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When the World Tilts: Adaptive Leadership for VUCA Times

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 -
2:00pm to 3:15pm PDT
Zoom Meeting
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In this first conversation about adaptive leadership, we’ll practice with two seasoned leadership development professionals and philanthropic peers the art of tending to ourselves as a prerequisite for more effective social change. We’ll explore how to cultivate self-awareness, self-regulation, new perspectives, and generative ways of working and working together. 


  • Source wisdom, strategies, and tools for dealing with complexity and multiple stressors, internal and external, in order to work and lead more effectively during crisis
  • Draw link between personal and social, and the importance of leading with self-awareness, self-regulation, and the concept of an expansive “we” 
  • Cultivate practices for building internal and ecosystem equilibrium, clarity, and resiliency
  • Identify what it entails and looks like to apply an equity lens, especially in times of disruption/disorganization
  • Understand the significance of anchoring in core values such as curiosity, courageousness, inclusiveness, integrity, collaboration, and prudence when navigating emergent crises
  • Learn operational strategies, such as universal design, that support the translation of values to action


Erika Carlsen, Program Director of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, Coro Northern California

As the Director of the Fellows Program in Public Affairs, Erika Carlsen oversees all elements of the program, including selection, leadership development curriculum, and placements. Erika is passionate about leadership training and development to serve the public good. Most recently, she worked as the Assistant Director of Fellowship Programs and Latino Initiatives at the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. At the Harvard Kennedy School, she oversaw nine leadership development fellowship programs and the launch of the U.S. Latino Leadership Fellowship and the Lisa Garcia Quiroz Fellowship. She previously held positions at Rockwood Leadership Institute and has served on the Board of Directors of the Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance and the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. She is an alumna of the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs and the Institute for International Public Policy fellowship. Erika holds a BA from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School.

Rachel Humphrey, Senior Program Director, Justice Funders

Rachel leads Justice Funders’ leadership development, coaching and consulting work, including the Harmony Initiative, a program that equips grant makers with the community, skills, and practices to make philanthropy a true force for equity and justice. Through coaching and consulting, she guides philanthropic institutions in reimagining how their organizations can operate as a justice funder. Rachel has trained extensively in participatory facilitation methods and is a Professional Certified Coach. She holds a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco and an A.B. in Anthropology and Asian Studies from Bowdoin College. Rachel is a founding board member of Sacred Mountain Sangha, a Buddhist organization with the guiding ethos of the bodhisattva ideal and an integrated spiritual life in service of the welfare of all.

Target Audience

This program is open to everyone. 

About this series

Continue your learning in this program series, which will provide invitations to meet and transform the leadership challenges of this time with new, more generative and satisfying ways of being and doing. We will explore: How might we use this colossal interruption of our old ways of doing things to shift toward emotional and physical well-being, more authentic relationships, and actions that reflect trust, generosity, inclusiveness, and mutual care?

As grant makers and people working for social justice, we are engaged in work to foster safety, ensure people’s needs are met, and heal and transform injustices so that every person might thrive. Too often, we overlook the many events that have diminished our own wellbeing. Additionally, in volatile, heavy times, we experience anxiety, fear, and grief – big, destabilizing emotions that compound prior stressors. Without proper attentiveness and care, our instability ripples into our teams, organizations, and the communities we serve with grant dollars. Unaddressed, our own diminished wellbeing reduces our ability to sustain ourselves and bring wholeheartedness to our work.
As we mount a philanthropic response to social and economic shocks, how might we lean into practices that bring forth the best of us? As the systems around which our society is built shake at their foundations, how might we harness our clarity, courage, and compassion to create solutions that reflect deep concern for our shared humanity?

These conversations will involve practices with seasoned leadership development professionals and philanthropic peers. We’ll explore why the art of tending to ourselves is a prerequisite for more effective social change. We’ll try out practices to cultivate self-awareness, self-regulation, new perspectives, and generative ways of working and working together. Inspiring leaders and activists will shine light on hard-won lessons of leadership during crisis and share practices and strategies for enhancing our own and others’ well-being; clarifying our vision; and fostering more durable and effective social change at a time when philanthropy is called to moral leadership.
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