Monthly Archives: July 2016

Sabbatical

I’m Working for a Healthy City

Mpls/St.Paul

I focus my skills and time on making my city a healthy city, playing a supporting role to the countless others also doing that work.

So what does that mean?

I offered a preview of my future work in my previous sabbatical post. As I hinted there, my work will be local, it will explicitly foster “equity,” it will focus on practial and specific goals, and I will use a network approach.

But what do I mean when I say “healthy city?” And given all that needs doing, what principles will I use to choose where to pitch in?

A healthy city works for every person in it, particularly those with less access to resources. Image credit: Ethan Cherin

A healthy city works for every person in it, particularly those with less access to resources.
Image credit: Ethan Cherin

Defining a Healthy City

I have something specific in mind when I say “healthy city.” It is not the Minneapolis and St. Paul that exists today, although we have some bright spots we can grow.

A healthy city works for every person in it, particularly people with less access to resources.

To work for everyone, it must respect each person’s self-defined identity and support each person’s self-determination.

That means each person, whatever their identity, feels respected in the design of spaces, in interactions, and in having access to the benefits of living in the city. It also means each person feels respected as they work toward personal and community goals and in voicing their own needs.

No individual’s self-defined identity or self-determination can disrespect that of others. The city can’t work for me or for us if it doesn’t work for everyone.

Only in this healthy city can each person contribute to the city to their fullest, in their own unique way.

We don’t have this city today. Systemic oppression of Native and Black people is a fact, documented through our “worst in nation” racial disparities ranking. It’s a fact for all people of color, doubly so for women and queer people of color. While my work spans all sorts of power and inclusion, I see race as a fundamental issue that has to be integrated into everything.

Three Principles for Achieving a Healthy City

These principles guide how I invest my time and focus my work. I’m sharing a bright spot that illustrates each one, something we can learn from and borrow from. read more »

Network Design

Jump in! Inviting Work Group Design

 

(Image of two women about to swim in frozen lake.)

Come on in!                               Image Credit Nikolay Dikiy – Купаца!, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15265087

 

This is part of an occasional series on network design

A network leader challenge is remembering the network isn’t most people’s first priority, and it shouldn’t be. That’s why designing work groups well is critical to meeting both members’ and the network’s needs.

Over the years, goal-setting and iterative design have helped me develop work groups that make it easy for people to jump in, where participants shape and own the work, and where each group is a jumping off point for a more interesting and useful next round.

Principles

Set goals for your groups, and design to them. Then, use iterative design to improve what you’ve designed. Don’t wait to act, but act in small low-risk ways. Design quick cycles of action, building in time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve it (or set it aside if it’s the wrong approach). Reflecting lets us embrace failure as a learning opportunity. This shift changes feelings of guilt and the tendency to blame into a tool to achieve the ultimate goal. It helps us be brave enough to take risks, to move ahead without certainty.

Example

Most recently, I designed small, short-cycle work groups using an iterative process. read more »

Network Weaving

The Basics of a Network Approach

This post shares 

  1. my own definition of a network approach,
  2. the organizational and cultural shifts that make it successful and more accessible today than it was a generation ago, and
  3. bonus benefits of using a network approach.

I want to thank the many people who have informed my thinking and offered different ways to convey this. First, Beth Tener (whose images I’ve borrowed from this great webinar), and this excellent presentation from the Children and Nature Network, many of my colleagues in the Twin Cities, and June Holley.

 

Defining a network approach

A network approach intentionally builds effective relationships around a shared vision to accomplish goals or build a movement. It’s a way of working, a set tools that help people work together as peers, to go further faster. It’s decentralized, and people work together as peers. Relationships,  understanding one another’s interests, and shared goals motivate action and accountability.

Respectful relationships are a must. Conflict is a reality in all realationships, and respect plus open communiation can leverage healthy conflict for good in networks.

Transparency rules. People must have access to information about activities, participants, and learning. 

 

Today’s societal shifts make it easier

Media, meetings, and work can be distributed or centrally controlled, AND it can be directed by one or many people. Adapted from Liberating Structures

Media, meetings, and work can be distributed or centrally controlled, AND it can be directed by one or many people. Adapted from Liberating Structures

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