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Who is Courage to Lead intended to serve?

Courage to Lead was created to nurture and develop executive leaders and decision makers in nonprofit and other social sector organizations. The program is ideal for Executive Directors/CEO’s. We also welcome applications from people in other positions of broad executive leadership in nonprofits, such as leaders who deal with a high degree of relational complexity (i.e. engaging with staff, board, donors, partners, peer leaders, etc.), and from people who are on a clear track to executive leadership.

Courage to Lead may be for you if…

  • You want to take your leadership to the next level and you’re game for the challenge of introspection toward self-growth and learning to better sustain your passion for your important work.
  • You are rethinking how you want to offer your leadership to the world, whether you are in a new position, in transition, or hoping to renew your sense of meaning and purpose.
  • You would appreciate learning with a community of diverse leaders from across the social sector to discuss the hard work of addressing challenging social issues.

What is Courage to Lead?

Courage to Lead is a year-long leadership and renewal program for experienced social sector leaders.  The program consists of five quarterly retreats and monthly small group Leader Circles. Each group includes 20-30 nonprofit executive leaders. Retreats are held on the beautiful Montecito campus of Pacifica Graduate Institute, just south of Santa Barbara.  This tranquil location, with views of the Pacific Ocean and local mountains, provides a perfect setting to help Courage to Lead participants begin to hear their inner voice. The practice of reflection, journaling, and deep listening are part of the fabric of our approach. Working in such a space, participants are able to focus on what they need to renew personal identity, professional integrity, and vocational vitality.

Meeting quarterly in retreat with a group of other nonprofit leaders provides the opportunity to build a deep and trusted community of peers.  Our monthly Leader Circles allow participants to continue the work and reinforce their learning between meetings in a small group environment. Over time, a deep trusted community of peers is created, and each participant has focused time and space to make progress on core questions they are holding about their life and work.

The Courage to Lead program:

  • Renews heart, mind and spirit through exploration of the inner life of leaders
  • Provides a rare opportunity to slow down and reflect
  • Explores practices that help sustain one’s vocational vitality
  • Builds a safe and trustworthy community of peers

Where did this Courage to Lead retreat series model come from?

The Courage to Lead retreat series model was developed by Parker J. Palmer, Ph.D. and the Center for Courage & Renewal

What’s the best way to learn more about Courage to Lead?

  • Attend our 90-minute information session in Santa Barbara on May 2.  RSVP here.
  • Attend our July 15-17 introductory retreat near Santa Barbara, to fully experience what a Courage to Lead retreat has to offer.  Apply here.
  • Speak to any of our 170 Courage to Lead program alumni, listed here, and ask them about their experience.
  • View a 5 minute video about Courage to Lead here, or view short clips of our alumni speaking about Courage to Lead here.

What is an introductory retreat?

An Introductory Retreat provides an opportunity to experience all that a Courage to Lead retreat has to offer.  Many people attend an introductory retreat in advance of deciding whether to apply for the full retreat series program.  However, introductory retreat participation is not prerequisite for applying for our year-long retreat series program. The next introductory retreat opportunity will be July 15-17, 2019, prior to the beginning of our next Courage to Lead retreat series in October 2019. The introductory retreat will be held at the beautiful Pacifica Graduate Institute campus in the foothills of Montecito (near Santa Barbara), starting at 4PM Monday and ending at noon on Wednesday.

Application for the Intro Retreat is currently closed. If you are interested in the Retreat Series, click here to learn more.

Where are the retreats held?

Retreats are held on the beautiful Montecito campus of Pacifica Graduate Institute, just south of Santa Barbara.  This tranquil location, with views of the Pacific Ocean and local mountains, provides a perfect setting for social sector leaders to care for themselves and reconnect with their inner wisdom and with each other.

Pacifica has taken special care of the land on its campus. The plantings and structures have been designed to blend in with and give back to the environment. he gardens and “people paths” are arranged in such a way as to invite the birds, insects, and other animals of the area to make their homes in these places. Existing orchards have been converted to organic production. By growing fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables on campus

What are the accommodations? Are the rooms private with bath?

Accommodations at Pacifica Graduate Institute’s Ladera Lane Campus consist of standard, single, private rooms. These rooms include a full or twin-sized bed, sink, mirror, desk, chair, small desk fan, and alarm clock, as well as shelves and hangers for clothing.  All linens and towels are included. The residence hall has shared men’s and women’s bathroom and shower facilities.

If there are more applicants than there are spaces, what are the selection criteria?

For the past few years, we have had more applicants for our Courage to Lead retreat series than we’ve had spaces.  When that happens, our primary selection objective is to cultivate a generative and mutually supportive learning community of social sector leaders who can relate to each other as peers.  We also look for candidates who will add to many facets of diversity in the cohort (including organizational mission, ethnicity, gender, economic background, life experience, and geography).

Do I have to be an Executive Director to apply?

No, we also welcome applications from people in other positions of broad executive leadership in nonprofits and other social sector organizations, such as leaders who deal with a high degree of relational complexity (i.e. engaging with staff, board, donors, partners, peer leaders, etc.), and from people who are on a clear track to executive leadership.

What is the cost of Courage to Lead? Are scholarships available?

The year-long Courage to Lead retreat series (including five 3-day / 2-night retreats plus accommodations and meals, plus monthly small-group leader circles) costs $5,750.  Leading From Within is a small nonprofit organization, and it charges participants the cost of running the program. Since many or most nonprofit organizations cannot afford this cost, Leading From Within works hard to raise scholarship funds they can use to make Courage to Lead cost-accessible for all who are accepted.

Leading From Within is committed to helping senior nonprofit and other social sector leaders attend our Courage to Lead retreat series that runs from October 2019 – November 2020, and will do whatever it can to make the program financially accessible for you:  set up payment plans for you and/or your employer, help you apply for outside funding, and provide assistance from our scholarship fund. And as mentioned above, generous donors have contributed to our scholarship fund so that our programs are financially accessible to dedicated leaders regardless of budget size.

To apply for financial support from our scholarship fund, please fill out our online retreat series scholarship form by the August 9 deadline and indicate what your organization can pay and/or what you can contribute personally, and indicate your resulting scholarship need.  In a situation where we are unable to offer enough financial assistance to allow for your participation, we will refund your deposit.

The July introductory retreat costs $750, and one can also apply for a scholarship for that retreat if it’s needed to allow your participation.

What is the registration deadline?

Retreat series applications are due August 9.  Applications for the July introductory retreat are due May 17.

How have Courage to Lead participants benefited from the program?

Courage to Lead is a holistic program that benefits participants in many ways – both tangible and intangible.  There are 170 alumni of this year-long program who can tell you about their own experience and the benefits they received.  

In our evaluation work with Courage to Lead participants, below is a list of the changes in personal or professional dispositions and practices that the participants most frequently articulated as directly attributed to their participation in Courage to Lead:

  • An increase in self-care understanding and practice
  • An increase in their ability to trust themselves and their abilities
  • An increased awareness of and engagement in reflection about professional practice
  • An increased willingness and ability to reach out personally and professionally to friends and colleagues for help with work related issues
  • An increase in time spent nurturing professional and personal relationships
  • An increase in the perceived quality of listening skills
  • A strong and enduring increase in personal and professional leadership confidence.

And below is a list of changes in reported dispositions or practice that emerged when comparing pre and post-CTL participation:

  • A perceived increase in the alignment of personal values and leadership practices
  • An increased sense of balance between personal and professional lives and obligations
  • An increase in personal and professional job satisfaction
  • A perceived increase in ability to effectively manage work related stress
  • An improved commitment to self-care
  • An increase in support seeking behaviors
  • Increased time spent in reflection and quality of reflection on professional life issues
  • An increased capacity for trust building in individuals and organizations

What happens when the retreat series is over?

When leaders have completed a year-long Courage to Lead retreat series, they graduate into our Alumni Program with continued opportunities for peer community, retreat and renewal, and resource sharing. 170 nonprofit executive leaders have completed our program since 2008, and the great majority of them continue to engage actively as part of the growing Courage to Lead alumni community.  The CTL alumni community is a very significant and powerful network of experienced social sector leaders in Southern California. CTL alumni programming includes evening and day-long retreat opportunities, ongoing Leader Circles, as well as occasional social and networking gatherings.

Who facilitates the retreats?

Since 2008, Ken Saxon and Kim Stokely have co-facilitated our Courage to Lead retreats.  They were both prepared to lead Courage to Lead programming in the Facilitator Preparation Program of the Center for Courage & Renewal.  You can find out biographical information about the two of them at the Instructor link on the Leading From Within website.

What if I can’t make all the retreats?

You might want to consider waiting until our next cohort, which will start in the Spring of 2021.  We have made a few exceptions over the years for some who knew they wanted to be in Courage to Lead now, but also knew there was one (and only one) retreat that they would have to miss all or part of due to a pre-existing commitment.  If that is the case, please let us know.

What is the monthly Leader Circle that is a part of Courage to Lead?

Each CTL participant is invited to be part of a five or six-person Leader Circle.  They meet for 2 hours per month between quarterly retreats and follow a type of peer coaching process, where each person is invited to bring a current challenge or question to the group and to receive support.  The Leader Circles also allow CTL participants to reinforce and practice their program learnings between retreats. At Courage to Lead, we don’t buy into the idea that nonprofit leaders are all competitors for scarce resources.  Our philosophy is “we’re all in this together,” and our participants develop nurturing, mutually supportive peer relationships, especially with the people in their Leader Circles. Many of these Leader Circles that started in Courage to Lead have continued meeting monthly for many years after the retreat series.

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