This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.


It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.


It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pathways to Healthy Communities

The following comes from a presentation on, “Developing a Systems Thinking Perspective of a National Deliberation Project on Healthcare Costs” as part of the “How Can We Reduce Costs and Still Get the Care We Need?” Kumu project which was featured in the last blog post, “Using Deliberation and Systems Thinking to Address Healthcare Costs”. They are the three concluding statements arrived at after the completion of a systematic inquiry into the NIFI forum on healthcare costs.
  1. We should not approach issues of Healthcare Costs in terms of "Cost Savings". Instead, we should approach it in terms of "Reinvesting and getting a Better Return”.
  2. We should endeavor to bring Healthcare concerns, both health, and costs, closer to community-based approaches. The positive aspect of such an approach is that there is already numerous efforts going on. These need to be prioritized to a far greater degree. (and made to have a Collective Impact)
  3. Community-based efforts should focus first on health then find cost efficient means of implementing programs, not the other way around. 
The salient point for this post is, “The positive aspect of such an approach is that there is already numerous efforts going on. These need to be prioritized to a far greater degree.” This means moving our attention away from the deliberative process of deciding issues of healthcare costs to creating and implementing programs in a community based on those decisions.

This then would be a part of a process of creating what will be called Healthy Communities (wiki-tag). Below are a number of new websites recently added to the New Community Paradigms Wiki, all of which have some focus on health and community.

Healthy Communities involves building Healthy Cities (wiki-page) as well as focusing on Community Design (wiki-page), Geographic Based (wiki-page) community change agencies and rethinking our Streets (wiki-page).

Healthy Cities approaches working to towards community health from a variety of different perspectives and levels. Some are more functional and could be applied in a variety of settings, like a tool box. This particular Community Tool Box | Table of Contents is a service of the Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas.

“The Community Tool Box is a free, online resource for those working to build healthier communities and bring about social change. Our mission is to promote community health and development by connecting people, ideas, and resources.”

Others like the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index provide important health data.

“The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® is the first-ever daily assessment of U.S. residents' health and well-being. By interviewing at least 1,000 U.S. adults every day, the Well-Being Index provides real-time measurement and insights needed to improve health, increase productivity, and lower healthcare costs. Public and private sector leaders use data on life evaluation, physical health, emotional health, healthy behavior, work environment, and basic access to develop and prioritize strategies to help their communities thrive and grow. Journalists, academics, and medical experts benefit from this unprecedented resource of health statistics and behavioral economic data to inform their research and reporting.”


Another similar site is Rankings | County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which "allows you to Look up your county’s Rankings, learn about their methods, and download the data you need."

An example at a local city level of a community focusing on health is Davidson Design for Life.

“Davidson Design for Life (DD4L) is an initiative of the Town of Davidson to foster healthy community design through the use of health impact assessments (HIA), public participation, and collaborative efforts in Davidson, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region, and North Carolina.”

Even though a small community of 11,750 people (2013) with Davidson College nearby with 1,920 students, the site provides information on Health Impact Assessment: What is it?, for the surrounding region and information on HIA in the US.

At a state level for Minnesotans is Alliance for Healthy Homes and Communities.

“All Minnesotans should have the opportunity to make choices that allow them to live a long, healthy life, regardless of their income, education, or ethnic background. Everyone wants good health in order to be productive at work and to succeed in school and to have affordable medical and housing costs. To make this opportunity a choice for all Minnesotans, we all have to do our part in creating and maintaining healthy homes and communities. Every person and every organization have a role to play, small or large.”

Closer to home is LA2050 - Shaping the future of Los Angeles, which involves though a major city with a population of over 3.8 million and a focus that expands beyond healthcare concerns to other areas, so it has been placed under Geographic Based community change agencies.

“LA2050 is a community-owned mechanism to create a shared vision of success for Los Angeles in 2050 and to track progress toward that vision.”

At a state level is The California Endowment which is also involved in the Creating Health Collaborative and in the related Stanford Social Innovation Review presentation on “Organizing Communities to Create Health”.

"The California Endowment was established in 1996 as a result of Blue Cross of California's creation of its for-profit subsidiary, WellPoint Health Networks. Since then, we've invested in health broadly, from strengthening the safety net for families struggling with poverty to diversifying the health care workforce.The lessons learned from early investments were the genesis for Health Happens Here and the 10-year, $1 billion Building Healthy Communities plan, in which residents in 14 places are working to transform their neighborhoods."


The sites cited above involve data and organizations. There is also a need to consider at a more foundational physical level in the promotion of health through design, which is what the Center for Active Design does.

“The Center for Active Design is a nonprofit resource for design professionals, policy makers, real estate developers and community advocates, committed to promoting and expanding the Active Design Guidelines published by New York City in 2010. We maintain a multi-disciplinary perspective in the translation of health research into design solutions that amplify the role of architecture and urban planning in improving public health and well-being.”


"Rethinking the Automobile", a project created with the goal to raise awareness around the negative impact of the automobile on our world by livable streets advocate Mark Gorton no longer seems to exist. The presentation, associated with the site, still exists on Vimeo

Elsewhere, from a more creating health perspective, is the StreetFilms video Carmaggeddon Averted as Broadway Comes to Life, in which "Mark Gorton takes us on a tour of Broadway's car-free squares and boulevard-style blocks, where conditions have improved dramatically for pedestrians, cyclists, and, yes, delivery truck drivers," putting forward the counterintuitive truth that taking away space for cars improves traffic and makes the city safer and more enjoyable for everyone on foot, based on established theories like traffic shrinkage and Braess's paradox that help to explain why this happens.

These are not the only websites in the NCP wiki related to health or healthcare, in fact, most can be related, at least indirectly. They are the most recent and have not been featured previously.

Laying out a few possible pathways to creating Healthy Communities does not lay out the entire required journey. Moving from the primarily deliberative process to actual implementation of programs still, means overcoming any fundamental differences in perspectives or mindsets within the community (which will exist even if everyone is familiar and adept at systems thinking) and crossing the Knowing-Doing Gap by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I Sutton as discussed in previous posts. There is still lots more work to do but this does make it all the more possible. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Using Deliberation and Systems Thinking to Address Healthcare Costs

This blog post is another in a continuing effort to integrate systems thinking with a system of both deliberative and participatory (or direct) democracy while recognizing the limitations of such attempts so as to learn more for the future. The focus this time is on healthcare costs.

These efforts to justify systems thinking as a means of scaffolding for systems of direct democracy have ranged from the more abstract approach with Deliberation and Democracy, a Kumu mapping of the article Deliberation, Democracy and the Systemic Turn co-authored by David Owen and Graham Smith and the Better Deliberative and Participatory Democratic Community Based Governance through Systems Thinking model that sought to demonstrate how systems thinking might be incorporated into a process of deliberative and participatory governance of a community to the more direct involvement approach with the DDST Community made through participation in the Dialogue, Deliberation, and Systemic Transformation Community and through another opportunity for exploration with the NCDD Overcome the Lack of Trust in Our Democracy, Leaders, and One Another project.

What they all have in common is that they are limited, not only in terms of George Box’s principle, "All models (or maps) are wrong, Some models are useful” but also in terms of applicability. They are narrowly focused experiments in applying systems thinking to questions of direct community governance. An analogy might be to see them as attempts to match the work of Erasmus Darwin, and others, in the natural sciences prior to his famous grandson’s theory of evolution. They are opportunities for trial and learning.

Just prior to finishing off with the Collective Impact series of blog posts, Kumu maps and presentations and then spending the last two posts on making up on some past good intentions, another opportunity to explore the integration of systems thinking and systems of direct democracy through Kumu mapping arose through the NCDD (National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation.

Back in September, the NCDD Community News announced an opportunity to Join the National Deliberation on Health Care Costs. The NIFI (National Issues Forum Institute), in cooperation with the Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda, were sending out, “You're Invited - Join a National Deliberation Project about Healthcare Costs - FREE materials available” notices.

The NIFI forum on a National Deliberation on Healthcare Costs provided another opportunity for direct involvement. A lengthy period of lead time before the NIFI process would finish in May 2016 provided time to build a Kumu relational map from the materials that were made freely available. Building the maps was a fairly extensive endeavor. At the conclusion, another limitation became increasingly apparent.

Healthcare, as well as a more focused examination of healthcare costs, is a complex, wicked problem. The applicability of the Kumu relational project on this topic was shown to be limited because of a notable difficulty in moving to a state of what has been called coherent complexity. There was no expectation to make the topic in its full range and depth simple. There was evidence that a deliberative inquiry on its own did not go deeply enough to adequately vet the topic. It was also recognized that incorporating a deliberative process with the systems thinking inquiry provided more meaningful breadth. The two modes were better together.

Combining the two modes of thinking though required of others an overly large shift in their thinking, particularly if one or both mode were new to them. On the first impression, the proposed cure seems as complex as the wicked problem it is designed to address. In an ideal world, both modes would have been part of the K-12 curriculum becoming more second nature in being applied. It might be different if built with a group from the start but this was a solo effort. The Kumu mapping project was not designed to provide a set of specific answers but rather provide the ability to build templates for deliberation on various recommendations and the issues behind them.

To assist in this matter two Kumu presentations were created. The first Deliberative Discussions and Systems Thinking provided a general overview of combining systems thinking with a system of deliberation. It was a means of letting people know what they were getting into. The second presentation was more extensive, providing a guided tour as opposed to the former’s tour highlights. Developing a Systems Thinking Perspective of a National Deliberation Project on Healthcare Costs moved from the deliberative perspective to incorporate a systems thinking perspective and potentially provide a platform to move beyond. The full project, including both presentations, is here, 
How Can We Reduce Costs and Still Get the Care We Need?

In it, the untested but still strongly held hypothesis is made that most would be able to acquire the essential insights if they went through the entire presentation despite limited exposure to systems thinking. It could perhaps require that others are available to help but then a deliberative process can be said to be based on such a foundation. Having one person knowing something about systems thinking acting as a facilitator would no doubt be exceedingly helpful but there is no necessity that everyone is certified in systems thinking. The bigger obstacle would be getting everyone to give up their old mental models of political competition and conflict.

My own perspective is especially slanted having built the Kumu project from the ground up. As someone said before, “Everybody thinks that their own models are beautiful”. There were though two real world instances by which the viability of insights of the Kumu Healthcare Costs project was upheld at least to some extent.

The first was an opportunity to participate in an online forum on the topic hosted by the Kettering Foundation and NIFI. The deliberation forum used the NIFI Common Ground for Action featuring the Conteneo Collaboration Cloud. Having completed the system thinking maps on the topic, I had a strong foundation. Interestingly, the group seemed to gravitate to my way of thinking though to be truthful this cannot be shown to be correlated as the others had no knowledge of the Kumu project and I had no means to directly influence them. What might be surmised is that systems thinking provided the deepest perspective in the context of what people felt that they needed.

The second instance was the surprising correlation between the Kumu Healthcare Costs project and the Stanford Social Innovation Review presentation on “Organizing Communities to Create Health” despite having completed the systems thinking Kumu project before seeing the presentation. It could be asserted that the Kumu project was a “watch works” justification through systems thinking for the vision of the Creating Health Collaborative.

The concept of Communities Creating Health as a means of transforming our system of health in the Twenty-first Century begins creating a bridge with systems thinking between the resources found at the Healthy Cities wiki-page to the Direct Democracy and Systems Thinking wiki-page through Collaborating to Create a Healthy Cities from the earliest days of NCP.

This undoubtedly means enhancing complexity but hopefully, by being open and endeavoring to take a pathway of trial and learning, it will become both more coherent and more insightful for us all in creating new community paradigms.


















Sunday, November 15, 2015

New Community Paradigms and More Belated Good Intentions

CommunityMatters, cited in the previous blog post, has also hosted a number of other organizations that are of interest to NCP but despite ‘good intentions’ have never been featured in either the blog or wiki up to this point. These newly found resources have now been placed under a variety of different NCP wiki-pages.

The greatest number of additions were under Governance through Community. The concept of Slow Democracy took the longest to be incorporated though it is arguably a necessary addition for New Community Paradigms to be viable, recognizing the difference between government administration and democratic governance.

"It describes how citizens around the country are breathing new life into their communities. Large institutions, centralized governments, and top-down thinking are no longer society’s drivers. New decision-making techniques are ensuring that local communities—and the citizens who live there—are uniquely suited to meet today’s challenges. In Slow Democracy, readers learn the stories of residents who gain community control of water systems and local forests, parents who find creative solutions to divisive and seemingly irreconcilable school-redistricting issues, and a host of other citizen-led actions that are reinvigorating local democracy and decision making."
Other new additions ranged from highly localized such as the Right Question Institute - A Catalyst for Microdemocracy.

“The robustness of the Right Question Strategy is demonstrated in how it is used to address such a wide range of challenges in so many communities around the country and the world and what happens when the RQ Strategy is taught to people who have never had the opportunity to learn to ask their own questions and focus on key decisions that affect them.”
Governance through Community is also home for Resident Learning Exchange featuring Resident-Centered Community Building:

“In June 2012, forty-one leaders of community building efforts came together to share strategies and discuss lessons they have learned about how to improve conditions in disadvantaged communities. While gatherings like these happen regularly, this one was unusual; it was designed by and for community residents.”
Other examples are much broader based.

The Center for Communication and Civic Engagement,

“The center is located in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, and co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science is dedicated to understanding communication processes and media technologies that facilitate positive citizen involvement in politics and social life through original research, new educational programs, policy recommendations, and Web-based citizen resources.”
The Journal of Public Deliberation | Public Deliberation

“(The) International Journal for Public Participation (2007 - 2010) merged with the Journal for Public Deliberation as a joint venture between DDC and IAP2 in November 2010. In announcing the joint venture in November 2010, IAP2 President Desley Renton said, ‘this initiative builds on the foundations of both journals and will extend the discourse in the field with readers benefiting from firsthand experience of public participation practitioners’.”
Newly placed under Community Places, the NCP wiki home for Project for Public Spaces (PPS), is the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking and its related blog, created to build capacity for sustainable and cost-effective creative placemaking, a new way of making communities more livable and prosperous through the arts. By going beyond public art and performing arts centers it is making them better places for not only the arts, it is making places better for everyone.

“Creative placemaking starts with building effective partnerships. Our approach to creative placemaking is based on six key elements: Building diverse and productive partnerships in communities and with local leadership to implement ideas. Enhancing quality of life for more people in communities Increasing economic opportunity for more stakeholders in communities Building healthier climates for creativity and cultural expression Engaging existing assets (both physical and human) as much as possible Promoting the best and distinct qualities of a place Our work is guided by the teachings of reflective practice, double-loop learning, asset-based community development, fifth level leadership, arts-based community development, communicative practice, environmental justice, and other current and cutting-edge philosophies of practice.”

There is a connection through the wiki-focus page, Community Design to Greater Places | The Community for Urban Design, a crowdsourced “How-To” manual for creating great communities – cities, suburbs and rural areas.

“Think of a Pinterest or Houzz for community design. WHAT IS COMMUNITY DESIGN? Community design is about people, the places we live, and the spaces we share. Community design is also about how we come together and make decisions that affect our communities and neighbors: from crossroads in the country to homeowners’ associations in the suburbs to new apartments in the city.”

There is also now a shared related wiki-page for Community Places and Community Design through Community Arts.

Under Innovation in Governance has been placed the Harvard - ASH Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and their Project on Social Innovation which provide a virtual knowledge hub for social innovation in cities and municipalities.

“Its purpose is to provide a practical platform for sharing the stories and lessons of exciting innovators from the nonprofit, philanthropic and public sectors. The Project on Social Innovation accomplishes this purpose through an innovator's toolkit, relevant news updates, profiles of best practices, regular blogging, and links to other online resources. The site is an initiative of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.”


Change Management and Processes is a newly created wiki-bridge page connecting Systems Thinking Applications and Organizational, Online and Technology Base  Community Change Agencies. These are the tools, processes, community algorithms that can be used by any community change agency, ranging from the organizational to the personal.

The Change Management Toolbook - Home

"Welcome to the Change Management Toolbook! This site has been around since 1997, and we remain focused on the founding vision of offering really useful and free change management content to our web visitors. This is the fourth (and we believe the best!) major revision of the website - it's a lot simpler and much prettier, and we think you will find that it is easier and quicker to get to the information you want. The changes are not limited to the "look and feel" - we've added some really good additional content, and we look forward to ongoing high-quality contributions by our growing global network of contributors."
The Process Arts site is “a living story of the process arts”.

"Processes can relate to the individual (such as meditation), interpersonal dynamics (for example Nonviolent Communication), group processes (e.g. Open Space, World Cafe, unconference and wiki), on up to very large scale systems, such as economic, legal and political structures (e.g. Threebles, Restorative Circles, or Citizen Deliberative Councils). Even more than a list of particular processes though, the process arts are about an awareness that however we are doing something, that is simply one particular way, and we can and often do experiment with doing it any number of other ways."

Finally, New America is an organization which asserts that it is dedicated to the renewal of American politics, prosperity, and purpose in the Digital Age.

“We carry out our mission as a nonprofit civic enterprise: an intellectual venture capital fund, think tank, technology laboratory, public forum, and media platform. Our hallmarks are big ideas, impartial analysis, pragmatic policy solutions, technological innovation, next generation politics, and creative engagement with broad audiences.”



Thursday, October 29, 2015

Returning to Fulfill Good Intentions with Community Change Agencies

An original intention of New Community Paradigms was providing resources for community change and building upon that change. New arenas were discovered and explored. Resources were found and placed in the New Community Paradigms wiki with the idea that others could use the resources as they saw fit.

That is still the intention, however, a large part of this journey has been involved in learning new perspectives that required going extensively and deeply into them to attain a fuller understanding. Systems Thinking is the primary example, Design Thinking is another and Collective Impact being the most recent.

The new ideas being generated were changing the landscape fueling the perspective that paradigm level changes are in need of being sought within communities. The ‘good’ intention though to feature the discovered resources in future blog posts putting them into some context that could prove helpful has not been realized.

Some of the newly discovered resources have played a major role in forming new pathways. The Harwood Institute, introduced in CommunityMatters knows Harwood and Harwood knows what Matters for the Communities to Change was prominently featured in the Collective Impact series as a community change agency. Not every community though is ready to take on a Collective Impact effort, needing to work on other aspects to reach that level.

A number of other Community Change Agencies have also been discovered. These types of resources have been divided into two types, Organizational, Online and Technology Based and Geographic Based. The later, Geographic Based is admittedly lacking, especially local examples, as far more effort up to this point has been expended upon learning new perspectives and underlying systems. An advantage of Organizational, Online and Technology Based change agencies is that they can often be more readily transferred and applied to other communities. Harwood belongs in the Organizational, Online and Technology Based but an on-the-ground foundation is still seen as important in creating New Community Paradigms.

CommunityMatters was also cited as having hosted conference calls with a number of organizations featured in this effort, such as Project for Public Spaces, NCDD (National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation), Strong Towns, Everyday Democracy, Deliberative Democracy Consortium, and the Harwood Institute. It also has its own Facebook page.

CommunityMatters Facebook

“CommunityMatters® aims to equip cities, towns and all community members to strengthen their places and inspire change. This group champions the notion that people have the power to solve their community's problems and shape its future. The alliance facilitates connections, provides education and infuses inspiration at the local level.”

Some of the new resources listed in Organizational, Online and Technology Based wiki-page have never been mentioned in any blog post.

The Community Change Agency Orton Family Foundation coined the term “Heart & Soul Community Planning,” describing an approach for engaging citizens in land use planning as a pathway to vibrant, enduring communities.

“Our approach helps diverse citizens identify and enhance a town’s most valued attributes: those special places, characteristics and customs that residents treasure and that connect them to one another. If lost, these attributes would be widely missed and alter the character of the town.”

Another group similar to CommunityMatters is Community Builders, a project of the Sonoran Institute, which aims to help local leaders build successful communities in the American West and that has also provided a number of informative webinars, at no cost, in the past.

One, PlaceSpeak, is a location-based consultation utility helping to bridge between governance and place by transforming the way people interact with local decision-makers. It has its own Facebook app page.

Other featured organizations focus more on process, emphasizing collaboration even more than place. IOTC Hub Institute of the Commons, which is a USA based organization with a global outreach can help in finding common ground and innovating together by helping large, multi-stakeholder groups discover agreement and unite to accomplish shared goals. An essential undertaking in endeavoring to implement a Collective Impact effort.

Some like Innovation in Collaboration don't even originate in this country. They still provide excellent examples of what could be possible here. Often times it seems that we must look outside the United States to find some of the most viable ideas for supporting democracy and the empowerment of communities.

The Interaction Institute for Social Change, headquartered in Ireland, has had global outreach but with local impact including many in the United States. Good ideas should not require visas.

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. Our mission is to help communities everywhere become more open, supportive, equitable and sustainable. We also work with for-profit organizations who share these values, charging standard fees. We are a cross-cultural network, speaking many languages. Our members live in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America."

The last of the ‘newer’ Community Change Agencies to be featured is the Intersector Project, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower practitioners in the business, government, and non-profit sectors to collaborate to solve problems that cannot be solved by one sector alone. A good definition for Collective Impact. They conduct research in intersector collaboration and convey findings to leaders in every sector to help them design and implement their own effective collaborative initiatives.

There are no doubt numerous similar organizations out there. The point though is that they are out there. Those looking to make meaningful changes in their community do not have to work alone. Even advice over the phone can be of tremendous assistance. Not every community, as the Harwood Institute points out, is in a position to make transformations at a Collective Impact level. There are though others with the same struggles who have tried ideas that have worked. It can be simply a matter of discovering them and reaching out.




Monday, October 19, 2015

Collective Impact and Systems Thinking through a new form of external cognition Kumu Presentations

It has been over a month since doing any blog posts, having left off with a five month series on the Living Cities’ online Collective Impact course. Everything created in connection with that is at the New Community Paradigms wiki-page Collective Impact.

The time has not been spent idly though. A new form of what I like to think of as “external cognition” has been learned. This blog is one form. The new form is Kumu presentations. It goes back to what Ryan Mohr of Kumu had said regarding Using Systems Thinking to Explore Amplifying the Voices of Community Members:

Organizing information like this into a network map is great, but it can also be intimidating. We've found it best to use a separate presentation for the main linear threads through the network. When there's always a choice about where you could go next it's easy to get lost. A simple prev/next approach is much easier to follow.

Thanks for putting this project together! I'm excited to see how it evolves.


Back then I focused on the exploratory aspect but came to realize that I needed to also explore the presentation aspect because being purposely made with an intention to be open there remains a concern with complexity intimidation.

The information presented in the Kumu presentations, though still on the subject of Collective Impact, is able to provide a different perspective to the blog posts or the Kumu projects to which they are related.

There were two Kumu presentations created related to Collective Impact, or more specifically, the Kumu project Collective Impact - Living Cities’ online course. Both apply a Systems Thinking perspective to Collective Impact.

The first Kumu presentation is Documenting the NCP Collective Impact Exploration. The desire has been to move or insert Systems Thinking more into other fields such as Community Engagement or Collective Impact at both the exploratory or discovery phase and the implementation phase.

The second Kumu presentation focuses on a particular aspect of Collective Impact Organizations and the Systems Thinking Iceberg Model.

This will be to date, the shortest post written for this blog because the two Kumu presentations and related Kumu project should be able to speak for themselves.

The time was not only spent on Collective Impact Kumu presentations. The newly found means of transmitting understanding was applied to another opportunity that arose from the NCDD (National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation), NCDD Community News » Join the National Deliberation on Health Care Costs.

The NIFI (National Issues Forum Institute), in cooperation with the Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda sent out, You're Invited - Join a National Deliberation Project about Healthcare Costs - FREE materials available.

Again, a Kumu map project was created applying a Systems Thinking perspective to the material provided and a Kumu presentation was then created which will be put out for feedback sometime in the future.














Friday, September 11, 2015

Collective Impact Organizations and the Systems Thinking Iceberg

The previous blog post dealt with the last sector map of the final module of the Living Cities online Collective Impact course through the NCP Living Cities Collective Impact Kumu Project. This doesn’t mean that the process of exploration is anywhere near being done though. Only the surface of Collective Impact as a topic has been touched, including the ongoing work being done by Living Cities. Even the Collective Impact course itself has only been scratched making a good argument against the limit of a five week window though as Living Cities itself said:

This e-course is not intended to be the final word on community engagement in collective impact. Rather, it is a starting place for the conversation. We offer these curated resources as an introductory scan of the literature and a way for your collective impact initiative to begin developing strategies for partnering with community members more deeply.

This then brings up questions again about the relationship created between the Kumu maps graphically illustrating pathways of the territory of the Living Cities Collective Impact course. To what extent are these pathways accurate, realistic and true? The Kumu maps endeavor to follow the narrative trail told by the articles making up the course. There are a few additions and substitutions but the Collective Impact course as constructed by Living Cities is the primary source for the Kumu maps. 

The Kumu maps then are a diagramed form of change agency or community transformation process but can they provide meaningful information beyond the story structure? How meaningful from a systems perspective is the relationship between elements comprising the Kumu maps as defined or set by the Living Cities narrative? Are there important differences between those resources labeled additional and those more prominently featured?  

This NCP exploration could have taken a number of different pathways and this Kumu project is being designed to allow others to choose their own paths of exploration. The same must then be allowed for other narrative versions yet one should expect some logical, rational network of concepts to be created.

These questions become more apparent with the Kumu maps providing a perspective from a higher altitude of the original narrative. They become more important when moving beyond the Kumu Module and Sector maps to the creation of new maps designed to provide new insights. 

One such set of maps is the newly created Collective Impact Organizations. Three organizations which were chosen from among the five modules making up the course, the Harwood Institute, StriveTogether and the Our Work initiatives of Living Cities. Each organization's relationship with the overall Collective Impact endeavor was revealed using all of the relevant Kumu mapped relationships of the Living Cities defined narrative.

Each organization though has a different relationship with the overall Collective Impact endeavor which means how it will be mapped will also be different. There is beyond each organization’s individual relationship a still greater systems relationship suggested among the three organizations mirroring the previously cited systems thinking iceberg model, in this instance from the Northwest Institute, which is composed of five levels of thinking going from Events at the surface and proceeding deeper to Pattern, Structure and Mental Model. It should be noted that the iceberg model can be meaningfully applied in both directions.

All of the cited organizations manifest at the Event Level.

The event level is the level at which we typically perceive the world—for instance, waking up one morning to find we have caught a cold. While problems observed at the event level can often be addressed with a simple readjustment, the iceberg model pushes us not to assume that every issue can be solved by simply treating the symptom or adjusting at the event level. 

None of the organizations are excluded from any of the other levels but each organization seems to naturally fit a certain level better based on the structure of their particular map.

Living Cities, particularly through its Integration Initiative, which on the Living Cities Our Work map appears as the central Our Work element, is seen working at the Pattern Level.

If we look just below the event level, we often notice patterns. Similar events have been taking place over time — we may have been catching more colds when we haven’t been resting enough. Observing patterns allows us to forecast and forestall events.

One could also notice better health from eating healthier. A Pattern Level can be seen as being necessary for Living Cities to coordinate the ten different initiatives through the different but interrelated campaigns it is undertaking. The Living Cities Our Work elements are connected and deeply integrated into a larger overall structure.

StrivingTogether can seen as working at the Structure Level.  

Below the pattern level lies the structure level. When we ask, “What is causing the pattern we are observing?” the answer is usually some kind of structure. 

In this particular case relevant structures can include:

1. Organizations — like corporations, governments, and schools.
2. Policies — like laws, regulations, and tax structures.
3. Ritual — habitual behaviors so ingrained that they are not conscious.

The organization StrivingTogether can be seen as being directly connected with the central theme elements of a variety of sector maps taken from the different module maps. It is involved in a wide variety of aspects making up the Collective Impact endeavor. It is related to a question of how with the Recapturing Spirit of Engagement Sector Map of Module 1. The related Feedback Culture Sector Map would be particularly important in discovering and establishing the improved patterns the Living Cities works to embed in initiatives mentioned above.

The Harwood Institute is seen as working at a Mental Model Level.

Mental models are the attitudes, beliefs, morals, expectations, and values that allow structures to continue functioning as they are. These are the beliefs that we often learn subconsciously from our society or family and are likely unaware of. 

When the various elements related to the Harwood Institute are collected from the different module maps, the resulting Harwood Institute organization map has the sense of being more self-contained, defined by its own philosophies, processes and products. 

The Harwood Institute organization map is not integrated with the other sector and module maps to the degree as are the organization StrivingTogether map and the Living Cities Our Work map as the type of relationship is not maintained moving to the next degree. 

(The following map links were reached by first pressing ctrl and selecting the appropriate “As part of” link in the narrative section) It plays a significant role as a sector map in Module 1. It is related to other elements of the Collective Impact endeavor by informing them and providing, especially through its Community Rhythms Toolkit , a why as in Why Involve Community Members from Module 1. 

It is, however, only one of four approaches seen as being needed to work with community and is one of seven organizations working through four different initiatives to directly amplify community voices which for these on-the-ground efforts is seen as being at a bridge between Module 1 and Module 2.

It is seen as being part of a potential Design for Community Engagement which is created through the juncture of the Harwood Institute  & Collective Impact Sector Map and Continuum of Engagement Goals Sector Map by Its about Community and especially Designing Public Participation Processes found under Additional Resources.  This could then be developed further with the Designing Public Participation Processes Map and Public Participation Designed for Entrenched Incumbents Map. What can then be asked now is the importance of the IAP2 and Tamarack Promise as part of a mental model in developing a continuum of community engagement in a community-based Collective Impact effort?  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Advancing Racial Equity Through Collective Impact and Systems Thinking

This post is on the final piece of the fifth and final module of the Living Cities online Collective Impact course. It continues the examination of the combination of Collective Impact and Systems Thinking applied to Community Engagement and Equity considered under the NCP Collective Impact wiki-page over the last three blog posts. Such a combined approach though goes much further back than that.

The article, Leveraging Grantmaking: Understanding the Dynamics of Complex Social Systems, was provided as part of the Systems Thinking Certification course in response to a request for something more concrete related to system thinking as applied to New Community Paradigms. The first of two of the article's main key points being that non-obvious interrelationships among elements in a complex system often thwart people’s best intentions to sustainably improve system performance. The second being that complex, nonlinear problems that most foundations address can be solved most effectively by thinking systemically instead of linearly about these problems. It demonstrated how such programs can be made more successful when these lessons were heeded in the development of a ten year plan to address homelessness in Calhoun County, Michigan (population 100,000).

Systems thinking is supposed to be a means of addressing complexity. It is natural to look for something concrete to build an effort upon. We want pragmatic solutions without wasting too much time on theory. This however brings about a counterintuitive trap raised by J. W. Forrester.

Policy improvements in the short run often degrade a system in the long run while policies producing long-run improvements often initially degrade the system at the start. Because the short run is more visible and more compelling, calling for immediate attention its impact is not really more concrete, but more what I have elsewhere called entrenched, as Forrester explains.

“However, sequences of actions all aimed at short-run improvement can eventually burden a system with long-run depressants so severe that even heroic short-run measures no longer suffice. Many problems being faced today are the cumulative result of short-run measures taken in prior decades.”

With simple systems, causes are close to symptoms of a problem in both time and space. In complex systems or with wicked problems, causes are often far removed in both time and space from the symptoms, lying far back in time and arising from an entirely different part of the system from when and where the symptoms occur, easily misleading us into believing our actions to alleviate the symptoms to be concrete in nature.

Three different disciplines or areas of consideration involving multiple perspectives then are brought together. The entire series of posts collected under the NCP Collective Impact wiki-page has involved taking on a number of new perspectives, the most notable being the use of Kumu relationship mapping.

The ability to adopt different perspectives is not only important to relational mapping, it is important to systems thinking in general. It is also important to a system of both deliberative and participatory democracy. It is essential, I would assert, in questions of equity, particularly if those questions are asked in terms of community economic and empowerment equity requiring answers of the larger community.

Two approaches have been presented throughout the exploration of the Collective Impact course and especially during the review of this last module. Under the Living Cities narrative approach, Week 5: Working with Communities to Advance Racial Equity and Eliminate Disparities (map) is the narrative starting point for what is the Advancing Racial Equity sector map. Under the NCP Kumu mapping approach, it becomes the goal and heart of the larger more complex effort. There are two different pathways then but with both moving toward the same objectives.

Neither is that much better or worse than the other barring a few insightful advantages by Kumu mapping that have been previously mentioned. If the Kumu mapping approach has done anything noteworthy, it is breaking the inherently linear aspect of the narrative approach adopted by Living Cities. This is not a criticism. The Living Cities online course was undoubtedly intended as an introductory course. Such an approach though makes it more difficult to question debatable premises or go in new directions. In truth, a better combining of the Living Cities narrative approach and Kumu mapping visual approach than has been achieved by this initial effort would be the best outcome.

To reach this point and help this effort grow, we must return to the roots. This means taking on yet another new perspective. Over the course of this series the systems thinking iceberg model has been featured a number of times. The main feature being the majority of which is hidden. This current example appeals to more organic connections using a plant analogy while retaining the hidden from view or deeper aspect with the added potential to grow.

The Advancing Racial Equity sector map then becomes the part of the plant seen on the ground. It is defined or influenced though by elements beyond the boundaries of its readily apparent morphology. It was advised in past posts that it was not necessary to click on each (map) link in a post. This time the series of (map) links will build from the ground creating the supporting and sustaining root structure {do remember though to close unneeded tabs}.

Continuing with the plant analogy, there are twelve elements making up Advancing Racial Equity sector map, the fewest of all the sector maps, which total fifty-two elements altogether thus supporting the general idea of a root system.

Of the elements of the Advancing Racial Equity sector map, Week 5: Working with Communities to Advance Racial Equity and Eliminate Disparities (map) serves as a trunk or stem. Some elements after their connection to the stem, stand independently. Other elements to be shown will be separated, with hidden connections to be revealed later. Still other elements will be shown to have deep and extended connections.

A short Vimeo video, How do you build in a consideration of racial inequities when working with community members? (map), highlighting the Living Cities Integration Initiative, (map) features Michelle Fure, Outreach Coordinator Metropolitan Council and Uma Viswanathan, former Director of Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute for Urban Habitat (map). It provides a quick perspective on applying a racial equity lens to working with community members through community engagement and collective impact.

The Collective Impact Forum blogpost Bringing an Equity Lens to Collective Impact (map) by Sarah Marxer and Junious Williams, one of the presenters in Racial Equity and Community Engagement in Collective Impact webinar (map) goes even deeper applying an equity lens to the five Collective Impact elements.

The Race Matters Institute (map) and Racial Equity Impact Analysis (map), along with additional resources of the Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Equity Resource Guide (map) and Harvard Implicit Bias Test (map) provide an examination of more personal perspectives of stakeholders and community members.

Moving on to the more connected elements, there is again a recognized need for Using Data to Close Achievement Gap (map) which along with Racial Equity and Community Engagement in Collective Impact, (map) is connected with Working with communities to advance racial equity and eliminate disparities (map) through the sector map Working with Communities on Racial Equity as discussed in the last post, Addressing Community Equity through Collective Impact requires a Deep Systemic Perspective .

4 Insights into Collective Impact plus Community Engagement and Racial Equity (map) can be expanded upon as the central element and theme for the 4 Insights CI + CE and Racial Equity sector map discussed in People like systems change, they just don't like thinking about it (systems) all that much, linking to the Living Cities Integration Initiative (map) cited above.

Returning to the sector map Working with Communities on Racial Equity and moving an additional degree further or deeper, takes us to a closer and expanded look at What Makes Collective Impact a Powerful tool for Systems Change? (map) by adding in the sector map CoIlective Impact as Tool for Systems Change as discussed in Thinking about Deep Systems Change through Collective Impact with an extension to include Evidence Based Decision Making and finally completing the fifty-two elements making up the module.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Addressing Community Equity through Collective Impact requires a Deep Systemic Perspective

We can now move on to the Working with Communities on Racial Equity sector map and determining the best means of Working with communities to advance racial equity and eliminate disparities (map) but first we need to build upon what has been covered to this point.

So far two other sector maps, Collective Impact as Tool for Systems Change and 4 Insights Collective Impact plus Community Engagement and Racial Equity, have been covered over the last two blog posts. Hopefully, covering each sector map on its own provides for a more coherent understanding than attempting to address the entire module 5 map at once which with fifty separate elements or resources and multiple connected relationships can be far too complex to be readily absorbed. While it remains unnecessary to click on every (map), there will be, in some cases, an expansion set upon what are being termed linchpin elements and therefore an enhancement of complexity.

At some point though they all need to come together. The geographic analogy sometimes suggested can start to fall apart at this point. First, unlike the listed places of an itinerary for an expedition, all of the elements making up this module can all happen at once, not just with the elements of this module but all the modules making up this course. The elements demanding attention don't wait for their allotted week. Second, for the better, they can also be engaged strategically in an order, both internally for each sector map and among the sector maps, more closely matching the construction of the systems thinking iceberg. This is behind the rationale to go deeper with the inherent but arguably not so readily apparent systems thinking aspect of Collective Impact.

The path taken so far, not only in direction but also in what was focused on and what was left out, can also be questioned as being merely one of many that were possible. The Kumu map though does make this more apparent than the written narrative approach with which content is hidden behind links and the overall structure of which is never truly transparent.

The most comprehensive element in the current exploration is Racial Equity and Community Engagement in Collective Impact (map) which in the case of the Kumu map links to a Vimeo video instead of an EventBrite event for Living Cities hosting a webinar. These are people walking the walk, not merely mapping out the path so there is a far greater authenticity and relevant impact but creating maps from previous explorations and discoveries still serves a useful purpose. The presenters, from a variety of sectors, public health, major city government, local non-profit community group and the Strive partnership, which under the Living Cities narrative is a linchpin element or resource organization between Collective Impact as Tool for Systems Change and 4 Insights Collective Impact plus Community Engagement and Racial Equity, with another linchpin element or resource being the Living Cities Integration Initiative.

The element Why Involve Community in Collective Impact At All? (map), from the first module, helps in building an understanding of community needs by engaging grassroots community members to shape and guide collective impact initiatives and mitigate the potential disconnects that grass-tops leaders can face. It is arguably though from a grass-tops perspective because if from a grassroots perspective then the question would be how not why. There are an additional nine elements from the first module making a return visit to this the last module demonstrating that the supporting infrastructure for this effort goes deep and attention to them should not be lessened as having had been already addressed.

The What Makes Collective Impact a Powerful tool for Systems Change? (map) involves the four components that makes potentially possible a variety of collective impact shared results such as reducing by 50% unemployment among working age adults, whether serving communities with 9% unemployment rate or 19% unemployment rate. It is also a linchpin between Working with Communities on Racial Equity and theme of the central element for Collective Impact as Tool for Systems Change.

There is a sub-sector map, Evidence Based Decisions extending out from the sector map Collective Impact as Tool for Systems Change suggesting again a deeper structure which also connects with What Makes Collective Impact a Powerful tool for Systems Change?, and if extended an additional degree connects with all of the sector maps of this module.

There is then a need to collect disaggregated data by race (map) to build essential feedback loops (map) enabling collective impact work to address the persistent wide gap in educational attainment between white and non-white within an education system which is failing too many students of color, cradle to career. Despite the availability of data that could help, racial disparity seems to be hidden in plain sight, so we don't design solutions with the intention of addressing those disparities.

By Using Data to Close Achievement Gap (map), Portland was able to challenge a persistent urban myth that when it came to education, everything was going just fine with overall graduation rate at about 80%, with only slight gaps separating white students and students of color. District leaders were able to adopt policies to embed analysis of these disparities as standard practice.

As Living Cities correctly asserts, however, both the head and heart are needed to understand the structural causes of racial inequality. A Head, Heart and Hands (HHH) framework (map), emphasizes developing an understanding of racial inequality using both logic and theory (the head) as well as the feelings and emotions from personal experiences (the heart) before moving to action by identifying solutions (the hands). Albuquerque’s My Brothers Keeper efforts in Unmuting the Voice of Youth of Color to Help Lead Social Change (map) applied this framework to hear directly from young men of color about their suggestions for improving the cradle to career pipeline.

This can be more in keeping with the softer systems thinking approaches explored through the NCP Direct Democracy and Systems Thinking, especially Exploring with the Dialogue, Deliberation and Systemic Transformation Community to Discover New Possibilities parts 1, 2 & 3. The follow-up, A Map for a Pathway to New Community Paradigms, illustrates the challenge of spanning these two systemic perspectives, hard data and soft connections, into one. This can potentially be extended even more deeply as discussed in The What, Why and How of Design Thinking and Collective Impact part 2 of 3, particularly with the potential of Art as a Path of Social Disruptive Innovation Towards New Community Paradigms. One newly discovered example and one that might add another H for healing to the Head, Heart and Hands (HHH) framework (map) is the group Hidden Voices.

Engaging with community members of color is critical then to ensuring that social change efforts are sensitive to the different lived experiences and historical contexts of people of color in the U.S.

Collective impact initiatives that target racially and ethnically diverse communities need community members of color to be “at the table” in the literal sense that is, as an integral part of the accountability and governance structures that define how the cross sector partnership operates as explained by Needle-Moving Collective Impact Guide : Capacity and Structure, (map) one of Three Guides to Creating an Effective Community Collaborative for Needle-Moving Collective Impact by the Bridgespan Group.

Living Cities goes on to ask the question again (map), Why Involve Community in Collective Impact At All? (map). Their answer is that community members of color need to be engaged at least at the levels of involve, collaborate or co-lead to truly influence how collective impact efforts promote equity. However, the chart that Living Cities provides in the first article still does not include the promises made by both IAP2 and Tamarack which were raised at the start of this endeavor. This is not to suggest some failing by Living Cities, they are correct as far as they go but without the promise the conversation is far more unilateral.

The Kumu map, instead refers back to the element, originally used in the first module, for the IAP2 community engagement continuum of goals (map) which has been reconfigured making it possible to jump to one of three different sector maps in which it plays a role.

Equitably partnering as established by a government institution such as a city hall with its community members could include, for example, offering two-way translation services to all stakeholders when working with non-English speakers. True equitable partnering though would involve community empowerment including on-the-street efforts such as Urban Habitat Boards & Commissions (map) providing explicit training to community members of color to occupy more formal positions of leadership locally. This then involves the continuing development of resources identified in Week 2 of this course (map) focused on Amplifying Voices of Community Members (map).

Past Posts