Joan Minieri

Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Service

Joan Minieri is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Public Service of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She is also the Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, a national funder of organizing and social justice organizations.  She brings to her role in philanthropy, extensive experience in community organizing, popular education, program development, organizational leadership, writing and teaching. Joan came to Veatch in 2016 after serving as the National Program Director for the Community Learning Partnership, where she created degree programs, primarily in community colleges, to expand access to social change careers.  She co-authored Tools for Radical Democracy: How to Organize for Power in Your Community (Jossey-Bass 2007), an award winning, widely used text in the field and in academic courses.  Joan has been on the adjunct faculty at the Columbia University School of Social Work and a Senior Fellow at the Research Center for Leadership in Action at the Wagner School. 

Joan co-founded Community Voices Heard (CVH), for which she received a Leadership for a Changing World Award from the Ford Foundation.  She began her career as a faith-based community organizer on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and went on to coordinate the Catholic Bishops’ Campaign for Human Development in the New York Archdiocese.  She was founding co-director of Veatch grantee, the New York City Organizing Support Center; Interim Executive Director of the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing; and Communications Director for the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. Joan holds a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work and a bachelor’s degree from Muhlenberg College. 

This course is appropriate for students interested in the role that leadership plays in advancing social innovation and social change in the context of democratic governance.

The course explores the role of leadership in organizational efforts to change thinking, systems, and policies—taking into consideration the contested process by which the responsibility of addressing intractable problems is distributed among key diverse actors in a shared-power world. Traditional approaches to leadership defined by single heroic individuals who influence followers are contrasted with new perspectives—consistent with the demands of today’s complex problems—particularly when we aspire to inclusive, transparent and democratic solutions. Emergent perspectives reveal leadership as the collective achievement of members of a group who share a vision, and who must navigate the constellation of relationships, structures, processes and institutional dynamics within the larger system in which they are embedded.

The course will focus primarily on the organizational level of action, but connections to the individual and policy levels will also be explored. An opportunity to apply course concepts in the context of a particular organization of the student’s choice (with instructor approval) will deepen and personalize the student’s understanding of the interconnections between the three levels of action, and challenge assumptions about leadership and social change and their implications for practice.

Download Syllabus