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, April 29, 2015

Exploring Collective Impact - Community Matters - A Lot

The last blog post, Beginning an Exploration of Collective Impact, began as the title implies, an exploration of the Living Cities' free 5-week e-course on Collective Impact initiatives, and the forum around which they are organized, for including and working with members of the community. This post continues using the Kumu map Living Cities Collective Impact for navigation, expanding on and clarifying that exploration and discovering different ways that it can be connected with what has previously been documented on these pages in discovering New Community Paradigms. 

We can venture back to Week 1: Why Involve Community Members in Collective Impact and the related Living Cities blog post, Why Involve Community in Collective Impact At All?, which leads back to what was discussed in the previous post. Before extending further though we can take another couple of excursions off the directed path, this time to look more closely into the Community Rhythms Toolkit of the Harwood Institute. The Harwood Institute has been featured on these pages before in CommunityMatters knows Harwood and Harwood knows what Matters for the Communities to Change, which is included in the Organizational, Online and Technology Based part of Community Change Agencies wiki-bridge page.

Perhaps more salient information is available in the articles provided by the course, such as found at Roundtable on Community Engagement and Collective Impact, here as related the Stanford Social Innovation Review article. Of particular interest is the quote from the article by Paul Born, president and cofounder of the Tamarack Institute:

In the early days of a collective impact approach, we often find that one of two mistakes is made. One is that we gather only the grasstops. That is, we think somehow it’s about shifting power. So we bring the powerful players into the room. The other mistake, almost as common, is that we don’t engage any of the power players because we’re afraid that it will be perceived as a grasstops initiative.

As Richard Harwood, founder and president of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, observed:

We say we want to put community in collective impact, but we don’t do it. That may be because we are afraid, we don’t want to lose control, or we don’t want to create certain risks, but there are two results. One is that we increase the likelihood that our collective impact will not succeed because there won’t be true community ownership and we won’t be able to mobilize the energies and the public will of our large communities. The other is that we will miss an opportunity.

The Harwood Institute establishes a set of prerequisite conditions through the concept of Community Rhythms: The Five Stages of Community Life, explained here  as a guest blog post, and in more detail through the Harwood Institute Report, Putting Community into Collective Impact

We can also take a closer look at the Problem with Community Outreach, through the related Collective Impact Forum blog post, expanded to include the other three posts making up the series Collective Impact in Neighborhood Revitalization. 

Going back then to the Kumu map that displays the tension of choice between Produces Desired Goods and Necessary Functions, as an outcome of institutional government activities, and the challenges in endeavoring to attain a democratic ideal of keeping Citizens at the Heart of the political process, it could be argued that instead of focusing on the establishment of deliberative democracy with citizens at the heart of the process being the goal, that as a third party, non-governmental entity, Living Cities is focusing on necessary production of goods and functions of the community as the goal and is asserting that the involvement of the community is not only beneficial but essential in achieving that goal. The question is how and by what means involved? Our current systems of institutional government over communities, particularly by those seen as being entrenched, often fail in this aspect.

New Community Paradigms has constantly argued for a greater reliance upon direct democratic deliberation in community governance, particularly through the post Of, For, By the People and now Through the People - Community Governance Revisited.

One specific tool of community engagement cited in the IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum is the concept of Deliberative Polling®. The concept of Deliberative Polling® was developed by the Center for Deliberative Democracy  at Stanford University and was featured in the blog post Using Online Communities to encourage Direct Democracy for On-The-Ground Communities as one of this blog’s first explorations of Deliberative Democracy. This was incorporated, along with similar efforts, into the  People’s Governance in California wiki-page. Entrenched government institutions invariably fail with this aspect as well.

New Community Paradigms is seeking empowerment of community members from the bottom up through deliberative democracy, scaffolded by systems thinking, and other means.  Concerns were therefore expressed regarding the concepts of Increasing Levels of Engagement, between grassroots and grass tops, defined by Living Cities as contrasted with that of Tamarack and the IAP2, as something seemed to be lost in translation. This was mitigated to some extent though through the insights of Max Hardy’s article “How Not to Use the IAP2 Spectrum in Engagement” and the Tamarack report,“Our Growing Understanding of Community Engagement.  

New Community Paradigms or NCP also does not envision ever attaining 100% empowerment, engagement or even participation by all community members. This was acknowledged in the blog post, From Community Attachment to Community Empowerment which discussed the potential relationship created by incorporating the concept of Community Attachment into Sherry Arnstein’s Ladder (as defined here by the Citizens Handbook), a recognized basis for the IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum. NCP borrowed the term Community Attachment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Gallup Soul of a Community’ project.

“The fact that people are not showing up to community meetings does not mean that they are not attached to their community. This also means that the actions of any form of community governance, whether through the status quo of city council government or the establishment of direct democratic deliberation through New Community Paradigms, is usually not the primary reason why people are attached to their community.” 

This raises, through a related blog post, another connection of the six degrees of separation type through Della Rucker, Principal of the Wise Economy Workshop. The New Community Paradigms connection in this case was through Looking for Non-Experts to Create New Community Innovations then Make sure They are Disruptive. Della Rucker, more importantly is also EngagingCities’ Managing Editor and had interviewed Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, in July of 2013, on civic tech's potential impact on low income populations in the blog post, Transforming Community Systems Through Partners and Tech: Living Cities charts the way forward | EngagingCities.

The NCP blog post before this one also asserted that similarities existed between the Living Cities’ approach and some examples of systems thinking approaches that were featured in System Thinking - Concrete Wants vs Complex Realities as part of the Systems Thinking Certification process. It has to be admitted though that the similarities were seen only from this side and raising them so soon likely goes against the basic rules on how to break the first rule of systems thinking. There isn’t any explicit mention of systems thinking resources until the last module. That resource is the article “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System,” by Donella Meadows which described a hierarchical structure of interventions to alter the way systems work. As pointed out in the Donella Meadows Institute post, Coming Back to Our Systems Roots, which tells of a move or return to “System Dynamics in Policy Design and Analysis”:

We live in a world of remarkable, adaptable, complex systems. They are inside of us and all around us, from the tiny system of a single cell to the vast systems of the world’s oceans and our global communications networks.

The problem with complex systems, though, is that it turns out we human beings are not much good at recognizing, understanding, or communicating them.

A connecting question then between these two perspectives may provide a better answer on How Can We Recapture the Spirit of Community Engagement that Built America?, which can then be expanded as being at the heart of the work making up the Living Cities' efforts.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beginning an Exploration of Collective Impact

This blog post involves another change in the direction of exploration being undertaken by this effort to create new community paradigms. Over a number of recent past posts, certain supposed dichotomies have been revealed through digging deeper into what could make a system of deliberative democracy more viable.

The last post, Creating Democracy is Complex features one Kumu map that displays, on a 2-dimensional plane, a tension of choice between Produces Desired Goods and Necessary Functions, as an outcome of institutional government activities, and the challenges in endeavoring to attain a democratic ideal of keeping Citizens at the Heart of the political process.

A separate Kumu map displays the interaction between the same ideal of Citizens at the Heart of the process but combines it with the attainment of an overall Political Ideal, again on a 2-dimensional plane. Despite the potential to reach an optimal ideal summit, this Deliberative systems map still incorporates numerous pathways that must be included for success, potential alternatives or choices that can influence those pathways, and constraints that can hamper progress.

It is when both maps or planes are considered together that the tension of a dichotomy between an ideal of governance and so-called practical reality becomes all the greater. Many elements under consideration lay on both planes but in very different configurations. The work to create a more deliberative democratic system then exists in a larger more complex system involving in part the acquisition of power by which to have the authority to make decisions. The Integrated Deliberative Systems map illustrates this moving across from unruly politics of social life to official decision making body, crossing different levels of deliberation and decision making.

The blog post, A Map for a Pathway to New Community Paradigms, written prior to the last one was the culmination of a series of blog posts and unsurprisingly also included Kumu maps. That time exploring the elimination of a supposed dichotomy or divergence in approaches between two general systemic methodologies, either hard, analytical or soft, participatory, so as to better bridge the challenge of complexity and wicked problems facing our communities through the greater use of deliberative democracy.

Going back to the last post, Creating Democracy is Complex, a comment was left asking, “This is academia pushed to extremes. Does anyone apply these concepts to their everyday life?” The answer is no. That was never the intention. The purpose is to discover new pathways to breakout of our everyday lives, which these days often means having little control over how our world is developed and used, in ways that we can only achieve by working together as a community. Still, the criticism of academic idealism has some validity. The theoretical underpinnings are seen as absolutely essential in developing new viable systems of change, prototyping of change management systems, without creating unnecessary harmful disruptions. At the same time, proposed solutions cannot be left in an ideal state untested.

This then brings us to the current change in direction, actually more of a change back to pathways that have been previously scouted. This time the endeavor will be an online expedition to explore on-the-ground initiatives for meaningful community change.

On March 17, 2015, Living Cities began a free 5-week e-course to equip those involved in Collective Impact initiatives with tools for including and working with community members. Collective Impact and in particular the forum around which it is organized, is a combined effort spearheaded by FSG - Social Impact Consultants and the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions.

The e-course took participants through five modules that offered resources, discussion questions and interactive exercises designed to help collective impact initiatives better understand why and how to work with community members. The course has ended but a Kumu map Living Cities Collective Impact is being constructed, as a primary organizing source, to map out all of the resources provided by the course, with a few more added on. A new Collective Impact wiki-page is also being created.

The first week of the Living Cities course asked, "Why Involve Community Members in Collective Impact?" The Module 1 Kumu map centers on the first week’s question and expands beyond that central point to provide resources that can help answer it. It portrays processes similar to those suggested by, Leveraging Grantmaking: Understanding the Dynamics of Complex Social Systems, which deals with the development of a 10 year plan to address homelessness in Calhoun County, Michigan, and Making the Connections based on the Wellesley Institute Urban Health Model, which deals with issues of community health, demonstrating how programs can be made more successful when lessons derived from system thinking are heeded.

This blog post though is going to start off a bit more skeptical, making the central focus for the particular portion of the map to be explored a NCDD Community Blog post on, “How Not to Use the IAP2 Spectrum in Engagement”, written by Max Hardy, of Max Hardy, Consulting and formerly of Twyfords. The article is not part of the original course offerings but it does a good job of looking at questions of community engagement and helps to develop metrics for those claiming to espouse such goals.

The Living Cities course provides a chart depicting Increasing Levels of Engagement between decision making bodies working with community change agents and the community at large. The chart was developed by the Community Impact Forum through adaptation by the Tamarack Institute and from the well established community engagement continuum of goals of the IAP2. Original materials are accessible in the narrative section of these and some of the other elements making up the maps through a provided url address. It should not be assumed though that the three charts are the same. The question is what changed and why?

In truth, quite a bit, which should be recognized while at the same time appreciating that the three organizations being compared may have different philosophical bases or approaches in striving towards similar goals and that any effort towards community empowerment has to also recognize certain constraints and develop accordingly.

Each of the Levels of Engagement charts includes the categories of Inform, Consult, and Involve. The IAP2 and Tamarack charts have Empower as their fourth category. Living Cities does not empower, it works instead to provide opportunities to Co-Lead.

Both Living Cities and Tamarack borrow from IAP2 but are selective and choose differently in what they do borrow. The IAP2 approach includes, besides definitions, promises and examples. Tamarack includes only promises and Living Cities includes only examples. These may only be matters of semantics but they set a foundation and should be kept in mind when determining if and specifically how to implement these initiatives.

The IAP2 and Tamarack promise to keep the community informed and IAP2 provides examples through websites, open houses and fact sheets. Living Cities’ examples include e-mail, newsletters and sending press releases on announcements and progress.

There are further modifications in what is and is not included. IAP2 incorporates the potential of opportunities being considered by the community in the way that they define community engagement while the other two do not.

Living Cities' policy is to gather feedback from targeted stakeholders on projects goals, processes, shared metrics, or strategies for change. The IAP2 promises to, beyond keeping the community informed, adds listen to and acknowledge concerns and aspirations and provide feedback on how public input influenced the decisions. The inclusion of aspirations can be seen as important and Tamarack also does not have it in their chart.

For the category Involve, Living Cities will ask for input on initiative strategies, invite to small groups or individual presentations on initiative. IAP2 will seek public comments, focus groups, surveys, and public meetings. The interaction is again seemingly at different levels. Other examples of differences can be found.

The point of the Hardy article “How Not to Use the IAP2 Spectrum in Engagement”, however, is that the Spectrum can too often be simplistically applied. The most ideal application would be that of the IAP2 but in many cases the Living Cities initiative could actually represent the best opportunity for meaningful change. Tamarack may seem to lie between the other two but a bit of deeper research into the Tamarack Institute revealed that the “How Not to Use the IAP2 Spectrum in Engagement” article had also been included in their March 2015 issue of Engage!. A bit more digging revealed their report, Our Growing Understanding of Community Engagement, another additional resource, which provides an even deeper explanation of Tamarack's inclusive philosophy towards community engagement. The narrative section of this specific element also provides an additional set of resources with links to the six most valuable documents cited within that report. With a skeptical but hopefully more informed perspective, we can proceed with the review of the rest of the course.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Creating Democracy is Complex

This post is likely going to be complex for most as it is for me, but hopefully I can at least move from incoherent complexity to more coherent complexity. This blog has discussed deliberative democracy, systems thinking and even complexity before. This time though it is the means of combined analysis and synthesis through a Kumu mapping, which could be considered approximating 3-D like mapping with multiple positive and negative influences creating feedback loops at differing levels and degrees, that is the source of the complexity.    

The Kumu mapping project is designed to supplement the scholarly article Deliberation, Democracy and the Systemic Turn co-authored by David Owen and Graham Smith, uploaded to, which is a critique of another article on democratic deliberation known also as the 'Manifesto'.

Deliberative democracy as a theoretical enterprise has gone through a series of phases or ‘turns’. The most recent manifestation of this dynamic is the idea of the ‘deliberative system’, of which a variety of formulations have been proposed. An important initial attempt to offer a reflective synthesis of work on deliberative systems is the recent essay, ‘A systemic approach to deliberative democracy’.  - article Abstract

The Kumu map project works on two levels. First, as illustrations of concepts found on specific pages of the Owen and Smith article. Second, through larger scale maps organizing aggregated concepts found throughout the article based on the premise that if one is truly dealing with a system then it should be possible to map it.

This Next Level maps out the 'territory' of 'deliberative systems' considered by the article. This process of overall mapping began at the conclusion of the article, as the last destination or where X marks the spot on the map, and built backwards producing three separate maps, Deliberative Systems (DS), Institutional Democratic Theory, and Integrated Deliberative Systems (IDS), each taking a different perspective of the conceptual territory under consideration. Each map can be considered separately but provides more in depth insights when considered together.

Each map is made up of various elements, some of which are common across maps, that are related to each other by four color coded types of connections: choices, alternatives, possibilities or aspects, components, factors or influence, defines, impacts or limits, diminishes, constrains. 

The elements and connections of the Deliberative Systems map lie on a 2-D plane, delineated by the ideals of 'Citizens at the Heart' on one axis and 'Political Ideals" on the other. Similarly designed, the map Institutional Democratic Theory has a common axis with 'Citizens at the Heart" but lies on a different plane with 'Produces Desired Goods and Necessary Functions' as the secondary axis.

Each map considers the relation of concepts which either enhance or limit attaining the relevant optimal axes. Those elements common to both maps relate differently to the overall plane then depending upon which map they are considered. 

 'Citizens at the Heart' both independently and as a component of 'Political Ideal' can readily be seen as attaining the highest level of a 'deliberative democratic ideal'. In contrast, Institutional Democratic Theory, which still has Citizens at the Heart as one of its optimal goals, does not necessarily Produce Desired Goods and Necessary Functions even under the most ideal deliberative circumstances and more often results in conflict between the two goals.

The existence of potential and likely conflicts between the ideal of "Citizens at the Heart" and the realities of "Produces Desired Goods and Necessary Functions' on the plane of Institutional Democratic Theory has to then be considered against the separate plane of the map Deliberative Systems which has its owns negative and non-deliberative influences indicating that attaining what could be considered a 'deliberative democratic ideal' in the real world a tremendous challenge.

The third map Integrated Deliberative Systems takes some of the elements from these two previous maps and places them in an expanded context moving across from the 'unruly politics of social life' to a 'decision-making body' with potential feedback loops at every level.  The map has four levels of integration 1) No to little deliberation between citizens takes place, 2) Deliberation not empowered in respect of decision-making, 3) Civic deliberation and 4) Decision making power.

The core justification of deliberative democracy, according to the article is, as a political ideal, legitimizing our collective political arrangements (institutions, laws, policies) based  on deliberative practices amongst free and equal citizens.

The Manifesto, being reviewed, treats mutual respect as part of the ‘ethical’ criteria for judging a deliberative system.

“We stress mutual respect, however, because even more than other ethical considerations, it is intrinsically a part of deliberation. To deliberate with another is to understand the other as a self-authoring source of reasons and claims. To fail to grant to another the moral status of authorship is, in effect, to remove oneself from the possibility of deliberative influence.”  (page 25).

The map reflects the concept mutual respect’s differences in relationships between the DS and IDT maps, either directly or in display. This concept expanded three degrees under Mutual Respect Challenged demonstrates the complex array of interrelationships.

The article goes on to suggest that any account of mutual respect compatibility with radical populist rhetoric such as the Tea Party is likely to be negligible. Raising the possibility then that without a ‘deliberative minimum’ and with ‘mutual respect’ considered only at the systemic level, one system might display greater overall mutual respect than another while still exhibiting a greater lack of respect toward a specific group. Such a systemic approach tries to maximize the overall level of mutual respect within the system through active disrespect of certain groups within the polity, usually the most vulnerable.

Similarly, the article looks toThe plurality of perspectives, claims, narratives, and reasons that characterise a political society", going on to say, "cannot however plausibly be construed as independent of the social and political institutions and practices of that society.” (page 14), which is true but from a deeper systems thinking perspective, not taken by the article, corresponds to the deepest levels of the systems thinking iceberg as well as the most effective interventions of Donella Meadows' Leverage Points. Kumu relates this concept across all three maps.

Parkinson, one of the authors of the Manifesto, reflected that it ‘would be ironic indeed’ if we could imagine a deliberative system in which public participation were generally passive.  (page 26)

It is important then to distinguish, according to the article's authors, between democratic deliberation and the broader discursive system, which could under certain circumstances can be seen as the ‘scaffolding’ or ‘support’ for deliberation. How a democratic deliberative system could support a discursive system, however, is not examined. Also, the connections could just as easily go the other way with a broader discursive system becoming merely another set of tables from which to exclude others.

Manifesto author, Mansbridge’s concept of 'everyday talk' loosens the criteria for deliberation to encompass a broad range of talk.  A more restricted type of everyday talk might, as cited by the article's authors, still be considered deliberation, as in forms of political talk involving what is termed a ‘deliberative stance’, also reflected across all three maps and defined as, "a relation to others as equals engaged in the mutual exchange of reasons oriented as if to reaching a shared practical judgment." (page 28)

While particular settings for a deliberative stance whether, formal or informal, decision-making or not, are not restricted, the demands on individuals will change contingent  upon the standards structuring the context of discursive interaction and the extent to which such standards are entrenched within the community's institutions. Citizens have to have the capacity and disposition to take up a deliberative stance, whether for actual formal decisions or issues more subject to public consideration. 

The question is whether this recent systemic turn overlooks, by necessity,  commitments as  expressed through Mansbridge’s 'everyday talk' to ensure ‘a democratic theory that puts the citizen at the center’. This moves once again into the Integrated Deliberative Systems map raising  the relation between deliberation and the broader political system with a model of an ‘integrated deliberative system’ as sketched by author Carolyn Hendriks.

Hendriks privileges the connections between formal ‘discursive spheres’ such as ‘parliaments, committee meetings, party rooms, stakeholder round tables, expect committees, community fora, public seminars, church events and so on’. (page 31) The article's authors endeavor to broaden the approach to encompass the deliberative stance in everyday settings, which can be critical to both how perspectives are generated and how capacities are developed.

The overall Kumu map project is still under development, particularly the direction of many of the connections, and relationships remain subject to interpretation and revision but a few run throughs of different possible pathways should still provide not only a better understanding of the article but perhaps insights that go beyond the article.

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