Blog series (#2) Lessons Learned: Building Networks During a Crisis

Co-Authors: Nikki Uyen Dinh, Audrey Jordan, Leah Ferguson & Dee Washington


The Community Change Leadership Network began with the intention to create a treasured space for RWJF Change Leadership Programs alumni and participants to connect, collaborate and innovate together. 

This project is managed, in large part, by the work of a project team (consultants and CLP alumni) that is tasked with supporting the evolving scaffolding of this emerging network. While our team has deep expertise and experience in supporting network leadership, a pandemic has ways of shifting our collective focus as well as our communities’ needs. Adapting to this moment requires an openness to change and experimentation in approaches and strategies (i.e. taking risks, and growing and failing along the way).

To help unpack some of the behind-the-scenes work of this network, we have created this introspective on our journey as project team staff. It is our intention to use this space to both (1) lean into transparency in a time of uncertainty and (2) share learnings when the journey is not linear. 

June 11, 2020 – Nikki Uyen Dinh

Learning 1: We will not walk out of this year the same as how we enter, and that’s a good thing. 

Our world is shifting tremendously because of the advocacy of Black leaders. The work of this network has always been about equity including race equity, and now there is a resounding national and global critical mass who are also examining the power, privilege and history of white supremacy that leads to inequities and structural barriers to vital liberties like health and wellbeing. The possibilities are endless: this could be a network with a sustained commitment to tackling white supremacy and structural racism; this  could be a network in very good company as so many in our country are also committed to seeing structural change and mostly, the network could be led and guided by Black leaders along with those who have faced inequities and structural barriers. 

Learning 2: There are many ways and lanes. 

Now that more people are facing the same direction (e.g. commitments to antiracism and changing inequitable systems), it is also important to recognize that there are many lanes being built to get to our destination together. CCLN will be a critical space for leadership development, experimentation, collaboration and amplification. 

Learning 3: Putting our money and our efforts where our mouth is. 

Black leaders and those from vulnerable communities must continue to have access to resources to lead. In April, we began shifting the Equity Fund to being a low-barrier resource that would allow network members to lead and participate. As a result, we’ve supported the distribution of ~ $30,000 in stipends and community support funds.  Now, we are also reviewing our own internal structures and compensation. To center equity in our team we are prioritizing the leadership of Black, Indigenous and people of color, and recognizing that we need to adjust and redistribute consulting resources to appropriately compensate those leading now with a critical equity lens. 

Read the next post in this series.