Strategic Leadership Series

Experience some of the best thought leaders in the business right here in West Michigan. The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy’s Strategic Leadership Series engages nonprofit professionals and the larger philanthropic community to encourage the development of a diverse, equitable, local ecosystem that supports entrepreneurialism when addressing critical social issues. These experiences will infuse our region with fresh thinking on the power and potential of nonprofits to be catalysts for change.

Single event tickets: $15
Full series pass: $45
 (no longer available)
GVSU students attend FREE with student ID


PAST EVENT: Why I Became a Localist
May 11, 2016

Deborah FriezeSteve McMillian

The movement toward localism today is stronger than ever. More people are buying locally, producing regionally and investing in small local efforts. And yet multinational corporations and global institutions continue to control a disproportionate share of our economies and lives. Deborah Frieze explores the underlying beliefs in our culture that continue to prop up the global mindset and shares a radical theory of change that reveals how localism is the hope of the future. Through the stories of social entrepreneurs who unleashed their creative capacity in their own communities, we’ll discover how each of us has the potential to transform our world. Read more about Deborah.

Special guest and series host Dennis McMillian helped kick off the 2015–2016 Strategic Leadership Series on December 1, 2015, and joined us again to explore next steps in this final event of the series. Dennis has devoted his professional career to helping nonprofit organizations better meet the needs of their communities. He serves on numerous national nonprofit committees and is a regular speaker at conferences including The Council on Foundations, Tides Foundation, Philanthropy Northwest, and the National Council of Nonprofits. He sits on the board of Nature Conservancy in Alaska, and on the national boards for Camp Fire, Inc., the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, and the National Council of Nonprofits. Read more about Dennis.


PAST EVENT: The Sustainability Mindset
April 20, 2016

Steve Zimmerman
To be sustainable today, nonprofit organizations must convene stakeholders with flatter, more inclusive management structures and engage in candid, rigorous discussions of how best to drive mission impact and sustainability. Steve Zimmerman joined us to describe lessons learned in six years of implementing the “Sustainability Mindset” – the Matrix Map framework that allows organizations to be more transparent and adaptable leading to greater mission impact and greater financial sustainability. Read more about Steve.

PAST EVENT: Social Innovation and Creative Placemaking
March 9, 2016

Richard Evans
Richard Evans combines and builds on two ideas: social innovation and creative place making. It’s not about incremental change, nor is it a logical extension of business as usual. Innovations take an organization in new and previously unpredictable directions. Richard believes in bringing creativity to complex problem solving. Read more about Richard.

Thanks to the Grand Rapids Art Museum for their support of this event as an Innovation Partner.


PAST EVENT: The Power of Social Labs
December 1, 2015

Zaid Hassan

Zaid Hassan is internationally recognized for his work in inspiring communities to solve complex problems through social innovation, rather than ineffective planning-based thinking. He demonstrates how social labs are a powerful tool for community change. Read more about Zaid.

This event also featured our series host, Dennis McMillian.