Category Archives: Sabbatical

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 »

Sabbatical

New Ideas Emerging

seedlings sprout

Image credit: Jon Sullivan

On a recent Saturday, I offered a four-hour invitation to Come and Think About Hard Things in a facilitated discussion. Read to the end to find out what action I’m taking in response to their support and encouragement.

I was honored that 20 members of my professional (and personal) community came out to support me. I like to think my commitment to relationships and people in the past means my community is there for me – complex reciprocity at it’s best. And, it’s humbling.

the group

Four hours, on a Saturday in May

(Thanks to Lisa for facilitating, and to Michael for helping design the agenda and frame up my presentation.)

After a little getting to know one another, I offered my current thinking about the work I’d like to do [with others].

  1. First, I shared my idea of a healthy community, which is a place that achieves two specific goals. It must respect each person’s self-defined identity, in the design of spaces, in interactions with others, and offering reasonable access to the benefits of the city. It must also respect the self-determination of each person as they work towards personal and community goals, and as they voice their own needs.
  2. Second, I offered three guiding principles about how to get there, illustrating them each with local examples. We must remedy historical imbalances of power, naming them, rebalancing them, and redressing the compound interest that has already accumulated. Then, we must align our actions with our values, patiently and consistently acting with integrity. Finally, we must knit our community together, across racial, physical, and other gaps.
  3. Third, I shared why I think a network weaving approach offers the radical challenge to our current way of doing business that we’ll need to make the shift I hope for. Besides accelerating the great work that is already happening, it’s an approach that explicitly acknowledges that the patterns of relationships are replicated at all levels. It isn’t possible to build a balanced, healthy system on top of an unbalanced, unhealthy relationships.

I closed by asking people to explore this framework with me, both on the Saturday we were together and throughout the summer. (I am reworking my presentation to address some of the comments, and I will share that here.) read more »

Sabbatical

Seeking Clearness, Embracing Uncertainty

coin purse of origami cranes

Each crane is like one question, insight, or reflection of my exploration.

My big sabbatical goal is to get clarity in where and how I focus my work.

As part of my process, I’m asking my colleagues and friends for help. Asking people to help is easy for me — unless I’m asking people to help ME. While it’s uncomfortable, the generosity and support of people supporting me in this effort is humbling. Thank you.

I shared that I am hosting two convenings, the first a clearness committee that was held last week. In my invitation, I said,

I’m seeking clearness in where and how I will focus my work. The purpose of this meeting isn’t to arrive at any final answers for the focus of my future work, but just to help me clarify the questions that are most important for me to answer during my sabbatical. During the meeting, I’m hoping you’ll ask me good questions that help me frame what I want to learn as a part of my sabbatical. 

I’ve spent a week synthesizing last week’s clearness committee into my thinking. I’m making notes where I’m finding the clarity I seek, and naming the discomfort and uncertainty that I continue to uncover as I reflect on and re-review the committee notes. This is another iterative process.   read more »

Sabbatical

Sabbatical Update: An Invitation to Come Play

interactive reading group

It’s more fun to figure things out together. Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Stephen Murphy

It’s always more fun to figure things out together. I find it results in a better product, too.* In that spirit, I’m convening two sabbatical-related events.

The first is a clearness committee (facilitated by my dear friend Michael Bischoff). That tiny session is intended to help me understand and be more clear in how and where I will focus my work.

The second is a larger group workshop, which I’ve titled “Sabbatical Inquiry: Creating a Healthy Community” (facilitated by another friend and colleague, Lisa Negstad). You’re invited. In the last few weeks, it’s become clearer to me that I want to focus on building a healthy community, to be part of healing my city, righting wrongs grown from an imbalance of power, money, and access.

This clearly encompasses racial justice, transportation and land use, the health of our planet, affordable housing, policing and criminal justice reform, to include a few key topics. It also encompasses how they intersect. I see many examples of people working towards this positive vision of our city’s future. The work I want to do isn’t my work, it’s our work, and includes many people beyond us.

Because it’s our work, not my work, I feel a responsibility to invite (and I crave) input from you. The summit will be an engaging, facilitated session. (Also, four hours on a Saturday in May – but free lunch!)

If that interests you, consider joining us – or sharing it with others who might find it compelling. My personal goal for the summit is to understand how my work can support those larger goals of healing our community and rebalancing power within it.

 

*when the process is well-managed

Sabbatical

I’m Seeing New Possibilities

image of stairs disappearing into a house

Image Credit: Tom Simon

In my network-supporting work, I encourage others to take the time to reflect. I model that practice when I facilitate meetings and in my projects. Now, I’m diving in even deeper.

This spring I found a new door to walk through. My role with a big project came to an end, and I find I have the space to step back and reflect.

I just started a sabbatical. 

I’m using it to be intentional in refocusing my work. The expanse of possibility I see is exhilarating.

Over the next five months, thanks to the recommendation of my friend and colleague Michael Bischoff, I’m going to modify Appreciative Inquiry‘s model to slow down and consider my plan. I’m inspired by the invitation to “look at the best of what is, in order to imagine what could be,” (citation). It requires me to reflect, to inquire, and invites me to imagine.  read more »