Mary Pierce Brosmer is a teacher and social entrepreneur, CEO of Consulting for (a) Change, founder of Women Writing for (a) Change and The Feminist Leadership Academy, author of Women Writing for (a) Change: A Guide for Creative Transformation, Notre Dame: Sorin Press, 2009.
In 1991 Mary created Women Writing for (a) Change as a sustainable business that changed lives. The organization evolved affiliate sites in the U.S. as well as leadership programs for adult and college-aged women, prison outreach, domestic violence applications, and mentoring for educational, medical and mental health leaders.
Recent projects include: "For Want of a Better Wor(l)d" keynote and workshop for emerging Arab leaders at The Institute for American Studies, Miami University; Keynote and accompanying workshop, "WE Lead" Leadership for Women.
Mary gave a TEDx talk "Found: the Holy Grail of Organizational Leadership" and will keynote New Hampshire State Conference of Hospice and Palliative Care in November, 2011.
Mary, in her own words
I am the owner and founder of Consulting for a Change , LLC. The stated mission of CfC is:to inspire organizations and individuals to craft more conscious lives through the art of writing and the practices of community. The consulting group is a container into which multiple streams of experience and practice flow.
(a) The oldest and deepest stream is my life-long love of learning.
I grew up working class in a small town which offered little in the way of possibilities for a girl of my background. Learning was my way of multiplying the possibilities. I was an early and avid reader, student of people, seeker after beauty and hope. The world of a lonely learner shifted to that of a girl who had "found her people" when I entered college. Since then I have been a devoted participant and facilitator of learning within the context of community.
(b) After nineteen years of creating learning communities in grade school, high school, and college classrooms, as well as providing extensive teacher in-service training through the Ohio Writing Project, I left a tenured position to found Women Writing for (a) Change, LLC. Fostering an ongoing learning community in the programs themselves and with faculty and staff members resulted in organic growth and translation of WWf(a)C methods into The Women Writing for (a) Change Foundation, Young Women Writing for (a) Change, Writing for Change on the Radio, Men Writing for Change, The Feminist Leadership Academy of Cincinnati, Young Women's Feminist Leadership Academy, and The Writing for Change Consulting Group. There are currently WWf(a)Change schools in seven cities beyond Cincinnati.
(c) I rely on spiritual practices for grounding and renewal: writing poetry for its own, not publication's sake; yoga, and meditation. I have taken level II Reiki and plan to take level III. I see a therapist for supervision-- " being held" while I hold the lives of others.
(d) My consulting practice is informed by my yearning, from earliest memory, to be part of what I called making things better, and now name being a channel for the emerging wisdom and practices of the conscious feminine for the of sake restoring balance and bringing peace to the planet.
The methodologies employed by CfaC consultants, (myself and those whom I have mentored in and beyond the Feminist Leadership Academy) are simple:
The creation of safe, conscious, confidential communities in which clientsslow down, access wisdom and share it through dialogue, ritual, writing and/or telling of stories.
Our goal is to inspire clients to create and sustain spiritual/ artistic, wisdom-accessing practices in the course of their work lives. We put a great deal of emphasis on organic, co-created projects with clients, listening to their stories, helping them embrace diversity of origin and viewpoint as gifts, and leaving them with practices appropriate to their culture.
We work to create containers which heal the fragmentation and isolation of the machinery approach to organizational life. We speak often of an "ecology of work" and the need for all streams of insight and viewpoint to be open, rather than blocked by fear, ineffective hierarchies, and "lone ranger" behaviors.
The story of a project
Inside/Outside (ISOS) Prison Arts, Primary involvement June, 2001- January, 2005
In May, 2001 the Fine Arts Fund awarded a Strategic Collaboration Grant to a consortium of arts and civic organizations and individual artists who had an interest in creating a prison arts program. The primary purpose of the grant was to stimulate a sustainable and replicable model of collaboration among the diverse entities. I was hired to develop a prototype for the organizational model that would bring together Artistic Directors and CEO's of The Contemporary Dance Theater, Intuition Theater, Women Writing for (a) Change, as well as a visual artist, writer, and the Director of Clinical Care for the River City Correctional Facility, (a prison for felony drug offenders in Cincinnati), and an attorney-advocate from The Prison Reform Advocacy Center.
Having met with, and listened to the various partners, I designed a two-day retreat to begin the collaboration. Retreat outcomes included: building of relationships across cultures and personalities, developing vision and mission, creating the leadership model to be used in the prototype, integrating the art forms, developing themes for the first session with River City resident, as well developing the container in which to hold the residents as they accessed depth through arts experiences.
During the course of my work with ISOS over several years, I helped create practices for dealing with referred trauma in working with women and men who are both victims and perpetrators of violence, developing conflict resolution practices for the team, and creating de-briefing and evaluation retreats for the middle and end of each session in the prison. My work eventually included writing the history and philosophy of the project, promulgating the body of theory and practice we created with and beyond the community, * and developing an apprenticeship model for bringing in new artists, and for communicating with case managers and other prison employees (by far the greatest challenge).
My direct involvement ended when I had mentored someone to hold the container and transmit the culture of ISOS. ISOS has continued to grow and change as a living system with roots in the belief that " there is no cure for addiction except a life with depth. " (Rev. Doug Hall, addictions counselor, LA county).
* The ISOS model was one of two runners-up in The Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofits Innovation, 2004.
What are your aspirations for this next phase of your career?
"The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies. You may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins. You may miss your only love. You may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it, then: To learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you."
by T.H. White , The Once and Future King.
Since girlhood, learning has been my consolation and my joy. Teaching has been my challenge and my joy since coaching my brothers in spelling and grammar, my mother in the background admonishing, "if you don't develop more patience, you'll never be a real teacher."
I have developed patience with people, but not with lack of conscious community within organizations. I aspire to be inspired by new learning and new relationships. I can contribute a richness of process, practices and stories I learned on the pulses, largely in isolation, against the grain, but persistent in my passion to create ways of learning that honor the soul. I will experiment in my own consulting practice with the theories and methods I learn in collaboration with others. I aspire to be part of the genius of the collective mind opening toward a healed planet, inventing and adapting as the new millennium deepens. I will write articles laced with poems and stories about my work as a consultant and trainer. I would love to engage in conversations which result in white papers and/or books about learning in community and its applications to increasing wisdom, productivity, peace and joy.
I aspire to work with others around the world to create living and responsive systems.
What else would you like us to know about you?
As a final comment, I will add a small poem I wrote when the local Transit Company invited Cincinnati poets to write short poems to be displayed in Metro busses to the question, "Where are we going?"
Where Are We Going?
(thinking of Max and Joey)
The question grips
my grandmother’s heart.
With so much
By the time
will there be any
I dedicate my life and learning to the creation and conservation of "where" and "we", place and community, for the generations.
~ Mary Pierce Brosmer