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Rockwood Institute

President's Message


A number of years ago, I was walking in New York when I saw a bricklayer building a wall. He was not a young man, probably in his fifties.  Brick by brick by brick he put his wall together with such elegance, rhythm and mastery that it seemed almost effortless. I stood there, transfixed, for maybe half an hour, and simply watched him work. His economy of motion was astonishing; there was no waste. It was almost a dance. The beauty of it took my breath away.

I thought about that bricklayer recently when towards the end of leading a training someone came up to me and said, “You’re a master at this.” I found myself wondering, “What does that mean?” until I realized, I have been training, and facilitating since 1984 – for 30 years!

 My path as a trainer and facilitator, like the road most leaders take, had its ups and downs. I went from a place of, “This looks kind of fun to do,” to, “Maybe I can really do this,” to, “I’m faking this. I’m not suited for this at all,” to, “I’m pretty good at this,” to, “I suck at this,” to, “Why in the world am I doing this?” After many years of practice, I developed a sense of rhythm and economy of motion in my work, and realized that this is what I’m here to do.

In this time of two-minute news stories, 140 character tweets, and instant messages, I wonder how many of us are taking the time to become masterful at something? If we’re going to become masterful leaders, we have to practice, and practice takes time, repetition, making mistakes, and going through periods of, “Why am I doing this?”

A while back, someone said to me that you can only become a master when others recognize it in you.  [I have to admit some discomfort with the word “master,” given what it means for women and African-descended people, but I don’t know a better word]. It’s not something we get to decide we are. And yet, I think it’s important for leaders to own when we have mastered something, and move from that place of assurance, rhythm and clarity, so that we can then pass it along to the folks who will come after us.

A few questions for you:

  • What are you mastering?
  • What will it take your lifetime to learn as a leader?
  • What are you willing to give your heart, your days, your life and your energy to?
  • How might the world change if you took the time to build your leadership brick by brick by brick?

From my heart to yours.

March 2014



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Rockwood Leaders Changing the World

Ben Jealous will join the Kapor Center for Social Impact as a partner.

Pramila Jayapal is running for State Senate in the 37th District of Washington State.

Are you a Rockwood Alum? Send us your news.



Collaborate, Connect, Convene and Keep Learning: Themes from the 2013 Rockwood Alumni Gather Tour

During Rockwood's 2013 Alumni Gather Tour, Rockwood held ten Gathers in Boston, the Bay Area, Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and New York City.  

Led by Rockwood's President, Akaya Windwood, and Rockwood's Director of Strategic Initiatives, Pia Infante, alumni had an opportunity to re-engage the practices they learned at Rockwood, and connect with alumni in their community.

Three themes ran through all of the Gathers. Alumni consistently expressed a desire to:

  • Collaborate across movements.
  • Connect and convene with other alumni to learn, support each other, strategize, and collaborate.
  • Have more opportunities for coaching and leadership development, specifically for mid-level leaders, not just for Executive Directors.

Regional themes also arose during each Gather, which were beautifully captured by a visual facilitator. You can view the visual notes for each city (like the ones to the right) at



Alum DIY Gather Guide

One of the frequent requests we heard during the 2013 Gather Tour was that alum would like to have a tool to help them self-organize their own Gathers, so here it is!

You can download a PDF of the Rockwood Alum DIY Gather Guide at:

If you’d like support organizing your Gather, email Britt Bravo, Rockwood’s Senior Communications Manager, and she’ll schedule a time to chat with you. You can also reach out to alumni in your area through the Rockwood Alumni LinkedIn Group.



Photo by Aplaster

New Location for East Coast Advanced Art of Leadership

"Art of Leadership helped me to see how not taking care of myself was impacting those around me. Advanced Art of Leadership nurtured that understanding, and gave me space to explore my shortcomings in a profound and positive space."
- Daniela Simunovic, co-founder, Communities for a New California

The Advanced Art of Leadership session happening October 20-23 has moved to the Pearlstone Retreat and Conference Center in Reisterstown, MD. The Advanced Art of Leadership is designed for leaders who have completed the Art of Leadership to support their bringing Rockwood’s practices more fully into their leadership and their organizations.

Apply Here

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions. You can review the four-day agenda here.



Photo by Allie Caulfield

Art of Leadership in 2014

"I discovered the underlying beliefs I held about myself that were holding me back from achieving my highest potential as a leader." ~ Lindsey Harris, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition

The Art of Leadership helps social change leaders articulate an inspiring and clear vision for their work, deal more effectively with challenges, skillfully manage relationships, build strong partnerships, and take better care of themselves.

We have six Art of Leadership retreats coming up in May, June, September, November and December, including a special training for women working on racial justice and human rights issues.

Apply Here

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions. You can review the five-day agenda here.



Team Rockwood Raises Scholarship Funds for Oakland Leaders

A team of Rockwood staff ran in the Oakland Running Festival on March 23rd to raise scholarship funds for Oakland leaders from grassroots organizations to go through Rockwood’s Art of Leadership program. Please make a donation through our Crowdrise page to support Oakland’s social change leaders’ learning skills that will sustain them through a lifetime of activism!


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