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Reflections on the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) Roundtables

The Center for Integrative Leadership (CIL) recently hosted a series of roundtable discussions with the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA). The roundtable discussions explored the role various sectors have in the prevention of sexual violence. The following post is a reflection of the event by Liz Stone, a research assistant for the Center for Integrative Leadership.

The MNCASA roundtables provided a space to not only really dig in to the issue of sexual violence, but to also really grasp the incredible number of people and organizations that are involved and committed to ending sexual violence. Just looking over the diverse guest lists and seeing the room filled with people, I was struck by how many different stakeholders were involved--and this was by no means everybody! This is the very essence of what a cross-disciplinary, cross-sector issue, or "wicked problem" is, and a clear example of why and where we need integrative leadership.

Being a part of the University of Minnesota roundtable was a powerful experience. It was an honor to be with such an active and concerned group of people and to hear about University-affiliated work that addresses the issue of sexual violence. However, while it was empowering to see the great work being done now, it was overwhelming to realize how far there is to go. A group of roundtable participants in attendance left wondering "what happens next?"; how do we maintain the connections among the people here and how do we continue to improve how we work across these boundaries to increase our capacity and make leaps, not just steps, towards ending sexual violence?

The "what now" question other participants and I pondered at the end of the day is not an uncommon way to leave a gathering of great minds. It is hard enough to take on new initiatives and work on solving these "wicked problems," but even harder to establish and keep the momentum and synergy to work across sectors, disciplines and boundaries. How do we keep everyone connected and communicating? Are we duplicating efforts or contradicting ourselves? Are we making the best use of the different skills, networks, resources, and knowledge that each of the many players has to offer? How can we work in concert over a long period of time? There needs to be strong and persistent leadership that can help to guide the work across these boundaries; this is essentially how I have come to understand integrative leadership and the "why" and "where" it is needed most.

A center like the Center for Integrative Leadership, or an organization like the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, are well placed and oriented to both promote and model integrative leadership. They can provide the institutional support and memory to follow up on conversations like those at the MNCASA roundtables and to keep the many participants connected and involved. I left the two-hour roundtable feeling like there was so much more to talk about, to hear about, and to discuss while all of these great minds were in one room. It was a great way to start a conversation and get everyone on the same page, but a follow-up gathering focused on specific strategies and ways to connect different players and different approaches seems to be a needed next step. That requires integrative leadership, which could come from within any of the organizations, groups, or individuals involved.

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