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Member Spotlight: Sandra Janoff

Member Spotlight: Sandra Janoff

Each month, Network News features a member of OD Network. This month's Q&A styled interview is with Sandra Janoff, Director, of the Future Search Network. Sandra will be presenting a pre-conference session at the Annual Conference, “Lead More, Control Less: 8 Advanced Leadership Skills that Overturn Convention.” 

OD Network: What is your current title and company?

Sandra Janoff: Director, Future Search Network. Marv Weisbord and I co-developed Future Search, which is a principle-based planning method used worldwide by hundreds of communities and organizations. The method enables large diverse groups to (1) validate a common mission, (2) take responsibility for action and (3) develop commitment to implementation. The method is especially useful in uncertain, fast-changing situations when it is important that everyone have the same large picture in order to act responsibly.

In 1993, Marv and I founded Future Search Network. Future Search Network is a collaboration of hundreds of dedicated volunteers worldwide providing Future Search conferences as a public service. We serve communities, NGO’s and other non-profits for whatever people can afford.  Marv and I and the Network won OD Network’s 2011 Outstanding Global Work Award and the 2014 Sharing the Wealth Award, in honor of Kathie Dannemiller.


ODN: How long have you been a member of OD Network? Was there someone who influenced you to join? What’s your best experience thus far?

SJ: I’ve been a member since the mid-1990s.  Marv Weisbord, my business partner for 25 years, was a founding member. The rewards of membership have always been the community of practitioners, many of whom are friends, that I’ve reconnected with at the annual conferences.


ODN: What is your favorite moment of your career so far?

SJ: I feel humbled by the extraordinary experiences I’ve had in my career. I have worked in communities and organizations on every continent, on issues that are socially, economically and technically demanding. One of my most memorable experiences was working to build a future for the children of South Sudan in the midst of the 17-year North-South civil war. A generation of children had no education, no healthcare, no future and no hope. I ran a Future Search with 40 Sudanese children, ages 12-18. A day later I ran an adult Future Search that included 10 of the children. In the first Future Search, the children had a chance to dream and they brought their dreams to the adults. UNICEF had organized the second Future Search to include Sudanese from inside Sudan as well as expatriated professionals and people from all sectors. With the children by their side, they established concrete plans and commitments to support their children’s development, even in the face of the war that was being raged. This was the first step. More, as a result of continued Future Search-based work, 13,000 child soldiers were demobilized and returned to their communities. This is one story of many.


ODN: What piques your passion in OD? What is your greatest source of inspiration? 

SJ: My greatest source of inspiration, which, by definition, piques my passion, is the integrity and commitment of the people with whom I have worked. I have experienced remarkable leaders who stretch beyond their comfort zone to seek solutions to complex problems. I have also experienced courageous people who struggle with tough economic and social dilemmas who aspire to build a better community for themselves and their children.

ODN: What can you not live without?

SJ: In a world that feels more destabilized than ever, I am grateful when people find ways out of dark places. I remind myself that even when things are bleak, under the right conditions, we can build a bright future. 

ODN: Anything else you would like to share with our membership?

SJ: I transitioned into the field of OD from education and psychology. Marv Weisbord and I started working together in the late 1980s. Here is the advice that I would give to anyone entering this field. It describes the kind of guidance that I got through the years: Seek clarity on your principles of system development.  What do you believe will make a difference and support people in increasing their capacity to solve complex problems? Then, when you are clear about the “right conditions” for change—don’t ever sacrifice them. 


To learn more about Sandra and her work in OD, read her article in the OD Practitioner. 




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