Theory of Change
How does the leadership deficit damage our communities? This deficit causes isolation, ignorance, absence of creative vision, lack of information resources, eroding values, and a lack of motivation. As we look within ourselves to find the deepest source of our problems, we encounter this thicket of related personal, interpersonal, and community deficits. Logic and the social sciences suggest that we should break down, isolate, and address our problems in each of their component parts. Following such an approach, however, produces a surplus of initiatives that fail to address the organic nature of the situation. A strategy of “divide and conquer” fails to recognize that free, spiritually-rooted human beings are the most important participants in this situation.
Focusing on any one “issue” or subset of issues will not be productive for two reasons. First of all, the other parts of the system typically continue to work as a team to subvert the proposed solutions. Secondly, we merely act upon, rather than engage, our most powerful resource: we, ourselves—the people involved and actually living in these communities. Consequently, we fail directly and responsibly to marshal people as their own creative and healing forces.
I-LEAD’s work is based on the fundamental insight that community leaders need three interrelated core capacities to succeed in their work:
- First, interpersonal communications and relations. These skills range from listening ability to the ability to broadcast a message to a larger audience.
- Second, they must be effective in their actions. They must be able to envision ambitious results, assess current realities, and use the power of existing systems to realize their visions.
- Third, leaders must have a deep understanding of existing complex systems, particularly those involving the public institutions of government, and the private institutions of the marketplace.
At bottom, I-LEAD seeks to help community leaders look within themselves and work with one another to develop the core leadership skills that will help their communities truly succeed. I-LEAD seeks to help people build the capacities to help themselves through their own leadership. To use a metaphor from the health-care field, I-LEAD does not seek to eliminate diseases or to ameliorate symptoms with band-aids, but rather to work toward creating long-term community wellness and health through leadership development.
Skillful and knowledgeable grassroots leaders are better able to create deep and radical changes in their communities. They become self-sustaining and plentiful sources of positive energy in these communities. With improved skills and information, they create new wealth and new opportunities; and they attract new financial and human resources. They engage others in a process of creative visioning. They also learn to sustain their leadership into the future through the development of skilled and informed leadership abilities in others. Connecting these neighborhood leaders with one another, and equipping them with credentialed leadership education empowers residents to examine and engage their own strengths to build authentic community. With a restored sense of efficacy and a degreed citizenry, the economic, civic, and social well-being of a community can be sustained into the future.
I-LEAD’s programming integrates a bundle of proven leadership skills and knowledge, and strives to change the fundamental systems dynamics at work in challenged communities. One facet of this integrated model of leadership involves skills that encompass and intertwine the interpersonal and the creative dimensions of leadership. Another facet involves information regarding the nature of public and private systems. Finally, technology proficiency serves to supplement and enhance existing leadership skills and knowledge to impact personal lives and community issues more effectively.
In addition, I-LEAD’s programming approach combines three unique strengths:
- First, no other program offers a comprehensive and integrated leadership curriculum, organized around a practical, relevant and coherent model of community leadership development. While other programs focus on certain discrete leadership capacities (e.g., conflict resolution, managing diversity) or subjects important to leadership (e.g., public policy, economic development), none weaves these critical skills and subjects into one cohesive program, integrating communications capacity, personal and organizational effectiveness, knowledge of public and private systems, and technology proficiency.
- Second, no other nonprofit organization in Pennsylvania focuses primarily on actively improving the leadership skills of grassroots neighborhood leaders. While other leadership education programs exist to serve potential leaders of a particular group, or in the business and public sectors, none specializes in community organization leadership.
- Third, no competing program offers hands-on, experiential learning opportunities supported by trained faculty and consultants. I-LEAD’s partnerships offer its participants a unique opportunity to put their training into practice in an interactive, reflective environment that fosters real learning and opportunities for growth through actual community service, providing on-going support and development beyond the classroom.