Sida Ly-Xiong: Exploring Community-Centered Leadership

“I’ve come to believe that you cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” – Grace Lee Boggs

Sida has been on the Nexus team for a little over a month, having recently left the public sector where she worked to advance health equity. She joins us as the National Community Engagement Program Manager for the Leadership and Learning Initiative (LLI). The LLI is a national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and is a partnership between Nexus Community Partners, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, and Gray Hall Evaluation Consultants. 

The Leadership Learning Initiative

The initiative aims to understand and better support community-driven leadership for health equity as a Culture of Health expands across communities, organizations, partnerships. The LLI aims to be “an immersive learning experience” that will challenge assumptions about leadership and accountability. In Sida’s words, “community-centered leadership is constantly shifting and evolving because our identities and our communities, who we belong with and to, is contextual and fluid.” 

The initiative will rely on everyday leaders to help us define leadership, health and well-being in their respective communities. Though the partnership and with an ecosystem of health equity leaders, we will explore these key questions: How do we, as institutions and individuals, define and express community-driven leadership? How do we reinforce and reimagine leadership that supports community well-being? 

Even in this early stage as we explore these questions, more questions emerge: How does one foster a culture of health, both theoretically and specifically? What does leadership look like in different contexts and how could it look in the future? How do we support and understand a community-centered worldview?

Reimagining, unlearning, and leaning in

For Sida, it has been exciting to challenge assumptions while co-creating with people who “have been thinking deeply about the intersections between adaptive leadership and community engagement.” In fact, that collaborative journey of discovery, where no one individual has the answer, is the most exciting part of the work for her. 

So far, Sida has been energized by her new work environment and the deeper connection between health equity and racial equity. Also, it has been exciting to be in a different work culture at Nexus where “the things you find fun and funny aren’t separated from your 40 hour [work] week.” She sees bringing more parts of herself and her lived experiences into the work as a chance to reimagine, unlearn, and lean into other ways of being. 

In her free time, Sida spends time with her family, where, instead of making plans, they let life take them where it may. She has particular excitement around fishing, which is “the intersection of everything [she] like[s] including: sustainability, being outside, the environment, eating well, cooking, and dissecting things.” She once had a 14in arowana in her home aquarium and dreams of an aquaponics system in her future Hawaiin home.