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Progressive Communicators Network

Feb 262014

listening project logo2In 2013, we started hearing from some of our allies in education justice that one of their biggest challenges was that too many people didn’t understand the intensity of the attacks on public education. Although to leaders in education justice, the situation may be obvious, too many adults and young adults have no idea about the scope of the problem: they think it’s a problem just with their school or just their school district or state.

We began a listening project in the summer of 2013, where we interviewed close to 40 leaders in education justice. Based on our listening and other research, we’ve gleaned that grassroots groups, led by people directly affected by the attack on public education, are in need of more training and support to sharpen their communications in the face of well-funded corporate attacks that are well-messaged and otherwise well-resourced.

We’re exploring what form this support can take, and how to use the experienced communicators of the Progressive Communicators Network and the committed leaders of the Education Circle of Change to mobilize skilled support for activists on this issue.

This spring, we’re doing a “test-drive” in providing support for grassroots groups fighting for education justice. If you’re a part of the Progressive Communicators Network or the Education Circle of Change, you’re invited to a conversation within the networks to discuss this further.

The Progressive Communicators conversation will be a Google Hangout on Monday, March 10 at 3 PM ET.

The Education Circle of Change conversation will be a Google Hangout on Monday, March 17 at 3 PM ET.

For the full details about either conversation and to RSVP, please email Kathleen Pequeño and Manauvaskar Kublall. They’re coordinating these calls and will get back to you as soon as possible.

Jun 272013

making a cultural shift2

How do we embrace the challenges that we face today as well as tomorrow’s promises? To do this we must lead with hope and optimism, with vision.

If we really want to create change in the world, it begins with “me” — with [insert your name].

We are all leaders although some may be playing many different roles. Some lead in the front, some within, and some lead while following. But unless we are leading in the way that is grounded in our values and leads by the example of what we are trying to build, we aren’t able to create the change we want.

We’ve all heard Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” But have we truly explored and understand what this means for us – especially what it means for you?

We come from a reactive culture that is fixated on problem solving. We examine problems and work to fix them. What would it look like to live proactively into only thinking about solutions? To live into what we are creating, what we want, being the change we wish to see.

Before you pass this idea off as to Pollyannaish, unrealistic, or just too woo-woo, let me share a recent experience I had. I was accepted and sponsored to attend the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in a year- long program called “Deep Dive Leadership.”

Out of 60+ people, I am the only social change activist in the group. Others head up or hold high positions within large, multi-national corporations, banks, and hospitals. Many of the companies were names I recognized.

In our first week, we were learning about visioning, mindfulness, and how to lead from a positive, relationship-based place. So why was I in a group of business people learning things that I already knew about, believed in and worked for in my years of training? Because these business leaders have figured out it is the most effective way to lead – to work in balance. To lead with hope has now been “proven,” through years of scientific research and studies, to be the most successful and the most profitable. They have proven that the mindful and hopeful leadership approach is the way to win!

So why should we care about the “proof?” It was interesting and affirming for me to see brain scans and data of leaders who begin to think and work in a different way. It was fascinating to learn about how much more effective you can be by incorporating these practices into your leadership and to hear how companies have been able to turn around and increase their productivity multiple times.

My real interest, however, is how do we start to work this way, to be the change we want to see within the social justice movement? How do we learn to inspire hope and action in the majority of people? How do we reach beyond the choir to create a force of power with which no amount of money can contend?

What I learned in that first week of training is that real change begins with me – with you. Until we can embrace our own visions, our own ability to work from a visionary and relationship-based place, we can’t teach others. And to be successful we have to change the way we lead.

I want to bring you with me on this journey of learning and will continue to write monthly blogs as I dig deeply within myself as a leader and learn how to be more effective and more powerful.

In my first week of being home, I have crafted out time to do a year-long workplan to prioritize and instead of trying to move forward with the belief I have to do it ALL, figure out what I will “Do, Delegate, Delay or Delete”. I am working to assess what I can do excellently, while keeping the balance of health, love, play and mindfulness in my life. This is one step for me to become a better leader. What is yours?

Making a Cultural Shift Exercise #3:

Take time to reflect on yourself as a leader. Are you trying to do it all? Are you working with balance in your life? Are your staff and/or co-workers inspired and excited about working with you? Do you bring the best out of those you work with? Are you happy and inspired in the work you do? If not, it is time to take stock and look at ways to change your leadership.

Below I have listed the first book that we are working from that is about emotional intelligence, relationships, and sustaining your effectiveness.  It is filled with exercises that help you evaluate yourself as a leader from many different perspectives.  It also helps you prepare and develop a 15 year vision for yourself.  I recommend reading and working the exercises in this book as a first step in becoming the leader you want to be.

Becoming a Resonant Leader, by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, Frances Johnston, Harvard Business Press

Becoming a Resonant Leader resonates with the basic leadership truth that when we have the courage to reach for our personal dreams, we also inspire those we lead with a vision of optimism and hope.  There is nothing more powerful than leaders who let their passion shine through.”

Andrea Jung, CEO, Avon Products Inc




Oct 152012

The Progressive Communicators Network (PCN) has been in a quieter phase of reflection and planning. For the first time in twelve years we chose not to hold our annual national gathering in 2012. Originally started as a project of Spirit in Action, PCN soon grew to become its own nonprofit. PCN is a national network of people who work as communications professionals or organizers and are focused on racial or economic justice, and who use communications tools and strategy. We learn from each other, we support each other, and we help each other navigate the tough world of social justice communications. Like many nonprofits, we’ve seen a dip in funding from several long-term sources and needed to reduce staffing and programming, bringing our activity almost to a halt.

Because the network has supported so many of us over the years, PCNers were not willing to let go. In June 2012, the Leadership Council met, with the support of the Spirit in Action staff, to consider our options and look for opportunities where the power of networking can help us to have a greater impact. We explored many options for PCN, and in the end we were delighted to return home. Spirit in Action, in its role as a network builder, stepped up to provide fiscal and organizational support at a time when we need it the most. As project of Spirit in Action we have hopes of again growing ourselves to sustainability and, more importantly, sharing our expertise in media and messaging to our movement. We’ve re-committed to the rebuilding of the network with a renewed focus on supporting organizing. In the immediate future, and hopefully for the long haul, we will be organizing to support civic engagement across communities.

Civic engagement for us is not just communications for voter registration and voter turn out, but the deep work to build political power through ongoing engagement of communities of color and working class communities. We will support communicators who are working year-round in organizing groups that are based in communities of color and working class communities and engage in civic engagement that moves our communities into action.

This fall, we are beginning our work to restart chapters (with work on that front in Boston and New York City), as well as a national conference call on October 17th, Civic Engagement Communications: Sharing Best Practices.

PCN has supported the development of many communicators over the years (take a peek in our Meet a PCNer profiles), and we look forward to continue to support the development of emerging communicators who have a connection to organizing and a commitment to cross-sector work.

If you’re interested in reconnecting with your PCN colleagues, or getting to know more about how strong communications can increase the effectiveness of organizing, get in touch with PCN.

We invite you to join and learn from us by registering for our up coming call Civic Engagement Communications: Sharing Best Practices and let us inspire your work by participating at the upcoming Be the Media Conference in Boston.

Spirit in Action