September 2018

As two friends and I settled in with coffee at an outdoor café on a recent sunny afternoon, our relaxed, “catch up with each other,” conversation unexpectedly became more reflective and philosophical – as one after the other of us shared thoughts about a book we’d read this summer that moved us. The theme that unfolded as we talked about these books and our reaction to them caused us to do some soul-searching of our own. The theme – What is my own “coming of age” story? How strongly does our family and culture into which we are born influence our thinking and action as adults? Are we aware of that influence?   How much do we act on unrecognized and unexamined principles we learned as a child?   Are we really making conscious choices, or acting on old belief systems by default?

Susan described how eye-opening it had been for her to read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Especially powerful, she said, was the fact that in the author’s chaotic growing-up environment, it had taken only one person – who really believed in this young man, appreciated him, loved him, and was always “there for him,” to be the influence that enabled him to make choices leading to a future for himself – – far different from that in which he’d grown up. Mamaw (his grandmother) was tough, but she was full of love. As a graduate of Ohio State University and Yale Law School, and after much reflection on his own life experiences growing up, Vance challenges his hillbilly kin to look at their responsibility for their own misfortunes. “How much,” we wondered, “are we still thinking and living out the cultural story in which we grew up?”

Amber acknowledged to us how hard it had been for her to read, Educated.   Author Tara Westover grew up in a survivalist family, in the hills of Idaho, dominated by her unstable father. The seventh child in the family, she had no birth certificate – because her father believed the government and all other institutions were satanic and would destroy the family. The children were not allowed to go to school, see a doctor or dentist, or have inoculations. When Tara insisted on going to public school, she was shunned by other children, and decided to return to the family system. Thus started the pattern of – reaching out, and running back. Westover taught herself enough to pass the ACT exam and was admitted to BYU where she later graduated, and she ultimately received a Ph.D. from Cambridge. “Wow!” we thought. “when did we intentionally reach out to live differently than our family expected? Are there threads of family loyalty that are still pulling us back? Are we making conscious choices or tapping our ‘default’ key?”

As I shared my experience reading Infidel, I realized how deeply I had engaged with this story. Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali had captured my imagination by her vivid accounts of her years as a child growing up within an inflexible Muslim family –in Somalia where she was born, in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and finally in Kenya. She prompted my appreciation with her ability to step outside her immediate experiences to share her reflections and her own assessment of what was happening and to discern her own beliefs. She tapped my empathy as she- over and over again – refused to be a victim, and took risks in response to her own needs and values. And she stimulated my admiration as she became a Dutch citizen, five years after entering Holland as a refugee, and later was elected to the Dutch Parliament. Her integrity, the desire to be honest with herself and to live her beliefs, was palpable throughout the story. “Could I have done what she did?” we were asking ourselves and one another? What is my own story of becoming? Do I live in integrity with what I really believe? Do I cling to the ‘victim’ role when external events impact me?   Or am I willing to risk speaking up or making decisions that are true to myself?”

 These three Memoirs are powerful “coming-of-age” stories of young people seeking to find or create their place in the world. The thread that connects them – that surfaced for my friends and for me is a BIG awareness and a BIG question:

The culture and family into which we are born is incredibly powerful!

Is it possible to move beyond the boundaries of these belief systems?

Profiling the Makers behind Project: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the Globe

It takes a village, so the African saying goes, to raise children.  It also takes a village, it can be argued, to create a project with a trajectory to create positive change.  There is a village behind this project, creating it, building the momentum, and steering it on a course of action that is already making positive shifts in women’s lives.  This blog is dedicated to the 8 makers and creators, recognizing their on-going efforts and seeing what makes them tick in regards to this project by inquiring of them “What does this project mean to you?”

Barbara Spraker is the visionary and mother of this project.  In her words, “It means engaging with amazing women around the globe as we are co-creating a future where all can thrive.  I am so completely awed by women’s leadership – and know so deeply how much our natural gifts are needed. It makes my heart sing to be able to engage with women leaders, to jointly create an energy field that invites us all to embrace and use our skills, that enable us to support and celebrate one another, and connects us in ways that enlarges our positive influence in our families, our towns, our organizations and our countries! We have so much power to create a better future – AND – have fun doing it!”

Roslyn Ericksen – I am intrigued with the power of feminine energy and leaders who are using and engaging with this type of power.  The feminine is about caring for, fostering and preserving what feeds and nurtures us; like the environment, our families and communities as well as our values, traditions and culture.  I believe that the world is calling and maybe even demanding for us (both men and women) to step more fully into our feminine power and engage the tools of the feminine like; cooperation, collaboration, relationships, and intuition.  This project is a way for us to expand our understanding of feminine power and leadership.

Pat Hughes – I recently read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, and it had a big impact on me to get more involved in issues supporting women and girls.  I was drawn to this project because of the focus on women, leadership and a global reach.  I have a long background in leadership development and an educational background in international relations with an emphasis on women’s development, and I am finding this project blends these interests and is a practical way to get involved. I look forward to learning about women’s stories, about women’s global leadership and to developing friendships with women who share a passion for positive change.

Jennifer LeMarte – I’m fascinated and curious about the spaces we create when each voice has an opportunity to be heard.  To take it a step beyond being heard, what might the world be like if our gifts of leadership are nurtured, shared, developed, and supported within a network of women?  I also wonder how the world might shift, when we as women share those gifts and create new ways of knowing, leading, and experiencing the world we are a part of.  This project creates a space for those wonderful, beautiful surprises to emerge and a showcase for the gifts we bring into being.

Kathleen Swirski – What draws me to this project is my avid fascination with what is different and the same among people around the world. I feel this project is an important avenue through which we can share our stories, learn from one another and build a strong women’s leadership network to connect and support each other globally in our efforts to enable change. I look forward to meeting with all of the women and expanding our leadership web as we join our hearts and hands together across our distances, to form bonds based on our collective strengths and compassion.

Nicole Theberge – I am so honored and excited to have been one of two graduate assistants for this project. I believe women are in an important and unique position to create a better world. I have come to believe in the power of sharing stories and creating connection to solve important issues and to enrich lives. This project presents an amazing opportunity for discovering each other’s wisdom and ideas. I am looking forward to creating those connections and learning from and with everyone involved in this project.

Laura Veith – I was drawn to Developing Women’s Leadership – Around the Globe because of its people and mission. I saw my personal interest of play as an approach to life, work and creation reflected in this adventure. It’s a great opportunity to explore ideas, to create new understandings and to play with different approaches to leadership. In short, I saw this as an opportunity to create a blueprint for playgrounds that women around the globe will be able to build based on their needs, desires and personal preferences – while having fun, creating community and designing the world we want to live in.

Wendi Walsh – I have spent my working life in the American corporate culture and have learned and used masculine energy leadership. However, I always felt that I wasn’t bringing my authentic self (feminine energy) to my leadership. This fantastic group of women as Country Conveners, Learning Partner Organizations, Kitchen Cabinet and Antioch University has opened my eyes to the masculine and feminine aspects of leadership and I’m looking forward to sharing and learning with all of you.

The summit takes place on September 28-29, 2013 at Antioch University.  The village behind the project, as well as the Country Conveners and women from our local community will be in attendance.

If you are interested in participating in this wonderful and gracious space, please contact Barbara Spraker: or Samantha Novak:

On-going information about the Project as it emerges may be found at:

This link on the Antioch University Seattle web site also provides additional information:

The Capacity-Building Guide: Learning from one another.

(This guest post comes to us from Molly Cox.)

Molly Cox

I was one of the writers who collaborated with Barbara and Pat Hughes on the capacity guide published in the Developing Women’s Leadership ~ Around the Globe. project. My roots are with Antioch’s Center for Creative Change where I received my MA in organizational psychology and it is where I met Barbara Spraker. Barbara and I clicked immediately over our passion for women and leadership, she as the master and I as her student, eager to learn from her global women’s conversations.


The Capacity-Building Guide: Learning from one another.

As a member of the writing team I participated in the collaboration meeting Pat Hughes facilitated for construction of the Capacity-Building Guide. The room was filled with eager writers.  We had prepared by reading all the transcripts the Country Conveners had provided from their local Conversations.  We broke into smaller workgroups while Pat led us through a process where key messages, patterns, themes and unique scenarios were identified and written on sticky notes in phase one. Phase two involved affinity mapping.

Capacity Guide Collaboration Meeting, Pat Hughes top right in red.

This sounds boring when I write about messages and themes yet it was exhilarating to get to know each of the Country Conveners and their Conversation members. I learned about intelligent, hard working women who came together to create a space to support, learn and grow.

I had the privilege of writing the summary for Question Four: How do you imagine you might develop these skills?  The Capacity Guide outlines four themes that arose across the globe – in  response to this question.  These four themes were:  creating a safe environment, taking care of self, having an opportunity to learn, and practicing for experience.

The Handbook of Leadership Development published by the Center for Creative Leadership in 2010 describes four leadership practices that cultivate positive relationships in what is referred to as cultivate-and-encourage leadership. One of these practices is called boundary suspending.

“The practice of boundary suspending creates a neutral zone or safe place where interactions are individualized rather than group based.” (Leadership, 2010, p. 389). This action creates a space where diversity and individual uniqueness can bloom. In the writing process I noted that each of the County Conveners naturally engaged in boundary suspension in their leadership practice in order to invite inclusion and safety.

The idea of boundaries in group relationships becomes a very powerful concept when facing the challenges of a global community. Suspending boundaries as an active means of cultivating an open environment goes hand in hand with communication skills such as paraphrasing and active listening. The transcripts of the Conversations revealed many examples of ways the Country Conveners invited positive group engagement.

This is evident in the amazing Conversations and stories told in the Capacity-Building Guide.  For example, the group of women in Guatemala led by Mabilia discussed the commitment they felt toward helping other women:

“Teach other women so they can also participate. Make constructive criticism to help improve others. Give space and opportunities for others to speak, respecting their opinions and helping them build confidence. Teach one’s experiences; many of them have overcome difficult situations from which other women can learn.”

I was truly inspired by each Conversation and I found that Guatemala and Mabilia said it best.

We can develop our own leadership by “. . . .listening to other women, as many women seek to tell their problems and ask for help . . .and by helping women work together.”


Leadership, T. C. (2010). Handbook of Leadership Development. In Ellen Van VElsor, C. O. McCauley, & M. N. Ruderman. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Summit: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the World

Danielle Prince

This guest post comes to us from Danielle Prince, a fierce gender-justice, women’s rights advocate.  Danielle’s focus has been both local, and global, working in the field of domestic violence and refugee resettlement.  She is thrilled to be participating in the Women’s Leadership project at Antioch as it blends both arenas of her passion.  Stay tuned for more blog posts from her!

Contact Danielle at


Summit: Developing Women’s Leadership Around the World

Barbara Spraker is a soft-spoken powerhouse of a woman who has led the charge for the first-ever Women’s Leadership Summit to take place on September 28 -29, 2013 on the Seattle Antioch campus.  Over a year in the making, this project was born from Barbara’s cumulative experiences working on women’s issues in a global context.  A professor at Antioch University in Seattle, she has surrounded herself with dedicated, successful women who became integral in creating the project that culminates in the September Summit.

Barbara Spraker

The trajectory of this undertaking can be summed up in Barbara’s own words:

“The purpose of the Project is to amplify women’s voices, highlight the specific work that women are doing in six different countries plus Antioch University Seattle, and build community among women leaders around the globe.”  The team at Antioch, called the Kitchen Cabinet, has been working fastidiously on planning for this summit and creating a hands-on workbook that contains stories and guidelines that highlight women’s leadership around the world.  Other key figures are the women in the six countries (Country Conveners) who led their own groups of women to answer four questions pertaining to women’s leadership put to them by the Kitchen Cabinet.

THE KITCHEN CABINET: (from top left, clockwise) Pat Hughes, Leadership Developer, Author; Wendi Walsh (sunglasses), Senior ITS Manager, Parsons Brinkerhoff; Jennifer LaMarte, HR Manager; Roslyn Ericksen, Senior Account Manager, The Hartford; Kathleen Swirski, Senior Project Manager, Microsoft; Barbara Spraker, Faculty, Antioch University Seattle, Director of the Project; Nicole Theberge, Student, Antioch University Seattle, Graduate Assistant to the Project; Laura Veith, Graphic Designer and Digital Artist, founder Creative Nudel


The four questions posed to each group, both internationally and locally at Antioch, were:

  • What do you care about in your community and what projects have you participated in?
  • As you have engaged in this work, what skills have you used?
  • What additional skills and knowledge would you like to gain?
  • How do you imagine you might develop these skills?

The responses from each group were compiled into a Women’s Leadership Capacity Guide that was published in spring 2013.  This guide is available for other women – anywhere around the world – to use to amplify their voices and recognize their roles in leadership.

Women’s leadership is essential for solving the problems of the world.   If you are interested in women’s leadership and the forms it takes both locally and globally, or attending the Summit, or learning more about this innovative project, please contact Barbara Spraker: or Samantha Novak:

On-going information about the Project as it emerges may be found at:

This link on the Antioch University Seattle web site also provides additional information:



Five Minutes a Day

Awakened by the morning call to prayer, I am savoring the luxury, pure luxuries of feeling no need to “turn off the alarm and rush off to begin my day.” Instead, what a joy to just “be,” to be with the sense of wonder that I can look out the window of our cozy (small) 5th floor room in a restored Ottoman era home (now hotel) and see a minaret of the Blue Mosque illuminated with lights, standing in sharp outline in the dark sky. And as that sky slowly turns a soft blue, I wonder — what would happen if all of us paused — 5 times a day — just paused for one minute. I wonder how that would impact our pace, our perspective, the energy we send out.

I wonder what it would be like if we were able to let go, just briefly, of our busy, busy minds, and move instead to a place of spaciousness where time unfolds in a leisurely way, a spaciousness that invites awe, curiosity, and creativity — that invites us to ask:

  • Who am I?
  • Who are we?
  • What is wanting to happen here?
  • How can we move forward together to a thriving future?

Hmmm  …  5 minutes a day … it might be worth it!  Shall we try it? ! ? !

With warm good wishes from Istanbul,


A Journey of a Thousand Miles

Greetings all, and Welcome to the Creating a New Story Blog!

“A trip of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

We launch this Blog in the context of this quote of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, (c 604 bc – c 531 bc), Chapter 64 in Tao Te Ching.   (translations from Wiktionary)

The “trip” is both an actual trip ~ I will be traveling in Turkey in September and October, and a metaphorical trip ~  the journey that women around the world are traveling.

The actual trip to Turkey includes scheduled conversations with women in Istanbul, Ankara, Konya, Antalya and Selcuk.  I am excited to meet these women and look forward to sharing some of those conversations with you as we increase our understanding of other women’s experience.  One of these women is a chef, some are business women; one is a feminist activist, one is an archeologist, and another works with women who have suffered abuse.  Each of these women will have wisdom to share that will benefit all of us.

I am choosing not to take my laptop – too cumbersome for a trip intended to experience this unique cross-roads of the world, to sample its ancient roots and it current presence.  Thus, part of the journey will be the discovery of how capable I will be at using local technology.

The other “trip,” the metaphorical trip, is the journey in which all women, and men too, for that matter, are involved.  Whether or not we choose to make this trip – the trip is happening!  Our choice is what kind of a traveler we want to be, what role(s) we choose to take on the journey.

“A trip of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 

This is the popular translation of Lao Tzu’s wisdom.  There are other popular translations, however, probably more accurate interpretations of the philosopher’s thought.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”
“Even the longest journey must begin where you stand.”

These translations are even more resonant with our journey as women.  Rather than emphasizing the first step, Lao Tzu would have regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness.    He would have likely interpreted today’s situation as, “Masculine energy has taken us as far as we can go; it is time for feminine energy to rise.”

And that is happening.  We are engaged in a long journey and it begins beneath our feet.  It begins under Claudine’s feet in Burkina Faso where she and professional women colleagues are sharing their knowledge with village women.  She also creates public events where, for example, a woman Senator from her country speaks clearly and powerfully about the role of women in their country, stressing that women make up 52% of the population of the country and therefore should be the ones who must give guidelines, advice and vision for collective decision making.  Women, she insists, are able to lead in any of the roles usually reserved for men.

At the same event the mayor of the area urged the population to take into account what the Senator had said, and called men, especially traditional and political leaders to openly review their habits regarding women’s issues.  He concluded with this sentence, “When women are empowered, men are also empowered and also protected, and it is the whole world who benefit from that situation.”

The journey begins beneath Mabelia’s feet in Guatemala, where she coordinates micro-credit organizations that enable women to gain economic independence, the ability to provide for their families.

The journey begins beneath the feet of Betty through the Teen Empowerment Uganda NGO she founded.  TEU provides training and mentoring opportunities for teens, enabling them to appreciate their own value and develop self-confidence, to take advantage of educational opportunities and grow into their full potential.

The journey begins beneath the feet of Nena who co-founded the WAAPONI Foundation in Cuenca, Ecuador were women and young people develop their leadership competence and increase their influence for the good of their country and their communities.

These are amazing, powerful, change-creating experiences, and they are happening on the ground, under our feet!

And the journey begins under your feet, and mine.

It is this metaphorical “trip” that will be the overall focus of this Blog, Creating A New Story.  This wil be the topic of the next post.

With gratitude for the wonderful women who are on this journey!