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.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

An Exploration of Applying Business Concepts to Community Engagement and more

This blog post is going to be on yet another Kumu map diagraming another set of interconnected relationships between concepts, resources and organizations involved in a Living Cities’ approach, as defined by their online course, to Collective Impact. This is the tenth such post on these approaches by this blog which continues to wrestle with the best means of taking what is for many new and unfamiliar concepts while presenting them in a new and unfamiliar way.

Three Kumu maps, with this being the fourth, of the five modules making up the Living Cities online Collective Impact course have been covered so far with each dealing with a different area of concern but all related to the larger enterprise. All blog posts, maps and foundational websites can be found under the Collective Impact wiki-page.

While the majority of comments received so far, through LinkedIn mainly, have been positive and helpful, it can be understood if some don't quite take to it as one LinkedIn commenter who of the last post said, "What ?? Is this available in English??".

Each Kumu Module map has a legend in the lower left corner showing the different types of elements that can be found on the maps. If these maps were seen as analogous to geographical maps of islands scattered across a sea, the islands would not necessarily make up a system but merely be a collection. It is the connections between the elements or islands that define the relationships. What could make them a system is the connection through ocean currents with some islands included in the system of currents and others outside it. The currents could make possible a system of trade in which bananas found on only one island trades for the exclusive coconuts of another island. Islands previously unreachable could be with a system of treaties covering safe passage. Finally, a system of government could be created encompassing a certain set of islands based on common interests. The point is that connections are not merely arbitrary but meaningful.

The connections on the module maps are primarily based on the narrative structure of the Living Cities course. With the Kumu map, it is possible to move beyond this largely linear approach and discover other types of relationships. Once one lands on a particular island or element it is then a matter of studying the specific territory through the associated url in the narrative section. Moving back from territory to map then allows one to chart new paths to carve and new territories to explore.

Using map sectors introduced in the last post with this current map, we will start at the outer edges and move inwards to cover both larger territory and any conceptual chasms that likely may appear when taking the approach of Applying Business Concepts to Community Engagement.

Such an approach may strike some as problematic if having had a long time antagonistic relationship with business, particularly large corporations. This blog supports the use of business discipline in government services but that is definitely not the same as running a democratic form of government as a business.

The first map sector to be looked at is how to Build Lean and Iterate Fast through the Lean Startup Movement. Again, there seems to be a disconnect between created-in-a-garage entrepreneurial endeavors and established institutions of government. The lessons to be learned though from the Lean Startup movement, whether used by start-up entrepreneurs or established managers, is designed to do one important thing: make better, faster business decisions. As has been discussed before, this blog's approach to the article Deliberation, Democracy and the Systemic Turn co-authored by David Owen and Graham Smith placed the relevant interrelated elements along two different planes. One of which, while incorporating a philosophy of 'Citizens at the Heart' of the enterprise, is a system designed to produce desired goods and necessary functions as opposed to the other that seeks a more ideal approach to a system of deliberative democracy based on the full inclusion of citizens.

Lean Startup is a principled approach to new product development, providing a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and getting a desired product to customers' hands faster. It teaches how to drive a startup, how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere and grow a business or community program with maximum acceleration.

“Product” in this case means a program, a service, a process, whatever one is designing and is not limited to a physical item. “Customer” refers to whomever is intended to benefit from using the “product” being designed, and from a community perspective, not only who is paying for it.

A great first step to applying Lean Startup methods is launching a product before building it by creating an MVP or Minimum Viable Product, a “… version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of learning about customers with the least effort".

It is part of an even more expansive idea of Community Engagement as Business which adds both ‘Engagement is Marketing’ and ‘Infrastructure Must Support Change’ elements as well as a relevant organization defining social enterprise, NESsT.

There are significant challenges to establishing cross-sector partnerships, with related elements mapped into their own sector. As described by the narrative of the original Living Cities course, they are linked to Community Engagement as Business sector and, with the addition of Design Thinking sector, have Week 4: Applying Business Concepts to Community Engagement as their foundation.

There is a difference though with the Design Thinking sector map. The majority of elements are listed under ‘additional resources’ in the original Living Cities course and it does not have a central element helping to define it.

It could be pointed out that the inclusion of the Design Thinking portion of the Business Concepts Applied to Community Engagement sector map was forced. Visually though it made sense, especially since Living Cities also included some additional Lean Startup resources designed to impact for social good. While the potential relations are apparent with the Kumu map they are arguably less so if depending upon a more linear written narrative. Having moved on a couple of chapters or clicked through a few web pages it becomes harder to envision connections and relationships if they are not made explicit and straightforward.

Taking this more at first strenuous path though is seen as worthwhile nonetheless because creating new community paradigms requires not only changing what we think but how we think. It is also still a work in progress subject, even anticipating, continuing revisions.

In keeping with this notion of continuous improvements, Modules 1 and 2 have been revisited and have had map sectors added to them. Most of the newly added sector maps seem readily obvious, following the format of a focused sector map, a central element within that focused sector map if available, a means of directly clearing the focused sector map, and a way of returning to the associated module either cleared or to combine with other sector maps.

Some sector maps are more constructed through intentional selection; most notable is A Design for Community Engagement that results from bridging two of Module 1's other sector maps, Harwood Institute & Collective Impact and Continuum of Engagement Goals, with Designing Public Participation Processes as the central element. Designing Public Participation Processes was also purposely selected for the Modules 1 to 2 Bridge and was the foundational element for the Systemic Design of Public Participation blog post series, as well as the inspiration for the Designing Public Participation Processes Map and subsequently the Public Participation Designed for Entrenched Incumbents Map. An element that Living Cities relegated to ‘additional resources’ was therefore made the basis for extensive exploration.

Those choices and all the others were individual in nature with the conflicting outcome that they are both restrictive in having certain pathways selected while initially obscure as the way to be taken has to be described at each step. However, this is only because this is the initial exploration to get a sense of the layout. Although there is a great deal more work and undoubtedly numerous revisions to be done, the hope is that this Kumu project can be developed fully enough that it can be adapted for use by different groups to do their own joint explorations. As was pointed out in the Systems Thinking Certification course, people, groups will have more ownership for something if they have a part in building it, even if it is something that has been built before. Still, it could not merely be a matter of copying the steps out of a book. It would have to involve having a fresh look and new thinking about the overall design and implementation.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Feedback Loops Keep Collective Impact Impacting

In a recent Google Plus comment on the last NCP post, online colleague Daniel Bassill asked, “Do you know of any college that is using your articles and maps in an extended learning process? There's quite a bit of information, particularly if one visits the articles linked to in each node on the map.” The quick answer is no (it was a kind but undeserved compliment). He went on to make the valid point that, “A casual visitor might be overwhelmed and not stick around long enough to begin to understand the big picture the maps represent.” , in a vein similar to Ryan Mohr’s comment on the Collective Impact and Kumu Relational Mapping - Creating New Ways of Seeing Our Community post. We can look to start following some of Ryan Mohr’s advice addressed in the last post though it will still be more exploration than presentation. What should be kept in mind is that Collective Impact, systems thinking and design thinking all involve a different way of looking at the world. Kumu maps give us a different way of looking at those different ways of looking at the world.

The first thing that should be noted about the Kumu Module 3 Feedback map is that there aren’t any persistent feedback loops in the systems thinking sense of the term. There could be a repeat reading of connected articles and if article A helped one to understand article B and then article B in turn helped to better understand article A, and repeated as needed, that could be considered a feedback loop but it would likely be completed fairly quickly.

This is mentioned early on because the end of the last post promised to look at a topic particularly relevant to systems thinking — feedback loops. The information on feedback as it relates to Collective Impact can be found within the articles and other resources contained in the elements making up the Feedback map. Hopefully, it does not need to be mentioned that one has to actually read the associated material and not depend upon the still developing summaries provided in the narrative sections of a Kumu map. An attempt will be made to establish feedback relationships as defined by systems thinking as well.

The Kumu Module 3 Feedback map is organized on a branching or tree model. Certain elements serve as nodes, connecting and branching out to other element nodes. Admittedly, when presented at a single viewing, it can be daunting as was discussed in the last post.

Going first into the main narrative section of the Feedback map and mousing over to highlight and then clicking on the "Week 3 Feedback Loops Purpose" text takes one to the Week 3 Kumu loop which is in actuality a selected portion of the larger map focused on related content. Clicking on Week 3 Selected Map in the narrative section will focus only on that specific portion of the map. Week 3: Creating Community Feedback Loops to Fast Track Change is the central element node, with associated url, of the section map.

The resulting map is now far simpler. In addition to the main article on community feedback loops there are according to the legend in the bottom left corner, two blog posts, two reports and one journal article supporting the main article.

This is the same information provided by the Living Cities course except, rather than branches to other element nodes, with Living Cities the additional information is within the primary article, one, two or more layers behind links to other articles and resources. These relationships become more apparent with the maps. The original Living Cities' Week 3 related articles are the territory. We want to study the stones making up the road but we also want to know where the road can lead us or choose different paths. We will still need to expand into more complex maps if we wish to cross more difficult territory.

Once a section map is selected the focus remains even if returning to the Module 3 map by specifically clicking a relevant link or clicking on the background of the map area. One can go to the narrative of the section map and in this case click on 'Week 3 Clear' to clear the specific focus and then 'Back to Module 3' to return to the full Module 3 map. One can also return to the Module 3 map, with the selected focus maintained and add other selected focused map sections.

The journey through the extensive material can then be made easier by jumping directly to other selected specific map sections within the Feedback map. The next section map is 3 Flavors Feedback. Clicking on 3 Flavors Feedback Selected Map again focuses on the specific portion of the map. The central element node 3 Fabulous Flavors of Feedback Culture is not directly connected to the Week 3 section of the map but does connect through elements related to other section maps. Again, this section map is fairly simple consisting of three blog posts, including the initial one, a news release on a County PFS program, a news article on How to Achieve Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, and the organization StriveTogether, introduced in Module 1 and cited in the central blog post.

The next section map to visit, Is Pay for Success CI?, which again can be focused on. It is directly connected to Week 3: Creating Community Feedback Loops to Fast Track Change. There are more element nodes within this section of the map because this section of the map extends out another degree or, if this was the Living Cities course, another layer of linked articles. The element nodes include the Week, the type of Work undertaken by Living Cities in this arena, five blog posts, a news article, two different organizations, one financial and one an outcomes-driven organization, and a report on the joint work undertaken by these organizations.

The next map section is 4 Keep It Real Community Impact Insights, repeating the step to focus then to the similarly named central element node takes us to the related Living Cities blog post. It is again separated by a degree or layer from the originating Week 3 section of the map. The element nodes associated with this section of the map include two blog posts, including the preceding post Is Pay for Success Collective Impact?, a set of resources on decision makers and do-ers, a news article, an organization and two books. If the Module 3 map were drawn vertically as with the systems thinking iceberg model then this section map would be at the lower levels providing a foundation for the rest of the map.

The final selected map section is Creating Feedback Loops. This is the busiest of the section maps with twenty directly related element nodes, seven blog posts, two from previous map sections, three related but different types of organizations, the resources from one of the organizations, a FSG resource with associated webinar and finally a connection to the previous Week 2 Amplifying the Voices of Community Members in Collective Impact.

Feedback within systems does not stop, however, once the interviews or reports are finished. There also exists feedback loops within the systems that we are attempting to impact and within the systems we devise as means of impact, necessitating again, feedback from those being served. Feedback is also an important component of the personal stories defining those making up the client audience. These feedback loops change each node making up the loop and can change further with sequential loops with multiple nodes and loops capable of raising emergent transitions throughout an entire system.

Feedback loops have to be considered in establishing optimal levels of service. Ideally, city budgets endeavor to reach optimal levels of expenditures to fund the programs which are beneficial to the community. In an example from Getting Deep into ST - Systems Thinking Certification they may fund road improvements to increase the capacity of the streets to allow an optimal number of vehicles. (The community question is what is that optimal number?) These three properties, budget, roads and cars can interact together in a variety of different ways. Built roads in a community can be increased but not easily and not indefinitely. Traffic, particularly if it originates outside of the community, could increase exponentially overtaxing the community’s circulation system. The community could try to find some means of balancing these conflicting influences but its actions might feedback in unintended ways.

As was pointed out in Direct Democracy and System Thinking Map - Some Potholes on the Journey, there are also limitations to our models or devised systems. In terms of a working reality, our maps or systems often assume only smooth sailing. In truth, any system could break down at each stage of the process and feedback to debilitate the entire system. It should also be appreciated that not only can something go wrong at each step of the actual process, necessitating a thorough review and response, but that each step can be important in its own right and is not merely a stepping stone to a final outcome. Feedback loops, especially those separated significantly by distance, time or aggregation, are a major source for unintended consequences.

Finally, as was pointed out in Exploring with the Dialogue, Deliberation and Systemic Transformation Community to Discover New Possibilities Part 3 of 3, it is the synthesis of the different ways of understanding systems that can lead us to the elements of storytelling helping to define complexity in a manner similar to what makes a great story. The elements in determining in what way a problem is complex are also the elements of an engaging story and feedback can be a meaningful part of that story.

1. Many interacting “agents”

2. Individuals and processes influence each other in feedback loops

3. Reactions may be affected by current and past circumstances

4. Influenced by the external environment

5. Events have multiple causes and multiple effects

6. Large events can have small effects and small events can have large effects

7. Events emerge in surprising ways, spontaneously in the absence of a “controller”

8. Events display a complicated mix of ordered and disordered behaviour

9. It is an emotional Issue

Stories can help make our complex world more coherent.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Using Systems Thinking to Explore Amplifying the Voices of Community Members

As was said in the last post, we are coming back to the Bridging Module 1 and Module 2  Amplify the Voices of Community Members map. If this is the first time one has landed on this specific map then the most noticeable features are likely to be that the primary title of the map is, ‘Modules 1 to 2 Bridge’, implying that there are both a Module 1 and Module 2 somewhere and this map somehow connects or bridges them. The map also has a preponderance of yellow-orangish colored circles, of two different shades, that the legend in the bottom left corner shows are Organizations and Organization Resources.

Not initially obvious but revealed in the narrative section is the Designing Public Participation Processes element of the map. This element was the focus of a deeper, more focused expedition that left the Collective Impact maps and dug into specific conceptual territory through a four post series.

The Design Public Participation element is only one type among many in the Amplify the Voices of Community Members map and not one of the most prevalent types, which are organizations and initiatives undertaken by those organizations. Not surprising, if one considers that making transformative change in a community of people is going to take other people. A closer examination of the elements in the Amplify the Voices of Community Members map will reveal that different organizations are working at different levels and in different sectors towards general common purposes.

A deeper exploration into Collective Impact though is going to consist of not only the people making up the organizations and initiatives but also the histories, realities, movements, ideas, reports and studies defining those efforts, both directly and indirectly.

As of the day of the start of this post, the third post of the larger Collective Impact series received a comment from Ryan.

Ryan said...
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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 7:31:00 PM PDT

Ryan, it can quickly be discovered is from Kumu, the main tool of exploration for this effort, and nearly as quickly can be deduced as being Ryan Mohr, Cofounder and lead developer of Kumu / Surfer / Father of three(ish) / Lover of simplicity and things that seem irrational / Forever curious. So, going beyond the name dropping, he is somebody who’s insight is going to be taken seriously. He is undoubtedly correct, a great deal of information placed on a relational map can be intimidating or at least discouraging, as can blog posts overly packed with information, which was recognized in the post in question. Logically, it would make sense to use the main linear threads in creating a presentation and getting lost is all too easy when presented with too many choices.

Except this isn't a presentation, it is an exploration, moreover, it is an experiment in exploration. A presentation is more like a guided tour with predetermined stops. Except for the rough map set by the Living Cities course, the journey so far has not been predetermined. There wasn't a previous notion as to creating the Systemic Design of Public Participation series and even less with the latest two maps under Collective Impact related Kumu Relational Maps.

The Design Public Participation element was purposely added to the Bridge map even though it was not part of the inventory of the associated, centrally placed Amplifying the Voices of Community Members in Collective Impact blog post. It is fair to question whether insights revealed through the maps would have been as apparent through the narrative of the associated article.

Five of the elements making up the Bridge map are taken from module or week 1 of the original course, seven are taken from the primary map for week 2 and a couple are pulled from the upcoming week 5. These are included, in different combinations, with the twenty-one elements tagged 'bridge'. How they are all combined and situated on the map is also different from their original settings.

Attempting to combine the Module 1, Module 2 and Bridge maps together, in any single configuration would have made the resulting map all too intimidating and more importantly would not have had as coherent and cohesive a relationship between elements making up that portion of the system.

Ryan’s insights are still no less relevant. The Kumu maps cannot stand all that well on their own. The blog posts are necessary as a guide through the conceptual forest which the maps reflect. The blog posts are at least not as useful as when combined with the relational maps. It is an ongoing matter of how to balance more immediate insights through relational networking with deeper understanding attained through close study while leaving open avenues for future exploration. The desire is to move from incoherent complexity to a more coherent complexity on to creative complexity. It may take multiple expeditions before self-contained guided tours start to be developed. Currently, things are more like a concept safari. There is now a navigation element to assist in moving around in this evolving Kumu project, hopefully making things a little easier.

This exploration is being conducted, in large measure, using lessons learned through Systems Thinking Certification, especially in exploring the relationship of elements within the system to each other. Placing a good number of elements on the map does make it somewhat daunting to the uninitiated. However, it also makes it easier to perceive possible relationships beyond immediate connections or to raise questions about them. We are not good at seeing the causal relationships or influences between events or elements separated by time or space beyond immediate or exceedingly close connections. We are also not that good at seeing how multiple streams of influence or combined causality result in different emergent systems. Just as with seemingly disparate systems such as carburetor, pistons, transmission, steering, etc., making up the larger system of a car or parts of a watch that would make little sense if left scattered on the ground without prior knowledge that allows us to envision it all together.

Under the Module 1 map, the presence of three versions of a community engagement continuum of goals was more apparent on the map than it may have been in writing, raising the question what was the difference? The map also allowed additional concepts to be attached developing them more fully.

Later, when creating the Design of a Public Participation system map, a thread could be drawn from the Module 1 map. Included in the IAP2 and Tamarack versions and not explicit in Living Cities is the concept of the Promise to the Community. While this doesn't mean that Living Cities is not recognizing the importance of this, it can be seen as an important connection. There is a meaningful difference then between having arrived at the current map having taken the public participation design journey and not taking it. It will also influence further explorations.

The use of Kumu mapping is an endeavor to take elements of the Living Cities course and correspond them with the deepest levels of the systems thinking iceberg model, and in the future develop the most effective interventions of Donella Meadows' Leverage Points. This has been asserted in different series involving different approaches to using systems thinking, in Systems Thinking as Infrastructure for Collective Impact and Community Engagement, as part of this series, and in A Map for a Pathway to New Community Paradigms, as part of the Direct Democracy and Systems Thinking series. Working in accordance with the systems thinking iceberg model, we are not only speaking of combining different systems or methodologies but more importantly in terms of combining different mindsets.

Module 1 raised a question, Module 2 provided an answer to the 'what' aspect to that question and the Bridge map began answering more of the 'who' and ‘how’. There are a number of potential pathways open in expanding upon those answers including, “What is Asset Based Community Development” or looking at the Harwood Institute again. There is also the potential of connecting elements within the Bridge map, such as “Rethink Who You Call an Expert” with past NCP blog posts such as, “Looking for Non-Experts to Create New Community Innovations then Make sure They are Disruptive”. These will have to wait though while we move on to Module 3 for a topic particularly relevant to systems thinking - feedback loops.

Past Posts