Hi! I’m Jenny Leis (she/her).
With every interaction, I weave people, patterns and a sense that we are in the movement of movements together — each in our unique way.
“You literally change the spaces you are in by how authentically you show up. People benefit just to see you role model a different way to be. You are so unique!”
I have 25-years experience developing organizational systems for grassroots non-profits, facilitating collective group process, managing volunteers, organizing campaigns, raising funds and hosting events. Immersed in the “movement of movements” since 2001, I have been inspired and informed by innovative social change efforts that foreground healthy group process as a necessary foundation for creating external change. (See my 2000-2019 visual resume photo below!)
Since 2019 I have been freelancing through my own business, Your Enthusiasm Is Contagious (certified Women Business Enterprise in Oregon). Building on my decades of practical experience in learning what makes groups and individuals thrive, I am now focusing my skills, energy and experience on facilitating, teaching and supporting individual and group changemakers.
I live in the 20-person Cedar Moon intentional community located at Tryon Life Community Farm, a seven-acre non-profit sustainability/anti-oppression education land project, which I co-founded in 2005. I recognize I live and work on the stolen land of the Multnomah Chinook, Kalapuya and Clackamas peoples.
Traditional resume and references available upon request.
I specialize in consensus decision-making, visual thinking (translating ideas into folk graphics), facilitated reflection, and helping people thrive (even have fun!) as they navigate complex social and interpersonal issues. My teaching style is based in compassion for the hard work of social change, lighthearted silliness, interactive activities and commitment to healthy communication.
I believe that a core piece of all group work is to become versed in the patterns of oppressive systems and how people both unintentionally reinforce and can intentionally change them. As such, I recognize that I am a white, cis-gender, able-bodied woman on my personal journey of learning, practicing and integrating equity work into everything I do.
During my Masters in Whole Systems Design at Antioch University’s Center for Creative Change I focused on movement and collective-based social change. In my undergraduate degree at Cornell University, I designed my own major in Environmental Science and Sustainability. I wrote my honors thesis about how strong neighborhoods with local economies and relationship to the earth are key building blocks for sustainable culture.
Over the past several years, I have deepened my commitment to anti-oppression and am working to change the systems and behaviors that perpetuate oppression. I have focused on learning about equity, power, racism, belonging, trauma, justice, mediation and advanced facilitation. Some trainings I’ve completed include:
- Equity-informed Mediation Certification Course with Resolutions Northwest,
- Collaborate to Co-Liberate with the Nonprofit Democracy Network,
- Facilitation for Liberation with the AORTA collective,
- Advanced Facilitation Training with Kavana Tree Bressen,
- Trauma Informed Conflict Transformation with rain crowe,
- Jewish Ancestral Healing with Taya Ma,
- Work that Reconnects with folks trained by Joanna Macy,
- Drawing for Change Creators with Raquel at Awakening Creatives,
- Somatic Non-Violent Communication with David Weinstock (note: I understand the flaws with NVC!)
- Multiple multiracial and white anti-racism communities of practice
Other experience that informs my work with groups
Campaigns and Key Moments
When I am inspired by a group of people and see a way I can infuse energy in a critical moment for social change, I am thrilled to jump in. Some examples:
- Protecting seven acres of land and founding Tryon Life Community Farm – a 10-month effort to stop a development, raise $1.6 million, and create a non-profit education center and intentional community.
- While working at Bark, a grassroots conservation group protecting Mt. Hood National Forest, I regularly stepped out of my Development Director role to bring energy to major campaign moments, like to make signs for a protest, organize a phone bank, show up at an action, etc.
- Elections – in 2018 I spent a month in Tampa to help pass Measure 4, giving ex-felons the right to vote with the aim of swinging Florida; in 2020 I jumped onboard with Sarah Iannarone for Mayor of Portland, in 2004 I organized neighborhood Get Out the Vote efforts.
- While direct action and street protests are not my typical modes for action, I will show up to these events in key moments and bring my creativity, energy and community organizing spirit.
Fundraising and Development
I got my feet into fundraising by being asked to create a capital campaign of $400,000 to raise in ten months for TLC Farm. I didn’t know what I was doing but I knew that when people get excited about something they give what they can — the trick is asking!
Later I ended up as Development Director of Bark and focused on developing the monthly donor and major donor programs, increasing annual giving from $30k to $120k.
I love event organizing and have created events large and small. Some roles I often take:
- Coordinator of the whole shebang (I co-founded the Village Building Convergence, a 10-day event across the city)
- Volunteer Coordinator
- Sign Maker
- Fundraising pitch-person
- Partnerships or Sponsorships Coordinator
- Placemaker – how will people move around the space
- Emcee – I am not shy on the stage
Permaculture, Natural Building, Wood working
While the term “permaculture” is now considered by many to be outdated and white dominant culture-focused, I did run four permaculture courses for best-selling author and teacher Toby Hemenway and enjoyed learning with the many inspired people in his courses.
Since my early days with City Repair in the early 2000s in Portland, I have been surrounded by natural builders, who have now become the “elders” of the movement in the northwest. Finally, between 2016-2020 I led my own project: building a 200 sq. ft. light-straw clay and cob Mini Moon, where I involved over 400 people in getting their hands dirty and adding joy to the project. I was even featured in Communities Magazine.
I love woodworking and designing places to gather. At TLC Farm I have designed and built a number of special places, including our 30-ft diameter yurt floor made from recycled doors, a 5-level “perch” for people to sit, a funky woodshed, and a grandmother-hugging-you wood shed.
Leading hundreds of workparties has helped me develop facilitation skills, manage complex projects with deadlines, and find creative ways to include anyone and everyone! And I gotta say, good ol’ physical work is so fulfilling!
Wilderness Trip Leading
Throughout my teens and 20s I led backpacking and canoe camping wilderness trips for groups. I dream about integrating wilderness more into my work with groups, especially for people who haven’t had the opportunity or resources.