Inclusion in Action: Care-Centered Leadership Strategies

Care-Centered Leadership Strategies at The Sphere… and How We Might Apply Them for Broader Societal Change

Written by: Danielle Amodeo

When I sat down to write this blog post for The Sphere, I planned to share more about the work I’ve been doing behind the scenes to support the organization—crafting communication strategies, conducting audience research, and analyzing data. But current events have a way of reframing our perspectives, don’t they?

Our news cycles, social media platforms, and streets are filled with stories of extreme violence in Israel and Palestine. We know that this iteration of the conflict is just that — one chapter of a centuries-long story rooted in pain and trauma, but also resilience and community.  When systemic issues feel too big to tackle, I find it helpful to look local and find micro examples and solutions that might be able to be applied to macro issues. As I’ve read and listened to many new stories, historical documents, and personal accounts from deeply polarized perspectives, it has become clear to me that many of us – and certainly those in power – are thinking about the current iteration of the conflict in Israel and Palestine as a zero-sum game. The alternative? Perhaps there are models for leadership methodologies and geopolitical strategies that put us all on the same team. I know this feels impossible when deep-seated Islamophobia and antisemitism are on either side, but as a practitioner devoted to equity work, I have to believe there is a solution – or at least a way of thinking about this conflict – that centers the dignity of all human lives, especially those who have faced historical and current marginalization; this includes both Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and Jews in Israel and throughout the world. So, as I began to write, I found myself reflecting on the systemic problems at the root of this conflict and how The Sphere’s operating principles might offer a broader lesson in fostering equity and hopefully peace.

The Sphere’s initial commitment was to support female entrepreneurs. To me, this was a strong starting point, but something was missing. Through ongoing conversations, it became clear that The Sphere was tackling just one facet of a wider system of oppression. Gender discrimination wasn’t just a challenge for females (those assigned female at birth) —it was stifling women and non-binary folks too. And so, The Sphere broadened its mission to support anyone facing barriers due to their gender identity. This wasn’t just tweaking our focus—it was The Sphere evolving in real-time, based on real conversations and a real desire to be as inclusive as we could be. It is also based on the underlying assumption that rooting out oppression at all levels is good for all people.

We activated this readiness to listen, adapt, and build community when The Sphere joined forces with the Arts Equity Group to get to know their audience and help the general public get to know them too. Our mission? To shine a spotlight on women and non-binary entrepreneurs in Northampton with a research study and use this data to create a map that drives traffic to these businesses. But how did we achieve it? Again, it starts with care-centered leadership strategies, including:

  • Coalition building
  • Grassroots Outreach
  • Partnerships
  • Relational Organizing
  • Iteration

The response to putting these strategies into practice overwhelming—we connected with over 250 entrepreneurs, revealing a vibrant diversity that many didn’t realize existed in our community. Of those within The Sphere network, participants self-identified in the following ways:

  • 11% Hispanic or Latino/a/x American
  • 9% Indigenous
  • 7% Black or African American
  • 5% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • 28% First or Second Generation Immigrant
  • 15% LGBTQ
  • 9% Have a disability

Participants also disclosed a host of other identities that showcased an entrepreneurial landscape rich with varied experiences and perspectives. This was more than just numbers on a page. It was proof that our community was far more diverse than many assumed and that by lifting the voices often left at the margins, we could chip away at the very structures we were fighting against. And how? We can revert back to the care-focused and people-centered leadership strategies that inspired participation in the first place.

So how does all this tie back to such a deep-rooted conflict halfway around the world?

It’s about the principles. The Sphere’s journey is a reminder that even the most entrenched systems can be confronted with persistence, empathy, and an openness to learn and change. Our work isn’t a magic fix for global tensions, but it’s a small piece of the puzzle that reminds me—and hopefully others—that change starts with the belief that it’s possible.

Through my work as a consultant, I’ve learned that actual change isn’t the hard part; it’s cultivating the desire for change that’s the real challenge. It’s about recognizing our shared humanity and understanding that our futures are intertwined. And if we’re not striving to make the world a bit more equitable, aren’t we just standing by while injustice carries on?

Being part of The Sphere’s journey has been rewarding and inspiring on so many levels. It’s a reminder that each of us has the power to spark change in our tiny corners of the world and that every step toward empathy and inclusion is a step away from the zero-sum games that divide us.

Danielle Amadeo headshot

Danielle Amodeo is passionate about leveraging the arts and culture ecosystems to generate impact in the economic and social realms. She uses relational organizing models to promote accessibility and power-sharing within the arts. She has collaborated on projects with the Clark Institute of Art, Creative Time, The Culture LP, Dentsu Aegis Network, the Frick Collection, New England Foundation for the Arts, New York City Council, Selfient, Teen Vogue, and more.

She holds a Bachelor’s in European Studies from Amherst College and a Master’s in Art History from Williams College. In 2022, Danielle founded Arts Equity Group, a network of activists, artists, and organizational consultants, who specialize in communications, programming, and strategic planning from a DEAI lens.




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