Thriving in Challenging Times; The Adventure Continues

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I am a lead presenter at the upcoming District 8 Zonta Conference, an international women’s service organization dedicated to the betterment of women and girls throughout the world.  I will be engaging participants in activities to discover individual strengths and engage in  “whole room” conversations to discover organizational strengths while teaching the basics of Appreciative Inquiry.  We will employ a series of  techniques that support thinking globally and acting locally.  Most importantly we will discover new connections, new possibilities and renewed energy for creating an even more vital organization.

The District 8 Conference is from Oct.1 – 4 in Grants Pass Oregon.

 

Think Differently, Lead Differently; Create Concrete Outcomes for Your Organization

Jump into the NEW!

Jump into the "NEW"

If your work environment needs a boost; or your find yourself struggling on Monday morning to get yourself geared up for another week; or You need to keep yourself, staff and volunteers engaged and enthused about the good work you do; or you are just plain stuck and overwhelmed……you need to join us.

Life is not perfect and we will always have to overcome rough spots but I have learned one key lesson;

When  you SHIFT the way you see the world, then the world shifts and you discover new ideas,  that  move you to a new place!

You will learn  how to move from “problem solving” to “solution finding” and although this shift seems subtle, it is essential and powerful because it moves the focus from fixing and blaming to creating and inspiring.

If you put your energy into being  for something you will do two things at once; 1) you will engage in the act of creating “the new” and  2) you simultaneously negate “the old”.  You will learn about the most recent positivity research, experience the power of the SHIFT by learning about the theory and philosophy behind Appreciative Inquiry and most importantly, you will leave with tools and techniques to use immediately in your organization, in community and in your family.

I will offer an all day workshop, sponsored by the Chinook Institute for Civic Leadership on Thursday, Oct. 22nd from 9:00-4:00 at the Keizer Heritage Center in Keizer, Oregon.  If you are a civic, community, organizational or business leader  I hope you will join us.  You can register at:

www.thechinookinstitute.org/shop

 

Full Cycle Appreciative Inquiry supports Organizational Transformation and the “What Works” Movement

I  am grounded in the Appreciative Inquiry model and philosophy and have been working on refining my work and making activities clear for each phase of the model.  After years of working with the model, I have figured out ways to enhance it so that positive change becomes institutionalized and transformational.

The Discovery and Dream phases are great when it comes to igniting possibility and getting people excited about a compelling future that is organic and emergent, however it does not go far enough.   AI plants the seeds of possibility and I love that but  the model can do even more when it comes to strategic planning, project implementation, project assessments and leadership coaching.  AI is scalable and supports the notion that leadership resides at all levels of an organization, it can be used at the executive, management, and project team levels of an organization.

I am attaching my Full Cycle Appreciative Inquiry model so you can see how I am working with clients and can use AI at any point in the life cycle.  Let me know your thoughts and be sure to contact me if you have an interest in learning more about my model.  Just click on the diagram below and you will see key activities for each stage of the AI Cycle, including Appreciative Evaluation. Be sure to check out the book by Tessie Catasambas entitled ,”Reframing Evaluation through Appreciative Inquiry”.

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I’m a Certified Co-Active Coach!

After about a year with the Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, California, I have completed all of the requirements to become certified coach. I have been a coach to my clients throughout my career but often various client requests would require a “certified” coach….so now I get to join the official ranks!   I combine the philosophy and methodology of Appreciative Inquire in a process I created call the Six Steps to Success; The Coaching Journey.  Stay tuned, I will be writing much more about this!
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The Power of Community Conversations

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It is not news that we are living in a time of polarity, where individuals and communities are drawing lines in the sand and demonizing the other “side”.   But what if it were possible to ask different questions, that sought to understand, create a dialogue and spark a powerful vision for what community could be?

Powerful questions lead to powerful conversations that are not only meaningful but are transformational because people feel seen, heard, and acknowledged and this can lead to a shift in assumptions and create new connections that might not have existed before a meaningful conversation.

Paul Born in his book Community Conversations suggests that “Conversation is not just what is said; it is also what happens between people.  Conversation is not always about an event or time; it is part of a much larger process of change.  It leads to more conversation and is part of a journey to understand.  Community conversations area a deliberate form of listening to the people in a community in an effort to learn to agree, to become committed and engaged and to create a place in which discovering the obvious is possible.”

When I read this it, it reminded me of the importance of taking time to listen and to get curious….to find out about the story behind the story….in short to get to know the person in front of me through a meaningful conversation.  My friend Noa Baum an international storyteller has said that you don’t have to accept someone else’s beliefs and values if you listen to their story, it is their story.

Just listening to other people’s stories does not have to threaten me and in the process I can learn about myself and come to understand what matters most to them.   Stories make you listen and most importantly, they open up an exchange; a dialogue and this leads to finding areas of agreement or ways to discover how to accommodate each other’s differences.

Another friend, Gerry Lantz, President of StoriesthatWork, has said as a species, we are hard wired for story and connection.  He says all we have to do is look at our language and see how story is a fundamental part of our world.  Phrases like; “You won’t believe that story”, “You want to hear the real story behind that?”; “Have I got a story for you”; “What’s his story” are all part of our culture and cultures throughout the world.

Stories connect us and help to create community whether a geographically defined community such as a village, town or city; an assisted living community, a church community, or online communities.  They all share the same attributes of belonging, connections and the sense of being part of something larger than yourself.

This intense listening and seeking to understand is the underpinning for civic engagement where people from all backgrounds have a voice in decisions and actions that affect their lives.   In the recent report by the Knight Foundation and Gallup entitled Soul of the Community it was demonstrated that when people feel greater attachment in the communities in which they live, the communities are more successful.  In short, civic engagement is a key to achieving greater community attachment and an enhanced quality of life.

Civic engagement requires more than elected officials or organizational leaders making presentations to the public and answering questions in town hall meetings.  Civic engagement means gathering multi-sector stakeholders, providing baseline data, asking questions that are not already answered, identifying community assets, inviting diverse stories and input, identifying emerging themes and providing ways to enable positive action to take root.

As Peter Block, author of “Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community” has said “We will create a future distinct from the past when we engage in restorative conversations based on accountability and commitment. Being accountable means acting as an owner and part creator of whatever you wish to improve; to care for the well being of the whole and to act as if this well being is in our hands and hearts to create.  Being committed means we are willing to make a promise with no expectation of return; a promise void of barter and not conditional on another’s action…it is a choice made in the absence of reciprocity and this is the essence of power.”

It appears that this area will become an even stronger player in the global economy and it is increasingly clear that we are part of an interconnected world.  Now more than ever, broad based civic engagement is called for to enable citizens to imagine and co-create a thriving community for the good of the whole.

 

 

 

No Limit to the Size of a Meeting and Consensus Too!

Collective Impact is a model that means inclusion of all stakeholders that are relevant to the topic at hand and it means getting everyone into the conversation and getting tangible outcomes too. I have had the opportunity to work with CoVision on creating mulit-stakeholder conversations that are both engaging and insightful. Now we bring this combined ability to design highly creative meetings with concrete outcomes for any number of large scale meetings. Click on the link below and you will find the outline of our approach to support Collective Impact, cross-organizational initiatives, government entities and others.
Contact me if you want to know more!

No Limit to the Size of the Meeting

A Report on Creating A Nurturing Community with Collective Impact

The community of Coos Bay, Oregon was inspired by a well-known educator, Dr. Stephen Bavolek who when working with community leaders challenged them to create a social environment as beautiful as the natural environment. The Oregon coast is indeed an inspiring rural place and it has many social challenges and yet the spirit of the place is quite amazing. A group of leaders launched a strategic planning process, that I facilitated, and it led to increasing levels of engagement with a commitment to move forward using the Collective Impact model from Strive Together initiative launched in Cincinnati to support cradle to career education.

Click the link below to download The Nurturing Community Coalition Strategic Framework for Positive Community Change and a Plan for Moving Forward.
Contact me if you want to engage your community in a similar effort!


FINAL Strategic Framework-Implementation Plan v.2 (5-27-2014)

Moving from Anti-Bullying to Positive Community Norms

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As I reflect on this past week, I am struck by a common theme that affirms community well-being.
One is from a fourth grader writing a letter to this newspaper with a message to end bullying;   “….Change bullying to be nice…People are different…it doesn’t matter.  It would be cool to love each other”, and the other was a workshop on Positive Community Norms.   One view from a young student is calling for an end to intimidation and bullying and the other viewpoint lives in the world as if community norms are already positive.

Today, we see anti-bully campaigns pervading our schools especially after so many shootings.  We know that bullying can escalate to gun toting kids who feel they are not seen or heard and worst of all they feel they are not loved and do not belong, in short, they are hurting.  What we have learned from the anti-bullying campaigns is that “hurt people, hurt people”…… And this is true for grown-ups too.  Bullies do not feel seen or heard and feel that they must attack others to assert their place in the world and prevent perceived attacks.   So what is needed to turn this around?  Love!

Yes, I said it; the “L” word; bullying is a call for love!   Perhaps you remember from Sunday School days when you learned that Jesus reminded us, “to love your enemies” and that forgiveness is the surest way to disarm bullies. The way I see it, to stop bullying one must do three things; 1) have self respect, draw personal boundaries and hold your ground ,  2) call it out; name it when you see it,  3) join with others who share values that affirm “being nice”.   It is not OK for someone to intimidate you and attempt to instill fear whether it is the school yard bully, a neighbor, a public figure or a partner.   It is time that we all start turning the tide from negative community norms to positive community norms.  And the good news…it is happening!

Just last week, the Commission on Children and Families Health and Human Services hosted a workshop conducted by Montana State University on creating positive norms.  We learned that the key is to shifting from negative community norms to positive community norms is to challenge assumptions.  Assumptions based on fear, (False Evidence Appearing Real) lead to attacks in all of its various forms ranging from verbal slights, written word or physical threats.  Our assumptions are based on our view of the world and according to Albert Einstein it all starts from one fundamental question, “Is the universe a friendly place?”  If you see it as unfriendly and fearful place, you are ready to attack it before it attacks you, if you see it as friendly place, you expect to see possibility even in the face of serious concerns.

Annamarie McMahill, the researcher from Montana State, made the distinction between having a “fear” and having a “concern” and that a shift occurs when we balance a concern with hope because hope pulls us into a positive future and creates new cultural norms.   When people are open to new possibilities, it means leaving a familiar  and perhaps fearful place (the “known”) and launching in a new direction where we see possibility and where we acknowledge each other’s personhood without diminishing , demeaning or bullying each other.  We all need to belong, to be seen and as Mark Nepo, a leading contemporary philosopher, reminds us;   “As far back as we can remember, people of the oldest tribes, unencumbered by civilization, have been rejoicing in being on this earth together.  Not only can we do this for each other, it is essential.  For as stars need open space to be seen, as waves need shore to crest, as dew needs grass to soak into, our vitality depends on how we exclaim and rejoice, “I See You!”, “I Am Here!”.

My hope is that we grown-ups can find a way to actualize a fourth-grader’s call to “be nice” and to “see each other” even if we have different views of the world.

Creating a Quality of Life that Goes Beyond Economics

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Dr. Stephen Bavolek, creator of a positive parenting curriculum subscribes to a world of possibility and has challenged our community leaders to make the social environment as beautiful as the natural environment. This challenge struck a chord and many people have engaged in conversations and ideas for about a year. All subscribe to the notion that Coos County has the capacity to see itself differently. For example, we could document the reduction in drug usage, the increase high school graduation, the health of families, and the value of volunteerism and continue to build on the things that are working within the context of our beautiful surroundings.
This challenge inspired new thinking about how we might reframe the questions and imagine new solutions instead of fixing old problems. What if we reinforced the positive? What if we acknowledged things that are going well and grew those? What if this fundamental shift launched a new way of seeing and being and a sense of positivity and possibility went “viral” throughout the community? Furthermore, what if we could document and measure our improvements? Most importantly what if the quality of life and the measure of success was not just based on economics?
On a personal level we often measure success by status and how much stuff you have and on a national level, we measure it by economic growth, as if that represented progress. The assumption has been that with more consuming and more spending we will have a higher quality of life. Now that view is being questioned by many individuals and public policy makers alike, who wonder if there might be another way to get a true sense of growth and improved quality of life.
The traditional measure of economic growth has been the GDP (gross domestic product) which only measures economic movement without revealing whether that activity hurts or benefits the environment and quality of life. Most importantly, GDP does not tell us who is benefiting from economic growth. However the GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator) includes environmental and social factors as well. You could think of GPI as the “net” revenue after subtracting the “costs” from the GDP. Simply put, net quality of life must take into account the cost of producing it, so there are three essential indicators; economic, environmental and social, This means that decisions cannot simply be based on how much money a project generates, if it the costs grossly impacts the environment and the social fabric of the community. These new indicators provide a framework for creating agreements upfront in a decision-making process and enabling all stakeholders the opportunity to agree on what success will look like before a project is completed.
I remember seeing a special about the country of Bhutan that weighs factors related to the environment and sustainability in addition to economic return. This has evolved into a very sophisticated set of metrics and is being looked at as a model all over the world. Not too long ago, Governor Kitzhaber participated in a trip to Bhutan to learn more about these factors in making public policy decisions. It turns out that Oregon, Maryland and Vermont are all taking a lead in crafting new metrics to measure progress. The Governor is committed to making GPI an effective driver for policy and budget decisions and as a first step these indicators are being tested in some pilots for the 2015-2017 budgets. The intent is use GPI to craft the state budget in all three capital accounts; physical capital, human capital and environmental capital. This means that the public sector is setting a tone that maintains a balance between the three indicators and perhaps this will set the tone for cooperative collaborative efforts between local governments and the business sector.
In addition, The 2013 Oregon Values and Belief Survey sponsored by the Oregon Health and Science University, The Oregon Community Foundation, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Oregon State University further confirms that Oregonians generally seek a balanced approach when it comes to weighing economic growth against protecting natural resources and promoting social wellbeing for the citizens.
Here in Coos County, we have an opportunity consider using new metrics for measuring local success in any number of developments and community-wide collaborations currently underway or planned. Since, Oregon is one of the states taking the lead in creating different indicators, we have an opportunity to extrapolate from the envisioned State GPI measures of success and use them locally as a model for others to follow, wouldn’t that be amazing!