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December 3, 2014

Creating Equitable Abundance

“We need to reach out to one another from a perspective that makes group membership less determinative of opportunity and more related to enhancement of self and community. We need to increase our sense of abundance and improve our sense of well-being, as individuals and in relation to one another. “

- john a. powell, Racing to Justice

Photo by Udey Ismail

I’ve had a number of conversations lately about mindsets and how they relate to effective collective and net work, especially work for justice. Most recently I had the opportunity to talk to Jim Ritchie-Dunham of the Institute for Strategic Clarity about his research into “thriving” organizations and communities in a number of diverse settings – sectors and countries. What he has noted as a shared and distinct (though surely not entirely sufficient) difference-maker for these groups is an orientation towards abundance.

Jim has recently published a book entitled Ecosynomics, which is also the name of a field he has helped to found, which looks at “the principles of collaboration” and more specifically, “the principles of abundance.” Research from Jim and his colleagues shows that even amidst what may appear to be a scarcity of resources and hope, some groups thrive in large part through the conscious construction of “agreements” that can create more opportunity.

I have questions and look forward to further conversation with Jim about the starting point of these groups and the degree to which dynamics of power and privilege come into play with respect to their respective successes and who ultimately benefits. At the same time, I have been aware in my work how much of a difference it can make for groups to be conscious of their ability to choose how to be with one another, and how this can help get beyond otherwise self- and collective-limiting behavior. Read More

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November 26, 2014

#IndictAmerica

JailIt is hopefully a sign of things to come. Last night, a multiracial, multigenerational crowd of 3,000 – 5,000 took to the streets of Boston, shutting down parts of the city as part of a protest organized by #BlackLivesMatter Boston (@BLM_Boston). Read More

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November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Reflection

Give-thanks

I have earned a reputation among family and friends as being “no fun” or “too serious” for pointing out the oppressive underpinnings of many elements of popular culture and U.S. traditions. At the risk of reinforcing that reputation, I want to offer a few reflections as Thanksgiving approaches. Read More

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November 26, 2014

Justice for…

justice for

I wish we would only need that sign in another year. It’s crazy to me that it’s already relevant, and that its relevance stretches far into the past as well. In just the past few days alone, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, and Akai Gurley all died at the hands of police. Twelve-year old Tamir Rice was shot by police while playing with a BB gun in a Cleveland park. Tanisha Anderson died in a police “take down” when she resisted being taken in for mental health services, though her family called for an ambulance, not police. Akai Gurley was killed by a rookie cop in a dark hallway in the Pink Houses in Brooklyn. Gurley was described by Police Commissioner Bratton as a “total innocent” who was shot in an “accident.” His death has already been ruled a homicide. Read More

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November 25, 2014

#Results Matter

I struggle to find my place in this year of insurrection against the state sanctioned murders of young black men. My knees are too old to run from riot police, my lungs too scarred to survive teargas. I’m wrestling with what it means to be a 50-year-old black American woman who has inherited the benefits of civil rights advancement, and upon whose shoulders the next generations should safely and securely stand. And I am struggling with what it means to have failed.

I have failed to properly name the extrajudicial killings of Sean Bell in 2006 and Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Jonathan Ferrell in 2013 and Eric Garner, John Crawford, Mike Brown and Darrien Hunt in 2014, and I have failed to stop their deaths. I wasn’t there bravely sewing letters on a banner to be dropped in protest that stitched past and present together: “a man was lynched today.” I have failed the memory of 41 bullets striking the body of Amadou Diallo in 1999; failed the decapitated body of James Byrd, dragged to death behind a truck, in 1989. Most of all, I have failed to be watchful and articulate after the revenge killing of Michael Donald in 1981, that moment which destroyed the private club of the Ku Klux Klan and left its role to be taken up by the state.

I want to believe that I stand in solidarity with young activists in Ferguson, but their very existence indicts me.

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November 24, 2014

Standing with the Young People

We have just heard that the Grand Jury did not indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown.  The brilliant and courageous young people of Ferguson know that justice has not been served. The relentless profiling, criminalization, harassment and killing of young people of color is a an old an ongoing crisis in this country. It must stop.

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November 24, 2014

Who will be violent?

While the police are stockpiling_wide“They were so aggressive. They incited violence.”

I heard a Ferguson resident speak these words on the radio about the actions the Ferguson Police force took in August. And yet, as we await a grand jury decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, most of the media conversation is about whether there will be citizen violence and, assuming yes, requests for calm. Read More

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November 21, 2014

Network Development: Reflection is Key

Photo by Neal Fowler

It probably goes without saying that learning requires reflection. This holds true for individuals and groups, and yet what I find is that many collaborative efforts can fail to build adequate reflection time into their work. Often it seems that reflection can be cast aside in favor of “getting stuff done” and because, “There is so much to do!” And ironically, what can ensue is an overall and ongoing sense of impatience and frustration that “we aren’t doing anything or enough.” Experience shows that when people in networks and collaborative change work do pause to reflect, there is much value to be gained.

The other day I worked with the core team of a regional network focused on food system change, and we took time to reflect on what the past couple of years of work have yielded at individual, collective and systemic levels. People offered up their own reflections, as well as those garnered from informal interviews with others in the network. The result was eye-opening, affirming and provided a collective boost. What we agreed is that considerable and important development has occurred over time, including: Read More

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November 10, 2014

Racism. What will it take to end it?

We are pleased to announce the release of Senior Associate Cynthia Silva Parker’s TedX talk. Cynthia shares moments she’s witnessed racism, and how she thinks we can end it. We hope you share this talk with your networks.

Cynthia has spent decades helping people understand how the system of racism operates. As Senior Associate at Interaction Institute for Social Change, she designs and facilitates collaborative equity and inclusion initiatives. These initiatives make change in organizations, cities, and networks. Cynthia also trains leaders through our public workshops. Her next appearance is February 24-25, 2015 in Oakland, CA: Fundamentals of Facilitation for Racial Justice Work.


She is a life-long advocate for racial equity and social justice, and for deeper awareness of each in our systems and organizations and the wider society. She focuses her observations, personal stories and career on strengthening collaborative networks by building the will, skill, knowledge and strategies to undo racism together.

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October 29, 2014

Freedom and Unity: VTF2P Network Turns 4

“Our success is built on partnership, sharing success and sharing credit.”

- Sec. Chuck Ross

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“The mojo is in the motto.” With these words, Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross opened the doors and conversation on the fourth annual Vermont Farm to Plate Network convening last Thursday in Killington. Each of the past four years Secretary Ross has brought some critical words of encouragement and motivation to this fall convening, and by invoking the state motto – “Freedom and Unity” – at this year’s opening he seemed to hit the right chords at a critical moment in the evolution of the network.

In 2011, Farm to Plate launched to great excitement and some anxiety as it positioned itself as a cross-sector collaborative network to carry out a strategic plan to double local food production in Vermont in 10 years time, contributing to job and economic growth as well as food access in a state that sees high rates of poverty. Since then, as both Ellen Kahler of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (the backbone organization for Farm to Plate) observed and remarked through a plenary retrospective, it has managed to find its collaborative footing and grow significantly in numbers (more than 300 organizations strong). And importantly, it has seen real results in terms of direct, indirect and induced job growth resulting in 9,000 new jobs in the agricultural and food sector in Vermont. Furthermore, success is evident in individual members using network goals to inform and align their organizational goals. Read More

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October 22, 2014

What is Network Strategy?

Slide1The above graphic is something that I recently created, borrowing heavily from the good work of Peter Plastrik and Madeleine Taylor, to help convey what is meant by engaging in “network strategy.” One of the challenges we’ve encountered in working with different networks is helping people to understand the difference between strategy development and network development. I try to meet this challenge, in part, by showing how they are not so different, or at least, that they are intimately connected. The diagram is also designed to help people get beyond some of the either/or thinking that we encounter. For example, it’s not that we have to choose between decentralized self-organized action and more formally coordinated collective action. It can be both!

So here’s what the graphic is meant to convey. First of all, network strategy is grounded at a fundamental level in creating (strategic) connectivity, by building linkages and trust between key stakeholders and perhaps unusual bedfellows. This can be done by convening people; sharing stories, data and other forms of information; co-creating knowledge; learning together, etc. Part of the value of this connectivity is that it can lead to orthogonal thinking and bolster individual network participants’ efforts in the shared domain where the network is focused. What also may ensue is self-organized action between those who are meeting one another for the first time or getting to know one another better (see the arrow to the left side of the triangle). This is all well and good and is something that networks should try to track. Read More

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