Strange Change

May 19th, 2011

Lately, I’ve had a series of conversations that have ended in the territory of what some people would consider extreme weirdness. Perhaps it’s me, but I don’t think so – I’ve not initiated any of them. These conversations have been with funding and organizational partners and consultants – not the usual suspects for discussions of crop circles, extraterrestrial allies, Mayan calendars, out-of-body and near-death experiences. And for the record, most of them happened while I was in New York, not here in Berkeley.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a deep value and appreciation for weirdness. I’m a woman who looks for patterns and themes, so I’ve been engaging in these conversations with both deep interest and puzzlement. I examine alternative ways of thinking and leading, searching for new ways to make positive and immediate change in our world. But I’m also aware that there are folks all over the planet who are expecting the world to end on Saturday. What’s going on? Why all of this weirdness at once?

The best I can fathom is that we’re collectively aware that things can’t go on the way they have for much longer - that is very clear. What’s not so clear is what we can do to fundamentally shift the ways we live and work. I think we have aspirations for new ways, and know that we can’t rely on our old patterns to help us.

This is where leadership comes in. I predict that we’re going to need leaders who are willing to be strange – who will take the risk and help us navigate new territory. I believe that we are entering into a time of deep unpredictability, and we’ll need folks who will gracefully lead us through very strange lands.

It’s clear that war, overwork, torture, structures of oppression, planetary degradation and isolation won’t sustain human or any other kind of life for much longer. If we’re really going to survive and thrive, we will need to move in circuitous, non-linear ways, and be prepared to take unanticipated leaps of faith. We’ll probably need unexpected tools like pogo sticks instead of cars and magic wands instead of laser pointers. We’re going to need leaders who will sing instead of pontificate, paint instead of create Powerpoint presentations, and who will lead from our quixotic hearts and souls instead of just our minds. We need to ride with the river’s currents – not try to build dams that stop the flow.

This column has been difficult to write – there’s a part of me that worries about what you’ll think. Worries that someone will say: “Oh dear – Akaya’s gone ‘round the bend…” What matters is that I, like all 21st century leaders, must try and articulate what is emerging and not yet clear. We’ll need to take big risks, and perhaps seem foolish. So I invite you to be foolish with me and join me in interpreting and navigating a strange and changing landscape. I think we’ll need to leave our egos behind in this new journey. Let’s get weird - we have everything to gain, and only our old hidebound ways of living and being to lose.

From my heart to yours,

May 2011

Rockwood Joins Move to End Violence Initiative

Rockwood has joined the NoVo Foundation’s Move to End Violence initiative, a ten-year movement building program. It will provide leaders in the movement to end violence against girls and women the opportunity to align around a collective vision for the work; create space for innovation to surface and thrive; and strengthen the capacity of individuals, organizations, and the movement to affect lasting social change.

A pilot cohort of 16 extraordinary leaders from the movement to end violence against girls and women has been selected. These leaders will participate in a series of intensive convenings held across the U.S., travel to India for an international learning exchange, and engage in work between the convenings. Rockwood trainers Helen Kim and Roberto Vargas will serve as part of the faculty team for Move to End Violence, delivering the Art of Collaborative Leadership to the cohort, which has been designed to integrate seamlessly with the rest of the program.

If you would like more information about this initiative, please visit the Move to End Violence website here.

Alumni in the News

Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, is profiled by Barbara Ehrenreich in the NY Times Magazine. Poo is recognized for her work in organizing domestic workers and the 2010 passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in the New York State legislature. She is an alumna of Rockwood’s Leading from the Inside Out Yearlong Fellowship.