Our fellows met in Los Angeles last week to do some advanced explorations around integrity, justice, and self-care as leaders of large-scale change. Many of you know that we do an introductory investigation of the “hero” at the Skid Row School. The hero includes the parts of yourself that are uncomfortable with making anyone feel uncomfortable, so you take on too much and bite your tongue and nothing ever changes other than you’re on the fast track to burnout. That kind of hero that’s widespread in the social sector.

This week we looked more deeply into another way that I’ve seen large-scale change leaders burnout: the villain. The villain is really good at criticizing and assigning blame. Some of us have more access to this part of ourselves than others. Take me, for example: I have easy access to my inner-villain!  The villain has strong opinions about the way things “ought to be.” I assume many of you are asking, “what’s wrong with that?” Well, nothing if you want to be on the right side of history. It’s actually quite satisfying know you’re right and experience the surge of adrenaline that comes with a good dose of righteous indignation.

The problem is…our villains might be on the right side of history, but our challengers are the one’s who make history. Challengers create loving pressure for change by being deeply present with someone who sees or thinks differently than we do. Challengers are able to stay grounded in our own discomfort and through our full presence, ask questions like:

How are you keeping this going?
How is this costing others around you?
Are you willing to stop this now?
What truths have you not told?
What have you not been willing to face about this issue?
What boundaries have you not created or have you broken? 

Just to ground this in practical reality – imagine watching the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last week and taking on your best villain pose for how things ought to be and lecturing anyone who saw things different from how you did about just how wrong they are. You might end up being on the right side of history, but it’s unlikely that you created an authentic connection that opened up the possibility for creating something different going forward.

Another possibility in light of last week’s events would be to start wondering out loud some variations of the challenger questions above. Hmmmm….I wonder what truths have not yet been told. I wonder what we, collectively, have not been willing to face about sexual assault. I wonder what I have not faced personally about any of the trauma I’ve experienced in my lifetime. I wonder how I am contributing to keeping this whole culture going. These questions open the door for deeper personal explorations as well as increase the likelihood of a person to person dialogue that results in transformation versus being right or wrong. My invitation to you is to try some of these on for size and see how they work for you.

Big hug,




It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to our new fellows: Mari Jones, Michelle Pledger, and Wendy Loloff-Cooper (clockwise from top left). 

Mari Jones is the Project Co-director of the Deeper Learning Hub, a national practitioner hub whose mission is to spread deeper learning practices and ensure that more students across the country are achieving deeper learning outcomes. With Michelle Pledger, she co-leads the Share Your Learning Campaign which aims to focus on spreading a small set of practices (exhibition, student-led conferences, and presentations of learning), to 5 million students by 2020.  She is also an Improvement Facilitator for the Center for Research on Equity and Innovation at High Tech High Graduate School of Education, and a course instructor for the Teaching Apprenticeship Program at High Tech High Graduate School of Education. Previously, Mari was an elementary teacher for fourteen years and has always felt that education is a form of activism, and she is passionate about promoting social change and equity by empowering youth.

 Michelle Sadrena Pledger is the Project Co-Director for the Center for Research on Equity and Innovation and teaches at High Tech High’s Graduate School of Education. With Mari Jones, she co-leads the Share Your Learning Campaign which aims to focus on spreading a small set of practices (exhibition, student-led conferences, and presentations of learning), to 5 million students by 2020. With a dual passion for education and dance, she embraces an energetic teaching and coaching style. Proficient in Spanish and conversational Japanese, Michelle enjoys international travel and leaves the country at least twice a year. As a former member of the renowned public speaking organization, Toastmaster’s International, Michelle has won numerous accolades for competitive public speaking.

 Wendy Loloff Cooper is the CEO of Generation Schools Network. She brings extensive experience in the non-profit and education sectors, especially in the areas of network and collaborative development, replication and innovative educational models. She has worked in higher education (Northwest College, Colorado Christian University & Harvard University) and co-founded the StreetSchool Network, which grew to include more than 50 schools in 27 cities under her leadership. Since taking the reins at Generation Schools, Wendy has grown the organization from serving a handful of schools each year to serving more than 60 schools in multiple states and founding a 56 district rural collaborative as a unit of change.

Welcome – we’re so glad you’re here!! 

Upcoming Events

We still have four spots open up at the October 23rd – 26th Skid Row School and we are currently accepting applications for all of our 2019 offerings.

Graduates of the Skid Row School are invited to apply for one of the seven spots available in 2019 for our fellowship. We meet three times a year for three days at a time and deeply explore the adaptive challenges almost everyone leading large-scale change faces.

The next meeting of the fellows is February 5th – 7th, 2019, and will take place outside Atlanta, Georgia.It will include a tour of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.

We offer scholarships to those who need financial assistance for both our Skid Row School and our fellowship. Give a shout if that’s you.

Share This