Standing Beside Alaska's Non-Profits

The Foraker Group Blog

The 2017 Leadership Summit is right around the corner! Join us April 3 & 4 at the Hotel Captain Cook for two days of workshops. Richard Evans, a favorite from the 2015 Leadership Summit, is a national thought-leader on resilience and adaptive change.

Richard Evans, EmcArts, Inc.

Prior to founding EmcArts, Richard held senior positions in performing arts management and philanthropy in the UK and the USA.  His research, program design and facilitation emphasize organizational resilience and adaptive change in the arts and culture sector, and effective ways that individuals and organizations can lead change in complex adaptive systems. As a unique service agency, EmcArts designs and facilitates programs that support individuals, organizations, and communities on their journey to becoming highly adaptive as they take on their most complex challenges. Programs in the US and Canada include Community Innovation Labs, which integrate the arts into rigorous processes of local system change, as well as the multi-city New Pathways for the Arts initiative and Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators (ALACI).

Richard’s Sessions:

A Path to Resilience: Balancing Stability and Adaptability

In a time when resources can seem scarce and risks high, our organizations get tugged in two contrary directions. Should we hedge our bets, hunker down for now and focus on trying to develop more stability? Or is this the very time to look at new ideas, try some experiments, and search for unexpected opportunities? In EmcArts’ experience over the last ten turbulent years for nonprofits, we’d say the most generative answer to these questions lies in not being seduced by either attractor, but rather accepting and exploring the ongoing paradox of these simultaneous truths. We cannot afford to think of either option as a safe harbor because any singular approach, pursued on its own, will prove an unreliable and insufficient response to the conditions we face. The Foraker Nonprofit Sustainability Model embraces this paradox – the complex challenge of re-invoking our founding principles (being clear who we are) even as we develop more flexibility around our direction (knowing we cannot predict nor plan our way into the future). Innovation, it turns out, is as much about radical renewal as it is about radical departure. And, fundamentally, it’s about being able to recognize which of these to pursue and when. The journey, then, really is home. And it’s the strength of adaptive capacity in our organizations that is the surest sign of our resilience. “We cannot discover new lands,” said André Gide, “without first consenting to lose sight of the shore.” It is on this extended journey that our sea change is to be found.

The Roots of Innovation: Addressing Complex Challenges

In this interactive workshop, Richard will engage participants around the complex challenges that the nonprofit sector faces in a time of rapid and uncertain change. From the perspectives of both their individual organizations and the sector as a whole, participants will focus on identifying and exploring complex challenges – the kinds of challenges that have persisted despite our best efforts, and where there are no readily apparent “best practices” we can adopt. Participants will question existing organizational assumptions and identify evidence that contradicts those assumptions, in order to develop bold new directions for future success, on which new strategies can be built. Participants will share their new strategic thinking and explore areas of shared interest in working adaptively toward a thriving future.

Facing Our Uncertainty About Uncertainty

Demanding though the work always is, there’s a degree of comfort in the familiar role of being a heroic leader, where you control most decision-making, provide certainty and maintain order. In the swirling complexities we now routinely face in our jobs, this kind of leadership is no longer as useful as it once was: the problems are so wicked, they say, that no single person, no matter how brilliant, can solve them on his or her own. But shifting from acting as an authority to serving as an adaptive leader doesn’t mean letting go of responsibility – in fact, it demands that we assume responsibility for continued uncertainty, that we facilitate our colleagues’ ability to live and make progress even in sustained ambiguity, and that we enable unheard voices to contribute to direction-setting. Adaptive leadership can be creative, thrilling, inclusive and transformational – if we can let go of old assumptions, adopt an experimental mindset, and embrace the heat of idea conflict. In this session, Richard will distinguish adaptive leadership from authority, consider how to lead effectively in complexity, and engage participants in active rehearsal of essential new leadership practices.

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