Blog series (#4) 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 16, 2020 – Audrey Jordan

Learning 2: Finding my voice in power spaces.

One of my favorite, indeed paradigm-shifting, favorite quotes is by Randall Robinson.  I am paraphrasing but it is essentially “First you have to get in the room, and then once there you have to remember why you are there.”  

Today, a few of us had the experience of having a SOW conversation with our funder.  We were invited, earnestly, to tell them what we have learned in adapting our original SOW in the midst of the pandemic and the uprisings regarding police violence and lack of accountability. We had a rare conversation about how the reframe needs to be about what we’re learning about what it looks like to undo structural racism to achieve equity. 

This is a nuanced, but important shift from how we had been framing things: what we’re learning about promoting equity in the network.  The work we are doing, the work we all should be doing – including as they agreed, the funders – is anti-racism or undoing racism work with racial equity as the result. We only had this level of conversation because we spoke up and said what we needed to say. No sugar-coating. No code-switching.  No apologies.  We were clear and direct.  Our hope is that the recommendations we are making to the foundation for more flexibility, innovation and emergence, and indeed, more investment, will be incorporated to inform and support the work of the CCLN in dismantling structural racism. We are using our voice and power to make sure these recommendations are on the table.