LEADERSHIP: Mapping Values, Staying on “the Balcony”, Leading with Awareness


How do our values influence the choices we make? How do we align our goals and the goals of others? How do we understand how civic initiatives connect with community interests? With our daily lives? How does asking these questions contribute to being an effective leader?

Urban Futures Lab Module 5 asked Fellows to consider these questions, and others through conversation, study, and hands-on work. Fellows assumed leadership roles within a Public Matters project, Temple Street Slow Jams, a City of Los Angeles’ Vision Zero Initiative Outreach and Education project along Temple Street in Historic Filipinotown and Echo Park.

The Module, which was conceptualized in collaboration with Mark Wolf Podlasly, provided a framework for Fellows to assess, develop, and refine engagement tactics with residents and stakeholders along the corridor. Throughout, Fellows focused on their own leadership: how to convene, connect, and represent the people and groups with whom they work; and how to navigate complex decision-making processes, like those around street safety and infrastructure design. The Module focused explicitly on how deep community engagement and critical leadership could offer a productive alternative to the legacy of civic processes that excluded the residents of Echo Park and Historic Filipinotown from local decision-making.

In 5, each Fellow:

  • Read and discussed leadership concepts from Ronald Heifetz, Riley Sinder and Dean Williams – including the concepts of “adaptive” and “technical” leadership – to reflect, consider, and explore group values, dynamics, and goals. Mark Wolf Podlasly, Public Matters Advisor, Consultant, Entrepreneur, and graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and the HKS Centre for Public Leadership, led conversations with Fellows and guided the implementation of the Module.
  • Used leadership concepts to first analyze her/his role in group dynamics at Public Matters, with family, and with friends. Later, each Fellow applied these concepts to understanding the values and roles of Vision Zero partners and collaborators.
  • Took on a project management role for the Vision Zero project, Temple Street Slow Jams (TSSJ). Each Fellow was put in charge of one of the project’s four main activation hubs and a corresponding “Slow Jam” event. Each hub was at a major intersection along Temple Street. As such, each Fellow:
    • Contributed to team planning meetings with TSSJ partners Los Angeles Walks, Gabba Gallery, and Pilipino Workers’ Center;
    • Conducted Vision Zero LA Street Team Surveys;
    • Identified potential collaborators near their intersections and mapped out a strategy to communicate with these groups, businesses, and residents;
    • Discussed how Vision Zero’s principles and goals aligned with these groups’ and individuals’ work and missions;
    • Led meetings and community presentations around Vision Zero principles;
    • Built collaborations with organizations and individuals along Temple Street to contribute to the Slow Jam event that they were responsible for managing; and
    • Oversaw the implementation of her/his Slow Jam event, and the events happening at the individual site during the final Mother of All Slow Jams event.
  • Completed a written piece commenting on their personal growth and the skills they want continue to use and those they want to improve.

Skills Development included:

  • Understanding and employing basic leadership definitions
  • Gauging community dynamics in relation to a municipal planning effort
  • Applying leadership techniques in the context of a Public Matters project, Temple Street Slow Jams
    • Managing the planning and execution of a single activation hub for TSSJ
    • Connecting with diverse stakeholders
    • Communicating online, on the phone, and in-person with project partners and collaborators
    • Designing public presentations for small and large groups
    • Leading presentations with multigenerational, multilingual audiences
    • Facilitating conversation tables and public interactions for Vision Zero LA
    • Evaluating project goals and deliverables


Fellows were asked during Module 5 to step into leadership. They were asked to go beyond their comfort zones to take professional risks and to be held accountable for project deliverables. They were required to understand the values and goals of new partners and collaborators, and assess how to best interact with residents and groups around a civic planning initiative. They were encouraged to seek support from their Urban Futures Lab cohort in new ways.

Fellows were asked to “step onto the balcony” (one of the leadership concepts from Heifetz et all) to view their work and the work of Temple Street Slow Jams beyond the minutiae of day-to-day interactions and tasks. They trained their attention on themselves: how they as individuals contribute to the dynamics of Public Matters. Fellows discussed the challenges and successes of Temple Street Slow Jams throughout the project’s implementation, ultimately improving their own performance and their ability to manage project- and team-based work. Cumulatively, Fellows improved in their ability to interrogate their own strengths, weaknesses, values, and goals, and identify and articulate how they would improve in future projects.