Jan/22/14//Curtis Ogden//Featured, What We Are Reading

Networks and the “Quiet” Revolution

“Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.”

-Susan Cain

How Not to Manage an Introvert“How Not to Manage an Introvert” (by Nguyen Hung Vu)

 

For several months I’ve been meaning to read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking.  Having completed it this past weekend, I have both a sense of validation (being one of ever-more introverted tendencies as the years pass) and being able to see with new eyes. IMHO, it is well worth the read, and if the thought of tackling the 300 pages is daunting, you might enjoy a taste via Cain’s TED Talk.

Here I wanted to reflect on some of the insights Cain’s work has to offer collaboration and “net work” for change.   continue reading

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Jan/21/14//Gibrán Rivera//Collaboration

Make Magic

Make Magic

Seth’s blog this morning reminded me of an ongoing joke that I have with Linda Guinee, my colleague here at IISC.

Seth’s main question is: “Who is in charge of the magic?”

During my early days at IISC, Linda brought me into design and facilitation of an “Innovation Lab” for one of our biggest clients at the time.  It was big break, and I took it seriously.  Linda, who is quite magical herself, kept reminding me of practical things that I still tend to overlook.  At one point she had to remind me that it was important to give the participants a bathroom break!

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Jan/19/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Love

Changed People Changing the World

Check out this relaxed conversation between Dr. King and Merv Griffin. Dr. King reflects on the political context in Atlanta, which he called the most progressive city in the South—and the opportunities it afforded for progress for civil rights. Toward the end, Dr. King reflects on the progress to date in civil rights.

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Jan/17/14//Jen Willsea//Featured, Structural Transformation

Lessons in Emergent Alignment

Lessons in Alignment“We have to rid ourselves of the notion that innovation relies on the genius of an individual. We produce and innovate together only in networks.”

- Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire

 This is our second post about the Social Justice Funders Network. Read the previous post here

  • How might women of color working in philanthropy support each other in nurturing our radical selves?
  • How might funders advance racial justice and racial equity conversations in our philanthropic institutions in order to inform our practice?
  • What is the appropriate role for foundations in support of movements and movement building?
  • How might we be stronger allies to and supporters of youth organizing?

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Jan/16/14//Curtis Ogden//Your Experiences

EmBODYing the Work

“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”

- James Joyce, The Dubliners

vision bodies

The above quote caught my attention in light of much thinking about and work around the importance of being more fully embodied in social change efforts. This year I have personally made some commitments to more intentionally acknowledge and care for my own body, including investing in a rather basic standing desk, and recommitting to a morning workout (this post on the lasting benefits of just a 20 minute exercise routine served as an extra-added push).  And I’ve been carrying this commitment directly into my work with clients, not just in terms of focusing on the importance of caring for themselves, but also grounding aspirations they have for their work. continue reading

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Jan/15/14//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Networks for Change: Values Before Vision?

vision |Photo by Christian|www.flickr.com/photos/91048408@N00/322951661/lightbox/?q=vision|

 

For the past year, Carole Martin and I have been co-facilitating a “network leadership program” supported by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund called the Community Practitioners Network (CPN). The overall goal of CPN is to further develop a group of proven and promising leaders as individuals, as a cohort, and as “critical yeast and connectors” (my language, not the Fund’s) in support of community and economic development in a region that encompasses northern New Hampshire, northeastern Vermont, northwestern Maine, and southern Quebec.  Throughout, we have been actively exploring a variety of leadership and network development practices for growing personal and interpersonal awareness, connectivity, alignment, resolve, resilience, and skillfulness.  

In our most recent session, a two-day retreat in Pittsburg, NH, we engaged in discussion about and embodied practice of “vision.” Over the course of the two days, a robust conversation evolved about what makes vision powerful (in light of many uninspiring experiences) and its relevance in a networked world, in combination and contrasted with values. continue reading

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Jan/14/14//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Learning Edge

The Thrive Workshop

Thrive Logo

When I told Ceasar about the Thrive Workshop he was excited about it.  I remembered that when we interviewed him to become President of the Interaction Institute for Social Change he talked about his ongoing work at MIT.  He described the university as a place that is focused on making things work in the real world.  That certainly is IISC’s orientation.  And it definitely is what the Thrive Workshop is all about.

 

Thrive is not for everyone.  Thrive is for you if you are bursting with an idea and you just can’t get yourself to make it happen.  Thrive is meant to get you started.  Thrive is about getting you out of your head and into the real world. continue reading

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Jan/13/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, IISC:Inside

Making Meaning Together

Leadership

At IISC, we began the year with some heavy-duty thinking. We’ll be writing about those ideas in future posts. Today, I want to tip my hat to my colleagues and to IISC’s Board of Directors. After spending a day on Board business, our Board members spent a day with the staff thinking about emerging new directions for IISC.

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Jan/10/14//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Amiri Baraka

Here is to the prophets and truth tellers of our day.  Rest in Power Amiri Baraka, we are honored to have you join our ancestors.

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Jan/08/14//Curtis Ogden//Facilitative Leadership

Holding the Center

centripetal Photo by John Goode

 

Sometimes the “breakthrough” is not breaking down.

Sometimes “innovation” is having things not go the way they usually do.

Sometimes “success” is when people are willing to meet again.  

 

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Jan/06/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, What We Are Reading

Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

Across That Bridge

The most inspiring book I read in 2013 was Across that Bridge: Life Lessons and A Vision for Change, by Congressman and Civil Rights legend, John Lewis. He built the book around several practices that are essential for social justice work: faith, patience, study, truth, peace, love and reconciliation. continue reading

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Jan/03/14//Jen Willsea//Power, Equity, Inclusion

All-In-Nation: Vision for 2050

Sometime around 2040 the U.S. will become a majority people of color nation, according to census projections. Already the majority of our children under the age of one are of color. These demographic shifts are underway and yet racial disparities persist in areas including educational achievement, health, and financial wealth. PolicyLink and the Center for American Progress have teamed up on a project called All-In Nation: An America that Works for All, to make the case that “strong communities of color are critical to America’s economic future.”

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Jan/02/14//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Seeing and Being Through Networks

For those who read this blog on a somewhat regular basis, you know that we at IISC find and experience great promise in embracing network approaches to (and as) social change. So what happens when we truly see ourselves as and in networks; that is, appreciating how we are inextricably embodied through and embedded in interconnected flows of energy, material goods, ideas, intentions, etc.?

Ten thoughts, in no particular order, nor meant to be exhaustive: continue reading

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Dec/30/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Sustainability

Long-Term Trend in Nonprofit Funding

The following post has been reblogged from our friend Kim Klien. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

“I would love to give to the Film Festival, but I really have to devote all my giving to my children’s public school.” This sentence, said by a long-time donor in response to a request for funding renewal from a board member at a local Film Festival, helped to start a project called “Nonprofits Talking Taxes.” Starting about 10 years ago, many of us started to hear things like this from our donors.  continue reading

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Dec/26/13//Maanav Thakore//Structural Transformation

Creating Space for Collective Healing

How do we make space for collective grief and healing in a time of great loss? By transforming public space and disrupting business-as-usual! Watch this amazing flash mob in Johannesburg to see a moving tribute to Nelson Mandela.

The Soweto Gospel Choir is performing a song written during Mandela’s imprisonment.  The song is entitled Asimbonanga or “We have not seen him”.

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Dec/24/13//IISC//IISC:Inside, IISC:Outside

9 Practice-Guiding Questions for 2014

“Transformation comes more from pursuing profound questions than seeking practical answers.”

- Peter Block

Three of our IISC blogger-practitioners have been in conversation about 3 questions they are each carrying with them into 2014 to guide and develop their practice to support social change.  We invite your reflections on and additions to these: continue reading

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Dec/23/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Inspiring Movement Moments of 2013

The following blog post was written by our friend Julie Quiroz  at The Movement Strategy Center.  We hope you enjoy it at as much as we did! 

Remember this spring, when the Associated Press finally dropped the I-word, and youth of color defeated prison-to-pipeline policies in Los Angeles public schools?

Or remember back in February when 50,000 people rallied in DC against the XL Pipeline?  And then in October when the protests of 5,000 young people linked the pipeline, fracking, and the whole mess of fossil fuel development?

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Dec/19/13//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Empathy and the Dramatic Arc

“Stories bring brains together.”

- Paul J. Zak

This past week we have featured a couple of posts on empathy (see “Empathy + Equity –> Justice” and “Empathy Connect, Sympathy Disconnects”).  In light of these and also on the heels of recent powerful experiences in a couple networks for change around the use of storytelling to deepen connectivity and commitment, I found the video above to be instructive.  It is featured in a blog post entitled “How Stories Change the Brain” through the Greater Good Science Center.

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Dec/18/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks, What We Are Reading

Networks and Cultures of Giving

Adam Grant is a professor at the Wharton School of Business whose research focuses on “motivation, prosocial giving and helping behaviors, initiative and proactivity.”  His work and writing, including his book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, seem to have something to offer those interested in and engaged in developing networks for social change, as much of it points to data showing that organizations of all kinds benefit from fostering cultures of giving. continue reading

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Dec/17/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Structural Transformation

A Third Way of Work

Stowe Boyd has posted a provocative and largely resonant manifesto on the future of work.  Our ways of doing business are thoroughly obsolete,  “only 29% [of workers] are actively engaged with work.”  If this obsolescence is true for the private sector, it is even more true for those of us who work for justice.

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Dec/16/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Empathy + Equity → Justice

Last Friday, Curtis posted a clip by Brene Brown. She argues that “empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection.” I want to take her thinking one step further. Empathy fuels connection. Lack of empathy fuels injustice.

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Dec/13/13//IISC//Love

Empathy Connects, Sympathy Disconnects

“Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”

- Brene Brown

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Dec/12/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Thinking Like a Network

Over the past five years or so of supporting self-declared “networks” for change, I have evolved in my understanding of what is new when we call something a network, versus a coalition or collaborative or alliance.  On the surface, much can look the same, and one might also say that coalitions, collaboratives and alliances are simply different forms of networks.  Yes, and . . . I believe that what can make a big difference is when participants in a network (or an organization, for that matter) embrace new ways of seeing, thinking, and doing.  So let me propose that network approaches at their best call on us to lead with some of the following: continue reading

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Dec/11/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks, What We Are Reading

Networks That Work

I’ve spent time the past week reading through Networks that Work, a handy and concise resource for developing organizational networks, written by Paul Vandeventer, President and CEO of Community Partners, and Myrna Mandell, Ph.D.  The book lays out some very helpful pointers for more formally constructed networks.  I have highlighted 10 points below that resonate with our experiences at IISC around supporting organizational networks for social change.  My comments and extensions are in italics: continue reading

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Dec/10/13//Gibrán Rivera//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Temporary Autonomous Zones

“A Temporary Autonomous Zone is a liberated area of land, time or imagination where one can be for something, not just against, and where new ways of being human together can be explored and experimented with. Locating itself in the cracks and fault lines in the global grid of control and alienation, a T.A.Z. is an eruption of free culture where life is experienced at maximum intensity. It should feel like an exceptional party where for a brief moment our desires are made manifest and we all become the creators of the art of everyday life.”

via beautifultrouble.org

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Dec/09/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Got trust?

Even before I read in the Boston Globe that trust is at an all-time low in the U.S., I was planning to write about trust. Our colleagues at Interaction Associates have been tracking the connection between leadership, trust and business performance for years. Their 2013 Trust Report reinforces earlier findings that higher levels of collaboration, trust within a company are correlated with higher performance.

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Dec/06/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Liberation

Honoring Madiba: Love comes more naturally

VIDEO LINK: South Africans speak to the Meaning of Mandela

We join the world in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela; a giant of a man; the very embodiment of the intimate link between power, networks and love. His grace and humility was unrivaled, his insistence on reconciliation was an inspiration to millions. continue reading

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Dec/05/13//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Practices for Resilience and Development

When I take time to slow down, as I was able to do over the holiday break last week, my interest is refueled in practices that support our ability to maintain perspective and a sense of effective agency in the world.  My line of inquiry is not simply around what can keep us energized, pull us back from the edge, or deal with burn-out, but focused on how we can align our internal state with external aspirations in an integrated way and grow ourselves so we can help evolve larger systems.  My thinking and reading often takes me back to the work of Barbara Fredrickson, the emotions scientist based at the University of North Carolina, as well as to a host of others in the fields of positive and social psychology.  Having revisited some of these writings over the break, here are 10 recommended practices for personal and social resilience and development: continue reading

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Dec/04/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Networks and Structural Change

“Ultimately if we are to avoid failure in the most critical work of this century, the deepest reaches of our beings must be brought to bear in honestly reevaluating and shifting the most basic structures of our society.” 

- john a. powell

The following is a textual recapturing of a Pecha Kucha-like presentation that I gave at an ARNOVA Pre-Conference Session in Hartford, CT two weeks ago.  This was part of a 3-hour interactive conversation, co-designed and facilitated with Dr. Angela Frusciante of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, focusing on the power of networks for learning and social change, primarily with academic researchers and philanthropists.

At the Interaction Institute for Social Change, we are in agreement with Professor john a. powell when he points to the need to consider and make fundamental structural changes in our country and communities for the causes of greater social justice and sustainability. continue reading

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Dec/03/13//IISC//Sustainability

Culture and selfishness

The following post has been reblogged from Seth’s Blog. He is a genius and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

One person selfishly drops a piece of litter on the ground, the other selfishly picks it up.

Everything we do is done because it’s better than not doing it. “Better” is the complicated term. Better might mean, “gives me physical pleasure right now,” for some people, while better might mean, “the story I tell myself about the contribution I just made gives me joy and satisfaction.”

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Dec/02/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

Ask Not . . .

Much has been written and said in the past month about President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. I think the one important gift President Kennedy gave the country was a certain hopefulness about what people could do at their best and what government could do at its best. Listen (starting at 36:30) to an excerpt from President Kennedy’s inaugural address, read by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. He enjoins the listeners to “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” In these days of Washington gridlock and partisan gamesmanship, it’s a message we can stand to hear afresh!

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Nov/28/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Reframing Thanksgiving

Like Indigenous People’s Day (aka Columbus Day), Thanksgiving is fraught with historically inaccurate mythology. Check out these children’s books that tell a different story, from the point of view of Native Americans. And, if you’re in New England, consider joining United American Indians of New England for the 44th National Day of Mourning. continue reading

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Nov/27/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

At This Table

In the regional food system network development that IISC has been supporting, we have been making a habit of building certain rituals into our meetings.  One is to invite offerings of various kinds to open and close meetings, an opportunity for people to share what matters most to them and bring more of what moves them to the conversation. The following poem has been making the rounds, and has become a favorite for some of the universals it seems to invoke.  Wishing you all a deeply nourishing Thanksgiving. continue reading

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Nov/26/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Abolition!

Ok.  That’s a bit of an over statement.  But I was truly intrigued by a German town’s experiment in abolishing traffic lights and codes.  Sounds like anarchy?  Amazingly enough accidents are almost nonexistent.

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Nov/22/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

…and sometimes it’s just hard

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did and don’t forget to join the conversation! 

Recently, four friends of mine lost parents and siblings. Rockwood has had a few unanticipated challenges this year. The ripples of the 2008 recession are still affecting the nonprofit sector, and many organizations are struggling. The instability of our national government in recent months has made things very difficult for many folks.

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Nov/20/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Networks and Living Systems Patterns

“The major problems of the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way people think.”

— Gregory Bateson

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Joel Glanzberg.  I had been hearing about Joel and his work from numerous trusted colleagues, including Bill Reed of Regenesis Group and Ginny McGinn of Center for Whole Communities.  Joel describes himself as a builder, farmer, teacher, writer, storyteller, naturalist, and permaculturalist.  And I would add to that, living systems thinker.  Joel has cultivated a practice of seeing and working with patterns of life’s processes, and helps others to do this, for the sake of creating healthier and more whole communities of different kinds.

I was especially interested to hear more from Joel about some of the living systems principles that guide his work, and to think about how these apply to what we at IISC do around network development for social change and focusing on networks as human environments.  What appears in quotes and italics below is pulled directly from Joel’s website; the comments in regular text are my own:

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Nov/18/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

The lost art of democratic debate

One of the most important courses I took in college was Justice with Michael Sandel. (These days, anyone can “take” the whole course on video.) In a TED talk, Sandel spells out a way to think about justice and a way to improve democratic discourse. Here are a few highlights from the talk:

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Nov/14/13//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Embracing Change

“Much of what we think of as ‘rules’ are really just traditions and habits and assumptions that don’t get challenged until some new kid comes along who really doesn’t see the value of dying at the office or getting punched in the head, just because everyone else has.”

-Jason Clarke

Thanks to Laura Moorehead of the Institute for Civic Leadership for sharing this resource with us.  Jason Clarke is the founder of Minds At Work, and has been consulting to government and industry for nearly 30 years. In this talk, Mr. Clarke raises a number of interesting points about overcoming resistance to or ambivalence about change.  I especially like his approach of helping people move from what is perceived as negative about change to what is interesting to what is positive.  Meet people where they are and help them find that space between what is “good” and “bad”- the space of “unusual” or “different.”  This is the space of artistry and innovation.

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Nov/13/13//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Where There is Will

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

- Lao Tzu

Recently overheard:

“Yes, sure it’s great that that community is taking a network approach.  But we don’t have anything like the resources they have here.”

“No, I didn’t follow up on my commitments to the team.  I acknowledge that.  I’m just an “in the moment” kind of person.  When I’m with the team, I’m with them.  When I’m not, I’m not.”

“No, we haven’t met yet.  Someone should take responsibility for getting us organized.” continue reading


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Nov/11/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Remembrance Day

What we now know as Veterans Day began as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, commemorating the end of “The War to End All Wars.” Sadly, World War I paved the way and was quickly followed by World War II. And countless lives have been lost in wars since. Sara Robinson’s description of the relationship between Remembrance Day and pacifism in Canada struck me as a powerful reminder on this Veteran’s Day. Here’s an excerpt from a longer post.

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Nov/07/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Connectivity is a Result: Learning in Networks

Our friends at Third Sector New England (TSNE) have released an informative report about learning networks. From 2004 to 2012, TSNE and clusters of nonprofit organizations joined in a grant program designed to further social change through building relationships and sharing insights that enabled them to better work together to achieve common goals. The resource, entitled “Funding Learning Networks for Community Impact,” includes interesting explorations of the stages in the development of learning networks and the roles and functions that are key success drivers for nonprofit networks. There are also wonderful and resonant quotes throughout from participants of the Capacity Building Fund (CBF) about the power of and key contributors to effective networks, and I wanted to share a dozen that really jumped out, while strongly suggesting you consult the entire report: continue reading

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Nov/06/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, IISC:Outside, Networks

Networks and Changing the Game

Last Friday, I worked with the Network Support Team (NST) of the Connecticut Food System Alliance (CFSA) to facilitate a gathering of over 100 food system and food security activists.  This was the fourth convening in the past year and a half, and featured what have become typical elements of fostering connectivity between people (welcoming and introducing ourselves to new people, learning together, making offers and requests) and alignment around the CFSA vision.  And to honor what has been growing in the network as both a call for and a question about the possibility of collective action, NST members Melissa Spear, Marilyn Moore, and Jiff Martin created the following exercise to stimulate people’s thinking about how the network could “change the game” in Connecticut and boldly advance the state towards a reality where “everyone has access to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and affordable food.” continue reading

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Nov/04/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Keeping the People at the Center

Since my recent visit to LUPE in San Juan, Texas, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes LUPE’s community union model so different from most of our efforts (IISC’s and the social sector at large). César Chávez spelled described the core premise succinctly. “From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.”

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Oct/31/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

VTF2P Network: Leading With Values

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this week the Vermont Farm to Plate (F2P) Network held its third annual convening.  This marked the move to the third year of the F2P Network’s existence, and another significant milestone.

At the first convening in 2011, there was a mix of enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity, impatience, and some reticence.  Many were intrigued by the notion of this new form of multi-organizational collaboration seeking to double local food production in 10 years time, boost the state economy, and address issues of food access and security.   continue reading

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Oct/30/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration, Networks

Network Mantras: Show Up, Contribute, Repeat

Reporting live from the third annual Vermont Farm to Plate (F2P) Network convening, I am relishing this opportunity to work with and watch a successful network move into its third year of existence. There is much more to share about the F2P journey, which I hope to do in a follow-up post to this one, but for now, I wanted to highlight a couple of themes that continue to resonate throughout the convening and contribute to the growth and success of this network.

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Oct/29/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Structural Transformation

Breakthrough Public Process

We work in close partnership with the Barr Foundation.  I appreciated this video of my friend Rahn Dorsey, the foundation’s evaluation director, articulating three keys to breakthrough on complex public conversations.  I specially like that Rahn’s understanding that even when the will for change is strong, it takes good process to make a way.

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Oct/28/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Keeping our promises

“We can’t retreat, we will win… We are winning because our revolution is one of the mind and the heart.” César E. Chávez

During a visit to LUPE, the community union founded by César E. Chávez and the United Farm Workers, Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Partner Organizations of Color explored the connections between child welfare, juvenile justice, community organizing and immigration. One participant spoke a word of caution to capacity builders and organizers who seek to engage and mobilize community residents. “We can’t be another broken promise to the people.”

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Oct/24/13//Curtis Ogden//Love, Networks, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Net Work Does Not Justice Make

“Wealth and income distribution no longer resemble a familiar ‘bell curve’ in which the bulk of the wealth accrue to a large middle class. Instead, the networked economy seems to be producing a ‘power-curve’ distribution, sometimes known as a ‘winner-take-all’ economy.” 

 - David Bollier, from “The Power Curve Society”

As is no doubt evident from past posts on this blog, we at IISC are enthusiastic about networks and their potential to create more equitable, healthy, thriving and sustainable communities.  We do not, however, subscribe to the belief that network approaches in and of themselves guarantee the kinds of just and humanizing opportunities and outcomes we seek.  We do encounter people who hold up networks as a sort of panacea, hoping that in an age of more distributed technology and open source approaches to problems and solutions, we will achieve some kind of democratic ideal that has to this point eluded us.  That there is promise is evident in many stories that we have heard, witnessed, and shared on this site.  That there is reason to be vigilant is also illustrated in the many signs of an ever-growing and highly racialized gap between rich and poor in this country and a continued reluctance on the part of many to look at these glaring inequities or the systems that perpetuate them. continue reading

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Oct/23/13//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Gravity and the Overview

I saw “Gravity” last night.  It was a fun thriller, relatively formulaic; and yet, also of great importance.  It is significant that “Gravity” has been the top seller at the box office three weekends in a row.

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Oct/22/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Finding What You Didn’t Lose

With appreciations to Carole Martin for passing this along, I wanted to offer this poem as a reminder of the important role of listening in helping to create trust and grounded-ness in the work of social change . . .

Finding What You Didn’t Lose

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water. continue reading





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Oct/21/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//What We Are Reading

The Gift of Power

I just started reading Playing God: Redeeming the gift of power by Andy Crouch, thanks to a book reading group at my church, Grace Chapel. I’m already drawn in by the premise that power is a gift and by his central question: How do we use our power to make people and things around us flourish?

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Oct/17/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Bringing Networks Home

I had a virtual exchange the other day with Jane Wei-Skillern of Stanford University, as we discussed different ideas for going beyond case studies to help engage people in thinking in networked ways.  This is what came to mind at the time, and I am eager to hear from others what you have done:

  • In the past I have asked people to think about network forms or topologies (hub and spoke, mesh, distributed); assign different forms to pairs/trios and have them think about what examples of that form exist in their lives.  What are the strengths of that form?  What are its limitations?  How might they shift it to be more “effective” in terms of desired impact?

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Oct/16/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Networks: Trust, Drive Time and Other Offerings

“Creating a culture of trust in a network can have a big payoff. Why is this so? First, when trust is well-developed in a network, people are willing to get involved in high-risk projects where their reputation and resources are at stake. These kinds of projects usually have a lot of impact. Next, high levels of trust usually make decision making easier and less time consuming. Finally, a culture of trust enables people to accept and work with people who are quite different from them, which increases the number of people working on network activities.”

- June Holley, Network Weaver Handbook

The importance and power of trust in networks for social change cannot be overstated.  Time and again, and despite what might show up as initial resistance, being intentional about getting to know one another beyond titles, official positions, and transactional exchanges reaps tremendous benefit, for all the reasons June Holley mentions above and more.  Taking time and making space to build trust helps people to do the important work of social change and is in many cases an embodiment of the change we are trying to make in the world – when we expand our circles of compassion and inclusion; when we create new patterns of opportunity, exchange and resource flows; when we see and validate previously unrecognized or undervalued assets.

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Oct/14/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Reflecting on Indigenous People’s Day

In middle and high school, I challenged (and most likely annoyed) my teachers around this time of the year. I went to school in Plymouth, MA and wondered out loud why Native Americans would want to celebrate Columbus Day. “Shouldn’t it be a day of mourning for them?” I’d ask. I don’t recall any teacher having a good answer to my question or even being willing to engage in meaningful dialogue.

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Oct/11/13//IISC//Networks, Technology

The Innovation of Loneliness

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Oct/09/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Leveraging Networks as Marketplaces

I am increasingly interested in how networks can help to reclaim and reshape marketplaces, bringing them back down to earth and keeping them more stimulating of local economies, helping give value to what is not formally valued, as well as shifting and restructuring flows for greater equity and abundance.  So I was delighted to get a number of tips on this front from Lawrence CommunityWorks during a visit there last week.  Staff and residents shared a number of ways in which they help to identify and exchange assets as a part of daily operations.  For example, here is an exercise called “Marketplaces” which comes from Bill Traynor. continue reading

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Oct/08/13//Gibrán Rivera//Love

Love

“Love” is now a category on the IISC Blog.  How appropriate!  Love is one of the three lenses that give shape to our work.  And love is at the very heart of this project of social transformation.  Love is path and goal.  Love is how we get there and it is where we want to go.

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Oct/06/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

How will you use power?

We often focus on the understanding of power as a process and as a social construct rather than a fixed asset. As Beth Roy says, “power is not something you have; it’s something you do.”

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Oct/04/13//Mistinguette Smith//Featured, Love

Hospitality as Facilitation

The origins of hospitality as a sacred and esteemed practice are rooted in providing shelter and safety to the stranger.  It is the ancient art and practice of offering your very best to another, with no expectation of reward. Whether you learned this practice in your grandmother’s parlor or at an Art of Hosting workshop, you know that hospitality is the essence of facilitative leadership.

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Oct/03/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Networks as Human Environments

Yesterday, Carole Martin and I took the Tillotson Fund Community Practitioners Network on a site visit/retreat to Lawrence CommunityWorks, to see first hand what a network approach to community and economic development looks like. There is much to be said about what LCW has done, learned, and is looking to do going forward, and some of this has already been captured in case studies and articles.  Here I want to focus on one important lesson that staff and residents have learned over the past 15 years or so when it comes to taking a network approach.  This lesson falls under the caution – “Avoid a Fetish for Structural Forms.” continue reading

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Oct/02/13//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration, Featured, Networks, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Complete (Social) Capital

Last week I represented IISC as a presenter/facilitator in a “deep dive” session at the Council on Foundations Conference for Community Foundations.  The title of the session was “Complete Capital”and was inspired by an SSIR article by the same title written by Antony Bugg-Levine of the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF). Briefly, complete capital is a framework to help funders and other investors develop a fuller picture of the assets required to address complex social challenges: financial, intellectual, human, and social.

After presentations by Alison Gold of Living Cities (intellectual capital), Lisa Spinali (human capital) and Jessica LaBarbera of NFF (financial capital), and in the light of a couple of helpful case studies presented by Alison and Jessica, I offered a view of social capital that is more complex than what appears in the SSIR article.   continue reading

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Oct/01/13//IISC//Liberation

When to speak up

The following post has been reblogged from Seth’s Blog. He is a genius and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

“This plane is headed to Dallas. If Dallas isn’t your destination, this would be a great time to deplane.”

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Sep/30/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Washington Gridlock

I have been thinking about today’s post for days. But, with the possible shutdown of the federal government, I wanted to raise a few questions and concerns. We have a (theoretically) representative form of government, which begs the question whose interests are actually being represented by the gridlock in Washington? continue reading

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Sep/26/13//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Flipping Orthodoxy

During his presentation at this week’s Council of Foundations Conference for Community Foundations, the Monitor Institute’s Gabriel Kasper talked about the need for innovation in community philanthropy. This included a call to examine orthodoxy in our organizations and communities, that is, the behaviors and procedures that we often take for granted with respect to the way we go about our business.  This notion of orthodoxy was developed by the innovation firm Doblin and is further outlined in an article in Rotman Magazine.  Gabriel then encouraged attendees to, essentially, “steal like an artist.”  So in that spirit, I wanted to share the plenary exercise he had participants go through that I am particularly interested in bringing to some of the networks with which I work: continue reading

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Sep/25/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

More Cracks in the Network Code


Our friend Jane Wei-Skillern recently co-wrote (along with Nora Silver and Eric Heitz) another valuable contribution to the growing “network building” body of literature, entitled “Cracking the Network Code: Four Principles for Grantmakers.”  This piece is part of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ learning initiative, Scaling What Works.  While the guide mainly addresses funders, it also has something for those outside of the philanthropic world.  Its core offering is a set of principles to guide what the authors call “the network mindset”: continue reading


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Sep/24/13//Gibrán Rivera//Collaboration

Collaboration, Cooperation and Do-ocracy

I always describe IISC as a “Collaboration Shop.” The founder of Interaction Associates, David Strauss, authored the seminal book “How to Make Collaboration Work.”  I’m all for people working together to achieve a common goal.  I make a living helping them do that.

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Sep/23/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Where’s the Growing Edge?

Several persistent questions keep us learning and experimenting.

How do we avoid re-traumatizing people of color in this work? Often, people of color in racially mixed learning spaces bear the burden of teaching through telling their own stories. While sometimes liberating, this can also re-open wounds and create resentment at having to prove one’s reality to people who may be reluctant to accept what they have not experienced. And, over time, it can be disheartening to keep extending grace to different people in different spaces for the same mistakes. Racially homogeneous caucuses are one useful antidote. How else can we avoid these dynamics, particularly working in mixed-race settings?

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Sep/20/13//IISC//Featured, Liberation

Resistance

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did and don’t forget to join the conversation! 

We’ve been in the process of setting our direction here at Rockwood. We’re looking at our purpose, our vision, and how we will fulfill our commitments to the world. It’s been an enlivening and satisfying exploration, and as a result, it has become clear that I need to radically shift my role from one of internal management to external relationship building.

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Sep/18/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Networks for Change: Inquiry and Emergence

“Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet

In their article, “Using Emergence to Scale Social Innovation,” Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze highlight the critical role of self-organization, spontaneous and purposeful arrangement and action without formal or “external” management,  in facilitating social change.  As self-organization occurs in social networks, emergent and unexpected phenomena flow through the strength and flexibility of connections between people and groups.  As Wheatley and Frieze note, these emergent phenomena tend to result in “a powerful system that has many more capacities than could ever be predicted by analyzing the individual parts.”  This is part of what constitutes the “intelligence” and resilience of networks.  This capacity flows naturally when conditions are ripe for individuals to freely find each other and create. continue reading

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Sep/17/13//Gibrán Rivera//Networks

New Ways of Being-With

Last week Curtis wrote an excellent post inviting a developmental perspective on building networks for social change.  It triggered all sort of ideas for me.

Our concept of “self” is not static.  It has evolved over time.  That’s how we end up with concepts like the “me” generation, and the flagrant narcissism that defines our culture (see example – First World Problems).

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Sep/15/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Ways of Being: Collaborative Strategies

The following post is part 2 of a 2 part series on some collaborative tools and strategies to help us change our selves, change our organizations and change the world.  We hope you find it helpful.  We encourage you to join the conversation! 

We are compelled by a quote from Theory U, attributed to William O’Brien “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.” Collaborative tools and strategies are only truly useful in the hands of practitioners whose hearts are big enough to hold the complexities, struggles, hopes and fears that accompany the work of transforming racism. continue reading

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Sep/12/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Networks for Social Change: A Developmental View

“If what we change does not change us we are playing with blocks.”

Marge Piercy

At IISC we see taking a developmental view as being critical to effective collaborative and network-based approaches to social change.  This is largely because of the complexity of the issues we are striving to address with our partners and the “adaptive” nature of the work.  It is also because we hold an evolutionary perspective; that is, we see change and development as being part of the underlying dynamic of reality. As scientist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once declared, “We are moving!” And so we are interested in paying attention to and working with evolution as it occurs at different levels – individual, team/group, organization/institution, community, etc. continue reading

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Sep/10/13//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Distributed Power

I’m proud to call Billy Parish a friend; he is an incredibly sweet person.  I am a fan of his commitment and imagination.  I’ve been hearing about his company, Mosaic, since it was but an idea.  I was blown away to see it featured in today’s New York Times – A Bet on the Environment. continue reading

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Sep/08/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Ways of Being: Collaborative Tools

The following post is part 1 of a 2 part series on some collaborative tools and strategies to help us change our selves, change our organizations and change the world.  We hope you find it helpful.  We encourage you to join the conversation! 

We are compelled by a quote from Theory U, attributed to William O’Brien “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.” Collaborative tools and strategies are only truly useful in the hands of practitioners whose hearts are big enough to hold the complexities, struggles, hopes and fears that accompany the work of transforming racism. continue reading

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Sep/06/13//IISC//Structural Transformation

A New Perspective

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Sep/04/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Networks for Social Change: Life on the Edge

“Look to the growing edge!”

- Howard Thurman

Edge has its advantages.  This is the finding of ecologists and other scientists looking at how peripheral spaces can provide adaptive strength.  For example, where different habitats meet, there is considerable fecundity and the extent to which there is more significant overlap there is that much more richness and species able to thrive in more than one setting.  Trees make interesting use of edge by maximizing the surface area of their root systems to find and take in nutrients in the soil.  We also know that innovation tends to happen where different disciplinary fields meet, and therefore through a porousness and openness to new thinking on the edge. continue reading

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Sep/02/13//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Dialogue Triggers

Appreciating this reflection by my friend Augusto Cuginotti. In the context  of the USA I can already the resistance, “I came to work, not to be vulnerable.” In fact, we spend a lot of time designing spaces that protect us from vulnerability.  But then, how will we ever sail towards what we do not yet know?

 ”Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable” -Joyce Brothers

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Aug/30/13//IISC//Sustainability

Gaze Up

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Aug/28/13//Curtis Ogden//IISC:Outside

Glimpses of Wholeness

Last Friday, as we closed our joint offering with the Center for Whole Communities, “Whole Measures: Transforming Communities by Measuring What Matters Most,” at Knoll Farm, participants and facilitators alike carried forward insights and ongoing questions about what wholeness is and what might help to create more of it in our communities and organizations.  The timing was auspicious as the nation has been marking the anniversary of the March on Washington and reflecting upon the progress we have made towards wholeness as embodied in Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, delivered in a speech 50 years ago today.   continue reading

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Aug/26/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Art and Implicit Bias

The way Maya Wiley quickly and effectively names the problem that we have in how we deal with racism is truly remarkable.  It takes her two minutes to get across a point that can seem quite complex.  Her Center for Social Inclusion is my client and I couldn’t be prouder of the association. continue reading

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Aug/26/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Networks

Nurture Networks

We partnered with a foundation as they built a network of leaders who shared a deep passion for their city. In the beginning, many of the leaders wanted to do something together quickly. We encouraged them to pause, build deeper relationships, and see what emerged. continue reading

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Aug/23/13//IISC//Featured, Structural Transformation

Thrive where you’re Planted

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did and don’t forget to join the conversation! 

About three years ago, I noticed a stick growing in my neighborhood a few doors down from my house. It was right at the edge of the curb, angling out into the street. I didn’t pay too much attention to it.

Last summer I realized it was a fig tree. There were little bitty figs clinging to the branches. I was sure someone from the city would come by and cut it down. Clearly, it was a volunteer fig tree. No one in their right mind would have planted it so close to the street and at such an angle.

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Aug/21/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Connections Are Made Slowly

As we enter into the last weeks of summer (yes, it’s true), I find myself becoming more reflective, slowing down a bit in anticipation of a seasonal transition.  What comes to mind is this poem from Marge Piercy, for all that it has to offer in terms of thinking about harvesting, about reaping what we’ve sown through our care-full efforts, about going slow to go fast, and what it takes to do social change work well.

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Aug/20/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Liberation

Principles to Live By

The following pst has been reblogged from our dear friend Adrienne Maree. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 

Adrienne Maree Brown outlines core principles to live by.  I find these powerfully resonant and I continue to invite us into greater intentionality in our practices for creating a new world. continue reading

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Aug/19/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Transforming Racism- ways of doing

The following blog post is Part 3 of a series dedicated to Race and Social TransformationWe encourage you to share and comment!

Transforming racism is hard work! The complexity doesn’t automatically mean current efforts aren’t working. Still, many are searching for new ways to deepen their effectiveness. At IISC, we see focusing both on content (what can we do about racism) and process (how we engage with one another) as a powerful way forward. Consider a few examples that flow from our practice.

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Aug/16/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured

Living in Love

We worked with a national network of mostly white social change activists. We supported members of the network to increase the number of people of color at their annual gathering from 5% to 40% in a single year. continue reading

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Aug/14/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Network Building: Beginnings and Boundaries

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a gathering, convened by the Garfield Foundation, of “network building” practitioners interested in advancing this field for the sake of making more progress around fundamental social change, including greater social equity and sustainable communities.  The launch point for our discussions was the successful RE-AMP network that Garfield has supported for several years now in the midwestern United States.  We began by looking at a framework for change that has emerged from RE-AMP’s experience, while acknowledging that this is a data point of one.  From here we talked about what we are all learning in our respective experiences, and perhaps more importantly, what we do not know.  There were several themes that I heard emerging in our conversations, and I wanted to highlight one in this post, which is reflected in the title – how we begin and bound our efforts matters. continue reading

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Aug/13/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Structural Transformation

Engage the Future

How to predict the future?  It’s a bit like the alchemist’s dream, ever-seductive wishful thinking.  We can’t predict the future, not with master plans and not with meta-data.  Too many of the problems within organizations have to do with our frustrated wish for someone – ideally “the leader” – to be able to predict the future and to create stability for us. continue reading

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Aug/11/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Transforming Racism- personal and social transformation

The following blog post is Part 2 of a series dedicated to Race and Social TransformationWe encourage you to share and comment! 

Race and racism continue to be defining features of U.S. society. As such, they show up in most of our projects, either explicitly or implicitly.

For example:

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Aug/09/13//IISC//Inspiration

#Inspiration

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Aug/07/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Network Building AS Strategy

At IISC we like to define the success of collaborative change efforts in multi-dimensional ways.  In particular, we make reference to results, process, and relationship elements.  Results are what we typically think of as the “measurable” outcomes of a change undertaking – policy change, livable wage, job creation, healthier communities, etc.  Process has everything to do with the how of the work – how we approach our change efforts, the steps we take, how work is shared and by whom, and with what spirit.  Relationship is about both the quality of interpersonal connections as well as how people relate to the work itself.  From what one might call an “old school” mindset, there is an assumption that process and relationship are only important insofar as they help to achieve results. continue reading

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Aug/05/13//IISC//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

What can we Offer?

It has become a common feeling, I believe, as we have watched our heroes falling over the years, that our own small stone of activism, which might not seem to measure up to the rugged boulders of heroism we have so admired, is a paltry offering toward the building of an edifice of hope. Many who believe this choose to withhold their offerings out of shame. This is the tragedy of the world.

For we can do nothing substantial toward changing our course on the planet, a destructive one, without rousing ourselves, individual by individual, and bringing our small imperfect stones to the pile.

 From Alice Walker’s “Anything we love can be saved”

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Aug/05/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Transforming Racism- linking the personal and the social

The following blog post is Part 1 of a series dedicated to Race and Social Transformation. Special thanks to Gibrán Rivera, Miriam Messinger, Curtis Ogden, Sara Oaklander, Mistinguette Smith and Maanav Thakore for their support in completing this series! We encourage you to share and comment! 

In the U.S., the work of transforming racism is often stuck in an unproductive binary: either transform people or transform systems. Fortunately, more and more people recognize that we have do both and more. continue reading

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Aug/02/13//IISC//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Civil Rights Hero

The following article has been reblogged from our friends at NPR. We hope you find it as inspirational as we did! 

Bob Moses is 78, but he has the same probing eyes you see behind thick black glasses in photos from 50 years ago when he worked as a civil rights activist in Mississippi. The son of a janitor, Moses was born and raised in Harlem. He’s a Harvard-trained philosopher and a veteran teacher.

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Jul/31/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Why Networks for Social Change?

“Thinking in terms of networks can enable us see with new eyes.”

- Harold Jarche

The biological sciences have revealed that all living things in an ecosystem are interconnected through networks of relationship; that is, they literally depend upon a web of life to survive and to thrive. On the social science front, we are also beginning to appreciate that groups, organizations, and communities depend upon and function in distributed networks of relationship that go beyond contrived boundaries, formal roles, communications, or decision-making protocols.  After all, we are a part of life! continue reading

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Jul/30/13//Maanav Thakore//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Fruitvale Station

Have you seen “Fruitvale Station”?  If not, please stop reading this (seriously) and take a moment to make plans to go out and see it.  It is probably playing somewhere close to you and, yes, it is that important of a film.  The film is difficult and triggering but profoundly beautiful and timely.  If you know someone like Oscar (or the thousands of others of young Black men who have lost their lives via extrajudicial killing) this film will hurt.  However it succeeds in doing what mainstream portrayals of Black men almost never do by portraying  Oscar as a whole, complex, deeply lovable person.

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Jul/29/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Engaging and Building Power

We facilitated a network focused on improving early childhood education and care. The initial focus was to build leadership capacity and facilitate strategy development with stakeholders across a state to design a more holistic statewide structure for decision-making related to early childhood. continue reading

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Jul/26/13//IISC//Featured, Structural Transformation

Black to the Land

The following post has been reblogged from our friends at Grist.org and features our newest colleague Mistinguette Smith.  We hope you find it as inspiring as we did! 

Gastronomically enlightened Grist reader that you are, you’ve probably participated in a CSA, or at least heard of them. Community-supported agriculture is so common that in many circles the acronym needs no explanation. (Sorry, mini football helmet collectors, we’re talking about farmers who sell “shares” of their seasonal fruits and veggies, then deliver them to members when they’re ripe.) But a pint of locally sourced strawberries says you didn’t know a black man came up with the idea.

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Jul/22/13//Gibrán Rivera//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Brother Ali on Trayvon

“When somebody says ‘I’m in pain,’ when somebody says ‘I’m being targeted,’ when somebody says ‘there are too many young black boys being killed…’ if our first reaction is to defend ourselves, then that shows a great degree of loveless-ness. Nobody is saying that you hate black people… but I am asking you the question, do you love them?” -Brother Ali

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Jul/22/13//Mistinguette Smith//Featured, Love

#WhatBlackMenDo

A world that loves, honors and respects young black men must first SEE them.  This seeing is a political act.

I am consciously seeing black men more clearly since my friend Victor Lewis hashtagged the Charles Ramsey story #WhatBlackMenDo.  Ramsey, who acknowledges that he battered his former partner, stepped up without hesitation to rescue the women held prisoner for a decade in a basement in Cleveland, OH. He assumed that he was witnessing a domestic violence situation and intervened because this is #WhatBlackMenDo.

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