Like many of you, I’m reaching out to friends and colleagues to help me better understand the scope, dangers and opportunities of COVID-19. A recurring worry that we share is, “Are we doing enough? How can we balance the need to get up every morning to do what we can, with a sense of the insignificance of our efforts within the enormity of this crisis?”
It reminds me of circles of concern and of influence, popularized by Stephen Covey. I wrote about this idea a few years ago:
“Circles of concern are things we care about, from global warming to the choices our grown children make and the upturn or downturn of the economy. It’s the “stuff” we read in the paper, or watch on the news. Circles of influence are the things we can actually impact or affect – how we respond to an impatient coworker, whether or not we participate in a volunteer project, how much time we take to dig deeper and connect more dots in our work.”
Last night, after the Governor of Montana declared a shelter in place for our state, I took a picture of my kitchen sink and posted it on Facebook with the caption:
“Hello beloveds. This is where I do my daily schmata*: washing dishes, worrying about our world, replenishing my family… How about you? Where do you tend to what needs to be done?”
It may seem odd to share a photo of something so mundane, and to invite a glimpse into others’ homes and hearths. Especially on social media – a platform that feeds on the brighter side of life – the family vacations, job promotions, kid awards and recent weight loss.
And yet, as COVID-19 upends our lives, it is to the rhythms of daily life I turn for solace. I’m reminded that when you take away all the self-induced busyness we’ve built into our lives, it’s the day-in-day-out acts of washing dishes, sweeping floors, feeding the dog and calling a neighbor that define our humanity, that give us purpose and use. Continue reading “To Be of Use”
If collective impact efforts have any certainties, one surely is the ever-revolving (one might hope ever-evolving) door of community partners coming to the table. Our efforts for inclusivity, the reality that multisector coalitions invite instability as people leave jobs and new people come in: it’s inevitable that we will be regularly onboarding new partners.
How do we invite in new faces without disrupting the focus and momentum of the team? I’m often asked this as I coach collective impact efforts. Here are a few strategies that seem to work.
If you know someone is joining the collaboration before they attend their first meeting, make every attempt to grab a cup coffee – in person, through Zoom – to talk through the history, the current work and where you’re heading as an initiative. Visuals can really help. One of the best visuals I’ve found is a journey map, which is developed by the team and can be used to orient incoming partners. Talking through the journey map gives new players critical context for the work. Invite the new partner to add their story to the map to continue to evolve the collaboration’s shared understanding of the work. If you can, invite another team member join you over coffee to help tell the story, build relationships across organizations, and position the backbone less as a gatekeeper and more as a weaver. Continue reading “Welcome to the Party! How to onboard new collaborative partners”
When working with groups, I like to begin with Margaret Wheatley’s observation, “People own that which they help to build.” It neatly sums up the monumental shifts that can occur when we embrace a core truth of community building:
Engaging community in the process of change work is fundamental to design, impact and sustainability.
This is hardly new news. Practitioners of collective impact regularly strive to engage community in their work. We get the why of engagement – it’s the how of community engagement that presents challenges.
A few things first. I encourage teams to think of community as an ecosystem of people, organizations and patterns of interactions. I ask them to “get up on the balcony” to see the network of patterns and behaviors, ways that people, businesses and organizations navigate their community. This allows teams to see where they can leverage existing momentum, and where to anticipate roadblocks. Continue reading “Helping build what we own”
This past winter was long, cold and hard. Weather compounded challenges with projects struggling for lift-off and slow starts to new endeavors. Let’s just say springtime renewal is most welcome. Here’re a few things I’ve been learning along the way.
What Critical Shifts Do We Seek to Make?
Successful community change efforts need three things: a framework, principles and practices. (This is based on the good work of Tamarack Institute, which I blogged about recently.) As a facilitative leader, I am always on the lookout for tools to help groups do their work deeply, efficiently and (hopefully) joyfully.
One of my favorite tools is CoCreative Consulting’s Critical Shifts, which helps a group prioritize actions to most powerfully move toward their goal. I recently used Critical Shifts to help a newly forming civic engagement network design their year one workplan; a local early childhood coalition name missing partnerships; and a regional emergency preparedness team begin to identify a common agenda for a collective impact initiative. Continue reading “Planting Seeds of Change”
A wee structure sits atop my work desk, crafted out of clay. It’s two structures, actually: a lozenge-like disc depicting Planet Earth, and a nice, cushy blue couch with an overstuffed pillow. The outcome of a craft session with my daughters when they were young, Planet Earth lounges peaceably on the couch, taking a break from the hard work of being, well, a planet.
I keep Planet Earth on my desk for several reasons.
First off, she reminds me to spend each day doing my best. Life is short, we only get so many runs around the sun, yet the needs of our planet and our peoples are tremendous. Seeing her provokes me to prioritize the high-leverage, impactful things on my daily list of To Dos. To help me choose between tasks, I have long-relied on the Eisenhower Matrix, which Steven Covey popularized in his seminal time management book, First Things First. The matrix helps to organize tasks by urgency and importance. I’ve used it throughout my career to help me focus on important activities before they become urgent.
In a recent NYT column, David Brooks describes our current times as a war with two sides: those who sow division and discord in our communities, and those who nurture attachment and connectivity. “It’s as if we’re witnessing this vast showdown between the rippers and the weavers,” he writes.
Lest we feel too quickly our own superiority, Brooks observes that we are all part of the problem. We each struggle with overwork and a radical individualism that leaves us little time to know our neighbors. We are insulated from people who vote differently, dress differently, and use different words to express similar feelings of isolation, fear and concern for our future.
There are many more weavers than rippers, Brooks writes. There are more people who yearn to live in loving relationships and trusting communities, but they need strategies to strengthen their awareness and skills. Continue reading “Building a Bigger Loom”
I love walking into a room of people who want to make a difference in their community. Moms, doctors, elders, elected officials, teachers; people who are new to the work sitting with people at the height of their career. The range of experience and knowledge excites me. I’m confident that together they will yield new insights and approaches, and forge friendships that last beyond the project.
As a facilitator, I believe my best service to the work is to help draw out what I like to call the “wisdom in the room” – the inherent, sometimes dormant, intelligence that emerges when people feel safe, share freely, reflect on what they’re learning, and make choices on how to move forward.
It turns out that my belief that a group of people can be more insightful, more intelligent, than any one person, is more than just a belief. It’s also got some science behind it. Continue reading “A Jar Full of Jellybeans”
Oftentimes when working with communities, I retell the tale of the blind men who come across an elephant. One clasps the trunk and wonders, “Ah! But this beast is long and snakelike!” Another places his hand on a haunch: “No, it isn’t! It is coarse and broad.” “You’re both wrong,” says a third, who stands by a tusk. “It is smooth, hard and cool.”
The men argue. They are each correct in their experience, yet left to their own perceptions they are unable to discern the true nature of the beast.
I like to tell this story for two reasons. One, people like stories. They remind us “about who we are, why we are, where we come from and what might be possible,” as actor Alan Rickman once said.
I am lucky to live and work in Montana, which means I get a lot of drive time. Unlike my city-dweller friends, drives in Montana include mountain passes, buffalo herds, and irregular access to gas stations. Trips between towns can easily exceed three hours, and so podcasts are a welcome addition to the books-on-tape and agriculture talk shows that help pass the time.
One of my favorite podcasts is On Being with Krista Tippett– a show that explores the big questions of meaning in modern life: What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? And who will we be to each other? Two recent podcasts – one with Nobel physicist Frank Wilczek; the other with author Elizabeth Gilbert– tapped my own ponderings about the work I do: What does it mean to be a “community builder,” a collaborator, someone who believes not only that good is possible, but that good is our natural state of being? Continue reading “Collaborating With the Universe”