Session Theme Feedback: Leaders are people too: leadership for change

Wednesday, 28 October, 2009 - 10:30

Purpose: To challenge current understandings of program sustainability and encourage discussion around alternative ways of looking at the issue. While a significant amount of the event’s program is dedicated to some of the material aspects of sustainability, the significant question: ‘How do we sustain good practice over time?’ will be the major focus of these sessions.
Framing: Managing change takes skill, patience and courage. How do we create organisations that are able to deal more effectively with change? What could an alternative civil society leadership model look like?

Facilitator’s impressions and major learnings emerging through the discussions


After introductions around the room, in which people named their leadership role, we looked at some quotes on the wall:


Sustainability is “dynamic preservation of the essential identity of the system amidst permanent change” (Gallopin 2003:35).


“Resilience [is] the capacity to buffer pertubations, self-organise and adapt. When massive transformation occurs, resilient systems contain the experience and the diversity of options needed for renewal and redevelopment.” (Folke et al, 2002:23); and
“The ability to self-organise is the strongest form of system resilience, the ability to survive change by changing” (Meadows, 1997:9).

From here, participants expressed their own transformational challenges: From what that is unsatisfactory now … and, where it was possible to articulate it, to what alternative? These were written up on newsprint (see Theresa Edelmann’s report) and provoked discussion. This moved into dialogue for the remainder of the session. People talked very personally about their own experiences of leading change – what worked, where they had got stuck, what they had learned.


I was interested that the issue of transforming organizational assumptions and practices around race was not raised. When I was first briefed for this session by OA, there was an expectation that this session would engage with such issues.

Pre-arranged involvement by partner organsiations did not materialize as planned. Glynnis Rhodes (WFP) was the only one of the identified people present. She is a programme manager, but there were several people in the room with more senior positions than her, so it worked better to simply include her in the conversation rather than ask her to act as a respondent after the dialogue.

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