Educating for a change

Just as the social sector is uniquely positioned to drive systemic change and societal renewal, so are third parties uniquely positioned to help leaders build the capabilities and relationships they need to succeed in that role.

The best third parties—whether change agents, facilitators, mediators, mentors, or coaches—bring an unconditionally constructive stance and a highly developed set of skills to helping leaders and their collectives learn from each other and put their differences to work, so they can accelerate their growth and expand their impact.

Right now, the world has too few of these third parties. Why? Because there are too few programs dedicated to developing them.

The Actionsmith Network is committed to filling this void. In fall 2017, we will launch a highly selective and intensive two-year program, aimed at developing third parties capable of forging within the social sector the capabilities and relationships needed to drive systemic change and societal renewal.

Our educational program aims to cultivate within our students the ability to deal creatively and critically with the world as it is, so they can effectively lead efforts to transform it.

Our faculty includes thought leaders, master practitioners, and highly accomplished leaders. Our rigorous curriculum is rooted in practice, committed to reflection, and focused squarely on excellence.


Our curriculum

Our curriculum reflects the groundbreaking insight first put forth by Carol Dweck that our talents and capabilities are not innate or fixed; they are developed through a lot of hard work.

We believe that exceptional skill is developed—and developed most quickly—by cultivating a deep commitment to learning, by engaging in the right kind of practice, and by creating a social context that energizes people and inspires them to help each other learn and grow.

With that in mind, faculty and students will together immerse themselves—repeatedly and over time—in a context safe enough to engage productively in the program’s five core activities:

  • Practicing through case simulations, role playing, and at your work
  • Reflecting on that practice, alone and with others
  • Challenging and supporting one another
  • Trying out new ways of seeing and doing things
  • Learning with and from others—peers, faculty, clients, experts, and social sector leaders
  • Building and reflecting on your own practice model

We integrate these five activities into a curriculum that builds a working understanding of:

  • How individuals and social systems operate, develop, and change—and why
  • Different ways of catalyzing and leading transformational change with an emphasis on the LTR approach
  • How and why you see and do things the way you do, especially as a third party
  • Your assets and liabilities as a third party
  • How this affects your ability to realize your aspirations and master whatever challenges you face
  • How you can harness and exploit your assets and manage or transform your liabilities
  • How you can draw on other models to build your own model of third party intervention

To develop exceptional skill as a third party takes many years—or 10,000 hours, as Malcolm Gladwell argues. But over the course of two years, we will help you set the right foundation, develop the right habits, and build the right community of practice, so you can continue to learn and develop skill with your peers and mentors over the course of your lifetime.

Below is a preliminary overview of how we plan to structure the program. Please note that this structure may change as we refine the design, but the rigor and intensity will remain the same. We welcome your thoughts or suggestions on what you see here. Please send them to

Year One: The first year focuses on building the foundation you’ll need to launch and conduct a supervised practice as a third party in the program’s second year. The inaugural class will meet two to three times face-to-face near Boston, Massachusetts, for a three- to five-day session over the course of the academic year (September/October 2017 through June 2018). You will also meet for one day eight or nine times in between, either face-to-face or by video conference. Finally, you will meet on your own and with a faculty member by audio or videoconference for a couple of hours each week in pairs or in trios.

During the program’s first year, you will build the foundation you need for year two. Specifically:

  • ­Through readings, talks, and faculty modeling, you will be introduced to a wide range of ideas, going into depth on the LTR approach and the ideas informing it.
  • ­By recording, observing, and reflecting on your practice with your peers, you will become aware of your own intuitive approach to third-party work.
  • By taking advantage of the heat of the moment, you will uncover the emotional wellsprings of your practice and learn to harness emotions in the service of others.
  • ­By drawing on your own observations and those of your faculty and your peers, you will assess your current approach in light of your own aspirations.
  • Through experimentation and reflection–in the program and at work–you will evolve your approach, drawing on your assets and transforming or managing your liabilities.
  • Through writing assignments, you will capture your observations and analyze relationships and groups, developing the cognitive skills needed to make productive sense of the most complicated situations so you are free to act effectively in them.

Year Two: The second year focuses on deepening and expanding your knowledge and your skills by launching and conducting a supervised practice as a third party:

  • ­Through mentoring, you will get help in how to position what you do and how to launch a practice as a third party.
  • ­Through practice with a few clients and reflection on that practice, you will deepen your understanding of third-party work, leaders and collectives, and yourself.
  • Through supervision, you will work through those aspects of the work you find most challenging.
  • Through ongoing reflection with your peers, you will start to define and develop your own practice model as a third party.

After graduation, we encourage students to continue post-grad work in smaller self-organized peer groups with occasional input from faculty as needed.

Stay tuned for more information on tuition, sponsorships, and the application process for the inaugural program due to launch in September 2017. We will start accepting applications in January 2017. If you are interested in learning more about the program, please email