Our Model and Approach

Caring Community Model

For us, this Fond du Lac Caring Community journey has just begun.  Until 2011, the Sophia Foundation primarily supported annual grants to local, regional, national and international non-profit organizations.  Following the 2009 Servant Leadership Conference in Milwaukee and through our conversations in the Fond du Lac community about leadership, we heard – “we are looking for a way to continue to learn and have opportunities to stay connected with others committed to living these principles in their personal, organization and community lives.”  

Today, the organization facilitates and hosts a number of programs including community speakers and “Learning Circles” which provide an integrated model of learning based on awareness, individual learning and collective dialogue.   In addition, the Sophia Foundation provides annual scholarships to attend the International Servant Leadership Conference as a way of creating a community of stakeholders with a common language and dedication to living out servant leadership principles in the Fond du Lac area.


Influenced and based upon the principles and work of

  • Servant Leadership – Robert Greenleaf & Ann McGee Cooper
  • Systems Thinking - Senge
  • Dialogue – Bohm and Isaacs
  • Community – Peter Block
  • Circles of Trust – Parker Palmer

The Caring Community Model consists of awareness and learning opportunities that lead to deeper dialogue and conversations on relevant community issues.  Each piece, although unique, is connected by common threads of community, service and possibility and returns to earlier and deeper learning and practices.

Awareness Building

Awareness building activities are designed to create an environment for recognition and introductory understanding of the principles supporting caring community.

  • Book/Topic Discussions – Monthly gatherings hosted by Sophia of community members interested in discussing selected books or topics as a way of developing self-awareness and application of principles.
  • Website – Providing information about the work of the Sophia Foundation – our mission and vision, the website will provide information on the activities and events supported by the organization, general contact information and access to other resources, readings and recommendations.
  • Presentations – From time to time, board and staff members will make presentations to community organizations and will partner in other ways to bring broader awareness for the principles and practices supporting caring community.
  • Communication and Resources: Via the website, resources such as articles, suggested books, training opportunities (such as VSLLC), web-links, blogs, etc. will be shared to provide additional resources and learning for interested community members.

Learning and Education Programs

  • Speaker Events – In collaboration and partnership to bring in speakers on topics related to servant leadership. These events foster awareness and on-going conversations.
  • Learning Circles: An environment where those interested in servant leadership and dialogue practices come together on a regular basis for a 2 hour time period. The curriculum is influenced by content on servant leadership by Ann McGee-Cooper, dialogue, self-awareness, and reflection. The primary purposes of the “learning circle” are to 1) learn servant leadership practices, 2) support each other on our servant leadership journey and 3) build capacity for sharing servant-leadership in community.
  • Conference Scholarships: The Sophia Foundation, along with support from other funding sources, supports Fond du Lac area community leaders representing diverse sectors (including business, healthcare, non-profit, faith and education) to attend the annual Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership Conference as a way of building a community with shared learning experiences and common language.
  • Intensive Training Opportunities: These full, half-day, or multi-day learning opportunities support deeper learning and practicing of caring community principles.
  • Level 2 Learning Circles: After completing level 1 learning circles, members interested in “going deeper” and staying connected will be able to attend circles with a curriculum developed to support further understanding and practices of the caring community principles. The level 2 learning circles will be developed collaboratively with Deborah Vogel-Welch and the VSLLC II program.


  • Research/Stories: On the Sophia website there will be an opportunity for sharing amongst community members via posts stories of successes, challenges and questions for deeper learning amongst members.
  • Community Conversations either facilitated or supported by the Sophia Foundation, will engage community members in exploring possibilities and creating solutions. Influenced by emergent change processes that engage diverse people of a system (community) in focused, yet open interactions, that lead to unexpected and lasting shifts in perspectives and behavior – systemic change and transformation.