I had known of Bob’s work and reputation for some time, but only recently, in a moment of serendipity, found an opportunity to work with him. Throughout our retreat his open heart, thoughtful listening and skillful facilitation kept pushing us toward more discovery of what good community work might become in this place. We xplored new melody and harmony, experimented with chaos, and found our way toward resolution under his wise guidance. Along that path, we also had a lot of fun. Bob’s gentleness, humor and deft action as a facilitator kept the attention on the process and the people, rather than on him. When solutions were called for, his decades of experience with community groups helped us find them.
Steve Woodall, Director of Community Planning
Cherokee Nation -- Oklahoma, USA
Bob has been around the work we do at the eThekwini Municipality’s INK Area-based Management and Urban Renewal Programme as a friend, a co-learner, a coach and consultant. Through his multifaceted roles and relationships, he has helped us to navigate our landscape and made us feel that is in fact okay to have questions and not have all the answers.
Our practice is deeply embedded in co-creating with communities be they not-for profit community organisations, local business, Councillors and other government departments. Bob has been precise in identifying the need for internal practices and rhythms which provide a foundation to take our work to the next level. He has made these suggestions without prescribing, but rather encouraging us to find our own answers.
We have been honoured by his sharing of the Berkana experiences through insightful presentations and the depth of Bob’s view as a community development worker. The community of Inanda Ntuzuma and Kwa Mashu is now richer through his thoughtful, dynamic and easy manner in which he made the development practice easily understood by both ordinary people and professionals.
As a programme, we salute his tireless and continuous efforts to enable community to collectively create and hold a vision. Through Bob’s commitment to learning we are now able to appreciate the thread that connects various community learning centres in South East Asia, America, Africa and elsewhere.
Bob’s work has been overwhelmingly positive in the lives of many people he has met, and I hope he never stops giving in to what he has called `the energy of yes’.
Linda Mbonambi, Area Project Manager
Durban, South Africa
Bob Stilger enters our work as a wise friend who carries an abundance of expertise, compassion and respect. His presence invites and honors the contribution of every person. Highly skilled in organizational and human dynamics and knowledgeable about useful models, methods and technologies, he gives knowledge not as a consultant, but as a committed colleague. When it’s time for bold and deep conversation, Bob speaks the truth in a gentle way that fuels hope and powerful action.
Bob is genuinely excited about his work and all the possibilities every person has to offer – the world over. He believes you make the path by walking it and by noticing what is emerging – not by looking for predetermined outcomes. He allows space and makes room for leaders to share the baton for each person has something valuable to contribute. He is not afraid to talk about his own questions and models what authentic leadership looks like. I often find myself reflecting and learning long after my time spent in the room with Bob. To me that is success!
Laura Porter, Staff Director
Washington Family Policy Council -- Olympia, Washington, USA
Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB), Weatherhead School of Management -- Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Raquel Gutierrez, Ph.D.
One Tree Many Seeds Consulting -- Tempe, Arizona, USA
Bob worked tirelessly with these people and communities. He was a mentor, coach, friend, learner, teacher and theoretician. He moved easily among these many roles, becoming a trusted friend and wise counselor to many people over the years. Bob has extraordinary levels of curiosity and caring. He wants to see with new eyes; he wants to understand what he is seeing; he wants to be able to bring others into his explorations; he wants to ensure that new ideas get translated into actions that work; he wants people to succeed in bringing their aspirations into reality. And his deepest motivation is to ensure that these new leaders, with their ideas and capacities, can make a difference in creating a future of richer possibilities.
Bob has a deepening commitment to understand how communities change and develop into healthy and resilient entities where all people are served and all can contribute. After working on the ground with people in many different cultures and countries, Bob used his experience to develop his theory of “Enspirited Leadership” for his doctorate and subsequent work and publications. I believe this is a major contribution to the field of leadership—complex, wholistic, culturally sensitive and well-grounded in experience. It also demonstrates Bob’s capacity to develop a coherent theory from his work, even while fully engaged in the work. This is a skill rare in most academics and consultants. People either do, or think. Bob has demonstrated an outstanding capability to do both.
Margaret Wheatley -- Sundance, Utah, USA
When I moved back to Zimbabwe I was driven by a sense of the wealth and wisdom that were abundant in rural Zimbabwe among my indigenous Shona family even while being painfully absent in their own self-perception. Frequently they were more aware of what they did not have and what they were missing. Kufunda for me was to be a bridge into helping people shift into appreciation for all their resources and gifts and to find ways to build on those, creating more value for themselves and others.
I was excited, enthused - very much a young pioneer come home to pioneer my way into creating something new. People did not really understand me or my intentions and so after a few months I hit a wall. And Bob was there to help me - once again to listen and support, to add perspective and voice to what I was going through, to ask questions, to offer gentle and respectful advice. And so during the first three years of Kufunda's life, many friends and particularly Bob became mentor and anchor from afar as I did the work on the ground that was needed to do to give birth to the images and dreams that resided within me.
Reos Partners -- Harare, Zimbabwe
The secret to our success: The attendees, Bob, and two ten-foot sections of rope. You’ll have to ask Bob to explain how the rope helped to untie knots rather than create them.
According to the Tao Te Ching “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: ‘we did it ourselves.’” That’s Bob’s approach in a nutshell.
St. Luke's Health Initiatives -- Phoenix, Arizona, USA
National Disability Services -- Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Linda Mbonambi, Area Project Manager
INK Area, Durban, South Africa