50 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003

Leadership Laboratory

January 2011 – January 2013

Convening 20-25 young leaders from many fields and settings in a culturally diverse learning community, the Leadership Laboratory will encourage and equip them to use their own spiritual and ethical commitments as a resource to transform institutions and influence decision-making in the marketplace, as well as building their capacity to navigate an increasingly multicultural, multiethnic world. These young people will represent a growing network of informed, progressive leaders from many fields who possess the necessary skills and tools to enhance their value in the workplace and make them assets for social change.

The young leaders who come together in the Leadership Laboratory represent a broad range of disciplines and occupations, but they share a deep faith and a commitment to the congregations in which they are active members – and, in many cases, leaders. Building their leadership capacities will strengthen not only these young men and women but also the faith communities of which they are a part by enabling them to guide these communities in understanding, and living, a more progressive understanding of the world.

The Leadership Laboratory will be conducted in three-day sessions held quarterly over a two-year period, with ongoing networking, research, and mentoring occurring between sessions. It will be led by in-house and virtual faculty in collaboration with experts drawn from the wider New York City area.

The Leadership Laboratory is designed to contribute to forging a generation of leaders who will possess, and can disseminate, a progressive understanding of social change, religion and politics. For this reason, it is far from a strictly academic enterprise. It includes an applied component in which academic pursuits are coupled with practical application of tactics and strategies. With the setting of the East Village of New York City as a backdrop, participants will be given reflection/action assignments that require group cooperation and active engagement in the culturally, racially and economically diverse community out of which Middle Church rises.

Appendix B contains an outline of the core components of the Leadership Laboratory. Each learning component will present the work of an academic and a practitioner to provide the underpinnings as well as the “boots on the ground” possibilities of leadership capacities. As an example, during a workshop on “Dynamics of Change,” students will learn theories presented by John Kotter and others and participate in sessions of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Project.

By the conclusion of the program, participants will possess a multi-disciplinary theoretical basis for their emerging leadership styles as well as practical experience and expert mentoring that have contributed to the development of their leadership capabilities. Rather than work toward the idea of “graduating” from the Leadership Laboratory, participants will work individually with faculty mentors to document their growing leadership capacities in their places of work and in their communities. Our hope is that many participants will return to teach practical sessions at future Leadership Laboratories.

This interactive, interdisciplinary learning laboratory will provide young leaders with a deep understanding of complex social issues through the lens of generosity, community building and reconciliation. They will be mentored by the best in the academy, activist world, grassroots organizing community, social sciences, and media to inform them at each decision-making table.

Units of this curriculum will be designed and tested in 2009-2010.

The Middle Project Leadership Laboratory
Core Components

1. Leading with Vision for a Just Society

This component will explore the ethical and philosophical framework for decision-making from the
perspective of the marginalized and deal with the ethical dilemmas posed by competing values in
complex systems.

Participants will:

  • Discuss case studies from their own professional settings.
  • Engage in simulation experiences that challenge current norms.
  • Deepen their understanding of systemic injustice.
  • Read relevant current literature by ethicists, theologians and philosophers.
  • Understand narrative leadership theory, using “story” to communicate vision.

2. Understanding Race, Culture and the Dynamics of Power and Privilege

This component will examine the dynamics of power and privilege in an increasingly multicultural
society and explore varieties of leadership styles, differences in values, and interaction and

Participants will:

  • Learn the principles of power dynamics in a multicultural group or system.
  • Deepen their cultural competencies in cross-cultural communication.
  • Apply theory to practicing effective behaviors in a laboratory setting.
  • Learn how to create multicultural teams that share power.
  • Explore sources of power in groups.

3. Negotiating Difference and Conflict

This component will introduce theory and provide tools for managing conflict and difference in an
organization or system; explore personal styles of behavior in conflict situations and consider how
to set norms in conflict situations.

Participants will:

  • Learn how to assess the sources of conflict.
  • Learn appropriate responses at different levels of conflict.
  • Explore their behavior in conflict situations.
  • Discover when to generate conflict to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Explore when to collaborate and when to compete.

4. Understanding the Dynamics of Change

This component will explore the nature of change, provide tools to assess readiness for change,
and create a change process that supports the vision of the organization. This will include the
application of learning to issues of leadership for just outcomes.

Participants will:

  • Explore the nature of human systems.
  • Learn to create and nurture a climate for change.
  • Identify areas of change desired in their system.
  • Develop a plan of action to initiate strategic change.
  • Discover tools for dealing with stress, resistance, and grief.

5. Leadership Styles and Building the Team

This component will examine concepts of group process, effective group decision-making and
team building. Leadership and communication styles and facilitation of multicultural groups and
power sharing will be explored here.

Participants will:

  • Explore effective communication in multicultural groups.
  • Learn methods for maximizing a group’s potential.
  • Develop skills to identify obstacles to achieving group objectives.
  • Learn group theory and practice facilitating groups.
  • Learn how to set group norms, establish agreements and build consensus.

6. Exerting Ethical Leadership in the Public Square

This component will challenge young leaders to explore their passions and use their skills in the
service of the common good, to explore a focus for social engagement, to apply a personal ethic
to view justice from the perspective of the marginalized, and to create an action plan that gathers
information, organizes resources and people, and uses power constructively to create change.
Participants will:

  • Learn the principles of community organizing.
  • Perform a demographic profile and social assessment.
  • Learn asset based planning.
  • Understand the political undercurrents of an issue.
  • Learn to use the media in support of their cause.
  • Work in teams to develop a model for influencing public policy.

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