Supporting Leaders to Build Capacity

On May 7, a group of Pangea members and friends gathered in Belltown for a fireside chat to hear from Rocio Gonzalez, the Executive Director of Association for Leadership Guatemala (ALG), an organization founded by Pangea Giving member Gary Tabasinske to train and build capacity in leaders across Central America.  A recent article in The Huffington Post tells more.

Rocio first came to Seattle in 2011 as an iLeap Fellow. ILeap is a Seattle-based organization that trains grassroots leaders around the world and prepares them to return to lead their communities with greater clarity and commitment. Rocio, a native of Chiapas, Mexico and a resident of Antigua, Guatemala returned and took the helm of ALG. Rocio describes being in various leadership roles before the iLeap Program. However, her identity and definition of what it means to be a leader became stronger after returning from Seattle.

leadership event

From left: Bob Ness (Moderator),  Rocio Gonzalez ( Speaker), and Pangea’s Betsy Hale

This education event was relevant to Pangea’s work because in choosing grant recipients we identify promising community leaders who are working for the common good. Our belief is that skilled leaders bring others along to create social change. Bob Ness, Pangea Founding Member, Consultant, Teacher, and Co-leader of the Global Leaders Forum moderated the conversation.

Before attending the iLeap Program Rocio appreciated having a prestigious title, the recognition that came from being in a particular role and the salary she received. After Seattle she asked what else she needed to know. She saw her role more as a work in progress. She described the process of slowly finding her own voice and embraced the idea that the capacity to lead is in every person if the conditions are right. Rocio believes that leaders must also be able to be followers. She has become more comfortable with not having all of the answers.

Bob posed the question how donors and leaders such as the ones in Leadership Guatemala who receive funds from the U.S. can best develop a healthy partnership. Rocio teaches leaders to be faithful to their mission and to maintain a deep respect for their own culture. Rocio advised Pangea Members when going on site visits not to rush, to take time to connect and to find out what’s going on. “Allow time to see, feel, and smell,” she added. She recommended that donors ask for CVs from community leaders and to inquire about the kind of professional development they receive. Damage is done, she said, when there are no expectations and little accountability. Both parties need to have ongoing conversations about expectations.

The evening ended with Bob opening the discussion to the audience. Jeannie Berwick, Founder and Executive Director of One Equal Heart, a Seattle-based organization that supports locally led programs in Chiapas, offered her wisdom. Being a leader in Chiapas, she said means to listen more than speak; build a record of community service, and to walk slowly.

Read more about Association for Leadership in Guatemala