Leading Change

The 2016 Leadership Academy in Ending Homelessness is in the books. We had another sell-out this year, with participants from three countries. Clear to me: we need to keep investing in leadership if we want to achieve complex social change. And homelessness is definitely an example of complex social change.

For the participants, it was a chance to reflect on who they are as a leader. This means an examination of strengths and opportunities for growth from a very vulnerable position, getting deep into sharing with table teams that were organized in advance with a collection of people to influence and be influenced by (that they had unlikely ever met before the academy). Against the serene backdrop of West Virginia, there was also time for considerable self-reflection and increased personal awareness.

Day Two allowed us to move into how we influence others and how we are influenced by others. Drawing upon the first day, the attendees come to learn how their own morality, values and beliefs frame how they tell the story of homelessness and that such a  story (Teachable Point of View) needs to reach people at an emotional level if it is going to have influence in how they respond to homelessness. Change is influenced heavily by emotions.

On the final day, we get really heavy and explore systems leadership. If we want to appropriately engage with the likes of health, mental health, substance use recovery, benefits, criminal justice, child welfare and other systems then we need to figure out the interconnectivity through regenerative dialogue. Homelessness touches so many other systems that change cannot happen independently of those other systems. The problem is that we rarely tap into creativity to explore non-linear connections and opportunities to respond to and create change.

Throughout the three days we had guests as well. Linda Kaufman talked about leaning into mistake-making. Ann Oliva, on her own dime and time, walked people through her life journey and growth into leadership, as well as touching on risk-taking and the impacts of gender and race. Zach Brown helped leaders see the value of data dashboards so that they best understand how to track the change they are influencing.

Overall, the experience was an extraordinary gift to me, and the ability to influence so many other thoughtful and influential leaders. I think we are moving in the right direction towards making change sustainable in the issue of homelessness and move communities closer to achieving the aim of making it rare, of short duration and non-recurring.

Now onto the next challenge for OrgCode, preparing the materials for the Learning Clinics to help practitioners take the next step towards service excellence.


About Iain De Jong

Iain is a playful nerd, hellbent on ending homelessness, increasing affordable housing, creating vibrant communities, and expanding the knowledge amongst leaders that influence social issues. Having held senior management and professional positions in government, non-profits, and the private sector, Iain has a wealth of experience and has garnered dozens of awards for his work across Canada and internationally. His work has taken him across Canada, the United States, and to Australia. In 2009, Iain joined OrgCode as its President & CEO, and in 2014 assumed full ownership of the firm. In addition to his work with OrgCode, Iain holds a part-time faculty position in the Graduate Urban Planning Programme at York University.

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