project at the Iliff School of Theology at the University of Denver, and the Center for Gender in Organizations at Simmons School of Management (Boston). Others work at independent nonprofits: the Building Movement Project at Demos in New York City and the International Fourth World Movement in Paris, France (with local teams throughout the world, including New York City). This diversity brings a broad range of experiences and perspectives into the group, strengthening our dialogue and challenging us to understand our similarities and differences.

Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) Scholars Program

The Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) Scholars Program is an intensive summer institute housed on the Princeton University campus, which recruits public high school students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds for a rigorous curriculum, "The Aspects of Leadership." LEDA Scholars spend the summer following their junior year in high school at Princeton completing college-level coursework designed to develop their academic and leadership skills. LEDA seeks to raise the academic aspirations of gifted students, and LEDA Scholars go on to attend the most highly competitive institutions in the nation.

RCLA staff led one component of the "Aspects of Leadership" program, a series of weekly seminars on leadership and public policy, which examined issues including poverty, education, economic development, employment and earnings, and health. Drawing on its network of social change leaders currently engaging with these policy areas, the RCLA component included weekly speakers, followed by reflection in small groups, writing workshops, and guided discussion. Students turned in weekly reflection memos and conducted interviews with the speakers as part of their inquiry into the characteristics and work of leadership.

Learn more about the LEDA Scholars Program here

Leadership in Action Program

Through the Leadership in Action Program (LAP), a results-based public management project, leaders from all over Baltimore City were able to come together to plan for and take actions to accelerate school readiness - in a measurable way - by the established target of November 2004. A partnership of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Reason to Believe enterprise of Baltimore City, and RCLA, LAP was conceived as a model program designed not only to strengthen the capacity for collaborative leadership among government, nonprofit, and community leaders, but to make a substantial impact on a condition of well-being - in this case, children in Baltimore City entering school better prepared to learn.

Next Generation Leadership

NGL CI Report: Art, Creative Practice, Action and Leadership

The Next Generation Leadership Alumni Network is a community of 118 leaders, all of whom received a Next Generation Leadership (NGL) award from the Rockefeller Foundation between 1997 and 2002. The Research Center for Leadership in Action (RCLA) collaborated with the NGL alumni to create a viable network of practitioners and boost their professional effectiveness through a series of on-going activities, including annual convenings, co-operative inquiries, and cluster groups around common issue areas. All activities were based on RCLA's belief that social networks develop and intensify as individuals collaborate on ongoing projects of shared importance. Further, adding a reflection component to these collaborations, allows participants to consider questions about their own practice, and promotes meaningful connections among network participants.

Background and Purpose

The Next Generation Leadership Alumni Network is a community of 118 leaders, all of whom received a Next Generation Leadership (NGL) award from the Rockefeller Foundation between 1997 and 2002. The Research Center for Leadership in Action (RCLA) collaborated with NGL alumni to create a viable network of practitioners designed to boost their professional effectiveness through a series of on-going activities. The series of activities undertaken by the Alumni served to promote new understanding about the dynamics both of leadership and social networks.
The Rockefeller Foundation created the original NGL program in 1997 out of a commitment to building a h6er, more sustainable democracy for the United States in the 21st Century. In all, five "cohorts" of leaders were selected. In 2004, RCLA assumed management of the NGL program until the program's completion in the autumn of 2007.

The broad goals of this program were:

  • To encourage further leadership capacity through reflective practice and the articulation of new knowledge about leadership, generated through systematic opportunities to address urgent questions of practice
  • To provide opportunities for the NGL Fellows to regenerate and acquire additional knowledge, resources, relationships, skills, partners and allies to strengthen their work
  • To promote and encourage a broad participation of the diverse voices of the NGL network
  • To promote democracy and social justice through action and reflection

Link to NGL website

NYC Social Justice Fellowship

The New York City Social Justice Fellowship supports innovative public interest projects that address critical issues such as immigrants' rights, environmental justice, health, the arts, workers' rights, civic participation, education, and equitable economic development. Funded by the Open Society Institute and managed by the Research Center for Leadership in Action, the program provided support to social change agents who are passionate, insightful and resourceful about making concrete improvements in disadvantaged and marginalized communities, with an emphasis on addressing structural barriers and enhancing social equity. The fellowship sought to encourage public and community service careers; expand the number of role models available to youth in inner-city neighborhoods; promote initiatives and entrepreneurship that empower communities; address not only direct needs but systemic barriers and policies in need of change; and create vehicles for fellows to effectively document, reflect and share their learning.

Link to SJF website

Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts Conference (STPA)

The Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts (STPA) Conference is an international and interdisciplinary gathering of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners that highlights current and conceptual issues in the development of cultural policy, theory, and arts administration practices in the United States and abroad.

The 33rd Annual Conference on Social Theory, Politics and the Arts (STPA) was held on October 11-13, 2007 in New York City, co-hosted by New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Research Center for Leadership in Action, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Engaging with one of the conference's main themes, "Leadership In, Of, and Through the Arts," RCLA convened a roundtable session:

"Roundtable: Using Participatory Research to Learn About Arts and Social Change"
Moderator: 
Amparo Hoffman, Research Center for Leadership in Action (New York/USA)
Participants:
Rosina S. Miller, The Philadelphia Center
Lyle Yorks, Columbia University Teachers College
Co-Author/Presenter: Nobuko Miyamoto, Great Leap

Summer Exchange Program with Mexican Students

Summer 2007 Leadership Program, NYU Steinhardt School of Education and RCLA co-hosted visiting Mexican students from the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) for a two-week program of study examining leadership in the public service. The students, collectively known as "Grupo Punta," participated in an RCLA-designed curriculum exploring the multiple styles, contexts, and models of public service leadership, with a special emphasis on methods for fostering collaboration, team work, empathy, the ethical use of power and the empowerment of the communities served by their leaders.

The students attended presentations by prominent social change leaders and afternoon site visits throughout New York City related to themes discussed in the classroom. RCLA facilitation methodologies offered spaces for creative reflection and discussion. Students were encouraged to use their own experiences and knowledge in engaging with the themes.

Sessions Included:

  • The role of leadership in the public sector
  • Leadership in the context of international development
  • Leadership, social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility

Both RCLA and the visiting students found the program a rich opportunity to reflect on the cultural implications of the examples of leadership they encountered and a "local/global" perspective. The "Grupo Punta," gifted students who had not necessarily until then considered work in the public service, returned to Puebla with new tools for action and critical thought in social change leadership work in their own communities. Profile of the Grupo Punta project (Spanish)