ABOUT OUR FOUNDERS
The Co-Creating Effective Organizations (CEIO) Project grew out of the life experiences, passions and convictions of founding partners Bill Graustein and Niyonu D. Spann. “Life’s longing for itself,” as expressed by Khalil Gibran in the poem, is the guiding inspiration for all CEIO’s work. Yet Bill and Niyonu realize also that this project “belongs not to them.” CEIO belongs instead to all partnering organizations, to all those who are willing to speak with truth and engage in the practice of conscious co-creation.
A shared belief in the importance of listening and a call to respond intersect in CEIO for the co-founders. As dedicated story-tellers and story listeners, both Bill and Niyonu have listened to fellow community members identifying root-level dysfunction and expressing a profound need for change. Through CEIO, these two visionaries are heeding the call to respond.
In his first career, Bill Graustein worked for 25 years in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Yale University: originally as a graduate student, and later as a research scientist after earning his Ph.D. in 1981.
His early training as a scientist instilled two habits continuing to inform Bill’s work, today, in the New Haven community. First is a habit of trying always to bring relevant but seemingly disparate information together into a coherent picture. Second is a practice of framing issues for learning—deliberately creating the space and sense of safety necessary for old assumptions to be challenged, and new ones tested.
In 1993, an abrupt increase in the assets of a small foundation established by his father inspired Bill to profoundly redefine the foundation’s mission, structure, and strategies.
During this process, Bill interviewed 40 different people working in all aspects of education. Bill fully expected to hear professional judgments and insights; but he also heard personal stories of life-changing power. Among these many stories, Bill found both particular and universal resonances—each person’s story is unique, while at the same time communicating themes that crossed every boundary of background and experience.
In particular, Bill recognized the yearning of local non-profit leaders for help with working collaboratively for support in perfecting the relationship between their values as an organization and their roles as leaders, and for a space in which candid and constructive dialogues across class and race could take place. Hearing this need, Bill helped develop and lead the year-long Community Leadership Program workshop series as well as other activities for community leaders. The program is in its 12th year.
Niyonu Spann, the co-founder and director of Co-Creating Effective and Inclusive Organizations (CEIO), has assisted organizations and individuals to effectively fulfill their missions for over 25 years.
Niyonu has worked with organizations spanning the range of local and national influence: including small NGOs throughout the country; private and public schools across the Northeast; as well as large scale projects, such as statewide diversity training in Delaware, and working with a team of consultants
Spann designs and facilitates large-system interventions and small-group processes that expose shared vision, tap internal resources, and map out a strategic and dynamic plan to achieve and maintain alignment between day-to-day operations and the core mission.to facilitate legislators, attorneys and grassroots organizers in abolishing the death penalty in the United States.
Since 2000, Niyonu has led the five-day intensives called Beyond Diversity 101, workshops that radically expose and transform the dynamics of diversity. Bill Graustein and Niyonu Spann first met at a BD101 session, as participant and facilitator.
Through her non-profit organization, 4 Circles Beyond, Inc., Niyonu directs the Peace, Leadership and Arts Summer Camp in Chester, PA, and is actively expanding a cross-cultural program which brings together South African and American urban youth for shared learning and empowerment.
Niyonu is also the Founder & Director of vocal and drumming group-Tribe 1. For the past 20 years Tribe 1 has been booked for performances and songwriting workshops for schools, communities, conferences and festivals throughout the United States and abroad.