This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at medium.com/innovationnetwork.
As I transition out of my role as Director of Innovation Network, I’ve been in deep reflection about how the last 20 years shaped and sharpened my own approaches to learning and evaluation, as well as those of my team and colleagues. The last few years in particular have revealed meaningful lessons about the complexities of creating institutional shifts while navigating through uncertainty and organizational change. These experiences were grounded in the lessons from our transformation toward equity. Each one reaffirmed the importance of leaning into discomfort to shift and broaden our awareness; authentically connecting with each other and those around us to build a foundation of trust; and re-imagining our future from a place of empathy and understanding.
Lean into Discomfort
Leading through this time has emphasized the importance of leaning into discomfort and vulnerability as a pathway for learning and growth. We often intellectualize the world around us to understand and draw meaning from our surroundings. When leading through transformation however, it’s important to explore how our experiences connect to our hearts, not just our minds. As a team, this meant that each one of us had to be willing to engage in deep reflection and at times, challenging conversations with ourselves and each other to interrogate assumptions and create new ways forward. For many of us this meant creating a deeper understanding of our own experiences and perspectives to expand our thinking around what’s possible. At Innovation Network this introspection allowed us to openly share, grow our understanding, and fundamentally shift the way we do things.
Make Authentic and Honest Connection a Priority
While vulnerability, empathy, and curiosity may set a foundation for organizational transformation, it is critical that we make the space and time to connect authentically, both organically and through process. This has been especially important for making sure that we stay rooted in our connection to one another’s experiences as we move through our work. In our organization, this simple but impactful act has led to greater honesty and increased capacity for resolving challenges with consideration for our individual and shared perspectives.
Collectively Re-imagine the Future
Collaboratively re-imagining with the team has been one of the most exciting and revealing parts of the transformation process for the organization and for me personally. While it is easy to fear or resist change, we instead used this time as an opportunity to courageously re-imagine the future from a place of mutual trust, empathy, and empowerment. For us, this has looked like re-imagining our organization, its renewed mission, vision, and values , as well as how we operate and the difference we hope to make. It has also reinforced the importance of community, collaboration, and co-creating with our partners in the field.
I am deeply appreciative of how this process has shaped Innovation Network and my own learning as a leader and community servant. As I part the organization, I employ each of us to continue approaching our work and each other with curiosity, empathy, and heart in our efforts to advance equity and social change.