News

Putting Something in the Middle

When I read Doug’s announcement about leaving Meyer Memorial Trust at the end of this year, I asked if we might have a couple of conversations about the reflective practices he used to guide his work there. I had admired his leadership of the foundation as it became an early adopter of Mission Related Investments (MRIs) and, more recently, his commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at Meyer. This first post is about Meyer’s entry into making MRIs nearly twelve years ago. Investing with a mission lens is a high bar for foundations to clear. There is resistance to it, for good and bad reasons. Doug overcame that resistance by using a reflective practice that is often called “putting something in the middle”—using a third object to help participants explore their assumptions at a deeper level than words. This is an unusual practice but it can be a useful one, especially with analytic people. –Jan Jaffe

Jan: We have some examples of philanthropy practitioners using images or poems or music lyrics to open up conversations. You used a newspaper.

Doug: Of course I didn’t know that I was doing something that had a conceptual frame at the time, but I wanted to move our long journey of exploring the possibility of MRIs to a decision and, frankly, I hoped for an affirmative one. At this point, we had two years of experience in making Program-Related Investments. We had structured a learning journey with key trustees to meet leaders in the thick of it and to attend conferences. We arranged for speakers at trustee meetings and regional forums. While the idea clearly had appeal, I was not getting their attention.

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Adaptive Learning Collaboration Interviews

Adaptive Leadership as a Reflective Practice

 

This post is the result of networks and reverse engineering! I wanted to explore whether philanthropy practitioners have used adaptive leadership, the framework developed by Dr. Ronald Heifetz and colleagues at Harvard’s Kennedy School, as a form of reflective practice. Hanh Le, who wrote a great post on Katy Perry lyrics and foundation strategy on this site, introduced me to foundation director and leadership consultant Marc Manashil, who with Dr. Linda Lausell Bryant created a variety of programs at New York University’s (NYU) Silver School of Social Work using the adaptive leadership approach. Those programs are funded by the B. Robert Williamson Jr. Foundation. I wanted to learn how this foundation came to support a form of reflective practice as capacity building, and that’s how I began my conversation with the foundation’s Executive Director, Caroline Williamson. –Jan Jaffe

Caroline: My story is pretty unique. We are a new foundation, not very big and we are a grantmaking public charity. We support programs for underserved children in New York City. That aspect of what we do is traditional charitable work and it is good work. Very early on, we began to experiment with ways to encourage opportunities for reflection and learning among the organizations we supported. Our first grant was for $300K over three years to fund the adaptive leadership work.

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Interviews Mindfulness

Stop in the Name of Movement

 

Ever since we started this project I’ve wanted to interview Darren Walker because I admire his fusion of intellect and energy. I have wondered what tools and skills help him mobilize and manage these strengths as well as handle the inevitable struggles that come with the job. For all of us, our strengths have a flip side, and in challenging situations that’s often where true leadership lies. Being attentive to what needs to be managed in ourselves implies showing vulnerability as a leader. It’s something not usually discussed, but Darren does here. — Jan Jaffe

Jan Jaffe: Darren, how do you deal with vulnerability in your work?

Darren Walker: In these moments at work when there is a heightened sense of vulnerability and emotion, my immediate response is to stop and not get caught up in the conflagration of whatever is triggered: rage, anger or frustration. We’ve all had personal and professional experiences that remind us of the imprudence of reacting in the moment.

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Adaptive Learning Mindfulness Poetry

To Authentically Show Up, Take Yourself Out of the Picture

Sindhu Knotz and Jan Jaffe from The Giving Practice had a great conversation with Nikki Foster of Northwest Area Foundation  about reflective practices she has used in a for profit organization and in philanthropy.

Jan Jaffe: What does the phrase reflective practice mean to you and when did you first become aware of it?

Nikki Foster: It’s the tools I use to think about my interactions with others and take myself out of the picture to authentically show up. Everyone probably uses some form of reflection for this purpose without naming it. There is no one size that fits all. But when you learn to acknowledge that is what you are doing, you have a stronger practice to work with.

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Exercises Poetry

Use Poetry as a Reflective Practice

Have you ever wanted to help….

•         Shift a group’s thinking from the tactical to the strategic?
•         Add the voice or perspective of the client/recipient to deliberations?
•         Reconnect a planning conversation to its original intention?

Poetry gives us permission and access to go through, under or around topics that are resistant to direct approach. You can use poetry to provide the spaciousness and distance that invites curiosity and a different kind of conversation. Enjoy, use, and add to this selection of reflective poems to center yourself or to  open up discussion on a challenging topic with others.

I reached out to my colleagues to see what poems they use as a reflective practice prompt.

Click here to see the poems they shared and why.

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Adaptive Learning Exercises Mindfulness News racial equity

How Can I Be 1% More?

Sindhu Knotz and Jan Jaffe caught up with June Wilson, board member and executive director emeritus of Quixote Foundation to learn about her reflective practices and the foundation’s application of reflective practices to racial equity work.

Jan Jaffe: We started this conversation at Philanthropy Northwest’s annual conference roundtable to exchange stories about how reflective practice impacts our philanthropic work. Can you share with us how reflective practices have shaped your work as a leader?

June Wilson: I can’t remember a time when I haven’t in some way been aware of my personal reflective practices. I will walk, run, or move in space to allow kinesthetic energy to give me a wider palette than just language from which to see, feel and know things. It’s an important source for reflection. I spent many years as a dancer and choreographer learning tools that physicalized the verbal. I often fall back on these techniques especially when I am puzzled by something or feel stuck or challenged by an idea, concept or way of working. For me, it’s a way of reaching farther when I feel like I’ve hit a limit. If I can start by finding even 1% more patience, presence, love, imagination, I can