Grantee Reflections

Lessons from Darlene Nipper (Rockwood Leadership Institute)

Dear Hidden Leaf Partners and Community,

In these days of total upheaval, the contradictory feelings of hope and despair are so tender and near. You, our Hidden Leaf grantees and partners have been such an inspiration. And, the radical shifts, in their openings and in their pain, elicit emotions and action of compassion.

One of the many privileges afforded to me in my job is that I get to speak and connect with leaders who I admire and that the world needs right now on the regular. It feels a shame to keep what they share tucked away somewhere, on a file in a virtual folder and then to reveal the treasure for a board docket or some other such internal communication. I speak to many of you and I walk away feeling inspired. I hope that writing about what inspires me becomes a two way street and that it elevates the gems shared to others.

Back in May, I spoke with Rockwood’s incredible leader, Darlene Nipper and I want to rest on a plateau for a moment and take in the vista of her words and her energy, to sit in her vision that feels like a resounding echo of collectivity. Darlene does not walk alone and that is a hallmark of her leadership. Particularly in these times, consulting people like Darlene gives great insight into what we are grappling with and the edges and glimmers of hope toward which we are walking.

Thank you for reading.

Supriya Lopez Pillai

Darlene Photo

Distill this moment for us and the opening so often alluded to.

These are challenging times. Everything is happening all at once and all of it is happening, but the thing that’s possible in this moment is a global reset. The potential is there. We have the possibility to change the structural conditions of those most impacted by injustice.

This couldn’t have happened 10 – 15 years ago. The moment was so different and our community has grown so much. We’ve been talking to people about how spiritual progress and transformation is vital for our movement-building without explicitly naming it. People attend our trainings with resistance and we then eventually have them meditating! Now we are opening up to politically meditate and radically imagine what is possible

It is important to acknowledge the challenge and trauma of the moment and it is important to acknowledge how we need visionaries to lead us to new liberated futures. We have been yearning for this opening for so long. We have been preparingfor it. This is our chance.

Look at the stimulus package. We have so many social justice leaders ready and able to shove good ideas and good policy and good relationship into that opening. Let’s shove it in there and let the opposition complain! This is our moment. I feel the responsibility so deeply. As people talking about transformation, we need to show people how to be. How do you live into the real possibility and not get stuck in ‘things are falling apart’? Let it be a clarion call. We better do everything that we can do now. We must answer the call for a reset.

In these times as everyone has had to move into virtual mode, what are you seeing in these spaces?

Our litmus test is transformation. When shelter in place orders were coming down, I knew I couldn’t put everyone on Zoom for our experiences because I couldn’t guarantee it would be transformative. So we went into rapid internal transformation mode. Much of the staff is supporting current Rockwood participants virtually. We are fortifying them and building up their resilience during times of crises. And we’re designing new ways of being to support their leadership. People are showing up at scale! It’s astonishing how much transformation is happening. The moment for transformation is ripe.

New leaders new to the work are hungry. It is important that we create open calls and accessible open source for them to be trained in the work and the practice. We can use this moment as a chance to ask new leaders what they need and what we can do to help them. This will help us to retool and reset what we can do to be transformative.

Speak to the notion of collective practice and action right now.

It’s important to understand transformation is not just individual and at the personal level. Great leaders help others to experience transformation and become a great leaders. Transformation occurs not just at the individual level, it occurs at the collective level. Everyone has a role to play and we have a responsibility to practice sustainability. Our notion of transformation is based principles of strengthening interdependence and reciprocity, and being in right relationship with ourselves, others, and all living beings.

We actually need to know what our medicine is: it is the understanding that the end goal is transformation occurs at multiple levels and reverberates out. It’s those two things- change at individual and collective level to get to true systemic transformation. People are better able to live in the fullness of themselves as a leader and co power with others to get to the policy changes that others may focus on exclusively as a marker of change.

Looking to the future, what do you see? How will you and how will we get through this moment to a better place?

There’s something about the interdependence that’s rising up now. The more that we can support more and different leaders impacted by injustice working to uproot systems of injustice the more I believe it will work out. I feel sure that there will be a redistribution of wealth or that we will find the right exchange system. We as organizations don’t all need to grow exponentially to provide support at scale. We need to give them the secret sauce of transformation! We need to give people these tools and we need to give people tools to facilitate transformation in teams. I am confident we will reach the people we will need to change the world. Our job is to have significant change so that we can achieve equity and liberation in our life time. I don’t have to worry about how many trainings we are doing but that the mix of who is being trained makes the impact. My hope is we see how much we need each other and practice deep collective care and interdependence to new worlds.