Our Story

Founded in 1980, Management Assistance Group has partnered with thousands of social justice nonprofit organizations, leaders, networks, and funders from diverse social movements to create powerful and lasting change.

Innovating from the Start

Our co-founders, Susan Gross and Karl Mathiasen, pioneered the application of organizational development to address the unique challenges and needs of advocacy groups. Under their leadership we created and refined a holistic approach to building powerful progressive social change organizations that integrated strategic planning, board development, fundraising assistance, and management strengthening. We became well-known for catalytic transformations through courageous conversations and practical advice grounded in a deep understanding of our clients.

These deep and confidential partnerships with clients over many years positioned us to see patterns and spot shifts and innovations. We saw that what we were learning with our clients could be applied more broadly to social change efforts. We created insightful, seminal articles on strategy, governance, and managing people that organizations can use on their own. We also published our observations of emerging practices on leadership and organizational change. Finally, we developed workshops and other resources to help organizations align their social justice values with their structures, practices, and culture.

Catalyzing Networks and Movements

Over the last decade, we have intensified our work supporting multi-organizational efforts within the context of a larger ecosystem of movements. This includes strengthening coalitions and movement networks. Recognizing the important yet often misunderstood and undervalued role of networks in building strong movements, we conducted cutting-edge research to more deeply understand the essential role of networks and their leadership.

This research led to the development of the Network Leadership Innovation Lab -  a program of dialogue, analysis, and action learning that stimulated innovative thinking and identified ways to support leaders who operate at the intersection of organizations and networks. It generated a number of dialogue sessions and publications. We continue to grow and expand our learning in this area, sharing insights on our blog.

Additionally, to better support leaders operating in a networked context, we developed a model of leadership coaching. We work with leaders as they stretch their leadership styles to be ever more effective, adaptive, shared, and authentic within networked and increasingly complex spaces.

MAG Staff, November 2018

MAG Staff, November 2018

The Network Leadership Innovation Lab was the first iteration of MAG Labs. Developed by MAG along with our partners in the field, MAG Labs is a hub of active learning from experiments across organizational, issue, and network boundaries on the most critical issues facing our social change actors today.

Redefining Capacity Building

In recent years, we have seen a radical shift happening across the social sector. There is growing recognition that sometimes the conditions in the justice ecosystem aren’t conducive to supporting the transformative change that we seek. There are historical and current structures, policies, relationships, norms, and other forces or conditions that get in the way of our progress. Even the strongest organizations and networks can fail because the conditions aren't right.

We believe there are five essential elements that are critical to bringing the conditions for deep and sustainable change into being: 1) advancing deep equity, 2) valuing multiple ways of knowing, 3) cultivating a leaderful ecosystem, 4) creating the space for inner work, and 5) influencing complex systems change. Each element brings clarity and provides us with a different perspective on what is needed to nurture the individuals, organizations, networks, sectors, movements, and conditions needed for transformative change.

Therefore, we have expanded what capacity building work means from strengthening our clients to also nurturing these five elements.  In this way, we co-create the conditions in the field for all of us to succeed.  

Evolving and Adapting Toward Impact

Through our learning in our client work, programs like MAG Labs, and our in-depth research, we are constantly developing, adapting, and evolving our unique approach so that together we can build broad, long-term power enabling everyone the opportunity to realize their potential and live life fully.

Many people have contributed to MAG’s growth and evolution over the years. Our clients, partners, and funders have helped co-create MAG’s unique approaches and warm culture. The leadership of our co-founders, former Executive Directors Inca Mohamed and Robin Katcher, and now our CoDirectors, Susan Misra and Elissa Perry, has been key to harnessing our history, learning, and experience to make real change with our clients and in the field. We invite you to learn more about our current staff and partners