Author Archives: Anna

Keeping up with my fitness

I am a returning bootcamper and I am so thrilled to be participating again. My project this time around is to support a group of colleagues in developing a shared vision for our work together and to identify tools that will help us strengthen our collective efforts. It’s been great to continue exercising changemaker muscles that I learned to flex during my first bootcamp and to notice and feel the differences between those initial workouts and the ones I’m going through now. The biggest takeaway I’ve experienced so far is that less is more. It’s important to slow my pace and temper my expectations in order to hone in on the specific muscles I want to build up.

I have a friend who is an avid physical fitness bootcamper and I see so many parallels between what motivates her to continue signing up for more sessions and why I felt so compelled to re-up for BootCamp #2. Practice and workouts are more effective when you are supported by a trusted coach. In both instances a participant is engaged in a whole body workout that pushes her to strengthen muscles that one didn’t realize needed the attention that bootcamps are so good at helping you zero in on. More importantly, the sense of community that is built among participants is priceless. I really value spaces that allow you to stretch and grow with others who are committed to themselves and their fellow bootcampers. I am so much more committed to practice and understand how critically important practice is for building up my endurance. Bootcamp is the care and feeding I need in order to have the staying power for the work I am in engaged in.

My brain is a muscle

Last week Marie and I teamed up to develop a framework for effective collaboration. The exercise that led to our draft framework consisted of two basic but super important questions: 1) What was your best experience collaborating with others? 2) Why was it so great? The exercise allowed me to practice my active listening skills and work with my fellow bootcamper to generate questions and find points of divergence and convergence in our answers. More importantly, we charted questions to help us think through and analyze our framework. The process of writing our ideas down, wrestling with them together and receiving supportive coaching along the way really helped. It also reminded me that this really is bootcamp. I actually felt mentally sore and achy afterward.

We came to consensus on a number of elements for our “working” framework:

  • The ability to co-create and/or participate in the creation of something (like an idea or plan)
  • The opportunity to contribute without regard to position or expertise
  • Structures that are flexible and fluid
  • Working toward a meaningful result

After interviewing a number of my colleagues, I’d like to consider adding the following:

  • Shared values 
  • Sense of mission

Having to come up with generative questions as part of this exercise was really instructive and a few things clicked for me. I realized that my active listening skills could use some work and that while I pride myself in being a better than average listener, I am not always as present as I should be in certain settings. I believe that active listening requires a person to use all their senses and be fully present to what’s being said and what’s not being said. I think active listening is enhanced when a listener is able to pose strategic questions that work to open up conversations to more opportunities or possibilities. I am clearer about the importance and usefulness of asking strategic questions that aren’t skewed toward your biases or peppered with your assumptions. When I reviewed my list of questions generated during our first bootcamp workout, I realized that many of my questions have a lot of assumptions built into them and that those assumptions can be quite limiting. One of them was “How do staff feel about the opportunities to work collaboratively?” I now see that this is not necessarily an effective question. I reworked it and came up with “What will it take for us to work together as a team?” and “How do we want to work together?”

I’ve got bootcamp runner’s high. I am so excited about the next workout!


Hello…Is this thing on? For some reason I feel like I’m at microphone standing in front of a podium about to give a speech. I get really nervous when I speak publicly. The one exception is when I’m in front of parents and young people – the audiences, population, the group of people I’ve spent the bulk of my non-profit career in front of, standing in solidarity with and usually working behind the scenes for. To a certain extent those are my people. It wasn’t until I worked for an amazing civil rights organization in Los Angeles did I truly get what it meant to support my people holistically and comprehensively. It wasn’t enough for me to work narrowly on education issues. I needed to think more broadly about the other factors that impacted teaching and learning. Working for a civil rights organization that employed multiple strategies to support communities of color allowed me to see the importance of also strengthening and fighting for voting rights, language rights, workers rights, access to high quality pro-bono legal services, immigrant integration services and leadership development. I learned that working for educational equity meant that I needed to support parents and young people with wrap around support services. While at this organization in Los Angeles, I also had the opportunity to work collaboratively with other external partners from different parts of the county that served different communities. It was one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of my career.

I left Los Angeles and that organization over five years ago, moved (back) to the Bay Area, worked for two non-profits up here and found my way back to my beloved Los Angeles organization. However, I’m in a very different position and work with an additional three sister organizations. The Los Angeles organization along with organizations in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington D.C. have come together under a common name to be able to collaborate more effectively and build a stronger and more cohesive human and civil rights infrastructure on a local, regional and national level. I am responsible for fund development activities when all the affiliates work together jointly.

Writing the above actually flowed out of me but I’m starting to feel conscious of the mic again as I think about my project and sharing parts of what I’m up to and my work that I’m still thinking through. I’ll try to be a good student here and answer the questions I was assigned.

My goals over the next four weeks are:

  • To identify tools that support effective collaboration (and are relevant and worth using in my current work) and to find grantmakers who would be interested in supporting the kind of collaboration we are engaged in
  • To be able to point to concrete examples of effective collaboration and be well versed in the how and why of collaboration
  • To enroll my colleagues in the idea that effective collaboration can help us accelerate and deepen our impact

The key questions I have about my project are:

  • What policies, principles, agreements do effective collaboratives employ that are worth trying?
  • How much of our work should be focused on building in opportunities to support the development of relationships, personally and professionally, across our affiliation?
  • What role can or should I play to demonstrate the power of our affiliation?

I guess another key question is: How many do-overs do I get? I came up with these key questions and goals last Wednesday and confirmed the other night that these are in fact the key questions and goals of my project. But now that I’m looking at them formatted like that, I’m not so sure.

I think I’m done for now. How do I sign off?

I need to remind myself to breathe.