Sighting Leadership Networks in Action


At the Studio, we try to “work out loud” whenever possible.  We agree with Harold Jarche that “The most effective learning in the new world of work will be when engaged individuals regularly share their knowledge. Working out loud is the primary way people can share in their networks, communities, and workplaces.”  This blog is part of our workplace and where we share our insights most often. If you are reading this post, you may be part of our Studio network or a first-time visitor.  Welcome!

Doris_birding_300px_1991While working on an unrelated project, I became excited like a birder sighting a rare species in an urban parking lot, when I spotted the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation role modeling how to work out loud online. I saw a CEO who is quite transparent about redoing their leadership development work to foster a national “culture of health” in the United States. This huge organization exemplifies (IMO) how to encourage its thousands of associates, most of them not employees, to work out loud through its blogs AND Twitter, Google+, podcasts, and discussion groups online among other social media.

I’d like to share what I have learned so far. There are lessons here for big and small organizations as well as for DIY learners who are connecting online to ultimately make big differences offline.

Overview: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is changing the way it grows leaders to design and improve health care policy and delivery in the United States. They have been reviewing for over a year their “human capital portfolios” in order to come up with a new strategic plan. I had to keep reading to understand that portfolios = ten programs they have run for many decades to accelerate the social change impact of established and aspiring leaders such as nurses in health care and academia, health policy investigators/researchers, health policy development specialists, clinical scholars, and the like. RWJF wants to support these people to shape and transform systems to deliver RWJF’s desired “culture of health” for current and future generations.

What Is Happening: RWJF president and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey characterized the impact of technology in revising their future activities when she said that “Technology has revolutionized how we learn and connect.” She believes that “Tapping effectiveness in learning technology” will enable them to “support even more leaders and scholars each year.” Lavizzo-Mourey also speaks about how networks support “strength in numbers, connections across professions and sectors, and diversity”. The 5 minute video below shows the sea-change underway at RWJF.

While it is not clear how RWJF will effect all these changes, evidence of their new uses of technology and networking across boundaries approach can be seen in various social media.

TWITTER—Since 2008, RWJF has tweeted more than 11,000 times to 67,350 followers. They use Twitter to alert their audience to upcoming events, national health policy developments, research results, and action research experiments in health happening across the country. These tweets are often retweeted to reach a much larger stakeholder/ally network. One tweet led me to a Google Hangout happening on November 7. I’ll go to learn more about the topic and their dialogue process with advanced practitioners and attendees.  I also signed up to follow RWJF on Twitter because it’s not only what they focus on but how they use Twitter to inform and engage people and organizations that will benefit me.

GOOGLE+–RWJF is in thousands of circles where people talk and learn. The hangout on November 7 is the “10th in the #RWJF1stFri series – a platform to inform RWJF audiences about lessons our partners are learning as we all work to build a Culture of Health.” One can sign up here.

BLOGS—RWJF is using its corps of over 3,000 leader alumni and the work they do so well to write in RWJF-hosted blogs. Currently, they have Human Capital (challenges of building a workforce that meets the nation’s health care needs), Pioneering Ideas that offers posts and podcasts of interviews, New Public Health, and Culture of Health.  Obviously, RWJF has a rich abundance of research findings that makes blogging a highly effective way for them to inform and engage with stakeholders around the world. Tiny nonprofits and solo practitioners cannot generate the vast streams of insight that RWJF researchers and policy specialists do.  But one can still publish a unique point of view that can be used to explore ideas and build connections with colleagues.

LINKEDIN—The jewel in the RWJF leadership action crown is the LinkedIn RWJF Leadership Network started in March 2013 and which now has over 7,700 members. Its expressed purpose is to provide…


As a health care advocate and consumer, I want the Affordable Care Act (ACA) among other parts of our health care delivery structures to work well for me and millions of other Americans. The Network purpose statement makes me yearn to connect to people engaged in an honest, constructive exchange of ideas to drive a national movement on the change scale of Medicare/Medicaid in 1965. It also manifests Harold Jarche’s belief that “The real job of leaders today is to “hold the space”, and in order to hold it they need to first establish a space where connections are flourishing.”

And flourishing, the RWJF Leadership Network appears to be, with at least four subgroups in motion. My favorite is Flip the Clinic, a group of 25 members who are concerned with “re-imagining the medical encounter between patients and care providers.” The group’s raison d’etre:


This description feels genuine and passionate to me. It makes me eager to see what the group will originate, experiment with, and recommend to others to try out and improve in their settings. The group members may trigger myriad action research projects around the country. Their experiments are likely to be relevant, empowering, and substantive with potentially significant impact on patients and their medical providers.

Each RWJF sub group on LinkedIn offers its own statement of purpose ranging from public health to mapping sidewalks to a general purpose forum for connecting people and ideas. The members appear to determine what they want to work on and the change they wish to create for themselves and the people they and their institutions serve.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, we wrote in this blog about the Leadership Learning Community’s recommendations to build leadership.

  1. They stressed the importance of organizations hosting opportunities to “link people together to strengthen their bonds and build bridges among groups…for connections that help people self-organize and experiment around common interests, forming collaborations and initiatives.” Check.
  2. They pushed “doacracy” saying that “someone’s willingness to step up and do a particular task is a rationale for having that person be the one to do the task.” Check.
  3. They also focused on learning and risk-taking, i.e., “Rapid-cycle prototyping solutions and the capacity to quickly learn what works and what does not are essential for getting results.” Check.

This bird’s eye view of RWJF’s leadership activities and LLC’s recommendations for building leadership seem to be one and the same to me. Do you agree? How might RWJF’s online transparency offer something valuable and different for you and/or your organization to try doing?

Thanks for reading and please share your comments below.

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Photo credit of bird to Hebi65 at Pixabay


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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] am going to use the advice Doris and I have given about digital learning and literacy, and revisit Howard Rheingold‘s and […]

  2. […] of openness, working out loud, and work as a learning experience (see our previous blogs Sighting Leadership in Action, Women Network to Lead, and Take the Lead in Learn, Lead, Connect […]

  3. […] week Doris blogged about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s approach to embracing working out loud by using […]

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