Over the last couple of years, I worked on setting the building blocks for Aspiration's emerging Facilitative Leadership Program. Facilitative leadership means leading in ways that helps others claim their own power, agency and leadership. At Aspiration, I learned that supporting and investing in the leadership of others is key to strengthening our movements for justice. As such, the Facilitative Leadership Program centers on creating collaborative peer-learning cohorts for emerging leaders to connect, share practices, and strengthen their own facilitative leadership skills.
Inspired by Aspiration's Participatory Facilitation Methodology
Rather than using a fixed curriculum, we convened our first Facilitative Leadership cohort using Aspiration's participatory facilitation methodology to invite cohort members into the shaping and building of our practice space. It is an iterative outreach process, which, for this project, included speaking to prospective cohort participants to communicate the cohort vision, evolving it based on their feedback, and building an emergent agenda by inviting cohort members to shape and lead our sessions. In alignment with Aspiration's events, we decided not to invite leadership "experts" or sit through any leadership power-points or panels. Instead, our sessions focused on peer-sharing and collaboration guided by the belief that power lies in the collective knowledge and experience of everyone involved, and not just in those that claim power or leadership through expertise.
Our Facilitative Leadership Cohort
Our cohort consisted of an amazing group of both emerging and established leaders who were motivated to collectively shape, co-create, and co-facilitate this space.
We want to celebrate those who participated:
Our leadership cohort gathered virtually once a month to collectively facilitate sessions on leadership challenges, vision and goal-setting, and strengthening digital skills. These session topics were emergent, gathered from ongoing reflections to address the challenges and opportunities we were facing at any given moment. We connected not only to work on session ideas and build facilitation guides, but also to support one another as friendships emerged.
Our sessions included: Working through leadership challenges and opportunities; Navigating power dynamics and influence; Setting goals and staying accountable; Building vision boards; Strengthening our digital identities; Email and scheduling hacks; Strengthening our professional bios; and End of year reflections.
Shout out to these inspiring mujeres for showing up, for sharing so much of their knowledge, and for holding each other so beautifully through two very challenging pandemic years.
Reflections from cohort members
"[The Leadership Cohort] helped me recenter my work outside of an org mission and more on my own personal values. Non-profit/social justice spaces are full of pinch points. Having safe healthy supportive spaces to process existing in those spaces is a need I didn't know how to meet before. Learning from one another and feeling free to be vulnerable in my ignorance but still supported helped keep me motivated and dedicated to justice work...I don't know how to describe the energy we created over the past few years, but it's contagious and is echoed in my other areas of work." - SM
"Having a multilingual community of comadres handling business in the etherspace+actual physical space has helped guide my process as a builder/bridger/creative...[H]aving access to a space where I can feel seen and witness others on their journey has been one of the things anchoring me these past two years..." NC
"[I]t's the beauty of this space, not feeling that I MUST follow-up on all things said, instead, we reconnect intentionally every month and bring something to the space in conversation." - PA
"[I] learned so much from the mujeres in this space about reconnection, trust in self, getting unstuck, getting to see leadership in action, living generously. I left our sessions feeling ready to engage more deeply in my work and community...This model inspired and was integral to a leadership cohort for the community I work with in my job and Evelyn helped us to design some sessions for our community leaders."- MA
Gracias por todo
Facilitating this space has been extremely rewarding. I am grateful for all that we got to share, all that I got to learn and all the ways I got to grow with this cohort of powerful facilitative leaders.
Special thanks to Misty Avila, Mago Torres and Gunner--an admirable team of allies who helped shape a lot of my thinking to initiate this program. Misty inspired me to think beyond capacity building, reminding me of the unique ways we support emerging leaders in developing facilitative leadership skills, and to create more space for that. Mago helped me move from an idea to a plan, and most importantly had the brilliant idea to experiment with Aspiration's participatory methodology for initiating our project. Gunner advised throughout the whole iterative process, reminding me to keep the agenda emergent and prioritize meaningful conversations. He taught me to support other people's leadership through the ways he trusted and supported my own.
I am grateful for their guidance, collaboration and support.
Vision for future: what's next
The response to this space has felt affirming and it showed us that the Leadership Program was worth creating to further deepen our capacity building work with the network. My colleagues have recently launched two new leadership cohort-based programs, the How to Raise Money Series and Data Leadership Cohort, and I am excited to see this work grow.
If you would like to learn more, we invite you to reach out!