Author Archives for Curtis Ogden

July 11, 2012

Planning vs. Doing?

It often emerges as a core tension in our complex multi-stakeholder change work.  It’s embodied in comments such as, “Let’s stop all this talking and start doing something!”  Or, “I’m not a big process person, I just want to get to action.”

In the New England Regional Food Summit two weeks ago, speaker Rich Pirog raised the importance of trying to find, in an ongoing fashion, a balance between process and action.  This he has learned from doing many years of building regional food networks in the Midwest. It is certainly the case that we can over-talk, over-think and over-process together, driving one another crazy and/or from the room.  And we can also jump blindly, prematurely, and harmfully to action.

So how do we strike an artful balance and keep differently oriented people in the game?  A few thoughts:

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July 5, 2012

Features of Healthy Living Systems

In a rich and recent conversation about the upgrade of our very popular course, Facilitative Leadership, IISC deliverers addressed the question of which main points to instill through the addition of a new and framing segment on systems thinking.  I offered the comment that we need to be sure to say that systems thinking is not monolithic, that there are different schools of thought and approaches within the field, and that we must also be clear about what our underlying cosmology is regarding systems thinking. Read More

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July 4, 2012

Feeding Our Interdependence

Regular readers of this blog will know of my work around and passion about food systems.  Food, as Growing Power founder Will Allen once put it, is “the great connector.”  So much comes together in what we eat, including: chains (more ideally cycles) of producers, processors, distributors, retailers, consumers, and composters; global and local providers; considerations of environment, economy, and equity/access; cultural traditions; and of course community when we bake and break bread together.  On this July 4th holiday, as conversations heat up around the region, country, and world, about the importance of remembering what literally sustains us, I want to celebrate the food movement and share 10 of the more inspiring and instructive articles, reports and videos I have come across in the past year or so.  Enjoy and Happy Interdependence Day! Read More

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June 29, 2012

Food Network Solutions

“Agriculture can serve life only if it is regarded as a culture of healthy relationships, both in the field—among soil organisms, insects, animals, plants, water, sun—and in the human communities it supports.”

-France Moore Lappe

Reporting in from the Food Solutions New England convening in Burlington, Vermont.  Exciting and challenging conversation happening here about how to knit individual state food planning efforts into a robust regional network that ensures greater availability of and access to “local” food.  As part of the proceedings, we have heard a very informative and inspiring presentation by Rich Pirog, now of Michigan State University and previously of the Leopold Center in Iowa.  Rich has been part of very impressive work nurturing regional food networks, profiled in a report that served as pre-reading for the gathering.

Some of the highlights from the report worth mentioning here are the implications raised for other regional food networks, including: Read More

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June 21, 2012

Working With Emotional Charge

Podcamp NH 2009

|Photo by Roger H. Goun|http://www.flickr.com/photos/sskennel/4082922531|

The following is a re-post from Dan Rockwell’s blog, Leadership Freak.  It is timely in that the past few weeks I have worked with a number of clients where questions about how to deal with difficult people and emotions have been on the top of people’s minds.  One of my first responses to these questions is to say that we should make sure not to leap to immediately making it all about the people.  As we like to say at IISC, often people problems are process problems in disguise.  And there is no denying that emotions can get high at times and that there are those people who seem to want to bring spice to what might seem to be the most bland of situations.  So what do you do?  Over to Dan . . . Read More

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June 20, 2012

Growing Response-ability

Over the past couple of years, I have learned much from Carol Sanford, organizational consultant and author of The Responsible Business.  This includes a deeper understanding of the word “responsibility.”  Often this term has a burdensome association with it, as in, “with great freedom comes great responsibility.”  Here are a couple of definitions that come up when you Google the term:

  1. The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something.
  2. The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.

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June 14, 2012

Creative De-struction

innovation sign

|Image by Seth Waite|http://www.flickr.com/photos/28674126@N02/4316157064|

“Society, community, and family are all conserving institutions. They try to maintain stability and to prevent, or at least to slow, change. But the modern organization is a de-stabilizer. It must be organized for innovation and innovation, as the great Austro-American economist Joseph Schumpeter said, is “creative destruction.” And it must be organized for the systematic abandonment of whatever is established, customary, familiar, and comfortable, whether that is a product, service, or process; a set of skills; human and social relationships; or the organization itself. In short, it must be organized for constant change.”

-Peter Drucker, “The New Society of Organizations” (1992)

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June 13, 2012

Fixing the Future

After attending the recent “Strategies for a New Economy” 2012 Conference hosted by the New Economics Institute, Cheryl King Fischer, Executive Director of the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, alerted me to this upcoming event and ongoing campaign . . . As they say, “There are places right now in America where communities are fixing the future.  Across the country, people have found new ways to work, new ways to create jobs…and new ways to be sensible about using the earth’s resources.  Fixing the Future is a journey of discovery, finding communities which are thriving in these difficult times.”

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June 7, 2012

Process Design and Bridging Fear

Many road signs featuring question marks symbolizing uncertainty

|Photo by Qoncept|http://www.flickr.com/photos/37418570@N03/4488784822|

Fresh off of an offering of Pathway to Change to a group of leaders from across sectors in southern Massachusetts, and with another 3 day workshop on the horizon in San Francisco (July 24-26), I’ve been considering how the theme of fear often comes up in discussions about impediments and challenges to effective collaborative change work – fear of failure, fear of losing something, fear of the unknown.  And I’ve been more and more convinced by how important intentional, creative, and strategic process design is in building pathways through this fear.  This notion has been validated in the writing of Chip and Dan Heath, most recently in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  In a one page summary, the Heath brothers highlight the important three steps of: (1) directing our rational selves (what exactly are we trying to accomplish?), (2) motivating our emotional selves (what’s so compelling about that future destination? why can’t the current conditions continue?), and creating a clear path between where we are now and where we want to be. Read More

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