Posted in IISC Outward-facing Thoughts

March 21, 2013

Our System, Our Children

“We want a system that provides all children regardless of race or economic background with the same opportunities.”

– CT Right From the Start

The video above and words below appear on the CT Right from the Start (RFTS) website, and represent one of the outcomes of the past two years of work of a collaborative multi-stakeholder effort that IISC has been supporting as the lead process designer and facilitator.  RFTS runs parallel to the state’s planning initiative to create an early childhood office that consolidates services for children and families. Right from the Start has become an important voice for equity in Connecticut and we are very proud of its stance and our partnership . . .  Read More

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January 10, 2013

New Calls to Leadership

leadership puzzle

|Photo by Michael Cardus|http://www.flickr.com/photos/create-learning/4607228635|

At this point in my tenure at IISC, I get the opportunity to return to certain systems and programs that I have been serving for a number of years.  This includes a few organizations and leadership development initiatives to which I’ve been contributing for a half-dozen years now, through two presidential elections, the Great Recession, the Arab Spring, the explosion of social media, and some stormy knocks over the head about the reality of climate change. Through all of this I’ve been interested to see how the conversation has changed, where it has in fact changed, within these institutions and programs and among the participants. Read More

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December 12, 2012

A System for All

For two years, we at IISC have been working with the staff of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, based in Hamden, CT, as it has responded to a “community call” and stepped up to convene a multi-stakeholder process to create a “blueprint” for a state-wide early childhood development system that works for all children and families, regardless of race, income, or ability.  Read More

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September 20, 2012

Coming Full Circle

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

-T. S. Eliot

It’s interesting to see how, as much as things evolve, there is also a circularity to this movement.  For the past few years we have been working with the Graustein Memorial Fund on Right from the Start, an early childhood system change initiative for which the Fund has served as core convenor and funder.  Come to find out that IISC’s new President, Ceasar McDowell, was in on early conversations that launched the Memorial Fund’s unique and wonderful Discovery program to seed community-based collaboratives for early childhood development planning. Read More

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August 15, 2012

Doubt is the Beacon of the Wise

“There is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity.”

-Alan Watts

Earlier this week I facilitated and participated in a momentous meeting in one of the state-wide change processes I have been involved with for the past few years.  This meeting featured community and parent organizers, “service providers,” funders, and other educational advocates from across the state in conversation with newly hired state-level staff charged with creating a plan for ensuring greater alignment of state agencies in the direction of better opportunities and outcomes for all young children. Read More

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July 18, 2012

The Measure of Our Experience

“We become what we measure.”

– Whole Measures mantra

Click here to view this video

Last week I had the pleasure and privilege of partnering with colleagues from IISC and the Center for Whole Communities to offer our course, Whole Measures: Transforming Communities by Measuring What Matters Most, at beautiful Knoll Farm in Vermont.  The weather and the participants did not disappoint, and the entire experience spoke to the power of paying attention to and naming what matters most as a point of departure for creating and measuring wholeness in communities and organizations.  We broke bread together, engaged in dialogue and storytelling, sat around the campfire, took in the richness of the Mad River Valley landscape, laughed, cried, and even got our groove on a bit.

Enjoy a taste of the experience in the video to which the link above leads (click on the image).  And please consider joining us for a future session and other opportunities at the Interaction Institute for Social Change and CWC.

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May 11, 2012

Being and Measuring Whole

They say being a change agent is an inside job.  This summer, we invite you to sharpen your tools and rejuvenate your capacity for leadership through a values-based professional development opportunity in a beautiful retreat setting! Center for Whole Communities (CWC) and Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC) are collaborating to offer a four-day residential Whole Measures Workshop July 10 – 13, at CWC’s retreat center at beautiful Knoll Farm in Fayston, VT. Read More

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April 6, 2012

The Road to Wholeness

“The most sustainable impact comes from our deriving meaning and then connecting that meaning to our purpose, to what we stand for, and to the contributions we make.”

-Dr. Monica Sharma

There is something about the invitation to health and wholeness and to talking about how to measure it that seems to be a real draw to our Whole Measures workshop, which we offer jointly with the Center for Whole Communities.  I can see it in the eyes of many participants as they walk into the room – “Tell us how!”  And there is a bit of a disruptive experience that occurs when we let people know it is not so formulaic.  One of my favorite quotes comes from my mentor Carol Sanford who has said, “Best practice obliterates essence,” and I think it really applies to what we are talking about here. Read More

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March 14, 2012

A Systems View of Opportunity

“If you don’t understand your role in contributing to the problem,

you can’t be part of the solution.”

– David Peter Stroh

This post is a slightly edited version of something I wrote for the upcoming State of Opportunity convening in Michigan.  My colleague Cynthia Parker and I have been working with the Council of Michigan Foundations staff and membership to design this gathering, the focus of which will be philanthropy’s role in increasing social equity in the state.  We are looking forward to facilitating the proceedings on March 27th. 

The quote above comes from a systems thinking expert with whom we’ve partnered in our collaborative change work here at the IISC.  We’ve found it to be a powerful way of introducing the idea that the complex systems (education, health care) that many of us are trying to change to yield better and more equitable opportunities and outcomes are not “out there.”  Rather, to rift on the old Pogo saying, when we have truly seen systems, we understand that they are us!  Read More

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January 13, 2012

If You Till It, They Will Come

On the cusp of the Martin Luther King Jr. day of remembrance and celebration, IISC is gearing up to lead a webinar on the day after the Monday holiday focused on a very relevant topic – collective leadership. Much is being made of the Occupy Movement and its potential for showing us a new way to lead (we would call it leader-full, not leader-less). Prior to this important civic groundswell, many have been looking at how to create the conditions for emergent and collaborative leadership to move us in more just and life-affirming directions.  Given the complexity of the issues we face and the diversity of perspectives in our various systems, it has been recognized that we cannot rely on individual, expert, or command-and-control leadership to move us forward. We must unleash more robust and adaptive collective intelligence. If this conversation interests you, come join Gibran Rivera and me as we explore stories of and practices for creating the conditions to unleash leader-full momentum that embodies and leads to the social change we seek. More information about this free opportunity can be found here.

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January 5, 2012

Whole Children, Whole Communities

I have written a few times in this space (see “Right from the Start” and “The System is Us”) about our work with the Graustein Memorial Fund and stakeholders from around Connecticut to re-conceptualize and change the early childhood development system in the state so that all families and children are thriving. We are currently in the midst of a visioning process, whereby members of the System Design Team are engaging various constituents in conversations about what it would look like if the system were truly providing equitable and excellent support and opportunities to all children, regardless of race, ability, and income. In addition, we are asking what foundational beliefs, or values, would under-gird such a reality brought to life.  This phase kicked off with a series of interviews with participants in the Memorial Fund’s annual Stone Soup Conference. This included parents, child care providers, elected officials, advocates of all kinds, and the keynote speaker – Ralph Smith. Check out the series above, along with others posted on the Right from the Start site. There is an emerging picture forming here, that speaks to the power of collective visioning.  What do you see?

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