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.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Collective Impact Organizations and the Systems Thinking Iceberg

The previous blog post dealt with the last sector map of the final module of the Living Cities online Collective Impact course through the NCP Living Cities Collective Impact Kumu Project. This doesn’t mean that the process of exploration is anywhere near being done though. Only the surface of Collective Impact as a topic has been touched, including the ongoing work being done by Living Cities. Even the Collective Impact course itself has only been scratched making a good argument against the limit of a five week window though as Living Cities itself said:

This e-course is not intended to be the final word on community engagement in collective impact. Rather, it is a starting place for the conversation. We offer these curated resources as an introductory scan of the literature and a way for your collective impact initiative to begin developing strategies for partnering with community members more deeply.

This then brings up questions again about the relationship created between the Kumu maps graphically illustrating pathways of the territory of the Living Cities Collective Impact course. To what extent are these pathways accurate, realistic and true? The Kumu maps endeavor to follow the narrative trail told by the articles making up the course. There are a few additions and substitutions but the Collective Impact course as constructed by Living Cities is the primary source for the Kumu maps. 

The Kumu maps then are a diagramed form of change agency or community transformation process but can they provide meaningful information beyond the story structure? How meaningful from a systems perspective is the relationship between elements comprising the Kumu maps as defined or set by the Living Cities narrative? Are there important differences between those resources labeled additional and those more prominently featured?  

This NCP exploration could have taken a number of different pathways and this Kumu project is being designed to allow others to choose their own paths of exploration. The same must then be allowed for other narrative versions yet one should expect some logical, rational network of concepts to be created.

These questions become more apparent with the Kumu maps providing a perspective from a higher altitude of the original narrative. They become more important when moving beyond the Kumu Module and Sector maps to the creation of new maps designed to provide new insights. 

One such set of maps is the newly created Collective Impact Organizations. Three organizations which were chosen from among the five modules making up the course, the Harwood Institute, StriveTogether and the Our Work initiatives of Living Cities. Each organization's relationship with the overall Collective Impact endeavor was revealed using all of the relevant Kumu mapped relationships of the Living Cities defined narrative.

Each organization though has a different relationship with the overall Collective Impact endeavor which means how it will be mapped will also be different. There is beyond each organization’s individual relationship a still greater systems relationship suggested among the three organizations mirroring the previously cited systems thinking iceberg model, in this instance from the Northwest Institute, which is composed of five levels of thinking going from Events at the surface and proceeding deeper to Pattern, Structure and Mental Model. It should be noted that the iceberg model can be meaningfully applied in both directions.

All of the cited organizations manifest at the Event Level.

The event level is the level at which we typically perceive the world—for instance, waking up one morning to find we have caught a cold. While problems observed at the event level can often be addressed with a simple readjustment, the iceberg model pushes us not to assume that every issue can be solved by simply treating the symptom or adjusting at the event level. 

None of the organizations are excluded from any of the other levels but each organization seems to naturally fit a certain level better based on the structure of their particular map.

Living Cities, particularly through its Integration Initiative, which on the Living Cities Our Work map appears as the central Our Work element, is seen working at the Pattern Level.

If we look just below the event level, we often notice patterns. Similar events have been taking place over time — we may have been catching more colds when we haven’t been resting enough. Observing patterns allows us to forecast and forestall events.

One could also notice better health from eating healthier. A Pattern Level can be seen as being necessary for Living Cities to coordinate the ten different initiatives through the different but interrelated campaigns it is undertaking. The Living Cities Our Work elements are connected and deeply integrated into a larger overall structure.

StrivingTogether can seen as working at the Structure Level.  

Below the pattern level lies the structure level. When we ask, “What is causing the pattern we are observing?” the answer is usually some kind of structure. 

In this particular case relevant structures can include:

1. Organizations — like corporations, governments, and schools.
2. Policies — like laws, regulations, and tax structures.
3. Ritual — habitual behaviors so ingrained that they are not conscious.

The organization StrivingTogether can be seen as being directly connected with the central theme elements of a variety of sector maps taken from the different module maps. It is involved in a wide variety of aspects making up the Collective Impact endeavor. It is related to a question of how with the Recapturing Spirit of Engagement Sector Map of Module 1. The related Feedback Culture Sector Map would be particularly important in discovering and establishing the improved patterns the Living Cities works to embed in initiatives mentioned above.

The Harwood Institute is seen as working at a Mental Model Level.

Mental models are the attitudes, beliefs, morals, expectations, and values that allow structures to continue functioning as they are. These are the beliefs that we often learn subconsciously from our society or family and are likely unaware of. 

When the various elements related to the Harwood Institute are collected from the different module maps, the resulting Harwood Institute organization map has the sense of being more self-contained, defined by its own philosophies, processes and products. 

The Harwood Institute organization map is not integrated with the other sector and module maps to the degree as are the organization StrivingTogether map and the Living Cities Our Work map as the type of relationship is not maintained moving to the next degree. 

(The following map links were reached by first pressing ctrl and selecting the appropriate “As part of” link in the narrative section) It plays a significant role as a sector map in Module 1. It is related to other elements of the Collective Impact endeavor by informing them and providing, especially through its Community Rhythms Toolkit , a why as in Why Involve Community Members from Module 1. 

It is, however, only one of four approaches seen as being needed to work with community and is one of seven organizations working through four different initiatives to directly amplify community voices which for these on-the-ground efforts is seen as being at a bridge between Module 1 and Module 2.

It is seen as being part of a potential Design for Community Engagement which is created through the juncture of the Harwood Institute  & Collective Impact Sector Map and Continuum of Engagement Goals Sector Map by Its about Community and especially Designing Public Participation Processes found under Additional Resources.  This could then be developed further with the Designing Public Participation Processes Map and Public Participation Designed for Entrenched Incumbents Map. What can then be asked now is the importance of the IAP2 and Tamarack Promise as part of a mental model in developing a continuum of community engagement in a community-based Collective Impact effort?  

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