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October 3, 2013

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.” Read More

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October 2, 2013

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.   Read More

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October 1, 2013

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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September 30, 2013

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? Read More

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September 26, 2013

Flipping Orthodoxy

flip

|Photo by Denise Krebs|http://www.flickr.com/photos/56041749@N02/6505676869/in/photolist-aUTi5z-b8fQp6-8vP3az-8vS5Gw-8vP6yc-df3uDo-9ajyDy-9ajyGj-9uwZsS-8xEyPM-a9Sswa-838T1L-838T29-838T2o-7EEiRH-9K1FZL-dPJmcY-9z759H-9qnBXs-aoqz7f-aonL2P-aonJXi-aonNiT-aoqwaS-aonMhc-aonLrp-aonMWr-aonKPK-eRPkFi-7HdeeN-8LifKY-7SSJvk-8giPCy-7HzRRr-7HzRXp-7HDMMm-7HDMRs-7HzRZH-7HzRVB-8TVkao-8brUvi-7AvmtM-7Az7Xm-7AvmvZ-8SNtK4-aoqvKQ-aonMJz-aoqy3L-aonLRP-aoqxBW-aoqvXy|

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: Read More

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September 25, 2013

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”: Read More

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September 23, 2013

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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September 20, 2013

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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September 18, 2013

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

emergence

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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. Read More

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September 15, 2013

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. Read More

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