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  • Generational Leadership Listening Sessions

    The Building Movement Project

    Frances Kunreuther Ludovic Blain

    Kim Fellner

    Building Movement Project

    220 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10001 T. 212.633.1405 F. 212.633.2015 www.buildingmovement.org

  • Acknowledgments The Building Movement Project gratefully acknowledges the participants in these sessions who gave us not only their time but also their thoughtful commentary about the issues of generational change. We hope we have been true to their ideas. The Annie E. Casey Foundation provided both financial support and encouragement to explore the idea of generational change, especially Sherri Killins and Donna Stark. The Building Movement Project also appreciates the support of the Ford Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Kim Freeman was the initial recorder for this project and did a wonderful job of capturing the conversations of many of these sessions. She was a major contributor to the planning and implementation freely giving her insights and suggestions. She also miraculously managed to always fit in the time to travel despite her packed schedule. The Building Movement Project team continued to push us forward in this work, especially Robby Rodriguez with his thoughtful comments about the journey of generational leadership change. Building Movement Project Many working in the nonprofit sector are strongly motivated by the desire to address injustices and to promote fairness, equality, and sustainability. The Building Movement Project supports nonprofit organizations to work towards social change by integrating movement building strategies into their work. Building Movement engages four strategies to accomplish its goals. These include: Changing the discourse and practice within the nonprofit sector to endorse values

    of social change and social justice. Identifying and working with social service organizations as neglected sites for

    social change/justice activities. Supporting young leaders who bring new ideas and energy to social change work. Listening to and engaging people working in social change organizations to

    strengthen their ability to have an impact on policies that affect their work. About the Authors Frances Kunreuther is Director of the Building Movement Project, which she developed as a fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for over thirty years including as the Executive Director of the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York. Ludovic Blain is a long time activist who co-founded several organizations including the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. Now 34, he currently works at Demos on voting and other democracy issues, and publishes a blog at www.ludovicspeaks.com. Kim Fellner is a long-time community/labor organizer and writer. She served as the first Executive Director of the National Writers Union, and Director of the National Organizers Alliance.

  • Table of Contents Executive Summary ..................................................................................................... i Introduction................................................................................................................. 1

    Nonprofit Social Change Leadership: A Generational Transition............................ 1 A Shifting Landscape for Social Change Nonprofits ............................................... 4 The Generational Leadership Listening Sessions: At a Crossroads of Context and History................................................................................................................ 7

    Findings...................................................................................................................... 10

    Knocking at the Door: Gaining Entry and Legitimacy........................................... 10 Inside the House: Questions of Form and Function................................................ 15 Training and the Mentoring Relationship ............................................................... 22 Money Relationships: Supporting the Work........................................................... 26 Leaving Home: Transition and Legacy................................................................... 28 New Aspirations for a New Leadership Generation ............................................... 32

    Recommendations and Reflections from the Listening Sessions .......................... 35

    Create Opportunities to Build Relationships and Analysis Within and Across Generations ............................................................................................................. 35 Define the Needs and Costs of Support for Departing and Emerging Leaders ...... 36 Generate Tools and Information for the Next Generation of Leaders .................... 37 Pursue New Studies to Add Context and Fill in Gaps in Existing Research.......... 37

    A Last Word .............................................................................................................. 39 Appendix A: Methodology ....................................................................................... 40 Appendix B: Generational Leadership Study Summary ...................................... 42

  • i

    Executive Summary Nonprofit Social Change Leadership: A Generational Transition Who will lead nonprofit organizations dedicated to progressive social change in the difficult decade ahead and what resources and skills will they need to meet the challenge? In 2004, the Building Movement Project convened Generational Leadership Listening Sessions (GLLS) with young nonprofit leaders in nine cities to explore these critical questions in the context of leadership transition from the Baby Boomers to a new generation. The Listening Sessions followed up on a 2002 Generational Changes and Leadership Study which examined the differences between Baby Boomer and Gen X/Y leaders, and how these factors play out in nonprofits that consider social change part of their mission. The 122 GLLS participants, mostly leaders of color between the ages of 25 and 40, were gleaned from a mix of sources that included the Building Movement staff and project team, sponsoring foundations, and referrals from colleagues around the country. They came from nonprofit organizations large and small, spanning service providers and community organizing, as well as consultants, cultural groups and academic institutions. Generational Leadership Listening Session Findings 1. Most Gen X leaders pursuing social change work in the nonprofit sector enter

    organizations dominated by Baby Boomers. New Gen X/Y leaders often have difficulty acquiring organizational space that

    values their skills and respects their experience. Race and gender remain obstacles to validation.

    The growth of immigrant communities, and organizations based in those

    communities, has redefined diversity within the nonprofit social change sector.

    Creating healthy multiracial, multicultural organizations remains a challenge

    to leaders of all races and generations.

    2. Once young leaders gain entry and standing in their organizations, they are confronted with the realities of structure, power, accountability and culture that define organizational life. Decision-making in nonprofit social change organizations often lacks the

    clarity and transparency. Young leaders grapple with developing good models for exercising

    leadership, power and accountability. Power and structure: who is accountable and to whom is part of the

    responsible exercise of power and leadership.

  • ii

    Young leaders are often disenchanted when there is a gap between an organizations external values and its internal culture.

    Balance between work and personal life remains a daunting challenge for

    young leaders in a culture still steeped in sacrificing all ones time to the work.

    3. Literature on the role of mentors in the organizational advancement of younger

    leaders rarely focuses on those working in smaller nonprofits. Yet, these relationships loomed large for GLLS participants. Good mentors are hard to come by and urgently needed as we look toward

    the future of movement building. There are specific complications in mentoring and support when leadership is

    being transferred from one generation to the next in organizations that include family members.

    The lack of adequate mentorship and broader intergenerational dialogue

    means that important lessons of history and experience are inadequately transmitted, or are lost to a new generation.

    GLLS leaders seem particularly eager to be good mentors to the next

    generation coming up after them 4. Young leaders were concerned that the relationships the Baby Boomers had

    established with foundation staff were not willingly transferred, or easily transferable. Young leaders feel that the Baby Boom generation has cultivated relationships

    with funders that are not being passed on and that they need assistance in making those connections.

    In some regions of the country, funders were perceived as biased toward

    certain models of work to the detriment of new models, especially those conceived in communities of color.

    5. All the issues of structure, race, culture, funding and mentorship converge at

    moments of transition and put some of the tensions between the Boomer and Gen X leaders into sharp relief. Young social change leaders are ambivalent about their relationship to the

    Baby Boom generation, and they feel squeezed betw

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