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September 2023 Newsletter: Critical Thinking

Dear Reader,

MindOpen Learning Strategy’s purpose is to provide transformative learning experiences (training, coaching, and consulting) that help organizations better reach social justice goals: goals that lead closer to safety and freedom to thrive for all members of society.

Four values guide our work, and serve as a compass for action: Connection, Compassion, Courage, and Critical Thinking.

That’s why, with each quarterly newsletter, we take the time to reflect on a core value. Today it is critical thinking. What comes to your mind first when you think of this phrase?

There are at least five different meanings to the word “critical,” including standing in judgment and delivering one-way expert reviews— not qualities that lend themselves to constructive dialogue! But the word “critical” can also mean necessary, crucial, or literally hanging in the balance between life and death— the responsibility of shared humanity.

Critical thinking towards social justice lays the groundwork to question the status quo, expand viewpoints, and move perspectives that have been marginalized to the center. Holding all of this in mind, this newsletter offers resources for the critical work of critical thinking.

Please scroll through to see what’s new, where we’ve been, and who we’ve been learning from. Have a response to anything in this newsletter, a challenge to share, an idea for how we could work together? Let’s talk!

With deep care for the safety and thriving of you and yours,

Elizabeth Speck, Founder & Principal

Highlights from the past quarter:

  • We facilitated Reflective Resilience: Anti-oppressive Supervisory Relationships for Henry Street Settlement’s Leadership Team

  • We facilitated Sustaining Ourselves as Helping Professionals: Managing Vicarious Trauma for NYC Dept. of Youth & Community Development grantee staff with Vibrant Emotional Health

  • Our DEI learning series for all personnel of the Millburn, NJ Township Fire Dept. closed out with a session & coaching for leaders: Developing & Strengthening Your Department’s Equity Strategy

  • We returned to ACE (Association of Community Employment Programs) for a Motivational Interviewing Refresher. It was great to see how staff are building their skills after two years of annual training with us!

  • We continued our partnership with Her Justice, providing all managers with access to coaching for anti-racist, trauma-resilient leadership.

  • We returned to Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness to train-new-trainers on the Trauma-informed, Anti-racist Practice in Youth Behavioral Health curriculum co-authored by MindOpen & Dream Keep Consulting.

  • We continued building systems and solutions through our HR Strategy practice, helping community-rooted organizations like The Imogen Foundation and Staten Island Urban Center to prepare for equitable and sustainable growth.

  • We closed out the fifth successful year (!) of our Empowered Career Development program with the Institute for Justice & Opportunity at John Jay College, CUNY, supporting the achievements of over 30 Pinkerton undergrad fellows, Tow graduate fellows, and the Navigator Certificate students.


Are you a CUNY faculty, staff, student, or alumni? We’re seeking new partners to bring the Empowered Career Development program to more social change agents. Check out and share the flyer below.

  • We enjoyed a team strategic retreat at the beautiful Luminary space, and had a facilitator brain trust on values-aligned openings and closings.

  • We welcomed two dynamic professionals to the MindOpen team to bring even more value and innovation to our clients! Weyu Shameka Hodge joins as an HR & Operations Associate in our HR Strategy practice. Hope Ghazala joins as a Learning Designer ensuring the continual enhancement of current and new professional development offerings.

  • We published this blog on closing the gender pay gap, reflecting the critical thinking of our summer intern Gurleen Sandals

The evaluation of the Fair Chance Forward training and consulting program (see infographic below) for a nonprofit with 500+ employees shifted knowledge and behavior to meet critical staffing needs AND include a highly qualified workforce! Thank you to Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health for connecting us with a wonderful team of grad student evaluators.

Are you or do you know a human resources professional or hiring manager in Rockland County, NY? We recently held an info session for the Fair Chance Hiring HR Success Cohort starting November 14, and it’s not too late to register! Learn more in this recording. Or, contact us at to discuss bringing the program to your community!

Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) is a free magazine and on-line community for educators and everyone who knows we have to reckon with the past to create a just future.

Braver Angels is a national organization bringing Red- and Blue-leaning community members together for authentic and mind-opening conversations. Free, structured workshops give tools to think critically when conflict seems intractible.

This report by Judy Pryor-Ramirez for the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation is a rare transparent window on reckoning with power in philanthropy, and a map for moving beyond performative partnerships.


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