Juanita Brown’s mother, Millie Cowan, a Florida civil rights and civil liberties pioneer, was the inspiration for her attendance at Antioch College. Early Co-op experiences in Mexico at the Na-Bolom Institute, a center for rainforest preservation and indigenous rights, helped to shape Juanita’s love both for Latin America and for collaboration across traditional barriers of race, gender, language, class and generations.
Brown went to work with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers at the height of the farm workers’ grape strike and boycott, traveling with Chavez across the nation on behalf of migrant workers right to organize. As the International Boycott Coordinator, Brown helped shape a global consumer education strategy that led to the first farm worker representation elections in the history of American agriculture.
During the 1970’s, Brown was “adopted” by Edie Seashore, another Antioch graduate (’50) and pioneer in participatory leadership and organizational development. This began another key chapter that included both non-profit as well as corporate strategy consulting–––discovering how often we create “faces of the enemy” in ways that make healing and reconciliation more difficult.
While serving as a member of the core team of MIT Dialogue Research Project, Brown co-hosted an interdisciplinary gathering where the World Café approach to large-scale dialogue was discovered. Since that time, hundreds of thousands of people on six continents have used the World Café process to enable democratic voice and choice across race and class, workers and management, elders and youngers, as well as corporate and non-profit entities—bringing diversity of perspectives and “conversations that matter” into the forefront of making progress on complex organizational and societal issues.
Her award-winning book, The World Café: Shaping our Futures Through Conversations that Matter, co-authored with David Isaacs and the World Café, has been translated into 12 languages and has recently been introduced to mainland China.