Leading Through Healing: A KOAN Conversation with Nanci Luna Jiménez

Leading Through Healing: A KOAN Conversation with Nanci Luna Jiménez

May 28, 2024

This Q&A is a preview of a May 29, 2024, KOAN Conversation on Leading Through Healing with Integrated Work CEO Jennifer Lyn Simpson and guest Nanci Luna Jiménez, a trainer, facilitator, and speaker committed to healing herself and others from the effects of systemic oppression.

By Jennifer Lyn Simpson

The first principle in the KOAN method, to be Kind, examines the importance of cultivating empathy and healing trauma so all people can thrive. As we see in our workplaces and communities, kindness can go a long way to nurture creativity and create deeper connections. In our current time of cultural conflict and division, a collective effort is necessary to address longstanding social issues and spur systemic healing. Organizations and communities have an important role to play in making changes that build trust and strengthen relationships. 

Trust and relationships are valued aspects in the work done by my next KOAN Conversation guest, Nanci Luna Jiménez, founder of the Luna Jiménez Institute for Social Transformation. In tandem with individuals and organizations, Nanci taps into human connection and authentic relationships for sustainable systems change. Through her personal and professional experiences, she says she learned that “you can’t create systemic change without trust. And you can’t build trust without intimacy.”

To prepare for our upcoming conversation, I reached out to Nanci to learn more about her background and journey to create a just world. Find excerpts in the Q&A below, then register for our conversation at 1 p.m. MT/3 p.m. ET on May 29, when we’ll explore concepts from the KOAN method: Breakthrough Leadership for a Divided World.

Jen: Please share a bit about your personal and professional background and how that inspires your work at the Luna Jiménez Institute for Social Transformation (LJIST).

Nanci: My life’s work is supporting individuals and organizations to heal from the effects of oppression and create a more just world for all. LJIST is celebrating 30 years this year, and it’s been a time of reflection, re-evaluations, and rebecoming. I was inspired to begin this journey in 1994 when I was 26 after I attended a workshop led by Lillian Roybal Rose, who became my mentor and eventually a dear friend. I was clear, then as now, that racism, sexism, ableism, classism, and all other institutional oppressions are unfair and unjust.

I was born disabled to two disabled parents, a Mexican-American mother and a Boricua father, amid the racial uprisings of Detroit. As a raised poor Afro-Latina, I used my rage and passion at the injustice I experienced and witnessed to propel me. I mistakenly thought it made me braver and bolder. Lillian helped me not just understand but feel how my anger-led change was reproducing more anger, not justice. Before experiencing Lillian’s workshop, I had never seen anyone work with and “get” that feelings are where we are stuck in cycles of oppression. You can’t hurt people without feelings. Without a healthy, sustainably sanctioned place for people to heal in community, those emotions will be pathologized, repressed, and numbed—all of which allows and even encourages oppressive systems to continue and perpetuate.

Once I started my own healing journey using the Constructivist Listening practice Lillian introduced to me, I knew that emotional healing was the missing piece for transformative social change founded on human liberation.

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Jen: How has LJIST developed and evolved programs to support individuals pursuing systems change for a more just world

Nanci: LJIST’s work is based heavily on what I learned from Lillian Roybal Rose, traveling and leading workshops with her for over 20 years. We center trust and intimacy as the foundation for systems change. We do this through deep listening, emotional release, and building authentic, just relationships. As requests for healing in different sectors came in over the decades, we grew our skill sets. LJIST added facilitation, keynote speaking, leadership coaching, and organizational consulting. Our LJIST twist with these services is recognizing that conflict is rooted in power imbalances and unhealed hurts that have been restimulated in the present. Clients seek us out for our skillful understanding of the need for healing and our ability to work with emotions to yield transformative outcomes.

Like so many of us during the pandemic and after the murder of George Floyd, we pivoted to respond to the global need for racial healing by bringing self-directed and virtual synchronous courses online to expand our reach. We also held affinity-based and open enrollment “Healing Together Gatherings” to embody community healing. Participants affirmed us for the uniquely intimate healing spaces LJIST had created online, and we created an online course called “Human Centered Gatherings” to share our approach with others.

Most recently, perhaps because of my own leadership journey and being so connected with other female leaders on theirs, LJIST launched our inaugural Transforming Women’s Leadership Program in México last month. Along with Melissa Miller, my VP and thought partner, we recognized the void of support for women leaders to come together in community for healing from sexism, overwork, and isolation.

Jen: Can you share some key points or highlights from your programs to help clients better understand the importance of trust and understanding for inclusive workplaces? 

Nanci: From Lillian, I learned that you can’t create systemic change without trust. And you can’t build trust without intimacy. I realize this isn’t a common word in social justice and systems change work. Intimacy is the ability to be authentic and vulnerable outside of pretense and role. Our invitation to participants is to show up to these programs as human peers—not your title or degree.

Explore upcoming KOAN Conversations and register to join!