What is Flisrand Consulting? What is Flisrand Consulting?

Flisrand Consulting connects people, places and ideas through smart process.

Smart process begins by working with you to clarify the project goal, define the steps to achieve it, and make it happen.  We provide additional value by connecting your goals with our expertise in engagement and collaborative coordination, and broad network. One of our key strategies is network weaving, the practice of intentionally building effective relationships around a common issue area.

The result may be a well-facilitated meeting, workshop, event, or initiative.  The process may lead to a written product like a white paper, handbook, or summary of best practices.  It may simply be a review of your company’s plan to increase cycling and transit commuting by your employees, or marketing materials that earn your company credit for the sustainability work you do.


Healthy Cities

I’m Talking Cities, Applied Anthro, and Enagagement I’m Talking Cities, Applied Anthro, and Enagagement


And I got to be featured on the podcast!

I love streets, healthy cities, and all the policies and research behind them. To get my fix of news, I’ve been reading The Direct Transfer‘s daily Overhead Wire newsletter (subscribe here).

I was honored when Jeff Wood, the guy behind those things, invited me to be the featured guest on his StreetsBlog Talking Headways podcast. It was even better when I got to talk applied anthropology, network weaving, equity, and engagement (with a small dose of Oslo, Norway) in our conversation.

If you’re curious, there is 35 minutes of listening here.

Facilitation Network Weaving

My Networks Care for Me, Too My Networks Care for Me, Too

blank wall

The agenda for an Open Space Meeting. Also, a description of what I knew about Open Space when I decided I wanted to use the technique in a workshop.


A couple weeks ago, I was prepping for a workshop. I knew I wanted to include a modified Open Space session at the end of the day. The catch was that I’d never facilitated or even participated in an Open Space session, and I was nervous about faking it in a room with 30 people who were looking to me to make the day worthwhile.

I happen to be part of a very loose network (a google group, really), of network support consultants, so I reached out to them asking for guidance.

I’m planning to use a short, possibly modified version of Open Space Technologies to close out a full-day workshop with a goal of giving people space to engage in topics that they are passionate about and/or which they want to learn more about after the rest of the day.

I’m wondering whether someone is willing to spend 15-30 minutes on skype or google hangouts with me to talk me through my framing and logistics.

Within a day, I had EIGHT people offer to help me. I worked with two of them. The online Open Space descriptions I found were mostly for much larger contexts than I had — multiple days of sessions. Thanks to their advice I felt comfortable I was scaling my instructions to my context, and framing my questions in a way that would lead to valuable conversations. Because my network supported me, by the time I was in a room with my participants, I was ready.

This week, I’m reviewing the evaluations from that session. 60% of the attendees listed the Open Space session as one of their favorite parts of the day. It’s time to thank my network for taking care of me, too.

Communication Network Weaving

Virtual Meeting Tips for Relationship Building Virtual Meeting Tips for Relationship Building

Google Forms as a call script

Google Forms as a call script

I’ve been experimenting with ways to have interactive, relationship-building meetings for attendees spread across the country.

One of my favorite so far combines a mix of video calls, Google Forms, phone calls and chat boxes.  read more »

Network Weaving

Accessing the Advice of Your Peers Accessing the Advice of Your Peers

These one-time events are an opportunity to get practical and imaginative help from network members immediately. It’s perfect for people tackling a challenge or new project to get a bit of insight from peers who have useful perspectives or who have done the same thing before. Each event has an “assistee” who shares a challenge, a “facilitator” who keeps the process on track and on time, and 6-9 “peers” who share their thoughts.

They tend to be most beneficial when the assistee has a clear purpose and can clearly articulate that to participants. What decision do you face?

I’ve been using peer assists both with local peers, as we support one another through our network-building challenges and with NEWHAB. I’ve found multiple benefits, beyond helping people find new solutions in their work.

  • It’s an accessible way for people to practice network skills like listening and seeing everyone as a leader.
  • Peers report gaining new insight of their own.
  • All participants build relationships with one another.
  • And all participants give something — a challenge, some time, some ideas — starting an economy of intellectual reciprocity in the network.

Here’s the instruction guide I prepared for a one-hour activity I led with a group of peers. Check out the great video above from the University of Ottowa’s Center for e-Learning.

How have you used a peer-assist? How would you change the guide?

Affordable Housing Healthy Cities

On Rental Housing and Markets On Rental Housing and Markets

You may know that I also blog over at streets.mn, and I just posted a three-part series on rental housing markets, affordable rental housing and related policy. (Three posts so far, it may grow). It was inspired by things happening in my back yard: a lot of hand-wringing about affordable housing, concerns about luxury buildings forcing up naturally-occurring affordable rents, and what can we do about it all. It’s conceptual enough I think it is useful anywhere.

I start off at my own owner-occupied four-unit apartment building where I explain How I Set Apartment Rents. I moved on to a basic housing market explainer in Housing Markets? Humbug! In the third, I walk through an overview of how big the need for affordable housing is, what current subsidy can — or really cannot — do to address the problem, and offer my thoughts on how to Reduce Affordable Housing Need in Three Steps.

map of rental cost burden twin ities

Rental Burden (paying more than 30% of income in rent)
Map credit: Elliot Altbaum


Facilitation Network Weaving

Surprise! I Love Failure Surprise! I Love Failure

As we design our new network, I’m very focused on learning. I’m reading books, reading blogs, asking friends, piloting ideas on groups where I volunteer, hiring a coach, and discussing challenges with colleagues.

Because we are inventing something new, I also want to learn from what we do. I’m encouraging activities that move our work forward, using structures that have short cycles so we can iterate and continually improve how we collaborate. To learn from and improve on every iteration, we need to instill a habit of reflection with everything we do.

For the last year, we’ve had “work groups.” The first ones didn’t go so well, so when they ended after a few months, I reflected on the challenges they’d had and redesigned for work groups 2.0 This round went much better.

I also requested an explicit reflection conversation at the end the second round, a half-hour conversation with each set of co-conveners. You can see some of their very rich reflections in this earlier post.

There was one surprise bonus I hadn’t expected from these conversations.

Creative Commons License, credit OtakuAnna


While I was very pleased with how the groups had gone, it seemed a few co-conveners felt they hadn’t lived up to their commitments. As the conversations began, regret or apologies rolled quickly off of tongues. The tone changed when I asked them to name what they were most proud of, list what had worked well, offer tips for others who would follow, and advise me on how I could better set up leaders.

After they named things like successful webinars, they offered something really valuable: what they had learned. What started out feeling like going to confession turned into contributing to NEWHAB’s success.

Sure, the content of the conversations will make the 3.0 version even more successful. But to my surprise, the most valuable lesson from these conversations is that taking time to learn from whatever happened transforms (perceived) failure into an important contribution to the network. People feel good leaving that conversation. And that’s a good place to begin building a network.

Facilitation Network Weaving

I Asked a few Questions; Wisdom Appeared I Asked a few Questions; Wisdom Appeared

Lessons Learned

Credit: Kathy Choh of Management HQ

As we develop NEWHAB, we’re using short cycles of doing followed by reflection to quickly try out strategies and either make them better or decide they aren’t the right ones for us. Six months ago, we started our second round of “work groups,” having learned from some struggles on the first set.

When I solicited co-conveners then, I shared a summary of expectations:

  • approximately monthly work sessions with work group members,
  • share agendas for work group calls prior to meetings,
  • share notes, relevant information, and deliverables from work group sessions,
  • identify specific outcomes or deliverables for the work group (shaped by co-conveners in partnership with the work group) in the first month,
  • in the sixth month, suggest possible next steps for the conveners who will follow you and sharing useful information with them.

At the end of the six months, to reinforce the importance of reflection and learning from experience, I also asked each pair of co-leads to do a short phone call with me. I had a short list of questions.

  1. What was the most useful thing I did to help set up your group?
  2. What is your most proud outcome?
  3. What have you learned? What tips would you share with future group co-conveners?
  4. What could we (the network supporters) have done differently to be more helpful?

The conversations were wonderfully rich — and offered bonuses beyond the learning (I’ll share more about those in a future post). There were four big themes that emerged in all the conversations. read more »

Network Weaving Vocation

Well, Here’s How *I* Pay Rent with my Anthro Major Well, Here’s How *I* Pay Rent with my Anthro Major

An urban anthropologist at work.

An urban anthropologist at work: may include testifying on urban issues for City Government.


I identify as an anthropologist, among other things. Anyone who ever studied anthropology, me included, needs an answer to, “What job can you get with an anthro major?” In jokes about useless majors, it ranks up there with art and philosophy. In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott took on the whole discipline, noting, “We don’t need them here.

Amy Santee, another applied anthropologist, writes about just this question on her blog, Anthropologizing. She has a series of posts titled, “Anthropologists in Practice.” I was pleased for the chance to reflect more on my anthropology training — and to answer the question of how I use an anthropology major to pay my rent — when she invited me to do an interview for the series.

Communication Facilitation

Seeding Good Network Habits Seeding Good Network Habits

Supporting networks, or volunteers, or project teams, I find it’s critical to teach people how to use the tools we have effectively. I try to sneak tips into e-mails and to model good habits — hard when you’re in a hurry!

I’ve been leaning on Kathy Choh of Management HQ to help me with this. She provides admin support to NEWHAB. Today I’m sharing the tips we co-wrote last week. This one focused on effectively contributing to and getting the most out of NEWHAB’s Google Group.

Janne & Kathy

Janne & Kathy


This is a good introduction to how we use the Google Group if you are brand new to the group, and a helpful reminder if have been a part of NEWHAB since before it had a name.

First, the purpose of this Google Group. This is our main communication tool for the Network for Energy, Water and Health in Affordable Housing.

FRIENDLY WARNING: There are well over 100 people who receive these e-mails, so please be respectful of others e-mail inboxes when you broadcast to everyone.

OPPORTUNITY: There are over 100 experts who receive these e-mails, who want to know what is going on and connect with NEWHAB, so please take advantage of this list to share and solicit expertise as well as to connect with one another.

Tips: read more »

Facilitation Network Weaving

Just Get Together, Already! Just Get Together, Already!

Credit: Minnesota Social Impact Center

Gathering in Minneapolis (Credit: Minnesota Social Impact Center)

Something I love about networked working is that it’s enough to Just Do Something. Almost anything. Preferably in person.

It’s human to want to plan things out, to get them right. It’s so easy to wait until we have time to do it right to do anything.

Luckily, there are plenty of examples around of just jumping in and doing something together and then seeing the value of connecting emerge when people meet. Those examples inspire me, and they remind me to just schedule something.

In the last three weeks, I’ve been a participant in two gatherings of people leading collaborative networks. They were totally different events. In San Francisco, extending an invitation for coffee or a drink to Eugene Kim transformed into an excuse to convene  15 people, drawn by a pitch that “Janne’s going to talk some about her work and her interests.” (A more prominent role than I’d expected, and I got great ideas in exchange for being willing to serve as case study!)

read more »