Throughout the duration of the cohort, participants learn our Assess, Align, and Activate process. First, they Assess their current organizational and neighborhood context. Then, they Align with the neighborhood and key partners around a collaborative vision. Finally, they Activate that coalition to pursue the vision and make lasting change. Completing the SPIRE assessment marks the end of the Assessment phase.
“The biggest takeaway the leaders are getting is that relationships are key. Many of them realized that they worked hard to welcome program participants but have never made a space to collapse the power dynamic. As long as they only meet neighbors in a program context, it’s virtually impossible to establish trusting relationships,” says Stacy Brungardt, lead consultant and facilitator of the Leaders Lab.
One Leaders Lab cohort member was blown away by the concept of engaging neighbors’ expertise. “It hadn’t occurred to me that we could look to people in our programs as experts and even hire them for that expertise. They are experts with highly valuable skills! It was really powerful for me to realize we can seek out their expertise. It’s not only research, but also a way of honoring their lived experience and valuing it.”
These insights have filtered into the Leaders Lab sessions themselves. “The cohort members’ communication has begun to evolve,” Stacy says. “I’m seeing genuine excitement pop up. At the same time, participants are starting to talk about how hard good community development work is. This is the perfect combination! It tells me their paradigms are really changing. They have a sense of new possibilities.”
Next, the Leaders Lab cohort members will focus on Alignment. They will begin launching some roundtable conversations within their neighborhoods with key stakeholders. In these conversations, they will share the results of the SPIRE assessment. Then, partners, neighbors, and stakeholders get to speak into their interpretation of the SPIRE results. They get to start dreaming of possible directions they can go next. This phase is critical for creating buy-in and trust. And as we know, change moves at the speed of trust!