Cooperative inquiry provides a framework for participants to use their own experience to generate insights around an issue that is of mutual concern. Participants form a group, usually of about 7-8 people. They define a pressing question and agree to meet over a period of time on several occasions. During meetings, members reflect together on their work as it relates to the question. Between meetings, members inquire into their own practice, observe their experiences and implement new actions that might help them learn something new about the question. In our inquiries, core research team member facilitate the groups to ensure that their members use the process to its full advantage. The cooperative inquiry creates new practice-grounded knowledge, deepens the participants' leadership skills, and strengthens relationships among group members.Facilitators and group participants co-author reports to present the findings of each inquiry. Other members of our core research team also offer reflective reports on the cooperative inquiry process. These reports might be useful for practitioners who share the questions of the inquiry, or anyone interested in learning more about practitioner-oriented research.
The views stated here represent those of the individuals and not necessarily those of the Next Generation Leadership Alumni Network.
Art, Creative Practice, Action, and Leadership
Co-authors: Elizabeth Canner; Kathie deNobriga; Timothea Howard; Annie Lanzillotto; Pam McMichael; and Cara Page. Facilitated by: Doug Paxton and Elizabeth Kasl.
How can I claim my own power as an artist/cultural worker, and in that, help create more vital and respected space for artists and cultural workers in society in general and in the work for social change in specific?
This central inquiry question was the focus of seven people, representing three of the five cohorts of the Rockefeller Foundation's Next Generation Leadership (NGL) program, which ran from 1997 to 2002. Since 2002, the Research Center for Leadership in Action has fostered collaboration among the NGL alumni to create a viable network of practitioners that will boost their professional effectiveness through a series of ongoing activities. This report seeks to convey the experience of one collaborative group of NGL fellows who met five times from October 2005 to June 2006.
Practitioner Guide: Art, Creative Practice, Action, and Leadership
The views stated here represent those of the individuals and not necessarily those of the Leadership for a Changing World program.
Better Together: Peer-Led Fundraising Workshops for Social Change
Co-authors: Theresa Holden (Facilitator), Artist and Community Connection and Junebug Productions, Inc.; John Arvizu, National Day Laborer Organizing Network; Suzanne Bring, Jewish Community Action; Michele Nicole Johnson, Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society; Alice Kim, Campaign to End the Death Penalty; Kevin Lind, Powder River Basin Resource Council; Sonia Ospina (Facilitator); Beatrice Shelby, Boys, Girls, Adults Community Development Center.
How do we raise money to develop sustainable social change organizations?
This cooperative inquiry focused on fundraising as a crucial part of building sustainable social justice organizations. This CI sprang from the belief that including fundraising as an integral part of an organization's whole mission, as opposed to separating it out as an isolated department or piece of work, made this fundraising research unique. The model proposed suggests particular methods that can be used for training and supporting fundraisers, first and foremost by approaching the training collectively. It seems that if the answer to an organization's challenges and goals lies in doing the work collectively in its community, then the workshops that help it learn how to do the work should be done collectively as well. If more learning about practical strategies comes from colleagues than from board development workshops, then an organization could continue to gain knowledge with similar peer gatherings. The very issues that make an organization unique may be where the answers to its challenges lie. The model in this practitioner guide emerges from the unique strengths and perspectives of social justice organizations.
Practitioner Guide: Better Together: Peer-Led Fundraising Workshops for Social Change
Can the Arts Change the World?
Co-authors: Arnold Aprill, CAPE; Kathryn Cutler (Translator); Sandra Hayes (Facilitator), Columbia University; Elise Holliday, Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services; Fahari Jeffers, Domestic Workers Home Care Center; Nobuku Miyamoto, Great Leap, Inc.; Pamela Parham (Translator); Abby Scher, Independent Press Association; Diana Spatz, LIFETIME; Richard Townsell, Lawndale Christian Development Corp.; Lily Yeh, Village of Arts and Humanities; Lyle Yorks (Facilitator), Columbia University.
How and when does art release, create, and transform power for social change?
The Arts group coalesced around arts and social change during the Spring 2004 Program Wide Meeting. Members represent diverse organizations and backgrounds: Two members are working artists and the six are awardees working in various venues like social services, political organization, advocacy and education. As reported by the facilitators of this group, "the inquiry has been enriched by the varied personal backgrounds and experiences that each member had brought to the inquiry. The synergies across the varied perspectives and practices of the group members have been a powerful catalyst for learning." The group completed its sixth and final meeting in summer 2005 and has completed the final draft of its report entitled "Can the Arts Change the World? The final draft was written by Abby Scher, incorporating the contributions of the members. Having engaged in several collective activities, including visiting various examples of community arts, and experimenting with their own practice the group has concluded that arts can be socially transformative. Among several insights supporting this conclusion are that 1) community arts can create a safe space that allows people to trust and be open to changing, 2) art can help people reflect together and not talk past one another, and 3) the process of creating together can be healing, and sustain us for the long haul.
Practitioner Guide: Can the Arts Change the World?
Effective Movement for Social Change Leadership Success
Co-authors: Lucia Alcontara (Facilitator), Columbia University; Kehaulani Filimoe'atu, HCA; Wanda Hopkins, PURE; Rose Miller (Facilitator), The Organization Program, William Alanson White Institute; Anita Rees, LIFETIME; Ken Tool, MHRN; Marcy Westerling, Rural Organizing Project.
How do we engage and sustain a social justice movement that seizes power?
During the Spring 2004 Program Wide Meeting, a group of LCW awardees expressed an interest in joining together to explore the possibility of generating a broader social justice movement. This group used their first meeting to thoroughly explore all of the possible benefits of cooperative inquiry for research and social action. During a meeting in San Francisco, the members agreed upon the following question "How do we engage and sustain people in a social justice movement that seizes power?"
Throughout the process, group members engaged in cycles of action and reflection as a means to test the assumptions surrounding their leadership styles and how they might impact participation. The data they gathered served as the catalyst for critical subjective reflection and collective meaning making. Resultant of this process the co-inquirers began to tenuously initiate changes in their leadership styles and organizational practices. They began to apply lessons learned to the production of organizational assessment tools. This group of co-inquirers is currently finalizing their final report.
Successful Social Change Leading and Its Values
Co-Authors: Susana Almanza, PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources); Monica Byrne-Jimonez (Facilitator), University of Massachusetts; Michelle de la Uz, Fifth Avenue Committee; Stan Eilert, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless; Theresa Holden, Holden Arts & Associates/Junebug Productions; Mary Houghton, Burlington Community Land Trust; Linda Smith (Facilitator), University of Maryland, University College; Deborah Warren, Regional AIDS Interfaith Network.
What makes social change leadership successful and what values are held in common across such diverse leaders and organizations?
This cooperative inquiry uses the ideas, reflections and actions of eight social change leaders to research and learn about the question: What makes social change leadership successful and what values are held in common across such diverse leaders and organizations? A major outcome for the inquiry was expanding our understanding of the role for relationship, and its application to reflective activities, as well as more visible leadership communication actions. This expanded role for relationship, supported by important operating values, is useful to public coalition efforts, staff team work, and self-reflection. A second outcome was the production of a pilot communication project providing multi-media methods and stories of achieving social change.
Co-authors: Victoria Kovari, Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength; Reverend Tyrone Hicks, formerly of Sacramento Valley Organizing Committee; Larry Ferlazzo, formerly of Sacramento Valley Organizing Committee; Craig McGarvey, Philanthropic Consultant; Mary Ochs, Center for Community Change; Lucia Alcontara (Facilitator), Teachers College, Columbia University; Lyle Yorks (Facilitator), Teachers College, Columbia University.
How can we be more effective in helping others become more strategic, conceptual, and creative in their thinking?
This group was motivated by the realization that as organizers, they could teach organizing, but were not good at getting people to think strategically. Doing cooperative inquiry gave them a space to challenge each other's assumptions about organizing, ask provocative questions and learn from one another. During their inquiry, the group started to change the way they worked in their organizations, trying new methods to engage people, such as story telling, metaphors, and other methods that allowed them to encourage participation and reflective practices.
In the words of the group "a gradual, but profound, shift occurred in our assumptions about developing leaders for our organizations." Through their inquiry the group began to understand that the key issue is to engage others in the experience of strategic thinking. "We realized that...in order to help people learn to be more strategic, creative, and conceptual, we would have to be intentional about being more strategic, creative, and conceptual in our relationship with them."
Practitioner's Guide: Don't Just Do Something, Sit ThereSocial Justice Leadership and Movement Building
Co-authors: Dale Asis, Coalition of African, Asian, European and Latino Immigrants of Illinois; Rufino Dominguez, Oaxaca Binational Indigenous Coalition; Janet Fout, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition; Sylvia Herrera, People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources; Sarah James, Gwich'in Nation; Lewis Jordan (Facilitator), St. Mary's College of California; Wing Lam, Chinese Staff & Workers Association; D. Milo Mumgaard, Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest; Salvador Reza, Tonatierra Community Development Institute; Linda Sartor (Facilitator), Lesley University, Gustavo Torres, CASA of Maryland; Ruth Wise, New Road Community Development Group.
Several LCW awardees formed what they called "The Council" to explore their leadership question. As part of their inquiry, members participated in political actions in each other's communities, which include Phoenix, Washington D.C., New York, Arctic Village in Alaska, Oaxaca, Mexico and Southern California. They conclude that leadership does not rest in an individual and requires a holistic appreciation of local context. Leadership cannot be separated from worldview. Common vision among different groups is important.
The common vision that binds the organizations and communities represented in The Council is health and life for all people. The group argues that embracing this common vision means developing "unity of will" rather than "unity of organization." It also means local work contributes to strengthening a movement rather than creates one.
Complete report:Social Justice Leadership and Movement BuildingA Dance That Creates Equals
Co-authors: Denise Altvater, Wabanaki Youth Program American Friends Service Committee; Bethany Godsoe (Facilitator), NYU/Wagner; LaDon James, Community Voices Heard; Barbara Miller, Silver Valley People's Coalition; Sonia Ospina (Facilitator), NYU/Wagner; Tyletha Samuels, Community Voices Heard; Cassandra Shaylor, Justice Now; Lateefah Simon, Center for Young Women's Development; Mark Valdez, Cornerstone Theater Co.
How can we create the space/opportunities for individuals to recognize themselves as leaders and develop leadership?
This cooperative inquiry group views leadership development as a shift in the leadership relationship. Someone steps back and someone steps up, like a dance. This expands the space for shared leadership and something new emerges. Once people claim the space, they see themselves differently and accept the authority to influence others. This means: moving beyond the fear and shame that come from personal experience with oppression; deliberately healing old wounds; claiming experience as a source of authority to speak to the issue and guide change; and putting one's experience in a broader context. Stepping back requires an appreciation of the other's potential as well as the responsibility to support others to claim that space as their own. Strategies that help do this include: information dissemination; dialogue; caring/showing support; story telling; owning anxiety and discomfort; and being open to change the direction of an initiative. Having the choice to step back implies that power is present in the leadership relationship. But the dance is not about granting power. It is about recognizing the power that people already have.
Complete report: "Unpacking" Leadership Development: A Dance That Creates Equals
Practitioner's Guide: A Dance that Creates Equals
Co-inquirers: Will Allen, Growing Power Community Food Center; Angie Chan (Facilitator), NYU/Wagner; Nelson Johnson, Beloved Community Center of Greensboro; Ricardo Martinez, Padres Unidos; Reggie Moore, Urban Underground; Richard Moore, Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice; Ai-jen Poo, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities; Linda Powell-Pruitt (Facilitator), Cidra Sebastien, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol; Leticia Barrera, Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
Available by Fall 2007
Co-inquirers: Peggy Berryhill, Center for Native American Public Radio; Derwyn Bunton, Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana; Bob Fulkerson, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada; Meredith Herr (Facilitator), NYU/Wagner; Theresa Holden (Facilitator), Artist and Community Connection, Inc. and Junebug Productions, Inc.; Roger Sherman, United Vision for Idaho; Loris Ann Taylor, The Hopi Foundation.
Available by Fall 2007
Co-Researchers: Diana Bustamante, Colonias Development Council; Anthony Flaccavento, Appalachian Sustainable Development; Sandra Hayes (facilitator), Teacher's College, Columbia University; Sarah Ludwig, Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project; Juan E. Rosario, Mision Industrial de Puerto Rico, Inc.; Isabel Toscano, East Bay Asian Youth Center; Mily Trevioo-Sauceda, Organizacion en CA de Loderes Campesinas, Inc.; Imani Walker, The Rebecca Project for Human Rights; Lisa Diane White, SisterLove, Inc.; Lyle Yorks (facilitator), Teacher's College, Columbia University
How can we Integrate Human Rights, Social Justice, and Sustainability?
An important strength of the group is the diversity of the work in which its individual are members engaged. The specific focus of the work of the members varies with some focusing more specifically on human rights, others sustainability. An interesting learning that has emerged is how the policies and initiatives of on focus may have a counter impact on the policies advocated by another. This makes clear the complexity of the work around social change and justice.
Consequently there has been a strong educative impact for members as they have learned more about each others work. Members have engaged in serious dialogue about the values and assumptions they hold about their work and have started to broaden their own approaches to initiatives undertaken by their organizations. They have also begun drafting a vision for integrating human rights, social justice, and sustainability that incorporates this learning and points toward more cooperative efforts across the work of social justice. This draft will be a topic of discussion at their fifth meeting. A goal is articulating a strategy for action.