Nevada Littlewolf

Nevada Littlewolf
Learning Log

Nevada Littlewolf

Report date
November 2017
Fellowship term
24 months
Learning log 3

How has my understanding of leadership changed through my Fellowship to date?
I have worked in developing my own leadership capacity at different stages in my life by pushing myself to try new things, take on greater roles in my work and generally working to become a better person through education and experiences, including making mistakes and learning from them. I had an idea what the Fellowship would do for me, but in many ways had no idea how that would affect me. The Bush Fellowship has allowed me to try on new and exciting things that I would not have had access to before. I'm incredibly happy and proud to have finished my undergraduate college degree in Fine Art. While this is something that I probably would have done eventually, completing this now became a part of an accelerated strategy to move my leadership forward now. There were great connections I made in the academic environment, especially with staff and faculty that are really more of peers to me at this stage of my life. I found the conversations and relationships built to be more meaningful than if I had completed the degree when I was younger. I appreciate having connections to the creative community of my region, tribal native people and the world. My professors connected me to community based projects through the Duluth Children's Museum, the Prove and other local galleries. I spoke at events and contributed to planning. I learned about new innovation and how to connect this to my work in community. I am recognizing myself as an artist again and others are also recognizing me in the same way. Designing, planning and implementing my senior art show was quite an undertaking. It gave me confidence in executing a community event that came from me, not an organization or community project. This allowed me to be more creative and flexible in the design. I love that I was able to create a community conversation and dialogue from a visual gallery show/installation. The creative process allowed me to work through challenges I was experiencing with the current social and political state. Most importantly, it gave others in the community to come together and express their feelings. For my leadership, this was a great learning to keep my passion for the arts in mind as I am doing the important work for community building. This passion ignites energy for me. As a follow-up to completing art school, I am participating in ArtsLab. ArtsLab is a cohort model of community development that centers on creative community and place-making. It's inspiring to work with my local community team and the Lyric Center for the Arts to look at challenges we face from the context of the creative. It makes me excited about the potential for what we can do to make our community more vibrant and include the underrepresented voices of the community through an artistic lens. We are learning some fundamental community building skills as well such as messaging, engagement, telling our community story and general networking with other professionals across the state on Minnesota. The Fellowship has also offered me great opportunities to get out of Minnesota to see the world from a different vantage point. I brought supplies to the Standing Rock camp and met leaders there, attended TEDWomen 2016 and 2017, the Women's March on Washington D.C., the native nations march on Washington D.C., MCON, Young Elected Officials national convening, BoxWorks, BoardSource, and The Independent Sector. TEDWomen gave me inspiration and connections to women around the world doing revolutionary work for women, which is the focus of my non-profit. The marches connected me with community organizers and political people both in the women's community and the national native community. These marches were beyond inspiration and gave me hope in the face of this challenging time. MCON and YEO connected me with the rising generation of leaders and helps me see and understand a younger perspective. I am often the youngest person in the room in my community and that is hard, especially since I am 41 years old. BoxWorks challenged me a big way about bringing understanding of technology to my community work. I am still challenged in this area, but I feel like I have connections, tools and resources to guide me moving forward. I'd be remiss not to mention how incredible it was to hear and meet one of my longtime heroes at BoxWorks: Neil deGrasse Tyson. That experience felt so surreal. It is an experience I will never forget and I'm so thankful to Bush creating this space for me. I was invited to BoxWorks as an attendee and mentor for the first-ever BoxWorks Women's Summit and this happened through a connection I made at TEDWomen last year. BoardSource is a great resource for board development and is essential for my work in the non-profit sector. Their conference gave me practical tools to bring back to my organization. The Independent Sector followed up with more connections to the non-profit and philanthropic work that I do. I serve on three foundation boards and have been leading my organization, so all very relevant and helpful for me to see and understand the work from a national perspective. The strongest vein running through all of the learning and experiences has been connections to people doing incredible things. From my time at MCON, I met Rob Greenfield, an international sustainability champion, who I was able to host in Minneapolis with Tamales y Bicicletes and the Little Earth farm. From this, I met people from around the world who are working on small changes to have huge impact. I also forged stronger connections with local organizations working on urban farming and sustainability. And I brought resources to my community. My understanding of my own leadership has changed in that I feel like I'm a part of something much bigger. The Bush mantra "Think bigger, think differently" resonates. I hear it my mind all the time. I also hold the phrase which inspired me in 2015 at BushCon before I became a Fellow: "A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not what ships were built for." I feel ready to take on bigger leadership opportunities and new challenges that I felt insecure about in the past. I am also very excited about my next steps. Again, the fellowship put my leadership journey into more a strategic plan. I have always known that I've wanted to have an international learning experience and I feel more confident about that. I hadn't thought a lot about grad school, but now I am confident that it will be something I do in the next 1-2 years. There were some areas of my own leadership that I felt insecure or overwhelmed or uncertain about, I now see a path opening for me. And I'm excited. In the past year, I have been to San Francisco three times, Washington D.C. three times, New Orleans, Seattle and Detroit. While I have travelled to some of these cities in the past, it was great to explore new cities and gain more confidence in traveling alone.
How has focusing on my leadership changed the way I lead in my work?
The way I lead now is in many ways still the same from the vantage point of engaging with community and working to include voices. I know I now have more tools to make that happen and more research that supports this model. I feel like I have more creditability with my peers. There is something about the Bush Fellows title that changes the way people view you. And my peers can see that I have been working and learning. This has been helpful in building my confidence and getting work done without burdensome obstacles. People are more likely to say yes and more likely to invite my participation. Focusing my leadership has helped me set a direction and a course. I can see new paths and I feel less afraid to try new things or shy away from bigger opportunities. I can see my own potential in a new way. For instance, I have considered grad school in a different part of the country-something I never would have considered before. I'm also more aware of other professional opportunities and have been thinking through what my next professional goal is. Generally, focusing on my own leadership plan has given me more control or at least feels like I have more control. I can see many possibilities for my next steps instead of a closed perspective that I could only do one or two things.
How do I now view the role of self-care in sustaining my ability to lead?
I have realized that learning/education, resources, new experiences, meaningful work and healthy activities and social time including family, friends and colleagues in a balanced way is a necessary approach to meeting my leadership goals. I am still working on the right rhythm of all of this. I know there are times when I am more engaged with work and less with social and times when I'm very family centered and less learning focused. There has been so much happening in the last year and finding this rhythm is an on-going ambition. I do have a better understanding of what sustains, inspires, and drives me. I do have a better understanding of what drains me. While I realize how important self-care is, I struggle with the resource of time. I hope to focus on finding a lifestyle that creates time and space for this balance in the last months of my fellowship. I know that there will be significant transitions in the next six-twelve months. My son will graduate from high school and start college, my city council term will end, my Northland Foundation board position of nine years will conclude, and my service with the Governor's Commission on Judicial Selection will end. I will to be more intentional about using my new space and time (as I exit certain positions) for my focus and personal mission of building leadership opportunities for women and indigenous people. As I continue in my leadership plan, I want to be more thoughtful about time use and boundaries. I want to make sure I have the resources I need to be healthy and sustain relationships that support a healthy balance. Exercise, healthy eating, and art have become priorities for me.