Planting Seeds of Change

Close-up of dandelion seeds on blue natural background.

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. So much fun!

 Virtual Meeting Breakthrough

The day before I was to facilitate a day-long retreat for a new collective impact network focused on behavioral health workforce development, I learned that half the participants were going to be joining us by phone. A moment of panic. Our agenda was full of interactive, small group conversations and decision-making practices. How was I going to make sure 14 callers-in didn’t nod off partway through in the echo-y chambers of teleconference hell?

Zoom to the rescue! Thanks in part to my colleague Maggie Chumbley, who teaches the art of hosting virtual meetings, we were able to ensure callers had authentic engagement through break out rooms, the chat box, and by assigning a Zoom host who curated the on-line conversation and ensured that people on the phone were able to weigh in on important decisions. I’m a student of how we co-learn virtually, and this was a promising experience.

Planting Seeds of Change

I train hundreds of practitioners every year, and I’m never totally sure what people take in and how they use it in their work. Imagine my delight when a workshop participant recently said she’d attended an Early Childhood Collective Impact Institute I led in 2017. Following the Institute, she and her colleagues launched a local initiative that has taken off. They’re coordinating with multiple sectors to support new moms and increase literacy in the early years. She said it was the most functional and impactful of the many groups she participates in, and she thanked me for helping them to establish a strong foundation for their collaboration.

Her kind remarks reminded me a recent Aspen Ideas podcast on happiness by Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos.  Research shows that making time for gratitude increases wellbeing. Santos cites a study where students are asked to write a letter of gratitude to someone who has helped them, and then deliver the letter in person, or ideally read it to them. The person to whom the letter is read often describes this as one of the “best experiences in their life”.

Who can you take time to write a letter to, expressing your gratitude? What if you sat down this week and wrote that letter?

Let me know how it goes.




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