“What is missing from the policy analyst’s tool kit – and from the set of accepted, well-developed theories of human organization – is an adequately specified theory of collective action whereby a group of principals can organize themselves voluntarily to retain the residuals of their own efforts.”
Elinor Ostrom (1996) Governing the Commons
“…there’s no real evidence that one can become expert in something as broad as ‘decision making’ or ‘policy’ or ‘strategy.’ Auto repair, piloting, skiing, perhaps even management: these are skills that yield to application, hard work, and native talent. But forecasting an uncertain future and deciding the best course of action in the face of that future are much less likely to do so. And much of what we’ve seen so far suggests that a large group of diverse individuals will come up with better and more robust forecasts and make more intelligent decisions than even the most skilled ‘decision maker.’”
James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds
Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop for one of the sub-networks of the Vermont Farm to Plate Network focused on food access (including food justice and racial equity). Farm to Plate is moving into a second decade of work and looking to refresh its strategic work and structure (version 2.0). As part of this move, various members are interested in how they can engage others more robustly and/or responsibly in their work, including those who are negatively impacted by the current system (those living with hunger and in poverty, struggling farmers, farm workers, indigenous people, etc.). The workshop was designed around some core IISC collaborative frameworks, which participants applied to their work in pairs and small groups, and it also elicited different participatory methods that those in the room were already using or aware of.
One of the operating assumptions in the workshop was that engagement and participation can and should look different in different situations, and that more is not necessarily better. Rather, it is important to get clear on the aims of an initiative, carefully consider who the key stakeholders are, weigh various factors (time, complexity, readiness, power dynamics, etc.) and think about timing and different phases of the work. Doing this kind of due diligence can help to clarify when and where on a spectrum of engagement options different individuals and groups might fall (see below for some examples).
For the last segment of the workshop, we explored a variety of participatory models and methods, and here is some of what came up (specifically considering the context of Vermont food systems work).
Rural Vermont (community organizing, sociocracy as a form of governance)
Migrant Justice (community organizing, Milk With Dignity Campaign, sociocracy as a form of governance)
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.
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:
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
“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
The spectrum of those working towards community food security is culturally and geographically diverse, spanning a broad range of people, places and activities. Organizations and individuals working in the food system and building food secure communities create complex relationships and inter-related activities. Read More
Picking up from Gibran’s post yesterday and continuing in the vein of follow-up to our LLC webinar on collective leadership, I want to respond to some of the questions we did not have a chance to answer or answer fully from participants, including requests for examples of collective leadership in action and inquiries about blocks and how to work through or overcome them. Read More
“We seem to have been living for a long time on the assumption that we can safely deal with parts, leaving the whole to take care of itself. But now the news from everywhere is that we have to begin gathering up the scattered pieces, figuring out where they belong, and putting them back together. For the parts can be reconciled to one another only within the pattern of the whole thing to which they belong.”
Throughout the past few years readers of this blog have seen some discussion about the tensions that exist between those working on individual behavior/spiritual change and those striving for structural transformation. Read More
|Photo by umjanedoan|http://www.flickr.com/photos/umjanedoan/497411169/#|
In our Whole Measures workshop, we come to a point when participants realize that the promise of learning how to “measure what matters most” is not a case of digesting “best practices.” This is often a difficult moment, one fraught with frustration, but also the beginnings of insight (or a reminder) that we are each part of a gradual unfolding that is unique depending upon our particular context, and that to simply embrace some kind of cookie-cutter method of measuring health and wholeness is futile. This is so, in part, because before we measure what matters most, we must determine what matters most, and this changes from system to system. Furthermore, it is no easy task of discernment. Often people are good at setting goals, or talking abstractly about “values,” but this does not always equate with getting to heart of what is most meaningful to us, as demonstrated by the lives we actually live or our hearts’ deepest desires. One of the best processes we’ve found for doing this is to embrace storytelling. Read More
“Tension and transparency of tension create capacity.”
|Photo by ideowl|http://www.flickr.com/photos/ideowl/3737550476|
Last week I blogged from Knoll Farm in Fayson, VT, where I was serving as a co-trainer of our Whole Measures workshop, which we offer in partnership with the Center for Whole Communities. In that post I reflected on the connection that the Knoll Farm site creates between people, and between people and land. A remarkable aspect of the Farm is its intentional design, in that its human-made elements naturally work with and build upon the contours of the landscape and draw people’s attention to certain dynamics that reflect essential truths. An example is the large yurt, that sits on an outcropping at the end of an old logging road. It is a welcome (and welcoming) sight as one rounds the bend having climbed a fairly long steep incline. Its brown and green colors integrate nicely with the forested landscape, and its very structure invites one into contemplation about the life that surrounds it and with which it is in relationship. Read More