Speaker: Michelle Kinder

Socially Conscious Leadership from the Inside Out

Dallas-based therapist, activist, writer, community leader and speaker Michelle Kinder examines and teaches conscious leadership “from the inside out.” She offers practical, achievable steps for parents, teachers and others to support children’s social-emotional health, and for business and other leaders to drive transformation in their lives and organizations.

While exploring the lack of mental health resources in southern Dallas, Kinder got to know the work of the Momentous Institute, a 99-year-old Dallas-based nonprofit organization that has been building and repairing social-emotional health through education and mental health programs.  Momentous Institute serves vulnerable children through therapy services, curriculum and teacher training focused on students’ social-emotional health, a school program for young learners, and more. Eventually she became the Institute’s Executive Director, which under her tutelage was named as one of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Workplaces for Women and one of the 50 Best Workplaces in Texas.

Each year, the Momentous Institute helps more than 5,000 kids and family members directly through its therapeutic services and via the Momentous School, founded in 1997, which is a trauma-informed, laboratory school in Dallas serving ages three year old through fifth grade. The school partners with students and families to leverage social-emotional health and strong academics to cultivate a community of change-makers. The Momentous Institute also invests in research and training to help hundreds of thousands of children far beyond the Momentous Institute walls.

Kinder recently departed the Institute after 20 years to follow her tireless drive for ending inequality through “socially conscious leadership from the inside out,” her website tagline.

In a recent interview with the Dallas News, she says that children cannot be socially and emotionally healthy unless their families and community are also similarly healthy. To this end, she warns that nonprofits need to restructure the way they’ve gone about their work (doing just enough band-aiding to feel better) by going at “the structural inequities from the lens of the wisdom of people impacted by it.” "Nonprofits, many of them put in place long ago to assuage the guilt of the wealthy, have likely gone about their work all wrong." Though their work absolutely helps some people overcome inherent social inequalities, Kinder presses that it’s the inequities themselves that need to be addressed. “No matter how wonderful a program is, if it is done as a bestowing – a certain group of people making decisions for another group – that is never going to bridge the divide in our city.” She notes that “our long-held idea of generosity” must shift towards uncharted territory, which is why she recently began a business in conscious leadership training.

Kinder now serves as a consultant to leaders and organizations committed to promoting the greater good. She is also a nationally recognized speaker known for her humor and ability to “translate science into digestible, applicable strategies.” She embodies and facilitates empowerment with a hopeful belief in humanity that is sorely needed in our current political and social environment.

Amid a string of national shootings, when Dallas was rocked in 2016 by the deaths of five police officers, Kinder published in TIME magazine “10 things you can do to help your children right now,” to make sense of their feelings. These included being aware of any fear-based thinking a child may have adopted and suggestions to avoid minimizing anxiety.  in her recent Visible magazine article, Kinder presents three practical directives for white people (like herself) to “drop the pretense and the defensive posture fueled by the narrative that racism is something that happened long ago that we have nothing to do with and to “look deeply and honestly at what we have gained as white people over the many decades by continuing to perpetuate, in little and big ways, the narratives that keep white supremacy in place and undercut the voices, views, vote and veto of our fellow citizens who happen to not have the same skin color as we do.”

Michelle is a fellow of the OpEd Project and has written articles featured in TIME, Washington Post, Texas Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Mindful Magazine, Huffington Post and PBS’ Next Avenue.  She is a nationally recognized speaker on leadership, outsmarting stress, social-emotional health, trauma and parenting.  Michelle is a member of the Stagen Leadership Academy and the Leadership Dallas Alumni Association.  She serves on the Episcopal School of Dallas Board of Directors, the Dallas-Fort Worth Teach for America Advisory Board and the PNC Grow Up Great Advisory Council.  In 2015, Michelle was honored as CEO of the Year by CNM Connect.  In 2018, Michelle was named one of the Faces of Hope by the Grant Halliburton Foundation and Dallas-Fort Worth Teach for America’s Honorary Alum.  Juliette Fowler Communities is honoring Michelle as their 2019 Visionary Woman.

Kinder grew up in Guatemala to missionary parents and is fluent in Spanish. She graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts and the University of Texas with a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor.  She currently lives in Dallas with daughters Maya and Sophia, husband Patrick, and four rescue dogs, where her presence as a change-making community leader has touched the lives of many children and families.

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