Skid Row School for Large-Scale Change

The mission of the Skid Row School is to train leaders to scale solutions to the world’s biggest problems as rapidly as possible.

The key to leading large-scale change is a paradox we call unleashing — orchestrating the loss of control of thousands of people moving in the desired direction. Unleashing is counter-intuitive, vastly different from the systems of control that are widely taught in management programs and practiced in most organizations. Systems of control backfire when it comes to making large-scale change, which requires engaging those outside of our direct sphere of influence. 

But please note that we didn’t say unleashing is simply losing control. Losing control implies a passive approach that will quickly devolve into chaos, like losing your keys. No! We mean intentionally creating the optimal conditions for thousands of people to thrive, full of energy and creativity, in pursuit of big, audacious goals. Create a context of unleashing and you can do anything.

At the Skid Row School, we will teach you how to unleash yourself and thousands of others, too. You will learn how to apply our approach, the Model for Unleashing, to your large-scale change effort. We’ve distilled diffusion science, networking science, management science, social organizing, operations research, systems engineering, logistics, communications, and social psychology down to the most essential things you need to know to be an effective leader of large-scale change and assembled a world-class faculty to teach you how.

February 28th – March 3rd in Los Angeles – SOLD OUT

July 11th – 14th in Boston – SOLD OUT

November 7th – 10th in California – Apply Here Now

Skid Row School July 2016

What Our Graduates Have to Say:

“This is a master course. I know I will look back on it fondly as a catalyst in my own work and personal transformation. I will apply this approach throughout my life.” — Jenn Hoos Rothberg, Executive Director, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust

“So powerful and well thought out and emotional and practical and well-integrated and full of love and support. Thank you!” Samantha McCann, Network Curator, Solutions Journalism

“Life changing!” Leslie Wise, Deputy Director, Zero: 2016, Community Solutions

The Skid Row School Will Help You:

  • Gain clarity about your purpose and what you really care about changing in the world
  • Better grasp how you want to contribute to changing the world
  • Refine your intervention so that it is primed for scale
  • Set a compelling aim that catapults your team from ideating to doing
  • Select expansion methods that work for where you are on your scaling journey
  • Develop a viable and compelling theory of change for your initiative
  • Identify and proactively address fear in yourself and others
  • Tackle the dysfunctions that sabotage teams and large-scale change networks
  • Escape the martyr/hero role that burns you (and the people you lead) out
  • Decide what data is essential and how to interpret it
  • Adopt the day-to-day command center behaviors that are required for successful execution

The Skid Row School is:

  • A four-day immersion training that combines personal transformation with an introduction to the skills required for leading large-scale change
  • Offered to no more than 35 leaders at a time allowing for ample individual support from faculty
  • A blend of instruction and opportunities to apply what you’ve learned right there on the spot with your team


Who Are the Faculty? 

Most of the faculty have led successful large-scale change efforts themselves. They are deeply committed to your success as a leader of large-scale change and willing to do whatever it takes to help you and your team succeed.

Becky MargiottaBecky Margiotta, co-founder of the Billions Institute, delights in supporting leaders in being fully themselves and stepping all the way into the bigness of their purpose. A graduate of West Point, Becky served for nine years as an Army Officer and commanded two companies in Special Operations and Special Mission Units. Post-Army, Becky launched and directed the 100,000 Homes Campaign for Community Solutions. Featured on 60 Minutes and the winner of the UN World Habitat Award, the Campaign was a world-class education in successful large-scale change efforts. Becky has been named a White House Champion of Change and was a Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year for 2015.

Becky first envisioned this school back in 2008 when she was regularly traveling to Skid Row to work on homelessness. Blown away by appalling conditions of people living on the streets and the complexity of challenges in the neighborhood, she thought, “Anyone who is serious about social change ought to at least see Skid Row for themselves.”  This is not an ivory tower kind of thing. Get ready!

Nana Twum-Danso, MD, MPH, FACPM, is a Senior Advisor to the Billions Institute and the Founder and CEO of MAZA, a social enterprise that is establishing a transportation network to provide timely access to health care in rural Ghana. She is a public health and preventive medicine physician and a social entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in public health policy, strategy, program design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and research at local, national and global levels. Before MAZA, Nana was a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she shaped and managed grants to improve maternal and child health outcomes at scale and provided strategic guidance on adolescent health. Prior to that, Nana led Project Fives Alive!, a nationwide quality improvement initiative that partnered the Institute for Healthcare Improvement with the two largest health service providers in Ghana to reduce child mortality. Nana’s work with MAZA has recently earned her membership in the Echoing Green Global Fellowship Program.

Dan HeathDan Heath is a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE Center, which supports entrepreneurs who are fighting for social good. He is the co-author, along with his brother Chip, of three New York Times bestsellers: Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive.  The Heaths’ books have been translated into over 30 languages. Dan and his brother Chip were named to the Thinkers 50, a ranking of the world’s 50 most influential management thinkers. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Joe McCannon

Joe McCannon, cofounder of the Billions Institute, was an appointee in the Obama Administration, serving as Senior Advisor to the Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He was also Vice President and faculty on large-scale improvement at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) where he worked from 2001-2009. He has supported large-scale transformation in several nations and consulted on the topic for a number of organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization.

Christine MargiottaChristine Margiotta has dedicated the last 15 years to creating social change on issues including homelessness, education, economic justice, racial equity, and LGBTQ rights. At SVPLA, she leverages a blend of collective impact, grantmaking, and community engagement to ensure a more thriving and just Los Angeles. Prior to joining Social Venture Partners, she was the VP of Community Impact at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, where she led the strategic implementation of their mission to create pathways out of poverty. She designed, launched, and directed Home For Good, the region’s initiative to end homelessness. Home For Good cultivated the collaboration of over 200 cross-sector leaders and helped leverage over $1 billion in resources to house over 30,000 of the most vulnerable Angelenos. She received her MSW from UCLA in 2003 and she lives in Culver City with her wife, Becky, and their two kids, Huck and Vivian.

Juan Barajas is the Chief Development Officer for Freedom for All Americans, the bipartisan campaign to win non-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans nationwide. Most recently, he led national fundraising efforts for Freedom to Marry, the campaign that helped win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide. With more than 17 years of nonprofit leadership experience, he has raised nearly $30 million to help advance legal protections and cultural acceptance for LGBT Americans. In addition to his fundraising roles, he’s also served as an Executive Director and Program Director for regional San Francisco Bay Area organizations as well as in senior leadership roles with the national LGBT organization, GLAAD.

Who Should Attend:

The Billions Institute invites anyone who is currently leading a large-scale change initiative that intends to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems (climate change, biodiversity, preventable diseases, health and education disparities, income inequality, extreme poverty, depression, suicide, and gun violence, to name a few) to apply. When we review your application we will be asking ourselves two questions: have you demonstrated success with your intervention in at least one place. The closer you are to actually planning for and executing large-scale change, the more you will benefit from this course. We recommend organizations send two or three leaders to the course together as there is ample time for application.

Application: Please complete this short, on-line application form to be considered for the July 11th – 14th, 2017 cohort that will convene in Boston. We are intentionally limiting the course to no more than 35 professionals who are best poised to benefit from and immediately apply what they will learn. Applications are due by April 1st and we will inform you by May 15th whether or not you are admitted. Since spots are limited, we’re especially eager to find leaders who resonate with all aspects of what we’re offering and share our aim of building the force of leaders who can transform the planet. We reserve the right to reject applications that are inconsistent with the aims and values of the Skid Row School. The Billions Institute is committed to racial equity and we especially encourage Native people and people of color to apply.

Cost: $3,500/person for an individual or $3,000/person if your organization is sending 2 or more people.

Check out our FAQs, and/or email our Training Manager, for more information.

Apply here.

Marc Skvirsky

“The passion, creativity, and skillful facilitation was evident and  energizing every minute of the workshop – no small feat with a room full of seasoned professionals. I left with so many innovative tools and strategies that will assist our organization as we scale to have an even greater impact in helping to create a more just society.”

~ Marc Skvirsky, VP Facing History and Ourselves


“This is truly a “master class” for large-scale social change. I will look back on my experience as a catalyst in my own work and personal transformation. I will be able to apply this approach and lessons learned throughout my life.”

~Jenn Hoos Rothberg, Executive Director, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust

Tom Low Playworks (1)

“This is not death by PowerPoint! This is all about doing: ideating, testing, piloting and iterating. As a practitioner of nonprofit scaling and systems transformation, I found the Billions approach, supported by the Switch framework, gave me the confidence that leading transformative scale is indeed possible.”

~ Tom Low, Chief Financial Officer, Playworks

Mary Tobin

“I keep bragging about the Skid Row School and how it was literally the BEST training I’ve ever been to. Becky is every good thing anyone has ever said about her. Thank you for being so authentic and selfless in your desire to share your experiences with all of us. You made me feel like I can literally change the world and that’s just what I plan to do.”

~ Mary Tobin, Director, Brownsville Partnership

“I say this without hyperbole – this was the best training I’ve ever been to. It felt complete and whole to all sides of what it takes to pull off large-scale social change. It’s not just the strategy and aim; it’s also as importantly how you function as a human being and leader. Somehow the “fluffy” stuff didn’t feel fluffy, and that was a huge benefit. I felt like I was in a room of “do-ers” not a room of consultants, and that shared vibe was as palpable as it was helpful.

~Amy Baker, Managing Director at Service Nation


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