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.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Advancing Racial Equity Through Collective Impact and Systems Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Past Posts