What’s at the heart of our work? I’ve designed my life around a single inquiry: How do we create and sustain healthy, resilient and inclusive communities? The three initiatives where I spend my time—Walk Out Walk On, the Boston Impact Initiative and the Old Oak Dojo—are profoundly interdependent. I believe that the future we wish for resides at the meeting place of our beliefs about change, the flow of resources and the spaces in which we create new possibilities. Check out each initiative below.
Walk Outs are people who bravely choose to leave behind a world of unsolvable problems, scarce resources, limiting beliefs and destructive individualism. They walk on to the ideas, beliefs and practices that enable them to give birth to new systems that serve community. Are you a walk out? Find out from this book and community
The Boston Impact Initiative has a unique role to play in the field of impact investing. Our fund is focused on economic justice, which means that we invest in opportunity for all people—especially those most oppressed or abandoned by our current economic system—to lead a dignified and productive life. Learn more about this integrated capital fund
The Old Oak Dojo in Jamaica Plain, MA, is a place where neighbors gather to rediscover how to create healthy and resilient communities. This small studio is an experiment in dissolving the boundary between public and private. Its purpose is to provide a space for community to meet, learn, eat, celebrate and play—and thereby restore our wholeness as citizens. Visit the Old Oak Dojo
In 2001, I walked out of my career as an executive in the high-tech industry. I was disillusioned by a business culture that emphasized short-term results, looked upon growth as an end rather than a means, and cared more about compliance than community. Since then, I’ve become an author, entrepreneur and social activist.
My focus on resilience began during my tenure as co-president of The Berkana Institute, where I worked to support pioneering leaders who were walking out of organizations and systems that were failing to contribute to the common good—and walking on to build resilient communities. These leaders are the subject of my award-winning book, Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now, co-authored with Margaret Wheatley.
During my book tour, I found myself telling stories again and again about how it is through intimacy with place that we create the conditions for lasting change. Nearly every time, someone would ask, “So what are you doing at home?” And I had no answer to give.
All that changed in 2013 when I returned to Boston to build an urban learning center modeled after the pioneering leaders I wrote about. The Old Oak Dojo in Jamaica Plain, MA, is now my home and host to many friends, neighbors, organizers and activists who share a commitment to creating equitable and inclusive communities. In that same year, I also co-founded the Boston Impact Initiative, a place-based impact investing fund that takes an integrated capital approach to building resilient local economies.
How I Became a Localist – TEDx Jamaica Plain (2016)
Most of our big systems—education, healthcare, government, business—are failing our communities. What if we stopped trying to fix them? Deborah Frieze says it’s not possible to change big systems—we can only abandon them and start over or offer hospice to what’s dying. This talk explores the underlying beliefs in our culture that continue to prop up the global mindset and shares a radical theory of change that reveals how localism is the hope of the future—and you have a critical role to play.
Webinar: Remaking the Economy – Redefining Risk (2022). What is risk and who bears it? Steve Dubb of NPQ hosts a dialogue with Deborah Frieze, Kate Khatib and Ojan Mobedshani about strategies to shift risk to those who can afford to bear it and facilitate the building of wealth in low-income communities and communities of color.
Video: Deborah Frieze Empowers Boston through Funding Initiative (2020). Bobbie Carlton of Lioness Magazine interviews Deborah Frieze, who defines impact investing, describes its evolution, and outlines Boston Impact Initiative’s mission and model.
Podcast: Social Capital, Power, and Access – The value of connection in growing capacity (2020). Deborah Frieze joins Building Vibrant Communities hosts Bridget Anderson and Jonathan Berk to talk about how ownership and control over assets are critical to achieving equity and how circulating dollars locally is essential to wealth building.
Webinar: Emerging from Crisis through Inclusion (2020)
Covid-19 has spread across the globe bringing unpredictable challenges to which none of us has all the answers. How can diversity and inclusion help us build the future we want? Panel discussion with Deborah Frieze, Ingrid Srinath, and Tulaine Montgomery.
Forbes Podcast: Turning Impact Investing Upside Down (2019)
Forbes columnist Devin Thorpe interviews Deborah Frieze on how biomimicry–the practice of applying nature’s solutions to complex problems–can help us close the racial wealth divide by flipping the investment risk-return ratio.
Webinar: Remaking the Economy (2018)
A guide to nonprofit roles and tools. From Nonprofit Quarterly – November 14, 2018
Investing for Justice at SOCAP (2018)
What does investing to close the racial wealth divide really require from us? Jessica Norwood and Konda Mason of the Runway Project interview Deborah Frieze and Mark Watson of Boston Impact Initiative on the mainstage at SOCAP 18.
New Visions for Opportunity: Forging a Sustainable Social Economy (2018)
Henry A. J. Ramos hosts a webinar discussion to outline a progressive new vision for next-generation civic engagement, economic security, justice and shared prosperity in the United States. Guests include Deborah Frieze, Dr. Darrick Hamilton and Carla Javits.
The Heart of the Matter Ep. 3: Deborah Frieze (2018)
The Heart of the Matter is a podcast for change. Host Malia Lazu interviews people on the cutting edge of social change and explores how their personal journeys have influenced what they do and how they do it.
Daring to Live the Future Now – The International Youth Initiative Program (2011)
Life’s approach to change is complex, emergent, unpredictable and self-organizing. What would it be like if we looked at change from a living systems view? Deborah Frieze shares a perspective on walking out and walking on with participants at the International Youth Initiative Program’s Initiative Forum in Jarna, Sweden.
Networking for Community Resilience – Greenhouse Dublin (2011)
Deborah Frieze speaks with practitioners throughout Ireland at the Networking for Community Resilience event about the role of communities of practice in supporting large-scale change. Hosted by the Greenhouse Dublin Ireland.
Ākāśa Interview with Deborah Frieze (2014)
Deborah Frieze reflects on hope and what gives her the strength to continue her positive work. Interview by Ākāśa Innovation, a non-profit social enterprise and home to a collective of sensemakers and changemakers who work together to prepare, inspire and empower sustainability leaders of today and tomorrow to create a world for all life to flourish in.
No one is coming to help. Now what?
In this era of increasingly complex problems and shrinking resources, can we find meaningful and enduring solutions to the challenges we face today as individuals, communities and nations?
In Walk Out Walk On, authors Meg Wheatley and Deborah Frieze invite you on a learning journey to seven communities around the world to meet people who have walked out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walked on to create healthy and resilient communities. These Walk Outs who Walk On use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need.
From Mexico to India, from Columbus, Ohio to Johannesburg, South Africa, we discover that every community has the ingenuity, intelligence, and inventiveness to solve their seemingly insolvable problems. “We discovered a gift inside ourselves,” one Brazilian said, “something that was already there.” Learn more at www.walkoutwalkon.net
Forging a Post-COVID Economy with Nature as Our Guide – Part I (2020)
As the world considers how to build stronger and more just societies, can our economic model work more like nature, regenerating the systems that power its growth? In this article, Deborah Frieze and Sallie Calhoun extend a conversation they began at The Performance Theatre in 2019 in a panel discussion that also featured HSBC’s António Simões.
Forging a Post-COVID Economy: From Chaos to Remediation to Resilience – Part II (2021)
In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, pre-conceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change emerges as the system connects to more of itself, and information and relationships flow freely among its many interrelated parts. Part I addresses the question, “Where do we go from here?” Part II addresses the question: “How are we going to get there?”
Foundations Have the Power to Reshape Philanthropy (2020)
This opinion piece by Deborah Frieze and Tyler Nickerson (Chronicle of Philanthropy – February, 2020) describes how foundations can use their investments as well as their grants to advance their social and environmental missions.
Why I Want Community Organizers to Tell Me Where to Invest
For those of us who wish to transform our economic system from one that extracts values from communities of color to one that operates in solidarity, it’s not good enough to redirect the flow of capital. We also have to redirect the flow of power. (Next City, 2018)
Using Emergence to Take Social Innovation to Scale
Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. (A Berkana Publication, 2007)
From Hero to Host: A Story of Citizenship in Columbus, Ohio
Something extraordinary is happening in Columbus, Ohio. Leaders in some of America’s largest institutions are giving up take-charge, heroic leadership and choosing instead to act as “hosts,” calling together people from all parts of the community to solve intractable problems. (A Berkana Publication, 2011)
From Scaling Up to Scaling Across
Every entrepreneur wants to know how to turn small changes into large ones—fast. The problem is, scaling up only works in highly controlled environments where people do what they’re told. In today’s unpredictable and interconnected world, large-scale change happens through scaling across, where small local solutions travel and adapt freely through networks of relationships. (Medium, 2016)
Ready to Change the World? 9 Most Innovative Ideas by Walk Outs Who Walk On
An emerging movement of people around the world are doing are walking out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walking on to create healthy and resilient communities. These Walk Outs who Walk On use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need. (Huffington Post, 2011)