On a lovely Friday in April, four CALC members attended RIHEL’s Leadership is for Everyone event. In the morning, we learned about power, race, and equity from keynote speaker Nita Mosby Tyler, of the Equity Project. The afternoon sessions provided insights for serving on or working with a nonprofit board of directors, and ended with a fun improv session to help break down boundaries and foster creativity in public leadership. Thanks to Andrew, Sam, Christymarie, and Rebecca for representing CALC and providing thoughtful feedback from the event below!
Are you interested in attending a professional development event or training on CALC’s behalf? Let us know! CALC provides scholarship assistance for our members to attend relevant trainings, conferences, and events. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
1. Please share something you learned about leadership through this training:
Sam: During the Leadership and Laughter session the phrase “yes and…” was used as in improvisational tool as well as an effective phrase for leadership. In roles of leadership, we should respond to questions with, “yes, and...” instead of “no”. By shifting the conversation to “yes, and...” a dialogue opens up to move an idea or conversation forward and allows for troubleshooting and problem solving.
Andrew: I was very pleasantly surprised with how frankly and effectively Dr. Tyler spoke about sensitive but important issues like race and class, and how to encourage others to tackle these tough topics as well to keep working on them. Christymarie: I really enjoyed hearing Nita Mosby-Tyler speak. She is a dynamic speaker and has the ability to connect with people in a way that is indescribable. This was my third time seeing Nita, but I carry away something different every time I hear her speak. At the LIFE event, I could really relate to her views around understanding that everyone has a different walk in life. She mentioned that in some shape or form we are all molded by the ever-evolving society. We are all prey to a society that tells us what to think, value, say and feel, which leads to our implicit biases. Therefore, everything traces back to the larger systematic structures that have been put into place to keep some at the top and others at the bottom. Rebecca: Dr. Tyler’s discussion on power and diversity talked about different levels of power and the ways these levels can take shape and react with one another across settings:
Legitimate Power- office, rank, title
Expert Power – skills/knowledge
Reward Power – give/dispense incentives or goods/services
Reference Power – mutual respect
Coercive Power - manipulation
Information Power – local knowledge/gatekeeper
She talked about recognizing and using these levers of power, individually and together, to maximize systemic change. To effectively create systemic change, we need to be aware of the power bases we operate from and what other bases we need to foster authentic communication. For example, a common power structure draws from legitimate and coercive power, where the bases that would foster more equitable actions are reference and information. This was eye-opening for me and expanded the way I think about power, access, and knowledge in my work.
2. To answer keynote speaker Nita Mosby Tyler, what’s next? What can you take back to your work from Friday’s discussions? What parts of the training or discussions from this event do you think are most relevant for Denver CALC?
Sam: Dr. Tyler discussed how to address systemic inequities and looking within our own work and organizations to chip away at these inequities. In looking at my work at Denver Health as a WIC counselor, I often notice barriers to care. It is important that we identify these barriers whether it be the transportation system, clinic availability, health literacy or technology use. Trying to be inclusive and empathetic towards people’s needs and concerns is the first step in identifying barriers. Taking into account people’s experiences will give me a base of knowledge to then seek out those people in positions of power to identify areas of improvement. I need to be a better advocate and messenger for those voices that are not as loud as mine.
Thinking about the CALC Bike working group, how can we look at policies and programs that address equity and break down barriers within the system? We want to be a voice of advocacy for all Denver citizens, but we need to find ways to continue to invite more people to the table. In looking at bike lanes/bike paths, how can we make sure that these new programs are equitable for all residents? What trainings and events can we do that will bring more people to the table? Our first step should be to identify community members and leaders to assist in this community activation.
Andrew: Dr. Tyler provided some strategies for people to deal with and move past “diversity fatigue.” I think they will be helpful at staff meetings and worth mentioning to our Board of Directors. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how to incorporate this into staff trainings, and I think I will start with the 5 types of (non-hegemonic) power she mentioned, and start the conversation that maybe being “in charge” isn’t the way to bring about change. I’ve struggled to get this concept across in the past. She also provided a lot of context that could prove useful to organizations operating in economically depressed areas.
Christymarie: It is our duty as change agents of health equity to start placing the blame where it belongs, which is the system. Dr. Tyler mentioned that blaming each other distracts us from the systematic barriers that reinforce racism and disparities. Nita stressed that in order to move the needle on equity, we have to pick 1-2 things that we are going to commit to addressing around equity. If we think too broadly, or try to focus on equity as a whole, we are going to get extremely overwhelmed and experience diversity/equity fatigue. Narrowing the equity scope helps break away at smaller chunks of injustices and disparities, but still contributes to the larger effort to accomplish equity for all. Rebecca: I will take back a more practical understanding of equity as a practice. We cannot fix everything, but by starting small, we can build principles of equity into the questions we ask, the issues we address, and our decision-making processes as a coalition. I think a first step is looking at our own coalition and how to practice equity in goal-setting, strategies, and projects.
3. How influential was the CALC scholarship in your decision to attend this event? Why? Would you recommend this opportunity to others?
Sam: The CALC scholarship was very influential in my decision to attend this event. Due to the price point, I am not sure if I could have attended had I not been offered the scholarship.
Andrew: It was a determining factor. It would have been cost-prohibitive otherwise. It is probably very beneficial to small organizations who might not otherwise have the opportunity to hear speakers of this caliber. 4. Would you be interested in attending this or similar events on behalf of Denver CALC in the future? Why or why not?
Sam: Yes, I am always looking for opportunities to learn about community engagement and leadership. I am always interested in learning about initiatives and programs in the field of public health related to active living.
Andrew: Sure, I think I could confidently represent the group’s goals and bring back relevant information.
5. Any other feedback or recommendations?
Sam: This was a great experience and a wonderful opportunity. All the speakers were very diverse and engaging. I felt motivated to take initiatives to address health inequities as well as take steps to improve my leadership and communication skills.
Andrew: I think anything that encourages more interaction between guests would be beneficial. The event seemed the be mostly lecture based, but there were clearly lots of intelligent, focused participants in the room. It would have been nice to have the opportunity to speak to them more.