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Collective Impact 3.0: Big Ideas from CI Summit in Toronto

I’m a really lucky guy. I got to spend a week with my Canadian friends earlier this month and, once again, they both affirmed and pushed my thinking. Boy, did they affirm and push! The occasion was Tamarack’s inaugural Collective Impact Summit in Toronto. Featured plenary speakers included Melody Barnes, John Kania, Brenda Zimmerman, and Jay Connor. In this space I want to highlight the five biggest ideas that came out of this event for me. The concept of a “big idea,” of course, is relative. What is big to me may not be big to you so I will explain my criteria. The five ideas that follow were big to me because they both confirmed what I have been learning through my own work with Collective Impact since December, 2011 and inspired me to go even deeper.

Elayne Greeley, from St. John's, Newfoundland and the CI Summit "Artist in Residence," illustrated the evolution of Collective Impact at the CI Summit in Toronto, October 6-10, 2014.
Elayne Greeley, from St. John’s, Newfoundland and the CI Summit “Artist in Residence,” illustrated the evolution of Collective Impact at the CI Summit in Toronto, October 6-10, 2014.

In the opening session of the summit, Tamarack’s Mark Cabaj set the theme and tone by arguing that the Summit was marking a new phase in the development of Collective Impact. The first phase, Collective Impact 1.0, was marked by experimentation with the approach. Collective Impact 2.0 saw the framing of broad parameters  and the emergence and development of practices related to it. Collective Impact 3.0, though, would extend and build upon these previous two phases as it deepened  understanding of the practices, capacities and ecology or context required for CI. The CI Summit did a great job of focusing on Collective Impact 3.0 and, as a result, these five big ideas emerged for me.

Big Idea #1: “Collective Impact” Does Not Need to be Applied to Every Collaboration. This idea represents a major leap in the maturation of the Collective Impact framework. The Chronicle of Philanthropy recognized “Collective Impact” as #2 in their top ten list of philanthropic buzzwords in 2011. In doing so, though, it suggested that CI was merely a new term for an old way of working together. Shortly thereafter the term was applied to every sort of collaborative effort. My regular readers will know that I am one who has been frustrated by the wholesale application of the “Collective Impact” label to every group effort. New ideas can benefit from such publicity but they can also die when, as a result, they are misunderstood as simply “new and shiny” objects. When a new idea’s label is, therefore, misapplied it can be devalued and its benefit to the field lost. I think Collective Impact 1.0 and 2.0 was at risk of devaluation as a result of its popularity.

At the CI Summit, Brenda Zimmerman delineated known, knowable, and unknowable problems. Isolated efforts and traditional collaborations are usually sufficient to address the known and knowable problems. Complex social issues, which is the realm of Collective Impact, are unknowable problems. That is, the problems are difficult to define and the solutions are even less clear. The appropriate application of Collective Impact 3.0 is to complex issues.

Big Idea #2: “Context Experts” and “Content Experts,” a 50/50 Proposition. The CI Summit introduced new language, as well as a new understanding, for how to think about the residents with lived experience that CI initiatives are trying to serve. “Residents with lived experience,” for those unfamiliar with the term, are people who are living directly with the issue a CI initiative is trying to address and are, therefore, likely to be the people who see the greatest benefit from a successful initiative. Context Experts are residents with lived experience, including children and youth. Typically, they are the people who experientially know about the issue. Content Experts are professionals, providers, and leaders with formal power who have knowledge, tools, and resources to address the issue. Typically, they are the people with the technical knowhow. The language is new and quite friendly to use though the concept of having both types of experts in a collaborative effort is not.

The really big idea is with regard to achieving the right mix of the two types of experts. For too many years and in too many collaborative initiatives, Content Experts have far outnumbered Context Experts, to the point of tokenizing them. The information coming out of the Summit, though, argues that it needs to be a 50/50 split to achieve Collective Impact 3.0. This reformulation of the equation has profound implications, particularly, I believe, among CI initiatives in the United States. In future blogs, I will try to unpack some of those that are most significant.

Big Idea #3: Ownership and Buy In are Not the Same Thing. This idea has an important correlation to the previous one: the more we involve Context Experts the more likely it is that we will facilitate “ownership” and not merely “buy in.” Why is this? The explanation lies in understanding how these are defined in the context of Collective Impact 3.0. “Buy in” means that Content Experts have come up with an idea and now have to get Context Experts to “buy in” to it, if it is going to stand a chance of working. This, I argue, is the sad status quo for most social change and public health initiatives I have both seen and been a part of in the United States. “Ownership” means that the idea comes from the Context Experts and, as a result, it is theirs from the outset and, therefore, need no convincing. We Content Experts are infamous for coming up with ideas for doing good to or for others, but not with them.

Big Idea #4: Best Practices are the Enemy of Emergence. The CI Summit highlighted that Collective Impact 3.0 is designed to address complex problems with emergent solutions. As noted earlier, complex problems do not have known solutions therefore evidence-based and best practices from past experience have very limited value. While they may offer clues, they cannot provide the definitive answers we expect of them. When best practices are applied, in fact, they stifle the creative thinking and adaptive responses needed for the solutions to emerge. Here is the danger of best practices when applied to complex problems: If we are convinced we already have the solution through an evidence-based or best practice, we stop thinking about and seeing other solutions when they emerge. As a result, we keep pounding the square peg into the round hole. Collective Impact 3.0 asks us to take the leap of faith that our Context Experts and Content Experts, when working together in a close relationship based on respect and trust, can allow the solutions to emerge and, together, see them, test them, and implement them.   

Big Idea #5: Change Happens at the Speed of Trust. “Change happens at the speed of trust” refers to comments made by FSG’s John Kania when he was speaking about the mind shifts that are needed for Collective Impact 3.0. Among the mind shifts John identified was the need to establish deeper relationships among CI partners to support the movement needed for progress to occur. It is not clear to me whether John actually used the phrase “change happens at the speed of trust” or whether this was an interpretation given to his actual words by another. I heard one of the members of my Learning Lab use this during our final meeting together of the Summit. It immediately resonated with me. The following week I used the phrase in my keynote presentation at the Iowa Department of Human Services Breakthrough Series Collaborative meeting in Des Moines. It strongly resonated with the group there as well. Wendy Rickman, Administrator of the Division of Adult, Children and Family Services, was so taken by it that she proposed that “change happens at the speed of trust” be carried forward as the theme for the next phase of the Iowa Breakthrough Series Collaborative, a five-year-old initiative of Iowa DHS and Casey Family Programs to improve the state’s child welfare system.

Regardless of the origin of the phrase, it says a lot about the look of Collective Impact 3.0. As one of John Kania’s slides did said, “typical social sector mindset and behavior has it backwards.”  It is not about pre-determined solutions and emergent interactions and relationships; it is about pre-determined interactions and the relationships and solutions that will emerge as a result.

The many pieces of information I gleaned from the Summit that congealed into these Five Big Ideas came so fast and furious that I am not sure I can accurately cite any single source. Some came out of the plenary sessions, some came out of the workshops, and some came out of the interaction with Learning Lab #20 (you know who you are and thank you for all I learned from you) which I had the honor and pleasure of facilitating. Regardless of the source, I am deeply appreciative of the insights and ideas that were shared at the Collective Impact Summit. I hope to meet you there next year!

Be greater, do good…every day.

T.W.K.

“The Least of These”

My life is haunted. Some of the things that haunt me are the ghosts of stupid things I have done over the course of my life. Many, though, are the spirits of compelling ideas that just will not let go of me. One of those ideas is captured in the phrase “the least of these.” The phrase “the least of these” comes to me from the Christian scriptures, the spiritual text with which I am most familiar, though it refers to an ethos to be found in many cultures and faiths. The ethos is that members of the human race, and the societies they form, have a moral and ethical responsibility to care for “the least of these” in their communities. “The least of these,” in one sense, is a relative term as it can refer to those whose needs are greater than our own. However, it more generally refers to those who have found themselves in great need and difficult, even desperate, circumstances, through no fault of their own. They are often known to us by their status in society: marginalized. The failure to care for these others, in fact, is a failure of our humanity and to the whole of humanity, and some would also believe, to God.

“The least of these” are the reason for my career. It was a calling to serve “the least of these” that led me to ministry within the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) when I was a young man. It was the same call that led me into mental health counseling and then the field of adolescent sexual health. It is the call that today has guided me to focus my work with social sector (non-profit) organizations, including faith communities, in order to help them become the best guardians and providers of “the least of these” that they can be.

This blog often finds me writing about community engagement and Collective Impact. “The least of these” has also been haunting these subjects for me as well. Yet it is with regard to these two topics that my thinking is still forming and for which I hope to receive greater light from others. Therefore, I am just going to put my ideas out here for your consideration and invite you to have a conversation with me.

Why Find a Cure 2
Bumper sticker seen in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, April, 2014

If a social change movement is not about “the least of these,” then it is just a business and social change is just another industry providing greater benefit to those working within the industry than to those whom it is supposed to serve. Earlier this year I was working on an organizational study for a client and in my research came across a compelling article[i] in which the authors made this point with what they called the “health disparities industry.”  The authors cited the literature that defines “industry” as a sector of the economy that manufactures goods or products or provides a service. An industry has an elaborate infrastructure, a specialized set of activities, and stakeholders. Then the authors made the case that the health disparities movement had, in the United States, become an industry that more often used the issue of disparities to sustain itself than to help those who actually experienced the disparities. My own research has similarly found that an industry has grown up around the issue of the sexuality education of young people in the United States, the field in which I have worked for many years. The industrialization of the field has meant, among other things, that concern for its own sustainability has contributed to the institutionalization of the decades’ long intractable conflict over sexuality education in U.S. public schools.

Collective Impact is a framework for social change that has really caught on since its introduction in 2011. Actually, that is an understatement. More accurately, and metaphorically, it has taken off like a rocket and it is yet to be seen just how high it will fly. Through it community change initiatives of all sizes and many organizations have been introduced to its five conditions, the concept of emergence, and the power of backbone organizations. Some are taking time to learn, understand, grasp and implement the ideas undergirding Collective Impact and others are simply slapping the cool new name onto their existing work to impress funders and garner media attention. I am an early adopter and fan of the Collective Impact framework and have used and extended it in my own work.

Yet, I worry.

I worry that “the least of these” are left out of many Collective Impact initiatives. Yes, I know leaders of these initiatives would likely argue that my worry is absurd. “After all,” they might argue, “the initiative exists to help ‘the least of these,’ does it not?” Okay, so it might. HOW it does this, I argue, is at least as important as WHAT it does, especially if sustainable community change is to be achieved.

  • Does it invite “the least of these” to the table where the COMMON AGENDA is created that impacts their lives?
  • Does it train and equip “the least of these” with the skills and knowledge to participate effectively with other initiative partners?
  • Does it build and maintain a culture among all partners that values the participation of “the least of these” in the selection of the BACKBONE ORGANIZATION, SHARED MEASUREMENT strategies, and MUTUALLY REINFORCING ACTIVITIES to be undertaken?
  • Does it use an inclusive decision-making process that ensures the voice and vote of “the least of these” counts?
  • Does it have CONTINUOUS COMMUNICATION systems in place that ensure equal and equitable access and participation of “the least of these?”

Collective Impact initiatives that leave out “the least of these” are just the same old coalitions involving the usual same old players doing the same old things in the same old way. As such, it is business as usual and business as usual is not social change.

I believe community engagement that values “the least of these” and seeks to include them as full partners holds the promise of keeping Collective Impact on track as a powerful framework for social change. Yet, there is still a need to keep “the least of these” at the heart of community engagement. Without “the least of these,” I worry that community engagement merely becomes the industry of marketing.

Hoping this will be a conversation that continues to shape my thinking on these issues, here are my questions for you:

  • What worries do you have about either leaving out “the least of these” or, conversely, fully involving them in your Collective Impact initiative or community engagement work?
  • What is working for you to keep “the least of these” at the forefront of your Collective Impact and/or community engagement work?
  • What would you like to do more of in the future to ensure “the least of these” stay front and center in your work?

Thanks for allowing me to think aloud in this space. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Be greater; do good; every day,

T.W.K.

[i] Shaw-Ridley, M. & Ridley, C. R. (2010). The health disparities industry: Is it an ethical conundrum? Health Promotion Practice, 11(4), 454-464.

Collective Impact & Complexity Resources – Check Them Out!

I’ve recently come across a couple of resources that I wanted to share.

First, FSG has recently put out a video about the Cincinnati, Ohio “backbone” meeting in March.  In some recent posts I wrote about my experiences at that conference which focused on “backbone” organizations for Collective Impact initiatives.  If you’re not familiar with Collective Impact or the concept of “backbone” organizations, this is a nice introduction.  If you look closely, you may also see somebody you recognize.  Watch the video here!

Second, my son, Jake, gave me a new book for my birthday a few weeks ago.  Jake and I have a similar, but odd, sense of humor so he often gets me a funny book or DVD.  This year he gave me “Using Complexity Theory for Research and Program Evaluation” by Michael Wolf-Branigin.  Not quite the usual fare and not really a funny book.  And, the book already had about a half-dozen pink Post It flags distributed throughout it.  Really odd.  Then I began to look at each of the pages the flags were marking.  Turns out Jake was Dr. Wolf-Branigin’s research assistant at George Mason University for over two years when he was getting his MSW.  During that time he worked closely with Dr. Wolf-Branigin on portions of this book.  Jake’s contribution was signficant enough that he gets several mentions and is credited as the co-author of chapter 7 (Developing Agent-Based Models).  Dr. Wolf-Branigin was a terrific mentor to Jake and certainly gave him some extraordinary opportunities, including co-authorship, not just on this book but on some upcoming research articles as well.

Now that I’ve had my “proud dad” moment, let me also say that the book is really good and quite useful for anyone that is a fan of complexity theory (which I am) and yet is somewhat puzzled to understand how evaluation research works in complexity (which, again, I am).

In closing, I think I’ve also mentioned in previous posts that I’m deep into data analysis and writing up research findings for my dissertation.  I’ve been trying to write occasional posts on this blog as well to try to shake off “dissertation brain” but haven’t been a regular in my posting as I’d like to be.  I’ve got another in progress that I hope to be posting by early June.  So, stay tuned.  In the meantime, check out the video and the Wolf-Branigin book.  Good stuff!

More later…

T.W.K.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas W. Klaus

When Collective Impact Isn’t – Part 2

In Part 1 of “When Collective Impact Isn’t” I posed the question I heard raised at a recent Collective Impact Champions for Change meeting of backbone organizations  in Cincinnati:  When is a community change movement using the Collective Impact framework and when is it using the framework in name only but doing “business as usual?”  As the Collective Impact framework proliferates there will be community based initiatives that will simply re-brand their BAU (“business as usual”) initiatives as Collective Impact in order to ride the wave.

In my previous post I wrote that “a key to understanding the difference between Collective Impact and business as usual is that the how of Collective Impact is at least, if not more, important than the what…The what of Collective Impact is easily summarized into its five conditions: shared agenda, shared measures, mutually supportive activities, continuous communication, and an infrastructure (backbone organization) to coordinate and lead the work.  It was correctly observed by the Champions for Change participants and faculty that some (maybe even many?) social change initiatives have used these five as a checklist to assess the activities of their existing initiative and, if they can check off each of the five boxes, TA-DA!, they are newly christened as a Collective Impact initiative.”  Checking off the five boxes only creates a faux Collective Impact initiative unless attention is given to the how (process) of using the framework.

Understanding and implementing the how of Collective Impact is essential to having a community change initiative that legitimately lays claim to the title.  To be clear, both the what and the how are important and initiatives can err by giving too much emphasis to one over the other.  On the one hand, an over-emphasis on the how of process risks achieving the goal of the initiative.  Haven’t we all been a part of those groups that meet, plan, include, meet some more, plan some more, and include even more, but never seem to get anything done?  They are like race cars on an oval track – they appear to be going somewhere, even quickly, but never really go anywhere of consequence.  In recent years, though, nonprofits and communities have been so driven by the what of outcomes that success may be attained but not sustained.  This is because initiative durability or sustainability is largely a result of the how, not the what, of Collective Impact.  (For more on this, see my previous blog titled “How to Sustain Good Work without Fundraising.“)

During the Champions for Change meeting I identified four indicators that a community initiative is failing to achieve the how of Collective Impact.  After each indicator is a query that can be used to evaluate whether as much attention has been given to the how as to the what of an initiative that seeks to use the Collective Impact framework:

  1. Self or Other-Appointed Backbone:  Is our backbone organization self-appointed, other-appointed or has the community appointed it?  A self-appointed backbone is understood to be a group or organization that steps up and says, “Hey, we’re going to do a Collective Impact initiative on this issue and WE are the backbone organization.”  While admirable that a group or organization would do this, it can be a fatal flaw in the process.  An other-appointed backbone is a group or organization that another entity, such as a funder, has appointed to be the backbone.  It suffers from the same fatal flaw.  Fundamental to the process of Collective Impact is the idea that backbone organizations are identified and empowered to provide leadership and support by the community.  The definition of “the community” is important.   I think of it as the “whole community” which means it needs to include not just the BAU folks (e.g., people with status, power, and position in the community) but the folks that can be easily forgotten, overlooked, or outright ignored, by which I mean the people to whom the initiative is aiming to help.  The term I learned in Cincinnati for this group that I really like is “Residents with Lived Experience.”  Residents with Lived Experience are those with direct experience with the issue the initiative is attempting to address.  While the BAU folks have a role in connecting the initiative to resources and services, Residents with Lived Experience will be the ones using those resources and services.  If they do not feel full trust and confidence in the backbone organization and its leadership of the initiative, the whole thing could fail for no other reason than lack of participation by the community.
  2. Top-Down Decision Making:  Does our backbone organization make the key decisions for the initiative or does our backbone convene the community in a participatory decision-making process that informs the initiative?  The Collective Impact framework encourages the identification of community champions who can provide leadership, including decision-making, in the initiative.  In my work with communities, I’ve suggested champions need to be found among at least three different groups in the community:  Grass Tops (people with access to resources through traditional power and status); Grass Roots (people without traditional power and status but who are so deeply respected in the community that their participation “holds sway” with many others); and Residents with Lived Experience.  I’ve observed that top-down decision-making is the default when there is an intense focus on achieving outcomes.  In such situations though it is easy for those being “served” by the initiative to feel like it being done to them rather than with them.  It is important to remember, if creating a long-term durable initiative is a high priority, that top-down decision-making is a major threat to sustainability because it often takes away community buy-in and ownership.  If you are interested in learning about a decision-making method and structure that creates equivalence of voices and results in high commitment and buy-in, I encourage you to take a look at Dynamic  Governance, a process I’ve been reading about for nearly two years and have recently begun to learn to implement.
  3. Pre-Determined Needs & Solutions:  Does our backbone organization already have a need and solution in mind for the community or does the community have a meaningful decision-making role in identifying both? In recent years, since the monumental failure of the D.A.R.E program to accomplish its goal of reducing substance use among youth (see the previously mentioned blog on this site), there has been an increased emphasis on the value of rigorous evaluation research.  The impact of this emphasis is being felt across disciplines that address many issues that are typically of concern to communities: school success, hunger, homelessness, violence prevention and reduction, teen pregnancy, etc.  The idea is this:  if government, funders, and communities are going to invest in addressing important issues that affect a lot of people, then the investment needs to be made in those programs and projects that evaluation research indicates have strong evidence for success.  These have become known as “evidence-based” programs.  Undoubtedly there is high value to investing in those things that are most likely to succeed, right?  Unless the whole community, including Residents with Lived Experience, are part of the process of identifying its greatest need and the best evidence-based solution for the need that the community can support, there is risk of at least four types of failure:  1) The Failure of Partial Understanding (wrong need paired with an evidence-based solution that addresses a different need or right need paired with the wrong evidence-based solution); 2) The Failure of Ignorance (right need paired with a bad solution, that is, one that really just doesn’t work); 3) The Failure of Cluelessness (wrong need paired with the wrong solution); and, 4) The Failure of Community Participation (right need paired with right solution but no community participation in the selection process, hence no ownership or commitment).  There are, of course, many variations of these that could be added to this list – if you’ve got one you’d like to add, please put it into a comment below.
  4. Exclusion of Residents with Lived Experience:  Does our initiative intentionally engage community Residents with Lived Experience of the issue being addressed and do we create equivalence in decision-making?  Liz Weaver of Tamarack Institute argued effectively in one meeting that community initiative decision-making needs to observe this rule: “Not About Us Without Us.”  That is, decisions should not be made that affect the lives of others when those being affected are not part of the decision-making process.  I’ve tried, successfully I believe, to weave this idea throughout this blog so I will not belabor the point.  Well, maybe just a little.  I really do understand good intentions.  My whole career in nonprofit work has been driven by the intention to do as much good for as many people as possible.  It is easy for zealous, good intentions to go off the Doing Good track, plow under the very community we are trying to help, and do more harm than good.  I’m a zealot and I’ve gone off the track a few times, too.  There are four strategies I’ve learned for staying on the Doing Good track.  First, slow down.  Second, now that we’ve slowed down, we can take time to listen to the Residents with Lived Experience.  Third, pay attention to what they are telling us.  Fourth, and finally, plan and do the good work with them, not to them.

More later…

T.W.K.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas W. Klaus

How to Sustain Good Work without Fundraising

“I’ve raised over $100 million without asking for money.”  When Paul Born dropped that little gem, it really refocused my wandering attention.  Paul is Co-Founder and President of Tamarack-An Institute for Community Engagement in Canada.  As I listened more closely, I would hear Paul confirm in his stories what my research over the past couple of years has been leading me to understand about the relationship between fundraising and project, even organizational, sustainability.

For the past three days I’ve been part of an extraordinary experience in Cincinnati, Ohio.  John Kania and Fay Hanleybrown of FSG and Paul Born and Liz Weaver of Tamarack, in collaboration with The Aspen Institute and the Strive Partnership, convened the first ever gathering of leaders of Collective Impact “backbone” organizations.  It was an invitation-only event and only about 70 people were expected.  Due to an East Coast snowstorm that snarled air travel fewer were actually able to attend.  I was surprised to find I was the only person in the room that did not actually lead a backbone organization.  Over the past several months, however, I’ve gotten acquainted with Fay Hanleybrown via phone and email and had discussed with her the work I’ve been doing on creating a sustainability framework anchored in the principles of Collective Impact.  These conversations, I believe, led to my invitation and I was honored to have been included.

The framework that I had been discussing with Fay over the past several months proposed that sustainability was achieved through a four-stage process that began with community engagement.  The process is quite simple and intuitive.  An organization or group engages a community on an important issue it is trying to address through information sharing and ongoing discussion, both personally and publicly in various media.  Through continuous, broad, and effective engagement, the organization or group becomes legitimized as the “go to” authority on the issue in the community as it becomes increasingly, positively associated with it.  As the engagement process continues to permeate the whole community and the group’s status as the “go to” authority increases, even those who were reluctant supporters, late adopters, or even resistors of change, become transformed into supporters, or at least, they don’t resist any longer.  This is the point at which the resources of a community, including funding, begin to open up to the initiative and a critical mass is achieved.  As this “tipping point” is reached, the desired change becomes the new norm for the community.  This ELTN (Engagement, Legitimization, Transformation, & Normalization) process achieves sustainability that fundraising alone cannot.  (For more information about the ELTN process email info@nonprofitgp.com.)

There are at least two reasons this is true.  First, it creates community buy-in and, if the process also includes community participation in decision-making, it also creates community ownership.  In Cincinnati I learned a new expression that I like for how it so respectfully describes the community members that are closest to the issue being addressed:  “residents with lived experience.”  Rather than referring to the people most closely related to an important community issue as the “target population” or “victims” or “people at greatest risk” or some such, “residents with lived experience” evokes a sense of membership in the community and respect for the deep knowledge of the issue they bring to the discussion.  An effective ELTN process will include not just the powerful and influential stakeholders in a community but the whole community including “residents with lived experience” of the issue.  The powerful and influential, who often control the funding, may buy in as long as it seems a good investment.  However, once the whole community, including those residents with the lived experience, own the issue and the initiative that is addressing it, even lack of funding won’t take it away.

The second reason the ELTN process creates sustainability is because it creates a perception of value whether it is warranted or not.  I’m sure you’ve noticed how some things that aren’t effective, and may even be harmful, seem to never go away.  Let me give you a couple of examples in case you are coming up short at the moment.

Why are banks too big to fail even when they have some responsibility for a financial disaster?  Why does a prevention program that some feel may actually do more harm than good to children and youth continue to thrive?  Because they have a perception of value in the community that allows them to exist.

If banks that played a role in the financial meltdown can be sustained and youth prevention programs that don’t prevent anything can themselves become addictive to communities, surely organizations and initiatives that are genuinely doing good in a community should have no trouble, right?  Not exactly.  Many genuinely good organizations and causes continue to struggle for survival and seem to be light-years from actually thriving.  Why?  Because they’ve not really built the case for the value of their work in their community, that is, they’ve not achieved the perception of value.  They spend their time chasing money when if they spent their time creating and sharing value, the money would follow.

Community resources (including funding) follow community engagement.  This was the lesson that Paul Born taught this week in Cincinnati.  I’ve described it here with the ELTN process (which, by the way, can be measured and monitored for progress) but Paul explained how community engagement happens through community conversations.  I couldn’t do justice in this space to everything Paul taught us about the “how to’s” of community conversations.  However, you can get Paul Born’s book that explains it more fully – Community Conversations: Mobilizing Ideas, Skills, and Passion of Community Organizations, Governments, Businesses, and People.  The book is like Paul – insightful, relaxed, funny, approachable, and easy to understand.

More later…

T.W.K.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas W. Klaus