RCLA's Expertise in Social Change Leadership

Understanding and supporting social change leadership has been the cornerstone of the Research Center for Leadership in Action's work for more than seven years, including conducting research with award-winning nonprofits across the United States and offering ongoing leadership development and capacity-building for grassroots nonprofits in New York City.

This work with social change organizations is an essential part of the Center's work to expand the discourse about leadership from a focus on individual “heroic” leaders to a more collective, relational and inclusive view that recognizes the important contributions individuals at all levels can make to leadership as a collective achievement.

Our research shows that social change organizations represent a rich and essential resource for civil society and enact profound reforms to broken systems and structures.
This collective work toward the common good reflects the human spirit at its best and leadership that is essential to guarantee, sustain and invigorate democracy.

The Center’s research focuses on the specific leadership practices that grassroots nonprofits employ to build leadership capital and transform society. This leadership capital does not depend on material wealth but on the accumulated stock of wisdom and know-how present in their communities. It is the collective force that comes from years of recognizing abundant possibilities where others see only scarcity. It also comes from figuring out how to deal with tough social issues – such as inadequate services, unjust policies, or a lack of responsiveness to community needs – and making incremental changes that lead to momentous wins.

RCLA's Global Work

RCLA works with leading global institutions at the forefront of efforts to foster civic engagement, create forums for  dialogue, establish cross-sector collaborations, and empower citizens to become agents for change.

Examples of our international partnerships include:
  • A three-year evaluation of the Center for Microfinance Leadership run by Women's World Banking in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation. Started in response to rapid growth and changes in the microfinance industry, from a decrease in the number of women staff members at microfinance providers to increasing commercialization, the Center aims to bring the best of leadership development and gender diversity initiatives to the microfinance sector through training, coaching, learning exchanges and support for organizational change.
  • Technical assistance and training with educators at the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia in Spain to foster efforts that help students act as global citizens. Participants have focused on capitalizing on collaborations between the university, a vibrant nongovernmental sector and public schools to develop educational and experiential practices that  contribute to  a sense of global citizenship in students.
  • A comparative research initiative with the AVINA Foundation to identify, examine and support the dynamics of successful multi-sector collaboration in Brazil and Colombia.
  • An evaluation of the Institute of International Education West Coast Center's Leadership Development for Mobilizing Reproductive Health Program in Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the Philippines. RCLA collaborated with the IIE West Coast Center and the Packard Foundation to conduct a participatory evaluation that examined and documented the impact of the leadership program on improving health outcomes for vulnerable people.