2017 Convenings

Deep Dive: Hosting Difficult Conversations

May 10, 2017
McGregor Memorial Conference Center - Wayne State University
415 Gilmour Mall, Detroit, MI 48202

When we take the lead in genuine health efforts for a population we often need to have difficult conversations.. How can leaders host these difficult conversations to improve community partnerships and solutions? What is our role? What skills do we need? How do we prepare? What are key components to being successful?

Through simulation, live case studies, and application, participants at this dialogue will learn specific techniques to prepare for these conversations, to evaluate how much influence/impact a facilitator can have on a conversation,  to respond in the moment to potential landmines and other subtexts (the "art" of facilitating) and  to take care of our own mental and emotional health post-event.

During this day-long dialog, local experts will explore the intersections of law enforcement and community health by modeling a conversation. Together with these experts, participants will explore the historical context to understand the conversation, its subtexts, and how to use techniques discussed in the morning to enhance the conversation.

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will understand the role of an effective facilitator and how much influence/impact he or she can have on the conversation.
  • Participants will be able to identify concrete actions for the facilitator to increase the likelihood of a positive and constructive impact.
  • Participants will be able to identify specific ways to respond in the moment –  the “art” of facilitating – such as identifying subtexts and wording questions to capture the desired information.
  • Participants will be able to identify at least two considerations to address mental and emotional health post-event.

8:30 a.m. Sign-in & Coffee Service

9:00 a.m. Morning Session

Effective facilitators create the right conditions for productive conversations. This, ultimately, requires foresight and the ability to anticipate the impact of various situations and events on the conversation itself. Foresight requires the facilitator to seek a deeper understanding of the participants and the agendas and perspectives they are likely to bring to the conversation. The facilitator must  anticipate the things that may potentially derail the conversation as well as those things that are likely to keep it moving in the right direction.

 Using simulation and live case studies, participants will learn:

  • The role of the facilitator and how much influence/impact he or she can have on the conversation
  •  Things the facilitator can do to increase the likelihood he or she has a positive and constructive impact
  • How to respond in the moment
  • How the facilitator can take care of his or her mental and emotional health post-event

12:00 p.m. Lunch

1:00 p.m. A Difficult Conversation: Exploring Intersections of law enforcement and community health. Conversation participants to be announced.

2:30 p.m. Afternoon Session

Deconstructing a facilitation is about examining specific moments during the conversation and determining how those moments could have gone in a variety of directions. Deconstructing allows observers to identify the specific moments that shaped the direction and tone of the conversation and to discuss the options available to the facilitator during these moments.

4:00 p.m. Event Ends

Dr. AJ RobinsonTrainer: AJ Robinson, Jr., PhD
Dr. Robinson is Chairman and CEO of Symphonic Strategies™ Inc., an organizational and community development firm based in Washington, D.C. Symphonic Strategies™ works with people from all walks of life to help them lead and transform the organizations and communities around them.

He holds a PhD in Government from Harvard University and bachelor’s degrees in social psychology and political science from Stanford University. While at Stanford, he co-founded a successful student-led, non-profit organization that provided academic and economic enrichment for at-risk youth in the Bay Area. At Harvard, Dr. Robinson specialized in comparative political and economic development and was involved in numerous research projects at the Harvard Institute for International Development, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the Department of Afro-American Studies.

Dr. Robinson has been a consultant to the PBS show Frontline, served as a staff writer on the Encarta Africana Encyclopedia of the Black Diaspora, and was an adjunct professor in the Department of Organizational Sciences at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He was part of a delegation of scholars that toured South Africa immediately after the end of apartheid. He spent several years working for a leading international business strategy firm and has delivered keynote remarks and led organizational strategy seminars to C-level audiences in more than 150 organizations in over a dozen countries throughout Europe and North America.   

Rounding out his professional experience, Dr. Robinson became the chief of strategic planning and organizational development at a prominent, national nonprofit organization. While in this position he designed and led a social marketing campaign that involved the use of innovative qualitative research and strategic communications tools. He focused on surveys, polls, and focus groups that dealt with issues of race, poverty, and social justice. Dr. Robinson spent a considerable amount of time studying and understanding the needs, preferences, and values of communities of color. Dr. Robinson’s areas of specialty include business and marketing strategy, organizational development, and numerous issues dealing with the development of human capital.

Summit: Leading Amidst an Emerging Ecosystem – Balancing Urgency, Constant Change, and an Innovator’s Mindset

October 17 - 18, 2017
Denver, CO

The Summit will allow leaders to reflect on the present moment and the future, with leadership at the center of that reflection. In the current climate, leaders face a delicate balancing act placing urgency on change efforts, responding to and initiating initiatives that represent meaningful culture change, and monitoring the emerging ecosystem to identify the transformational future. There are tangible questions to ponder about system design, payment, and the workforce of the future AND a need to ask even broader nagging questions such as “What is truly needed to generate healthy populations?” “Are treatment systems part of the answer or more of the problem?” What are the skills that our field has to offer in shaping health in individual and community lives?”

Summit will weave the exploration and lessons learned about leadership into a number of sub-themes. For example, a consistent concept is the role of two-generational approaches, with the focus at Summit on across-generational approach to leadership – leveraging the wisdom and passion of “elder” leaders while capturing the passion and creativity of “newer"leaders. Other sub-themes address specific leadership activities central to the future of behavioral and physical health. Swimming upstream, reducing disparities, and creating health in communities cannot be done alone and requires us to act differently. Action must be immediate and leverage broad social forces such as technology, generational shifts in values and the market economy, and lessons from other industries. 

More information regarding Summit activities, location, and speakers will be shared as they are developed.

Registration opens November 1, 2016.

Select this link for a PDF registration form that can be returned by mail.
Members must be logged in order to see the member rate for Summit.

  • Detroit - Day Event - May 10 $250.00
    Denver - Not Attending
    October 17, 2017
    Denver - Full Convening Non-Member Price
    October 17 - 18, 2017
    Denver - One Day Registration
    October 17, 2017
    Denver - One Day Registration
    October 18, 2017

The health care environment is in the midst of incredible change, opportunity, and urgency. Leaders in the mental health and substance use prevention and treatment fields are reconsidering long-held paradigms, foundations of thought, systems, and norms profoundly reshaping the way they work.  They are asking questions such as “How is my field now defined?” “Where will I fit in the future?” and “What skills and expertise do I continue to offer and how do I contribute to change?”

In 2017, the College for Behavioral Health Leadership will hold three events to address these issues. Two day-long dialogues in January and May will address core leadership capabilities that will be essential in the future. At our Summit in October, we will bring together lessons learned at those workshops and provide an opportunity to step back and consider the changes we are facing. Planned events include:

  • Dialogue 1:  Expanding our Boundaries – Connecting Causes and Consequences, January 25, 2017, Austin TX
  • Dialogue 2:  Hosting Difficult Conversations, May 10, 2017, Detroit MI
  • Summit:  Leading Amidst an Emerging Ecosystem – Balancing Urgency, Constant Change, and an Innovator’s Mindset, October 17-18, 2017, Denver CO

Dialogue 1: Expanding our Boundaries – Connecting Causes and Consequences

 January 25, 2017
LifeWorks Austin, 835 N Pleasant Valley Rd, Austin, TX 78702

Fee: $250
There is a preponderance of evidence that the current approach to health care does not address the root causes of poor health and that we must immediately incorporate pro-active approaches that impact the future as well as the present. One of the knotty problems that health leaders have always faced is the question of whether to focus on the treatment or prevention of current health issues. The new approach requires leaders to quickly expand our boundaries to encompass prevention and early intervention as well as treatment. Some ongoing issues include:

  • How do we impact people as early as possible, improving the integration of prevention and early intervention?
  • What do two-generational approaches look like? What outcomes are being seen?
  • How do we leverage and lead two-generational approaches for care?
  • What are the leadership challenges in these approaches?

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will be introduced to and develop familiarity with the 2Gen approach from Ascend at The Aspen Institute.
  • Participants will be able to describe two-generation approaches and what they might look like in practice. An important element will be understanding how a 2Gen approach can expand access and improve the reach of safety net providers. We will also consider the cascading impacts of a 2Gen approach to physical and behavioral health in vulnerable communities.
  • Participants will create an outline that details challenges and steps necessary to begin to leverage and practice these kinds of approaches in their own work.
  • Participants will explore how a cross-generational approach can be applied in terms of leadership models such as, for example, how health leaders of different generations can work together more effectively to increase the skill sets of all leaders in moving to new approaches essential to population health. 

Meet Our Presenters
Access the link above (headline) to learn more about our presenters.


8:30 a.m. Sign In

9:00 – 9:30 a.m. What is the 2Gen Approach? A Brief Overviiew of the 2Gen Approach and United Way's Work
to Foster the 2Gen Ecosystem in Austin
Ms. Sue Carpenter and Mr. Amit Motwani, United Way for Greater Austin. United Way is a network partner of Ascend at The Aspen Institute, the leading voice in 2Gen strategies and solutions.

9:30 - 10:30 a.m. Keynote with Dr. Christopher King: The Promise of Emerging 2Gen Strategies
Dr. King will share a data-based and historical exploration of 2Gen antipoverty strategies and their evolution in programs and policy, and discuss how a 2Gen approach can achieve better outcomes for your patients and their families.
Dr. Christopher King, LBJ School of Public Affairs Ray Marshall Center, University of Texas at Austin

Dr. King is a lecturer and senior research scientist at the LBJ School of Public Affairs’ Ray Marshall Center, which he previously directed. He has been researching workforce, education, and social policy for more than four decades and received the prestigious Texas Exes Teaching Award in 2007. In 2012, he was selected as one of 20 national leaders in the Aspen Institute’s inaugural class of Ascend Two-Generation Fellows based in part on his work designing CareerAdvance®, Tulsa’s award-winning anti-poverty program. He co-chairs Austin’s Two-Generation Advisory Committee, serves on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Two-Generation Evidence-Building Advisory Group, and is conducting research for the International Labour Office in Geneva with academics and practitioners around the world.

10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Exploring Applications of the 2Gen Approach, panel discussion
Individuals working in the 2Gen space through a variety of applications will share how they are bringing 2Gen concepts to their work and discuss some of the leadership changes they have faced in order to do so.
Dr. Louis Appel, People’s Community Clinic, Austin
Ms. Wendy Varnell, Lifeworks Austin
Ms. Becky Pastner, St. David’s Foundation, Austin
Ms. Lanette Allendorf, Envolve PeopleCare, Austin
Dr. Larissa Estes, Prevention Institute, Oakland, CA

12:00 p.m. Lunch

1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Applying 2Gen Learnings
Dr. Lynda Frost, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, Austin, Facilitator

Through the use of engaging and interactive activities, participants will apply learnings from the morning. First we’ll identify a broad range of possibilities for taking bold action to promote a 2Gen approach. Next, we’ll recognize significant uncertainties in the current environment and explore how different leadership strategies can overcome both expected and unanticipated barriers. Finally, we’ll specify and hone concrete steps to implement a 2Gen approach in our own work environments.

1:00 – 1:30 p.m. How to Initiate or Improve a 2Gen Approach
1:30 – 3:00 p.m. Leadership Strategies for Promoting a 2Gen Approach
3:00 – 3:15 p.m. Break
3:15 – 4:00 p.m. Let’s Take Action:  The First Steps

Core Leadership Skills to Create Change

January 24, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
LifeWorks Austin, 835 N Pleasant Valley Rd, Austin, TX 78702

Fee: $50

Dr. Leigh Steiner, Care Management Technologies
Dr. Steve Scoggin, Behavioral Health and CareNet, Inc., Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

Join us the evening before to get better acquainted with the College for Behavioral Leadership at a welcoming reception and leadership training session. You do not have to attend the all-day dialogue to attend the evening, but we encourage both.

To function as effective leaders in the complex systems and activities facing health and social services, new skills are necessary. Our presenters will offer information on seminal skills focused on reflective and generative conversation and co-creating futures. They will include stories about how they adapted their own leadership styles to reflect these skills and change organizations. Participants will engage in a facilitated exercise using Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to begin to the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to heighten positive potential.

Strategic Partners & Sponsors
The College is pleased to have the support of strategic partners and sponsors for this dialogue. We extend our thanks to:





Hotel Recommendations
The following properties are within a reasonable distance from LifeWorks, for those looking for overnight accommodations.

Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown Convention Center
500 N Interstate 35, Austin, TX 78701

Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol
701 East 11th Street Austin, TX 78701

Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown – University
810 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701

Follow-up Webinar
In February 2017 we will host a free webinar for college members, whether or not they are able to register and attend the workshop, to review and summarize the highlights of the workshop. Information will be sent to members.


The College seeks to be recognized as the premier forum for the for the development of leaders and the exchange of innovations that impact the health and wellness of communities and people with mental health and substance use conditions.


The College for Behavioral Health Leadership appreciates your support of its important activities and initiatives. Your support makes it possible to achieve our mission and vision. The College is a 501(c)3 and all or part of your gift may be tax deductible as a charitable contribution (please check with your tax advisor).