Network node: feminist leadership

Those who have embraced the network mindset see themselves as part of a larger web of activity — as one of many nodes in the system, not the central hub. –David Ehrlichman[1]


Ever since starting Leaves of Change VT, I’ve been grappling with this exact concept – how does one create an organization that is the node in a network? How does a collaborative leadership approach nurture an unorthodox organization that is a budding collaborative of passionate professionals? As a self-professed feminist and social change maker, I’ve always been fascinated and driven by collective work, of collaboration, of promoting and celebrating one another, and creating space for everyone to be successful. Three years into the Leaves of Change VT journey, I’m starting to see the budding collective that is emerging…..a node where expert facilitators partner with nonprofits to build inclusive and prosperous communities and a learning node providing young professionals a platform to test new knowledge and skills.


Over the past year, I’ve started partnering with other independent professionals who bring passion and complementary expertise. These partnerships provide nonprofit clients a broader experience and knowledge base for strategic planning, for trainings, and for program design. As we grow, I look forward to bringing in more facilitators and collaborators to our budding collective, while deepening the relationships and collaboration with current partners.


I’ve learned it’s good practice to refer clients my schedule or skills can’t accommodate. Referrals build Leaves of Change VT’s network, while deepening relationships. Nonprofits who reach out to Leaves of Change VT find that I rarely say no and when I do, I try to match the need of the nonprofit with someone in our network who will provide excellent support and services. If I know no one with the specific expertise needed, I now have relationships with other collectives of expert consultants, from Common Good VT to Rooted Impact and Bid Boss.


Learning is a life-long journey and Leaves of Change VT embraces this journey by providing young nonprofit professionals hands-on opportunities to learn. Recently, Leaves of Change VT onboarded our first summer intern to support three different strategic planning clients. I am excited to learn from her, while providing opportunities for her to have practical experience working directly with clients. We’ve been mentoring a young grants writer through direct work with one of Leaves of Change VT’s oldest clients. This experience has provided her valuable experience searching for and writing winning grants. As part of the Leaves of Change VT network, our intern and young professional have access to our network of experts, in addition to practical experience that adds to their CVs and professional growth.


By not seeing Leaves of Change VT as a singular or leading organization, but rather a node within the larger network of consultants, experts, professionals, and emerging leaders, I’ve been able to enrich the work for each client. I feel true to my feminist roots working in collaboration and promoting learning in the next generation. My life is richer for the relationships I’ve gained, both with clients and collaborators. Over the coming years, Leaves of Change VT will continue our journey towards a feminist collective, embracing our place as a nod in the broader network of nonprofit professionals. We are nothing if we work alone.