“In democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.”—Alexis de Tocqueville


Urgent and escalating challenges to the promise of democracy, especially in the last few years, demand effective organized action now not just in the US but around the world. The most urgent challenge for many of us, however, is to turn the strong reaction to this threat into an opportunity create the civic capacity not only to “resist” but to “prevail”.

We urgently need to recruit, train, and develop skilled organizers; enhance their effectiveness through continual learning; and build the capacity for organizing practice rooted in communities, organizations, and institutions committed to progressive change. This is the mission of the Leading Change Network.


Rooted in social movement, community organizing, and labor traditions, the Leading Change Network (LCN) has been inspired by the work of Marshall Ganz with a diverse, committed and skilled core of practitioners, educators, and scholars. Focused on developing leadership, improving practice, and building capacity through classrooms, distance learning, workshops, projects and campaigns LCN associates have, in the last few years, led 448 workshops, reaching 32,184 people, in some 25 countries.

We also led leadership development projects, campaigns, and organization change initiatives in collaboration with the New Organizing Institute, Power Shift, United We Dream, Institute for Health Care Improvement, California Teachers Association, Mothers Out Front, American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute and others throughout the US; Ahel in Jordan, Serbia on the Move, SEED for Social Innovation China, Community Organizing Japan, Via Educacion in Mexico, the Dogwood Initiative in Canada, Cevea in Denmark, Roma Communities in Eastern Europe,  Hayiyya in India, Tatua in Kenya, and elsewhere. This has been largely achieved by supporting the development of leadership in domains as as health care, the environment, racial justice, education, economic justice, youth development, human rights, gender equity, workers’ rights, and political reform.

By focusing on building organizing capacity across such diverse contexts we deepen our understanding of core practices, learn adaptation within distinct cultures, and are building a network of practitioners whose diverse experience contribute to the strengthening of effort rooted in shared values. As valuable as this work has been, however, turning the current crisis into one of opportunity requires bringing clearer purpose, more effective structure, and far greater scale to our work.


Despite all this good work by ourselves and many others, the shocking challenges of the last few years reveal that there is so much more to do, that now is the time to do it, and that it must be rooted in building the civic capacity required to make democracy work. The need to act is clear. The desire to act is evident. The challenge is to arm that desire with the leadership, skills, and capacity to act effectively. It is to this need that we can contribute.

The unique contribution of LNC – rooted in the ongoing development of leadership who learn to build organizational capacity on the ground – is a pedagogy that can enable people to learn organizing quickly, transfer their learning to others, and build organization in the process. This approach, which grew out of decades of organizing experience, the insights and social science, and the teaching of practice is neither a “model” nor a “blueprint” but more of a “roadmap” – a way to locate the cultural, political, and social resources within one’s own experience, community and domain of practice.

This approach is based on mastery of five core practices on which any organizing effort will be based: relationship building, storytelling, strategizing, structuring, and action.

Relationship building grounds the learning, solidarity, and commitment that distinguishes the collective capacity at the heart of organizing from the transactional aggregation of individual resources for a moment that is typical of mobilizing. Story telling – public narrative – is a means thru which shared values can be accessed for the emotional resources to act with agency: hope rather than fear, empathy instead of alienation, and self-worth instead of self-doubt. Strategizing, a verb, not a noun, is the how we turn resources we have into the power we need to get what we want. Structuring is how we develop a shared purpose; create norms of self-governance, and roles. Based on distributed leadership based on leadership teams it is a way to cascade leadership deeply within a constituency and, at the same time, avoid Jo Freeman’s “tyranny of structurelessness.” Action is how to create strategic “facts on the ground” (votes, people) based on motivation and commitment and in ways that can be counted to insure ongoing learning. All this plays out in the form of a campaign. Finally, the training itself is based on the ongoing development of small group coaches from among former participants, the constituency with whom we work, or others who want to learn. They, in turn, became trainers, coordinators, and organizers.  In addition to having experience with this approach within the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, we have capacity in Arabic, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, French, Urdu, Hindi, Chinese and Japanese. More specifically we have in our network the capacity of 170 trainers, from 36 countries who are implementing trainings in 30 different languages. All this is rooted in a culture of dedication to craft, ongoing evaluation, and continual learning.



The mission of the LCN is to strengthen democracy, active citizenship, and the exercise of freedom (in the US and) around the world. We bring together those engaged in collective action for justice, equality, and freedom to connect, learn, and improve their practices. Our goal is to develop leadership and grow organizing capacity to build resilience and amplify impact.


  1. Develop the Leadership with depth, diversity, and skill for building power, organizing action and creating change.
  2. Improve organizing practice through shared learning, adaptation and development.
  3. Capacity building on the ground in diverse communities, organizations, and institutions in which it is most needed.
  1. LCN Community in action – Developing the Leadership

LCN has grown through the initiatives of emerging leadership across the globe. The work of identifying, recruiting, and developing such leadership is the foundation of successful organizing.

The objective of this program is to grow members belonging and leadership by matching, connecting and coaching them to organize their own spaces and address their own needs from their fellow members’ knowledge and experiences. In this program, members organize:

  • Smaller group meetings to further discuss topics relevant to them, ranging from understanding and framing change to motivation and action design (e.g. strategizing around opposition, motivation and urgency, collective action and democracy),
  • Coaching sessions in groups or in one on ones around challenges faced on the ground (e.g. going to scale with your organization, handling opposition, maintaining motivation),
  • Joint actions to achieve and amplify their impact in their causes (e.g. Planning solidarity actions to support the Paris agreement, Organizing for Public Health in the US).


  1. Home Base for Organizing – Developing the Capacity:

LCN’s added value lies in having a specific methodology to community organizing, with a large number of trained people, who want to share their knowledge and pass it on to others. The main objective of this program is to be a reference point for organizers around the world to go to for learning and for resources. In this program, LCN provides online trainings, workshops & deep dives on:

  • Intro to organizing – an online course on basics of leadership & organizing
  • Beyond the basics – trainings and seminars to develop leadership & go deeper in the practices
  • Teaching organizing – sessions for becoming a better coach, facilitator & trainer
  • Enhancing organizing methodology – sharing good practices and troubleshooting challenges
  • Enhancing our curriculum – adding case studies, improved practice, and relevant research


  1. LCN Forum – Developing Practice

In this program, the LCN hosts speaker series, panel discussions, and presentations to capture and share the latest advancements and trends in the field of organizing, as well as latest developments in relevant research and theory.

  • This space will be open for a wider public (members and non-members) to attend and will be a place for attracting new members and for encouraging engaged members.
  • These events will also be used to capture lessons learned and develop learning material in short stories, videos, blog posts for future dissemination.


  1. The Global Gathering – Putting it all together – Leadership, Practice and Capacity

LCN brings members from around the world to meet in person for 3 days to share and learn, create solidarity, and enhance resilience. It crowns the previous year’s efforts, launches next year’s programs and include:

  • Celebration – The best events or learning from the previous year will be showcased and shared in the gathering. The best organizing and the hardest organizing in our community will be celebrated;
  • Learning – people will learn from the experiences in the gathering and, from coaching each other, they will also be trained on new dimensions in organizing;

Planning and kick off – The LCN will announce and launch its next year’s program and the members will kick start some of the next year’s Community Initiative activities.

LCN governance structure contains of: Board, Advisory Committee, Leadership team chaired by Executive Co-Directors


  1. Marshall Ganz – Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at J.F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  2. Jennifer McCreaSenior Research Fellow at the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard University and a Faculty Chair for Exponential Fundraising Course at Harvard.
  3. Rebecca Henderson – the John and Natty McArthur University Professor at the Harvard Business School in the General Management and Strategy units.
  4. Ian Simmons – impact investor, Co-Founder and Principal of Blue Haven Initiative


  1. Art Reyes III – Director, We the People
  2. Benjamin Naimark-Rowse – Topol Fellow in Nonviolent Resistance and a D. Candidate at The Fletcher School at Tufts University
  3. Elizabeth McKenna – Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UC Berkeley, co-author “Groundbreakers: How Obama’s 2.2 Million Volunteers Transformed Campaigning in America”
  4. Jacob Waxman – Leadership Development Coordinator, SEIU United Healthcare Workers West
  5. Kathryn Perera – the Head of Transformation, Horizons Group, NHS England
  6. Lara Ayoub – Digital Media Consultant, TV Producer, Co-Founder of NGO SADAQA
  7. Predrag Stojicic – Director, Resident Engagement for Health Systems Transformation project, ReThink Health

Nisreen Haj Ahmad, MPA – Co-Director

For the past ten years, Nisreen Haj Ahmad has invested herself in enhancing organized collective action for justice and equality. In 2012, she co-founded and became director of Ahel.org, a nonprofit that coached 16 campaigns and trained over two thousand people in organizing in the Middle East, namely Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. She was also involved in supporting the organizing of the BDS Movement and together with other women started its chapter in Jordan. Nisreen is very committed to creating learning and solidarity spaces that inform and sustain leaders and activists around the world. In 2012, she coordinated the Leading Change Global Gathering, bringing together more than a hundred organizers from around the world, and in 2014 organized a similar gathering of the Network’s Affiliates in Serbia. NIsreen is  an advisory board member of Beautiful Rising. Trained as a lawyer, Nisreen obtained a law degree from the University of Jordan (1995), Masters in Law from Edinburgh University (1997), Masters in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School (2007), and most recently finished a research fellowship at the Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School. With Professor Marshall Ganz, Nisreen taught “Social Movements Today: Critical Questions for Critical Times” in the Spring semester of 2017 at HKS. She has produced several publications, including a documentation of Stand with the Teachers Campaign for fair pay, published by the International Labour Organization, and her work is the subject of a Harvard case study. Before entering the world of community leadership and organizing in 2007, Nisreen spent 6 years working as a legal advisor for the Palestinian team in the peace talks with Israel.

Ana Babovic, MPA – Co-Director

Ana began her career working as an advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia and has since been engaged in politics, public policy and government, continuing to work with the Federal Government of Germany, and Legislature of the State of Massachusetts. In 2012, she took the position of Executive Director of a national organizing and change-making nonprofit, Serbia on the Move, which she also co-founded. Ana launched and led several national campaigns engaging thousands of citizens, resulting in introduction of innovative tools for increasing transparency & accountability, creation of opinion shifts and policy changes in areas of anticorruption, healthcare, labor rights of women, and other.

Most recently, two case studies featuring the successes of Serbia on the Move achieved under Ana’s leadership have been published. The first, published by Harvard Kennedy School of Government focuses on the Organizational and Capacity Development, while the second one, published by the World Bank Group, focuses on the SOM’s achievements in the fight against corruption in healthcare in Serbia.

In 2016, Ana obtained her Master’s Degree in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she was awarded the Ford Foundation Mason Student Fellowship from the Ash Centre for Democratic Governance and Innovation, and a Gleitsman Fellowship in Social Innovation from the Centre for Public Leadership. During her time at Harvard, Ana was an Assistant Professor and Head of the Teaching Team with Professor Marshall Ganz, where she taught and managed leadership courses focused on Public Narrative and Community Organizing.