Leadership From Within

By Lottie Spady, Force Detroit

On April 18th, 2019, the Live Free Detroit Coalition gathered with community for the quarterly Directly Impacted Dinner. At these events we deepen relationships with Detroit’s grassroots leaders and activists to foster increased collaboration and coordinate efforts for greater impact.  These dinners also serve as a place for table-turning. Select members of the philanthropic community are strategically invited to our table to gain new insights for funding strategies that genuinely work for, and on behalf of, those who are most impacted by violence and poverty.

On this night, the subject was directly impacted leadership: what some of the challenges are, strategies to address those challenges, and the benefits to the community. Participants spent time in thoughtful conversation, reflecting on these sensitive and often volatile topics.

Avoiding the “bombs” that get in the way of working on the things we do agree on:

What messes things up in the first place:

  • Hypocrisy (people say they’re open when they’re not; controlling narratives; only sincere when it benefits them)
  • Identities (divisiveness; looking for ways to separate/critique you out of the mix)
  • Group dynamics (imbalanced power and resources)
  • Trying to balance reactive vs. long term energy (and needing to get basic needs met)

Strategies to defuse the bombs:

  • Begin with a foundation of loyalty; have 1-1 discussions for problem solving rather than taking it to uninvolved parties and social media; practice forgiveness.
  • Keep the mission first and clearly define the issues and goals.
  • Accept people as they are and respect, value and listen to each other.
  • Focus on our common goals rather than our differences.
  • Express issues respectfully and agree upon accountability measures when boundaries are crossed.
  • Make detailed plans for how to transfer knowledge and do generational legacy building.
  • Provide mentorship and intermediaries.
  • Designate services and resources for things like bills, housing, food, which are needed to get/ keep folks involved.

What does it mean for directly impacted people to lead the work, rather than having outsiders influence what we do and how we do it?

To ground the question in common understanding, the following video was played: https://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2016/03/01/exp-gps-0228-witw-richmond.cnn

  • Directly impacted people can help sustain the movement because they regularly engage the area. Outsider influence is reactionary and unsustainable.
  • Directly impacted people are more likely to increase positive outcomes in the community because they will share resources, training and best practices with the community through already existing relationships.
  • Directly impacted folks want a way out. When the people in the community see positive changes in someone who is involved, they’ll want to get involved too, so the work is more sustainable.
  • Accountability to the community

These community driven processes and analyses inform the work of the Live Free Detroit Coalition. At our next meeting we will report back to the community on the best practices trip we took recently to observe progressive anti-violence work happening in Chicago, Illinois and Oakland, California.

Lottie Spady is the Communications Director for Force Detroit.