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.
Monday, August 31, 2015
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).
Friday, August 21, 2015
What is missing in my view is more on systems thinking, at a deep level, to help successfully navigate these system changes. Any systems thinking connections so far have though been raised by this blog and not the Living Cities' Collective Impact course. I realize that I am going up against the systems thinking fight club rule but without understanding its potential role we cannot achieve the level of change required.
The first actual inclusion of systems thinking in the course is Jeff Raderstrong's Living Cities article, Racism, Collective Impact and Systems Change: Tying it all Together (map) which cites the classic systems thinking piece, Donella Meadows’ “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System” (map) as required reading for anyone working for social change.
“The most effective means to intervene in a system being the power to transcend the paradigms or mindsets out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.”
What needs to be avoided is thinking of the twelve leverage points as merely a check off list. Yes, they can be used in that way but they also point to something more suggested by the systems thinking iceberg model which has been cited a number of times previously. There are four levels to the iceberg but it is still one iceberg with the majority of it out of view.
One of the four insights is that conversations about race and class can be incredibly difficult to navigate because of the sensitive nature and that some communities may not have the capacity to constructively facilitate them because of where they are as a community as a whole or perhaps different components of the community are at different stages.
As discussed in Putting Community in Collective Impact (map, includes video link), first introduced in Module 1, from the Harwood Institute and in Stanford Social Innovation Review (map), working at a deeper and holistic level calls for systemic community intervention. Also closer in line with the foundational levels of the systems thinking iceberg model are the original Stanford Social Innovation Review Collective Impact article (map) and Putting Community into Community Engagement (map).
Another insight is the need to recognize the difference between equity and equality in community engagement and I would venture community empowerment.
The poster above is a common way to demonstrate the difference between equality and equity on the Internet. This blog is going to question some of the assumptions behind it a bit more.
It makes the valid argument that treating everyone the same is not the same as treating everyone fairly. This is part of the reason though why this conversation is so difficult because much of it rests on perception.
In the “equality” picture, each person is given the same sized box, meaning the tallest person still has an advantage over the shortest. In the “equity” image, the shortest person is given, not the biggest box, but two boxes to stand on, achieving the no doubt admirable social goal sought by Collective Impact or similar endeavor by overcoming perhaps historical disparities such as lack of early childhood nutrition. Invariably glossed over it seems though is the question where did the boxes come from, who made them, and how was the box taken from the biggest person, bringing them down to minimal visibility?
Some could argue that it must have been the biggest person, or the rich or entrepreneurs or business people who made the boxes possible in the first place. The poster assumes that the biggest person willingly gives up his box but while some may appreciate the need to address historical discrimination, they don't necessarily want to substantially give up on that which they see themselves as having had personally worked hard for.
This means one of two things, either the biggest person believes in a community goal of letting everyone in the group see the game or the two others, through a majority vote say, took a box from the biggest person and gave it to the smallest, with no loss to the middle person. The first is becoming less true because the rich can pay for the social goods they wish for bypassing community means of addressing those issues. The second is also unlikely to be achieved because it proposes the middle class working directly with the disadvantaged class which does not seem to be the common tendency. Where this has been true, it has likely been a combination of both appealing to the sense of community of upper income and establishing political pressure from income levels below. These assumed distinctions are, no doubt, very simplistic but they recognize a reality that must be dealt with. It is a visual analogy, so it shouldn't be stretched too far but it can hopefully provide some additional insights.
Living Cities does this by recognizing the need to include both grassroots and grass-tops. Engaging grassroots community members to shape and guide collective impact initiatives are intended to mitigate the potential disconnects grass-tops leaders can face in understanding community needs, and should cover several different considerations to take into account when developing specific engagement strategies. This is where the questions raised above about equity and equality can come into play.
Living Cities’ Collective Impact insight into attempting to redefine power recognizes that power conventionally resides in the leaders and institutions that have authority to make unilateral decisions. It is not quite as apparent though that the ability by community members to quickly identify what is and isn’t working is also power in the same fashion.
The Living Cities’ Collective Impact insight into defining community is bifurcated in part to those people who will be impacted by the changes the Collective Impact partnership seeks to make, and in part to those who have been historically left out of the decision-making process. Addressing one group doesn't mean addressing the other even if they are the same people.
Collective Impact partnerships can help overcome this by highlighting the importance of incorporating community feedback into the work of the larger partnership but as suggested in Feedback Loops Keep Collective Impact Impacting we need to go further to understand the feedback loops comprising the system itself. As demonstrated in Systems of Public Participation - Ideal Design versus Entrenched Reality, what is presumed to be working within a system may not always be the case.
There is also still the further need to move from basically abstract ideas, to connecting ideas together for strategic application, to the why, to begin overcoming what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton called the Knowing Doing Gap (page 7).
We can then move to the upper levels of the systems thinking iceberg model with again StriveTogether (map), a network of cities addressing cradle to career education systems working with the Equitable Engagement Workgroup (map) in cradle-to-career work, which can include local students and youth as well as communities of color.
The reality is that it is not enough to give all community members an equal opportunity to engage in the Collective Impact effort to be successful. There still remains the need to actively meet communities where they are and create targeted opportunities around the unique needs of community members, in particular those historically disengaged from civic decision-making. These tough, courageous conversations are an important starting point for any movement towards overcoming the Challenge of “Necessary but Not Sufficient” in Introducing Racial Equity to Grantees (map) in addressing Living Cities' Work on Racial Equity and Inclusion (map).
Next blog post we 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).
Sunday, August 9, 2015
The focus here is placed on the sector map Collective Impact as Tool for Systems Change, revealing a bias towards a hard system thinking approach to systemic changes dealing with the deeper levels of the systems thinking iceberg model and which purposely avoids beginning by attempting to alter people’s personal prejudices.
First, a reminder that you don’t have to open each map link on this page. Collective Impact as Tool for Systems Change is organized as explained in the Sector Map section of Navigation.
Some of the elements populating the Collective Impact as Tool for Systems Change sector map have been featured in previous modules, suggesting that they could provide a deeper infrastructure and relate to other components across a Collective Impact approach. One, How Living Cities Thinks About Systems Change (map) has been added as a result of digging deeper into the material provided by Living Cities. Other elements unique to Module 5 are Connected Problems Require Collaborative Solutions (map), Backbone Organization or Function? (map), The Working Cities Challenge (map), Cross-Sector Partnerships (map), Diagnose the Adaptive Challenge (map), Disaggregated Data by Race (map) and Evidence Based Decision Making (map). All of which together support the central theme of What Makes Collective Impact a Powerful tool for Systems Change? (map) introduced in Module 3 Kumu map.
Absorbing the source information provided by the Living Cities’ online Collective Impact course is essential, Greater familiarity with the various Kumu maps and the different relationships between the elements, as set by Living Cities, will then begin to reveal deeper connections and other possible relationships, especially if working in a group setting with different people having varying affinity with different elements, making individual contributions to a unique group perspective.
Going deeper into the elements of the map, How Living Cities Thinks About Systems Change explains how, “Too often, leaders attempt to apply programmatic, technical fixes to complex, interconnected systems level problems.” Ben Hecht President & CEO of Living Cities writes that Connected Problems Require Collaborative Solutions. It is, as has been stated before, a matter of transforming our mind-set.
“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. The starting point is to see things differently from the current, dominant worldview which in so many ways is no longer relevant to the situation in which we find ourselves.” – HRH The Prince of Wales
We are learning by trying different approaches on the ground, seeing how institutions and individuals respond across sectors and measuring results. Deploying an existing or starting a new nonprofit or government institution or even business as a lead or czar institution won’t work though for these challenges because one, trends in funding for these efforts over the past few decades provide only restricted funds with little to no indirect costs, making it virtually impossible for any single entity to play the ‘connecter’ role alone in most places. Most organizations of any type will have neither the bandwidth nor the breadth of relationships and visibility across issues and sectors for it. Just as important, is the need for distributed leadership across institutions, starting with the individuals who lead those institutions.
Finally, institutions tend to stay in their own lane with funding, incentives and history invariably encouraging such behavior. Interconnectedness only happens when there is an intentionality to do it and the endurance to stick with it over time. The natural order can only be overcome and behaviors truly changed only when some institution or person is charged with getting up every day and connecting the dots. Strive Together (map) calls this function the ‘backbone’ of these efforts with funders specifically paying for it.
StriveTogether defines the difference between a Backbone Organization or Function? When working with an array of different communities looking to navigate the often contentious discussions around where the larger coalition should end up, they came to the conclusion that what is likely needed is a “backbone function” not a “backbone organization.” Not simply a matter of semantics, but a completely different way to approaching the staffing of collective impact work. Instead of a central power center controlling a traditional hierarchical paradigm, it is the sharing roles that, “Need to be taken on so as to connect the dots instead of recreating the wheel.”
The Working Cities Challenge (map) is one such initiative, advancing collaborative leadership in Massachusetts smaller cities and to support ambitious work to improve the lives of low-income people in those cities, in which Living Cities is participating.
There are other substantial shifts in mind-set required to determine How to Achieve Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (map) that paradoxically both take longer than the standard election cycle but also require some sense of urgency, hopefully instilled by the effort itself but still nonetheless requiring leadership. This type of leadership is often more at home in the business world. Those having an entrepreneurial spirit that can be applied to the social sector need to be, as Jim Collins would say:
"Interested in the sheer exhilarating pain of the journey. You’re not going to have that immediate gratification of accomplishment. You are going to be immersed in it and working and suffering toward it for a long time--the way artists suffer. You have to enjoy that sense of extended discomfort. It’s the quest, it’s the training, it’s the growth, it’s pushing yourself. You really get off on that. If you think standing at the top of the cliff is where the joy is, you don’t understand it. The real joy is in all the pain and growth and suffering and creativity required long before you get to the summit."
Such an undertaking would require tremendous support from the community and could quickly be derailed by a few politicians seeking to hoard their own power.
Perhaps the greatest mind-shift is that adaptive challenges are difficult to diagnose (map) and implement because their solutions require people to change their ways; involving human complexity meaning the problems themselves cannot be abstracted from the people who are part of the problem scenario itself, and then to determine what to conserve from past practices, what to discard from past practices, while inventing new ways that build from the best of the past.
This approach is based on Evidence Based Decision Making (map) involving the making, capturing, sharing, and application of data and experiential evidence to ensure that funding streams and efforts are achieving the desired results. This in turn requires feedback or in the case of Collective Impact 3 Fabulous Flavors of Feedback Culture (map) involving a feedback culture and feedback loops, requiring to my mind both an understanding of the feedback loops that make up the system being influenced and collecting the information that is needed to know whether or not you are on track. Culminating with the creation of a data infrastructure, that gets the right information when needed through cross-sector partnerships building on the feedback culture and feedback loops, keeping them informed and creating change that can last regardless of administration turnovers.
It is with such a foundation that one can then begin using methodologies such as Disaggregated Data by Race (map) to help bring about transformational change with a renewed focus on addressing racial disparities, learning key lessons about the importance of using data to develop a baseline for identifying outcomes and continuous improvement, not as a tool to penalize leaders or point fingers at specific sources of the problem without fear that a commitment to transparency to the community could be interpreted as targeting students of color as the problem. This approach informs the StriveTogether Theory of Action in supporting children and youth from cradle to career.
The Live Cities Integration Initiative (map) involves testing three strategies believed to be central to catalyzing lasting, transformative change that benefits low-income people: collective impact (map), public sector innovation (map) and capital innovation (map), also added to the Kumu map. However, what remains essential and foundational is the need to involve the community in the Collective Impact effort (map).
Working with communities to advance racial equity and eliminate disparities (map) is, according to the Kumu map, the center of its own sector map and will be addressed in the near future but first we will next look to 4 Insights Collective Impact and Community Engagement and Racial Equity.
Sunday, August 2, 2015
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