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.

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.

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