Interaction Institute for Social Change

Highlights of Our Work

The Interaction Institute for Social Change has had the privilege of working with a diverse array of clients on a range of issues and challenges. The following paragraphs provide a small yet varied sampling of our work in the world and the many different ways we engage with our clients.

Coalitions and Networks

The Alliance
With LISC-Boston serving as the lead agency, teams from eight organizations (CDCs and intermediaries) have come together on an eighteen month peer learning project to equip themselves to facilitate dialogue within their organizations on issues of race and racism. The learning network spent time in dialogue deepening their understanding of race and racism and tackling the typical challenges associated with dialogue around these issues. The group also learned meeting design and facilitation techniques and practiced designing their own dialogues around the issues. IISC co-designed each session with members of the learning network, served as session facilitator and coach to participant-designer/facilitators, and offered selected training modules on facilitation skills and issues related to race and racism. The network is part of a larger effort to advance community development by confronting racism.

The Boston Promise Initiative
The Boston Promise Initiative is one of the 21 Promise Neighborhood grantees chosen for a planning grant in September 2011 by the Department of Education from a total of 339 applicants. IISC designed and facilitated the initial process that resulted in the planning grant and then did the same for the implementation grant. Although the federal funding was not received, the process built alignment across city, state and federal agencies as well as nonprofit service providers, schools and – most importantly – residents. The result is an implementable plan to realize the vision of healthy children achieving academic success from birth through career.

Cherish Every Child Springfield
The Davis Foundation posed a powerful question: “What will it take for the whole city of Springfield, Massachusetts to come together around improving the lives of children?” What resulted was, according to Springfield Chamber of Commerce President Russ Denver, “The most carefully planned and well thought-out initiative around a social issue I’ve ever seen in Springfield.” IISC designed and facilitated a process involving nearly 1,000 people, causing a ripple effect of momentum and commitment among the city’s business and community organizations to focus on helping young children thrive. Throughout the process, IISC not only facilitated but trained local leaders to develop their capacity to sustain the effort.

Massachusetts New Americans Agenda
Following on Governor Patrick’s Executive Order to craft an agenda for how the Commonwealth can best integrate the immigrant community, the Barr Foundation supported an effort to engage the immigrant community in development of the Massachusetts New Americans Agenda (MassNAA). IISC designed and facilitated a process to support the convening of a network of organizations serving immigrants so that the network could plan and design a community engagement process. The process was designed to ensure ongoing problem solving, learning, and improvement; increase community inclusion; maximize the use of technology; and build relationships that will endure beyond the scope of the project.

The Peace and Security Initiative
Over 50 activist organizations, scholars, and funders were convened by the Ploughshares Fund in the face of the sobering national security environment following September 11 and the significant reduction in foundation support for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament work. IISC designed and facilitated a collaborative planning process that involved over 650 people in developing a shared vision, strategies, and tactics to reframe peace and security issues and regain lost political relevance and effectiveness. The plan is now in the implementation phase and IISC continues to serve as the lead facilitator.

Holyoke/Springfield Workforce Development Initiative for Healthcare
Two Holyoke/Springfield hospitals – Baystate Health and Sisters of Mercy – came together with local community colleges and community-based workforce development centers to address a staffing crisis in the region’s health care industry. With the support of a workforce development planning grant, IISC guided the participants through a planning process that identified and engaged a myriad of stakeholders and ultimately resulted in a successful bid for implementation funding from Commonwealth Corp. The newly formed collaborative is focusing on diversifying and amplifying job opportunities at the entry level of the health care industry in the Holyoke/Springfield region with the goal of developing a workforce that is prepared to meet the needs of the industry and is reflective of the populations served.

Springfield Health Equity Initiative
Working with a diverse design team and with the support of a planning grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, IISC designed and facilitated an initiative to examine the root causes of health inequities - diabetes, in particular - in communities of color in Springfield. More than one hundred stakeholders came together to understand how social determinants create inequities in health outcomes for people of color compared to whites. The many and diverse stakeholders – including representatives of health care providers; local government; grassroots associations; and faith-based, community-based, and advocacy organizations – crafted strategies to address some of the determinants and deepened their relationships with one another in the process. IISC also delivered a Facilitative Leadership® workshop to members of the design team and others to build their leadership and collaborative skills. The Springfield Health Equity Initiative is now positioned to successfully implement the plan.


Barr Foundation – Barr Fellowship
The Barr Fellows Program honors the contributions of the most gifted and experienced leaders in the Boston area. Over a three-year period that includes a sabbatical, international travel, a series of retreats, and peer learning, these distinguished leaders have an important opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of their organizations and find the inspiration to attain even higher levels of effectiveness, creativity, and innovation. IISC is partnering with the Barr Foundation on designing and delivering the learning components of the Fellowship and is working closely with Foundation staff to nurture and support the emergence of the larger Fellowship network.

Annie E. Casey Foundation
IISC designed and facilitated the second in an annual series of workshops to hone the facilitation skills of foundation staff members working on issues of racial equity, inclusion, and diversity. The workshop for Casey Foundation’s equity coaches featured skills for designing and facilitating collaborative, interactive meetings when the topic is racial equity. The group practiced facilitating parts of real working sessions focused on building awareness of the issues and discussing implications for the foundation’s work.

DentaQuest Foundation: Improving oral health by building capacity for statewide cross-sector collaborations
The DentaQuest Foundation engaged IISC to build the collaborative leadership capacity of their state grantees by providing training in Facilitative Leadership and network building skills and tools. The DentaQuest grantees are now engaging stakeholders from all levels of the system on the development and implementation of strategies to eliminate the barriers to care that prevent many from attaining good oral health. A critical component of this effort is to ensure attention to health equity through the engagement of diverse voices and the development of strategies designed to close the gap on oral health disparities. In addition, IISC is partnering with DentaQuest to build and weave a national network of oral health advocates who are now coming together regularly – both virtually and in person in gatherings designed and facilitated by IISC – in a national community of practice and learning.

Ford Foundation
In an effort to generate new thinking in foreign policy and to connect people across disciplines within the foreign policy field, the Ford Foundation convened their grantees for three two-day learning events called the “Laboratory for New Thinking on Foreign Policy.” The first focused on foreign policy and democracy, the second on foreign policy and justice, and the third on foreign policy and legitimacy. In all cases, IISC designed and facilitated the laboratories, which involved Ford grantees working on foreign policy issues from a variety of perspectives. In addition to establishing connections across disciplines, the events provided opportunities for participants to explore the issues through different learning styles and new ways of using technology to foster dialogue.

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) is a coalition of more than 500 grantmakers committed to building strong and effective nonprofit organizations. GEO is partnering with IISC to develop and pilot a customized training for GEO members that focuses on strategies funders can embrace in becoming more inclusive of grantees and other stakeholders when setting goals, determining priorities, and making funding decisions. GEO also partnered with IISC on The Change Agent Project, a national initiative that gathered information about the barriers that prevent grantmakers from optimizing support of their grantees as well as identified grantee-centric innovators in the field of philanthropy.

The William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund
The William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund The William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund works to improve education for Connecticut’s children by supporting school change, informing the public debate on educational issues, and strengthening the involvement of parents and the community in education. Through its Discovery Initiative, the Memorial Fund is partnering with over 50 communities across the state to improve the lives of young children, from birth through age eight. IISC was engaged as a capacity builder for Discovery grantees and provided Facilitative Leadership® training and follow-up consulting services to strengthen collaborative skills and momentum for change. As of January 2012, IISC had provided training to over 200 community members from around the state. In addition, IISC is working with the Memorial Fund as the lead process designer and facilitator of Right from the Start, a statewide early education and child development system change initiative to ensure excellent and equitable services for all of Connecticut’s children and families, regardless of race, income, or ability.

Open Society Institute – Campaign for Black Male Achievement
The Open Society Institute’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement is a multi-issue, cross-funded strategy to address black men and boys’ exclusion from economic, social, educational, and political life in the United States. Since its launch in May 2008, the campaign has engaged in exploratory grantmaking, philanthropic partnership development, and strategic planning, which has helped narrow its strategic focus to three areas that profoundly shape the life outcomes of black males – education, family, and work – and has adopted a place-based grantmaking approach to commit its investment in specific geographic regions. IISC won an RFP with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity to provide process design consulting, facilitation, project management for OSI by working with regional design teams to plan and design two of the regional convenings - Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West – in partnership with Kirwan who is providing customized and national research, interview findings, network maps, funding analysis for each region in the areas of family, work and education.

Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace
Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace The Ford Foundation funded a small global group of leaders from grantmaking foundations and philanthropic support organizations to come together with IISC to deepen the practice of philanthropy for social justice and peace. In the first year, the Working Group also helped IISC design an interactive and provocative convening of social justice and peace funders from around the globe. The convening, held in February 2009 in Cairo, Egypt, was attended by nearly 100 people from around the world who were deeply interested in exploring the meaning and methods of philanthropy that challenge injustice in varied contexts. IISC designed and facilitated sessions to build connections and relationships between and among the participants and to provoke their thinking about ways to move this important work forward. IISC continues to support the Working Group as it builds a global network of people working to develop better social justice and peace grantmaking practices, demonstrate the impact of grantmaking with a social justice approach, influence the mainstream narrative in philanthropy, and connect to share knowledge and practices from different regions of the world.

Leadership Development

Citizen Schools and Lesley University – Facilitative Leadership and Community Building
IISC designed this course as part of the Citizen Schools/Lesley University Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: Out of School Time. The course focused on developing the skills for a “21st Century” collaborative, participatory, inclusive leader working in a community setting whose job it is to leverage the wisdom and resources of multiple constituencies. Taking the lead from IISC’s commitment to “the love that does justice,” the course deepened the collaborative skills of leaders by exploring what Parker Palmer calls the “inner side of leadership.” During this highly experiential course, participants applied the skills and tools of collaborative action and community building to their work as out of school time professionals, while examining the theoretical underpinnings of each. They left with a shared language, models, and frameworks that could be immediately applied to their work as out of school time professionals.

Institute for Civic Leadership
The Institute for Civic Leadership is a regional multi-sector civic leadership program in greater Portland, Maine for which IISC, in collaboration with our partner David Chrislip, designed a fifteen-day, civic leadership program that includes skills transfer, personal reflection, diversity awareness, dialogue, and a practicum. We continue to deliver this transformative leadership development program in partnership with ICL staff.

Massachusetts Institute for Community Health Leadership (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts)
The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation created the Massachusetts Institute for Community Health Leadership to develop the next generation of leadership in health care organizations in the Commonwealth that serve the needs of low-income and uninsured residents. As a core member of the Leadership Institute’s faculty, IISC designed and delivered five of the eight curriculum modules. These modules engage participants in reflecting on their leadership roles and on identifying the impact they want to have individually and collectively in the field, and guide participants in their efforts to build their collaborative skills to achieve that impact.

Educational Organizations

Center for Collaborative Education
The Center for Collaborative Education (CCE) promotes purposeful learning and small, caring communities in K-12 public schools, with a focus on educational equity. IISC worked with CCE staff to design and facilitate a process to gather broad stakeholder input and ultimately craft a reorganized collaborative team structure and decision-making model to better align with the shifting nature of its work as defined by revenue streams and new approaches to partnering with schools. In addition, IISC modeled and trained staff in collaborative leadership techniques.

College Summit
College Summit works in partnership with schools, school districts and colleges to develop a sustainable model for raising college enrollment rates community-wide. Trained student influencers build college-going culture, while teachers and counselors use a managed curriculum and technology tools to help all students create postsecondary plans and apply to college. College Summit partnered with IISC to design a workshop, Pathway to Change, to provide the skills and tools needed to engage in collaborative planning. College Summit is now in the process of becoming licensed to train this IISC workshop within the organization to build the capacity of staff who work directly with their school partners.

New Leaders for New Schools
The mission of New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS) is to ensure high academic achievement for every student by attracting and preparing outstanding leaders and supporting the performance of the urban public schools they lead. IISC delivered Facilitative Leadership® to members of the NLNS staff to build their capacity to transfer the skills of collaboration to the educational leaders with whom they are working.

North Carolina Network
The North Carolina Network was established to develop systemic strategies for schools and school districts across the state to implement school-based management. The Network’s membership includes twenty-seven school districts, a university, and other nonprofit partners. Through a licensing arrangement, IISC trains NC Network trainers to offer Facilitative Leadership® to its members with the ultimate aim of creating collaborative school cultures for increased student performance.

Public Schools of Brookline
The Public Schools of Brookline (PSB) is a respected urban/suburban school system in the greater Boston area. PSB worked in partnership with IISC to 1) build district and school staff confidence and competence in collaboration and 2) design and facilitate a collaborative system-wide initiative to secure educational equity by working to eliminate PSB’s racial achievement gap. Recent data indicates that the educational achievement of all students in the system has improved, with a higher rate of improvement for Black and Latino students. IISC is now engaged in the design and facilitation of a strategic planning process with PSB.

Public Sector Organizations

Boston Public Health Commission: Integrating Anti-Racism Practices into Programming and Organizational Life
The Boston Public Health Commission had already committed to eliminating racial and ethnic health inequities in Boston and applying anti-racism principles to its operations. After years of workshops and targeted activities, the leadership wanted to tie the efforts together and build shared ways of working toward health equity across the entire 1,200 person organization. IISC began working with BPHC’s Anti-Racism Advisory Committee (ARAC) to design an organizational change process that would identify strengths and opportunities for change, and engage the entire organization in learning, dialogue, and decision-making about racism and healthy equity. That effort quickly evolved into facilitating collaboration between ARAC and many other groups within BPHC, including designing an organization-wide planning around three overarching goals, and facilitating the design of professional development series for all staff connecting racism, health inequities, and BPHC’s mission. IISC trained internal workshop facilitators, meeting facilitators and content managers. With a robust curriculum, skilled workshop leaders, and internal facilitators, BPHC has trained virtually all staff and is developing a shared approach to applying anti-racism principles to their programming and operations.

Corporation for National Service
Created in 1993 to serve as the main federal vehicle for coordinating the many federal volunteer programs in existence and to create new ones, CNS’ purpose was to renew the ethic of civic responsibility and spirit of community throughout the U.S. through participation in national service programs. Through the National Service Leadership Institute, CNS set out to develop the leadership capacities of program managers, volunteers, and other community change agents engaged in the burgeoning fields of service learning and national service. To achieve this national impact, CNS entered into a partnership with IISC whereby IISC trained and certified CNS staff and affiliated consultants in Facilitative Leadership. Ultimately, thousands of national service leaders were trained directly and, in turn, tens of thousands more, in the skills and tools of collaboration, thereby bolstering the efficacy and potency of the national service movement.

City of Boston Climate Action Plan
In 2007, Mayor Thomas Menino established goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in municipal operations. In 2009, Mayor established a Climate Action Leadership Committee and a Community Advisory Committee to revise the 2007 plan, set goals for the entire Boston community (not just municipal operations), and develop strategies for engaging residents, businesses, community groups and various institutions in taking action to reduce greenhouse gases and deal with those aspects of climate change that are not reversible. IISC, in partnership with Raab Associates, facilitated the work of the Leadership Committee and Community Advisory Committee. IISC focused especially on the community engagement aspects of the project, and is continuing to do so as work proceeds on implementation.

Nonprofit Organizations

Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM)
IISC worked with PPLM board members and senior management to create a five-year strategic plan that incorporated input from all staff, and provided training in collaborative leadership skills and coaching techniques to over half of the organization. The result, in the words of Executive Director Dianne Luby, was “transformational.” The process of strategizing together facilitated teamwork and understanding across departments and sites as well as between board and staff. The trainings developed skills that led to more focused planning, organization, and teamwork. And with its strategic plan, PPLM developed a unified vision and concrete steps for making the organization a mainstream player around reproductive rights.

Shatil is a capacity building organization established in 1982 to promote democracy, tolerance, and social justice in Israel. Together, IISC and Shatil are strengthening the capacity of NGOs in Israel by building upon Shatil’s existing methods using IISC’s collaborative methodologies. IISC has delivered Training for Trainers to members of Shatil’s staff who are now delivering Facilitative Leadership® workshops to both Jewish and Arab NGOs and their constituents. IISC and Shatil are also engaged in ongoing learning to deepen Shatil’s capacity for greater impact and social change.

Union of Concerned Scientists
The Union of Concerned Scientists – an independent alliance of more than 100,000 citizens and scientists dedicated to building a safer, healthier and more sustainable world – engaged board and staff in a year-long effort to articulate a positive vision for the future and craft a set of ambitious goals to move them in that direction. IISC designed and facilitated a process that provided opportunities for board and staff to reach agreement through active participation in the development of a visionary goal, five-year goals, and strategies. The result was a blueprint and the scaffolding needed to ensure that UCS effectively leverages its skills and resources.

Year Up
The mission of Year Up is “to close the opportunity divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.” IISC worked with Year Up staff to design and facilitate their Diversity and Cultural Competency Initiative, which has engaged the entire system in an effort to deepen understanding of diversity and the drivers of the opportunity divide, and to build cultural competency as a way to support achieving their mission. IISC has guided the design of the process and facilitated or co-facilitated many of the sessions involving building a shared vocabulary and understanding of core concepts and how they relate to Year Up’s mission, vision, values, and organizational operating principles. IISC also trained a core of leaders throughout the organization in facilitation and in content related to diversity, dynamics of oppression, and cultural competency so that they could continue to move the process forward on their own. IISC was recognized alongside Year Up’s staff and board for t his work with receipt of the Adrienne Foster Williams Diversity Award from Freedom House, a community-based nonprofit organization with a long history of service to Boston’s urban communities.