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Honors for Lisa Kimball

Lisa Kimball, an entrepreneur, organizational leader, and mentor, whom friends call the Janie Appleseed of computer conferencing, has received two prestigious awards from the Organizational Development Network for her long service and her generous contributions to the efforts of others.

The ODN gave Lisa the Share the Wealth award for her years of support to the OD Network and the unstinting gifts of her extensive experience and abilities within the OD community. She has been a creative source for many innovative ODN conferences and a key author of its publications and online course materials. She also received the ODN Service to the Network award for her six years on the board and for chairing the Network’s conference planning committee for five years. In addition to holding those positions, Lisa is a long time contributor to the Chesapeake Bay ODN.

Lisa was integral to the founding of Plexus Institute and served on its Board of Trustees before becoming president in 2008. Lisa is an avid student of complexity science and a skilled practitioner and facilitator of many complexity-informed practices and techniques, including Positive Deviance (PD) Liberating Structures, Developmental Evaluation, Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry, Design Research, and Dialogue. At Plexus, she worked closely with hospitals to use PD to reduce healthcare associated infections in a project funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The work resulted in dramatic reductions in infections and the initiative spread to 40 hospitals in the U.S., Canada, and South America. She introduced complexity-informed leadership principles to groups of U.S. Army officers and helped found the Women’s Mentorship Network at Fort Hood, TX, an organization designed to help cultivate capable resilient leadership among female Army officers.

More than three decades ago, Lisa and colleagues created the Meta Network, an early electronic community of practice, which generated new relationships and patterns of interaction using novel and developing technologies. Those relationships and practices became an anchor for the OD community and paved the way for adaptive reuses that included learning networks, book clubs, and courses using teleconference and online tools. Lisa has been an innovative user of technology to promote collaboration across geographical, theoretical, and philosophical distances. With others, Lisa pioneered the use of linked groupware and virtual off-site meetings for national and international organizations. Lisa and colleagues furthered the mission of the ODN with the donation of Caucus Systems, a company they formed that offered a collaborative software system and platform.

Lisa Kimball, center, with colleagues, left to right, Sharon Benjamin, Michael Broom, Trish Silber, Nedra Weinstein, Ann-Marie Regan and ODN Chair Matt Minahan.

As founder and executive producer of Group Jazz, an organization that works with teams, groups, communities of practice, task forces, and organizations, Lisa specializes in engaging people across boundaries of function, physical distance, and organizational silos. She has designed development programs for executives and managers in public and private organizations. She is a former middle school teacher, and has taught student teachers and education courses at Wheelock College, Catholic University and Virginia Tech.

Additionally, Lisa has been involved in many transformative projects, nationally and globally.

She has worked on improving government services in the Canadian Yukon, neighborhood redevelopment in Memphis, and helping rural girls in South Africa to have better access to education. Lisa and Louise van Rhyn wrote about their experiences in South Africa’s schools in the 2014 book Rethink: Growth and Learning through Coaching and Organizational Development by Natalie Cunningham.

Also, Lisa has supported community mentoring programs. In particular, she helped a group of young men from an impoverished neighborhood in Cincinnati, who had completed a film about inner city racial issues, hard choices, and the unexpected ways some decisions become irrevocable and some circumstances elude individual control. She hosted the group in Washington, D.C. and arranged for the film to be shown at the historic Avalon Theater, as part of a Plexus-sponsored event that included a community discussion of urban and racial issues.

She was part of the team at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that designed selection and development criteria for the Senior Executive Service, and she later served as president of The Professional Managers Association in Washington, D.C. and worked on projects to introduce new leadership and management techniques to the federal government.

Furthermore, she has been the project manager and principal investigator on large scale projects focused on behavior and cultural change including:

Transforming Teaching in the Classroom, the Public Broadcasting System’s multi-year national program to improve the teaching of mathematics and integrate technology into classrooms, which supported school-based innovations at more than 500 schools in 35 states and involving more than 4,000 teachers.

The City University of New York Community Policing Initiative, an assessment of the behavioral and cultural changes resulting from creating an in-house community-based police service. Quantitative and qualitative measures were used pre- and post-intervention at all 23 CUNY institutions to assess the extent to which diverse members of the community demonstrated improvements in problem-solving and relationship-building.

The National Education Association’s National Center for Innovation, an effort to harvest the lessons from Learning Labs sites in 29 states to scale the impact of innovations nationwide. This involved designing and using online technology and social networks to leverage learning and create support for the Network Cadre which served as the leadership group.

Lisa has written and co-authored journal articles and book chapters, including “Dynamic Facilitation: Emerging design principles from the new science of complexity,” with Nedra Weinstein and Trish Silber, in the IAF Group Facilitation Handbook, Jossey-Bass, 2005; “Facilitator Toolkit for Building and Sustaining Virtual Communities of Practice” with Amy Ladd, in Knowledge Networks: Innovation through Communities of Practice, edited by Paul Hildreth and Chris Kimble, 2004; and “Leading Virtual Teams that Learn,” with Dori Digenti, Café Press, September 2005.

With her large body of work and the countless lives she has touched, it is no surprise that the announcement of Lisa’s award generated an outpouring of enthusiasm. When Nedra Weinstein, a founder and past president of the Chesapeake Bay ODN, posted an announcement of Lisa’s awards on her own Facebook page, dozens of friends and admirers across the country responded, hailing Lisa as a professional inspiration and personal friend. Nancy White, a consultant and writer from Seattle, posted “Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, my magnificent teacher!” Mike Greenly, president of a Manhattan marketing firm, called Lisa “A special life-changing icon in my own personal story.” “Anyone who has ever met Lisa – and that’s a LOT of people – knows the magic she brings to the world,” wrote Bruce Waltuck, a New Jersey practitioner of organizational change and conflict resolution, who added, “This is an award barely big enough to encompass all you do to teach and inspire so many.” A colleague named Kathleen Epperson praised Lisa’s years of hard work, and said “I agree with the person who called you the Janie Appleseed of computer conferencing.” That compliment might have come from any number of people who give Lisa plaudits for cross pollinating ideas and bringing local achievements to a broader stage.

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