Tuesday, June 27, 2006

2006 JUL | PEOPLE POWER: Saul Alinsky, Sherry Arnstein & the "Ladder of Citizen Participation"

Saul Alinsky, Sherry Arnstein &
the "Ladder of Citizen Participation"

"The idea of citizen participation is a little like eating spinach: no one is against it in principle because it is good for you. Participation of the governed in their government is, in theory, the corner stone of democracy, a revered idea which is vigorously applauded by virtually everyone. The applause is reduced to polite hand claps however, when this principle is advocated by the have not blacks, Mexican Americans and Indians. And when the have nots define participation as redistribution of power, the American consensus on the fundamental principle explodes into many shades of outright racial, ethnic, ideological and political opposition."- SHERRY ARNSTEIN

DEMOCRACY (Greek: "demos" [people] + "kratos" [rule]) literally means PEOPLE RULE!

One way to to categorize and conceptualize power is: 


The sheer mass NUMBERS of people are at least equal in strength to the massive RESOURCES concentrated in the hands of the few, and, therefore, the balance is determined by sustainable ORGANIZATION. Large, top-down organizations have short-term advantage. However, small, decentralized, and bottom-up organizations have the advantage in the medium term to long term. We, the people, have the right and the responsibility to exercise our power and maximize it for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our schools.

"As Benjamin Franklin wrote, 'In free governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.' The ultimate powers in a society, therefore, rest in the people themselves, and they should exercise those powers, either directly or through representatives, in every way they are competent and that is practicable." - THOMAS JEFFERSON

Saul Alinsky wrote 2 well-known books, "Reveille for Radicals" and "Rules for Radicals, A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals". While town meetings were a vital force for decentralization of power in early American history, the Industrial Revolution's mass production brought mass centralization of power in the hands of the few. This was followed, of course, by the labor movement. The next great
landmark in American power dynamics is the birth of community organizing.

A documentary by Bob Hercules & Bruce Orenstein, "THE DEMOCRATIC PROMISE: Saul Alinsky and His Legacy", tells us, "Few know it today, but Chicago was the birthplace of a powerful grassroots social movement that changed political activism in this country. 'Community Organizing' was pioneered in Chicago's old stockyards neighborhood by the soberly realistic, unabashedly radical Saul Alinsky."

"This is a story about poor people getting power; it's openly about power, and that's not a concept openly spoken about in America." - BOB HERCULES

The documentary's website summarizes the project as, "the story of ordinary people making demands for the power to govern their own lives. Narrated by Alec Baldwin, the documentary examines both the history of community organizing - through the work of Saul Alinsky - as well as the current state of community organizing, as shown by contemporary organizations in New York and Texas. In a larger sense, the program is about the restoration of American democracy through shared public participation in civil life - a vital antidote to an era of increased citizen alienation and voter apathy."

"It becomes a contest of power: those who have money and those who have people. We have nothing but people." - SAUL ALINSKY
Arnstein Ladder
In 1969, Sherry Arnstein published, "A Ladder of Citizen Participation", in the Journal of the American Planning Association. The Arnstein Ladder has become one of the most-used and most meaningful navigational tools for fixing one's position within a power dynamic. The ladder has 8 rungs, as summarized on Partnerships OnLine :

1 Manipulation and 2 Therapy. Both are non participative. The aim is to cure or educate the participants. The proposed plan is best and the job of participation is to achieve public support by public relations.

3 Informing. A most important first step to legitimate participation. But too frequently the emphasis is on a one way flow of information. No channel for feedback.

4 Consultation. Again a legitimate step - attitude surveys, neighbourhood meetings and public enquiries. But Arnstein still feels this is just a window dressing ritual.

5 Placation. For example, co-option of hand-picked 'worthies' onto committees. It allows citizens to advise or plan ad infinitum but retains for power holders the right to judge the legitimacy or feasibility of the advice.

6 Partnership. Power is in fact redistributed through negotiation between citizens and power holders. Planning and decision-making responsibilities are shared e.g. through joint committees.

7 Delegated power. Citizens holding a clear majority of seats on committees with delegated powers to make decisions. Public now has the power to assure accountability of the programme to them.

8 Citizen Control. Have-nots handle the entire job of planning, policy making and managing a programme e.g. neighbourhood corporation with no intermediaries between it and the source of funds.

Sherry Arnstein died in 1997. During her life, she had served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, worked at Arthur D. Little, Inc., and held many other important posts.

Monday, May 22, 2006

2006 JUN | Now I Know My ABCD's - Next Time Won't You Do ASSET-MAPPING with Me?

Now I Know My ABCD's -
Next Time Won't You Do ASSET-MAPPING with Me?
Every single person has capacities, abilities and gifts. Living a good life depends on whether those capacities can be used, abilities expressed and gifts given. If they are, the person will be valued, feel powerful and well-connected to the people around them. And the community around the person will be more powerful because of the contribution the person is making.-John McKnightAsset Based Community Development (ABCD)
The ABCD Institute makes asset-mapping child's play! Literally!!! They have developed a program that could be done primarily by the youth of the community. It is so well-designed that it does not require professionals to do it. In fact, it is expressly about reversing dependency on professionals. It is about community development of the people, by the people, and for the people. The design of the program flows from the design of it's originating conceptual system which flows from the spirit of putting people first! It puts people's assets, strengths, and potential contributions first.

The traditional way is to put people's liabilities, weaknesses, and needs first. Asset-Based Community Development puts peoples assets, strengths, and potential gifts to the community first. It makes a difference in how we are thinking about our community and the people who live in it. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression", and the conceptual system with which we approach our community-building work makes our first impressions for us. It blocks people-to-people connections when we start off seeing people as half-empty rather than half-full. Most groups do this out of habit, because "that's the way it's done" or because "that's how the professionals do it" and because nobody has ever questioned it and offered another way.

Building on the work of Saul Alinsky, John McKnight has developed the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at Northwestern University in Chicago. From this strong organizational platform, these resources are being distributed and established across America and around the world. ABCD is  being implemented in Canada from the maritimes to Vancouver. It is also in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Europe, and Australia. Here in the US, many localities are adopting ABCD.

The Minnesota Department of Health website lists the following summary:

Five Steps Toward Whole Community Mobilization
McKnight and Kretzmann offer the following steps, not as a complete blueprint for broad, asset-based community development, but as some of the major challenges they may point to a potential process. They include:

Step 1: Mapping the capacities and assets of individuals, citizens' associations and local institutions that exist and that can be marshaled in the community

Step 2: Building and strengthening partnerships among local assets for mutually beneficial problem solving within the community

Step 3: Mobilizing the community's assets for economic development and information sharing purposes

Step 4: Convening as broadly representative a group as possible for thepurposes of building a community vision and plan

Step 5: Leveraging activities, investments and resources from outside the community to support asset-based, locally-defined development

ABCD is one tool among many complementary approaches listed on the Minnesota Department of Health's webpage on, "Community Engagement and Eliminating Health Disparities".
"Go in search of people. 
Begin with what they know.

Build on what they have."- Chinese proverb

The Center for Collaborative Planning has three main programs: Women's Health Leadership, Community Partnerships for Healthy Children, and the California Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute.  Good health is a function of good community as much as any other factor as research now shows.

Asset-Based Community Development is the kindest approach from a human perspective AND it's the smartest and most efficient approach from a practical buts & bolts organizing perspective. It gives you as complete a picture as possible of the assets & potential assets in your community. It tells you what is available and who is willing to help and to what extent. It takes the guessing out of it. It stops cold the wrangling and whining and arguing over whether the neighborhood organization is half full or half empty. You assume the neighborhood is at least half full. That's more than enough to fill all the organizations in the neighborhood that are working hard to build community in the neighborhood for our children and for our children's children.

WEB-LINKS to Navigational Aids for Sustainable

Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD)


John McKnight - BIO

Community Development Program

Minnesota Department of Health

California ABCD Institute
Center for Collaborative Planning

2006 MAY | METAPHOR IN FULL BLOOM: Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Organizing, and Spider Plants

Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Organizing, and Spider Plants
All theories of organisation and management are based on implicit images or metaphors that persuade us to see, understand, and imagine situations in partial ways. Metaphors create insight. But they also distort. They have strengths. But they also have limitations. In creating ways of seeing, they create ways of not seeing. Hence there can be no single theory or metaphor that gives an all-purpose point of view. There can be no 'correct theory' for structuring everything we do. - Gareth Morgan
Everyone is familiar with the basic plant metaphor for organization. Even non-Master Gardeners and non-Master Organizers - of which there is no such thing as the latter and this writer is neither - get the idea that you start with dirt then add seed, water and light. However, the trick seems to be optimizing quantity and quality at every step of the process from selection of dirt and seed to providing water and light.

Then comes protection from weeds, pests, and varmints. This must continue regularly and consistently with diligence and vigilance. Otherwise, your hard work can, and probably will, disappear with surprising speed.

Learning opportunities abound year-in and year-out. Whether one is growing a single flower in one's apartment, a garden in their yard, or a large farm feeding many people, if you do not learn then you will fail. This is a basic element of sustainable agriculture and sustainable organizing. This is what Peter Senge calls, "The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization".

Of course, the idea of "learning" would lead us to a brain metaphor for organization, but, this is the "plant metaphor" column. However, the root concept is parallel structure and process. Brains are massively parallel neural networks. Parallel processing is the opposite of serial processing in terms of information processing. Instead of one processor handling one piece of information at a time - serially - many processors are networked and coordinated so that they all participate in processing the stream of information nearly simultaneously. The top-level processors delegate processing out to the network then receive the results. This is the architecture of the most powerful supercomputers -Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP). Applying this to organizing people, we get Parallel Distributed Democracy (PDD) - if 2 heads are better than 1, then 10 heads are better than 2; 5,000 are better than 10; 62,000 are better than 5,000; etc..

The spider plant models this very nicely. Gareth Morgan uses the spider plant metaphor to describe the most advanced highly effective organization. It's built from simple, easily reproduced building blocks.  Morgan calls it an, "example of an organizational style ideal for conditions requiring flexibility, innovation and change." He has 6 models of organization which people can use to fix their position in their organization. They range from "Model 1 - the classical bureaucracy", to "Model 6" which "often operates on 'spider plant principles,' discussed in Chapter 2", of his book, "Images of Organization".

Morgan is a leader in communicating the role of metaphor in our lives. Two other communication leaders are George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. In their book, "Metaphors we live by", they suggest that, "in all aspects of life ... we define our reality in terms of metaphors and then proceed to act on the basis of the metaphors. We draw inferences, set goals, make commitments, and execute plans, all on the basis of how we in part structure our experience, consciously and unconsciously, by means of metaphor."

Leadership is about communication. When organizations are led by people who cultivate a culture which nurtures clarity, then functional sustained action is made much easier. Morgan's Spider Plant model facilitates development of small, decentralized, grassroots, entrepreneurial organizations.

WEB-LINKS to Navigational Aids for Sustainable Organizing:



IMAGINIZATION: New Mindsets for Seeing, Organizing, Managing


Saturday, March 18, 2006

2006 APR | COOPERATIVES: A Sustainable Model for a New Culture

OCTOBER 2007 (originally APR 2006) | PDF
COOPERATIVES: A Sustainable Model for a New Culture

You can actually do better for yourself by being cooperative and altruistic than by selfishly refusing to cooperate with others. It's not that you do as well. You actually do better.
- Helena Cronin,
London School of Economics

Cooperation vs. Competition

Should our culture be based on competition or cooperation? All other ideological systems aside, isn't this what it all comes down to? Do we choose "survival of the fittest" or "survival of the kindest"? But what if they are ultimately one in the same? What if it all comes down to who has the most sustainable organization? Who can both survive in their local community-based economy and survive effects of the larger economic system - hostile takeover, big-box "category killers", malls, sprawl, etc..

Ultimately, whoever is kindest to their employees, workers, volunteers, customers, community, and environment will survive. Therefore, if the cooperative model is the model more conducive to being the kindest, does this not mean that the kindest is the fittest and that cooperation out "competes" brutal, vicious competition?

Coopetition vs. Cooptation

"Coopetition" is a term referenced in a February 2005, "CorporatePR" blog-post entitled, cooperation vs. Competition". When corporate PR professionals are restructuring their entire practices based on the shift toward cooperation that's real change. But nice words and good intentions are one thing. Organizational structure, process, and culture are the real guage. Cooperatives are designed for cooperation. Corporations are designed for competition. As corporations and cooperatives compete to see who can be the most cooperative, we may be witnessing a paradigm shift before our very eyes.

Cooperatives: THEORY vs. PRACTICE

In practical terms, cooperation means helping people get what they want or need as conveniently, efficiently, inexpensively, and pleasantly as possible. In short, cooperation with people's wants, needs, and experience is what counts the most. A well-intentioned cooperative might be inconvenient, inefficient, expensive, and unpleasant. At the same time, a greedy competitive corporation might be able to deliver an experience which is much better. Some people will make allowances to tolerate a certain level of lower quality experience to benefit a locally-based, well-intentioned co-op, but, only to a point. Ultimately, people vote with their feet, but, the cooperative model starts off with a huge advantage in being able to offer people an experience which is local, organic, fair trade, convenient, cruelty-free, and pleasant. However, corporations may have an advantage when it comes to efficiency and expense. Corporations have, historically, been focused on systemic efficiency at the expense of humanity. Finding the optimal balance is the key to sustainability.

An Ironic Series of Unfortunate Events

For example, here, in Portland, Maine, the health food market over the last 30 years has seen the following ironic series of unfortunate events:
  • the Good Day Market & Cooperative, a local cooperatively-owned enterprise, failed;
  • the Whole Grocer, a local for-profit privately-owned retail business, succeeded for over 20
    years only to see Wild Oats, a national retail chain, move in right next door;
  • now, Whole Grocer is selling out to Whole Foods Market (WFM), according to their website, "Whole Foods Market is the world's largest retailer of natural and
    organic foods, with over 155 stores throughout North America and the United Kingdom" and is opening a 45,350 sq. ft. store in Portland, Maine. 
Ironically, when the Good Day Market & Cooperative closed, the Whole Grocer, then a relatively new store, spoke proudly of their "business regimen". Their balance of efficiency and humanity allowed them to survive longer than the Good Day Market & Cooperative, but, only until larger economic forces came to bear.

But wait! There's even more irony!

Sophia Collier once managed the Good Day Market & Cooperative! According to CNN Money, "years before she founded a $1.2 billion mutual fund company, Sophia Collier ... between the ages of 16 and 20, Collier lived on a Hopi Indian reservation and fixed boats in Arizona; and then ran a construction company and a food co-op in Portland, Maine. She published an autobiography of those years, called "Soul Rush," at 20, and moved to Brooklyn in 1976. She and a childhood friend founded SoHo Natural Soda in her Brooklyn kitchen when she was 21. [She later sold SoHo and acquired a majority interest in Working Assets before founding Citizen's Funds, one of the nation's largest families of socially responsible mutual funds.] ... The state of New York recently chose Citizens to manage $250 million in pension assets, which Collier said is the largest amount ever awarded to a socially responsible management company." Had she stayed with the Good Day, she probably would not have made so much money and become one of the world's top leaders in socially responsible business and investing. Certainly, this column would not have been able to bring you these, navigational aids to sustainable organizing from George Soros via Sophia Collier and CNN Money: "Collier likes to quote billionaire investor George Soros, who once said it's not so much that he is right more than the average person -- he just can recognize that he is wrong more quickly. 'He recognized more quickly that he was wrong and he could change courses,' Collier said. 'You need to identify if you're on the wrong course and correct it - and not give up.'"

Organizing a Portland Co-op

There is a group of people who have not given up on a Portland Co-op. They are meeting to start a Portland Food Co-op, a Co-op Resource Center, and a Co-op Conference. Portland's history offers lessons to be learned about sustainable organizing and finding the right balance between efficiency and humanity. This is an exciting opportunity to write the next chapter in the history of Portland's health food market.


LINKS to Navigational Aids for Sustainable Organizing:

building a democratic economy rooted in community

Cooperative Development Institute
transforming ownership of our economy 
— so that all people can meet their basic needs

A directory of alternative economic initiatives

Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative 
Maine Products for Maine People!

Cooperative Grocer - Online Magazine

Local Harvest [online coop]

2006 MAR | CULTURAL CREATIVES: True North on the New Political Compass

CULTURAL CREATIVES: True North on the New Political Compass

Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society - its world view, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions - rearranges itself. And the people born then cannot even imagine a world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through such a transformation. 
 -PETER DRUCKER, Post-Capitalist Society

So begins, “The New Political Compass”, by Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., author of, “CULTURAL CREATIVES: How 50 Million People are Changing the World”, (www.culturalcreatives.org ). Paul Ray is helping to build a new conceptual framework for understanding the larger dynamics of our world. Framing is catching fire in the political world because of it’s power for gaining knowledge of how to influence people. The marketing world has always known this. Now, Paul Ray, a sociologist by trade, has begun to publish his research on the social and political dynamics of today’s world. The difference is that, instead of a conceptual framework of the elites, by the elites, and for the elites, Ray is offering one of the people, by the people, and for the people.

What or who are Cultural Creatives?

There is a questionnaire online if you would like to see if you might be one: ( www.culturalcreatives.org/questionnaire.html ) Ray goes beyond standard demographics by asking people about their values and the kind of world they would like to live in. In summary, Cultural Creatives are:

* growing in numbers from around 5% in the 1960s to over 26% today and growing
* the source of all change and social innovation
* demand peace, freedom and justice - social, economic, environmental, and political
* feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the world
* desire whole systems, whole truth, whole foods, and whole solutions
* are unaware of how many people already share their views
* are unaware of how many people might yet come to share their views if only they understood where they come from and where they will take us

What is culture?

We all have some idea of what it means to us and, yet, anthropologists find it nearly impossible to define. Margaret Mead credits Ruth Benedict (Patterns of Culture, 1921) with beginning a popular discussion on the concept of culture. Benedict theorized that any group of people exhibit a culture which is an aggregate, “personality writ large”. My favorite culture quote is:

That is true culture which helps us to work for the social betterment of all.

Other common components of culture include: values, attitudes, practices, traditions, arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, inventions, language, and technology. Others say that culture is the social construction of meaning.

The truth is constructed with skill and virtue.

Assuming Aristotle’s premise, then, that which is constructed without both skill and virtue, therefore, is not truth. Or, at least, it has only a degree of truth relative to the degree of skill and virtue used in its construction. But, if a truth is constructed with skill and virtue, but, without a social context, then, who cares and who would even know? Do not both skill and virtue require that truth or meaning be socially constructed? One person with maximum skill and maximum virtue can perceive from only one perspective. Anything one person, or a small group constructs, excludes the perspectives of others. A work of art is meant to be a personal expression and to stimulate thought and feeling and conversation. However, a culture must be of, by, and for the people – all people - who live within it.
No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.

Maximum truth requires maximum perspective in current space and over future time. Contexts change over time, therefore, cultures of families, neighborhoods, organizations, communities, states, and nations must be continuously reviewed and improved and must be socially constructed (or cultivated) to have meaning of the people, meaning by the people, and meaning for the people – all people.
For example, who constructed or cultivated the "meaning of life" that was imposed on us without our knowledge or consent right up until the "Pleasantville" era of the 1950s? In the 1960s a phenomenon known as "counterculture" began to fully manifest. We knew that the values of previous generations were not exactly ours, but, we did not know what values we wanted. No generation had ever given itself so much freedom to choose its own values. From this new freedom - and, of course, "freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose" - sprouted several movements: civil rights, equal rights, peace & justice, environmental protection, consumer protection. From the common roots of these many movements a new culture is growing. Cultural Creatives recognizes this phenomenon and gives us a new conceptual framework for understanding it.

The most important element of navigation is fixing current position. By taking “fixes” as often as possible we can carefully keep track of:

* where we have been
* where we are now
* where we are going

For the purposes of cultural navigation, the current consensus seems to be:

* we have been in a culture of, by, and for the corporations
* we are now in transition to a new culture
* we are going to create a culture of the people, by the people, and for the people

Anytime 2 or more gather for any length of time, there is organization and there is culture. Sustainable organizing is the key to navigating our way to a new culture as safely and efficiently as possible.

How can WE do better at working together?

( WE = U + ME + U-Process )

The People-Centered Development Forum ( www.pcdf.org ) maintains a web-archive of “Global Citizen” articles by Donella Meadows – the late leader of the sustainability movement. In her article, "The Cultural Creatives Are Coming", (www.pcdf.org/meadows/cultcreatives.htm) Meadows comments on, “finding each other, sharing stories, building our communities and our worldwide network.” She quipped, ”...story of my life. But do note Ray's point about ‘no cohesive sense of community.’ In my experience cultural creatives are no better at working together [bold added for emphasis] than any other Western individualists. Maybe, because of our distrust of institutions, we're worse. Contradance bands and coops are about as much organization as we can stand.”
The Change Labs project of the Sustainability Institute ( www.sustainer.org ) is working on communication tools for sustainable organizing. You can see a diagram of their U-Process at www.sustainer.org/services/changelabs.html . The following description is excerpted from their website:

The core social technology of Change Labs is the U-Process.

I. SENSING - transforming perception

II. PRESENCING - transforming self and will

III. REALIZING - transforming action

The U-Process is designed to enable practitioners to pay attention to, and learn from, emerging realities or opportunities. The process comprises three major stages: observing the current reality carefully and in depth; retreating and reflecting to allow “inner knowing” to emerge; and acting swiftly in order to bring forth the new reality.

Regrettably, Donella Meadows is no longer with us to help develop the sustainable organizing component of the sustainability movement. Fortunately, the spirit of Meadows’ work continues at the Sustainability Institute in Vermont.


LINKS to more Navigational Aids for Sustainable Organizing:

How 50 Million People are Changing the World

The New Political Compass [PDF]

Society for Organizational Learning

Leader to Leader Institute

Drucker Archives [ONLINE]

2006 FEB | Meg Wheatley = G.O.D.

SEPTEMBER 2007 (originally FEB 2006) | PDF
Meg Wheatley = G.O.D.

Well, maybe I should say GODDESS since she is a woman. She certainly fits the definition of GODDESS in my book. But, the title might have been a little less controversial and the acronym would be more unwieldy:

Good Organizational Dynamics Democracy Ease Simplicity Self-Organizing

Although, to me, Meg Wheatley means Good Organizational Dynamics (GOD), her first book was, "Leadership and the New Science", so it's more about new & old than good & bad.

The "New Science" is quantum physics. The "old" science is Newtonian mechanics. As I understand Meg's experience with the old corporate management culture, the went from frustration, to vacation, and, then, while reading a book on quantum physics, to inspiration - truly a quantum leap. She saw that if the old corporate management culture was a product of the Newtonian machine, then Quantum physics should allow conception of a new collaborative leadership culture.

The differences between the Newtonian vs. Quantum worldviews seem to sort out something like this:

+ static ---------------- + dynamic
+ linear ---------------- + interconnected
+ serial ---------------- + parallel
+ parts ---------------- + wholes (holistic)
+ closed --------------- + open
+ finite ---------------- + infinite
+ unchanging ---------- + changing
+ mechanistic --------- + organic

As my Oceanography 101 textbook described the new scientific worldview, "nature is a self-organizing, stable, dynamic, chaos." As Meg Wheatley puts it, "for many years, I've been interested in seeing the world differently. I've wanted to see beyond the Western, mechanical view of the world and see what else might appear when the lens was changed. I've learned, just as Joel Barker predicted when he introduced us to paradigms years ago, that 'problems that are impossible to solve with one paradigm may be easily solved with a different one.'"

I've been applying the lens of living systems theory to organizations and communities. With wonderful colleagues, I've been exploring the question: "How might we organize differently if we understood how Life organizes?" It's been an exploration that has helped me look into old patterns and problems and develop new and hopeful insights and practices. It has also increased my sense of wonder for life, and for the great capacity of the human spirit."

Meg's new book is, FINDING OUR WAY: Leadership For an Uncertain Time In Finding Our Way, Meg focuses on the experiences she and others have had in putting new theories into practice in the real-life, day-to-day work of people around the world. Here is a beautiful and powerful statement by Meg Wheatley about her new book :

"An Invitation to the Reader
There is a simpler, finer way to organize human endeavor. I have declared this for many years and seen it to be true in many places. This simpler way is demonstrated to us in daily life, not the life we see on the news with its unending stories of human grief and horror, but what we feel when we experience a sense of life's deep harmony, beauty, and power, of how we feel when we see people helping each other, when we feel creative, when we know we're making a difference, when life feels purposeful.

Over many years of work all over the world, I've learned that if we organize in the same way that the rest of life does, we develop the skills we need: we become resilient, adaptive, aware, and creative. We enjoy working together. And life's processes work everywhere, no matter the culture, group, or person, because these are basic dynamics shared by all living beings.

Western cultural views of how best to organize and lead (now the methods most used in the world) are contrary to what life teaches. Leaders use control and imposition rather than participative, self-organizing processes. They react to uncertainty and chaos by tightening already feeble controls, rather than engaging people's best capacities to learn and adapt. In doing so, they only create more chaos. Leaders incite primitive emotions of fear, scarcity, and self-interest to get people to do their work, rather than the more noble human traits of cooperation, caring, and generosity. This has led to this difficult time, when nothing seems to work as we want it to, when too many of us feel frustrated, disengaged, and anxious.

I invite you to join me in this work of creating more capable, harmonious, creative, and generous organizations and communities. There is a simpler way, and we each need to play our part in bringing it into robust practice."

http://www.margaretwheatley.com/popups/popup.frontcover.html ]

Meg is President of the Berkana Institute . Berkana's philosophy is that, "the leaders we need are already here". They, "define a leader as anyone who wants to help, who is willing to step forward to make a difference in the world. ... Berkana's work in the world is based on a whole and coherent theory about how life organizes."


LINKS to more Navigational Aids for Sustainable Organizing:


Tools To Help People Understand Each Other
Creativity -- Six Thinking Hats
Consensus Building Institute
DIALOGUE - Co-Intelligence Institute

2006 JAN | A Brief History of Navigation and of Sustainable Organizing

A Brief History of Navigation and of Sustainable Organizing

Obviously, there is not space in this column for a history of even one subject no matter how brief. So how am I going to do not one but two brief histories in one column? Of course, I am not going to attempt the impossible any more than I would attempt the unsustainable. However, I will reference elements of the history of navigation as I apply them to the concept of sustainable organizing. While the history of community organizing is long, sustainable organizing is so new it can hardly be said to have a history at all. So, as this column is launched, I invite you to join in discussion about sustainable organizing on a theoretical level and on a practical level as we apply these concepts and tools to grassroots neighborhood organizing, here, on Munjoy Hill.

Oak and triple bronze
must have girded the breast
of him who first committed
his frail bark to the angry sea

-Horace, Odes

Grassroots community organizing may not be as perilous and daunting as committing, "frail bark to the angry sea", but it may sometimes feel not too far off. It is usually not for the feint of heart. All too often too much organizing is too difficult because it is done with too few people and takes too much time and energy that we increasingly have too little to spare.

It does not have to be this way. This is the idea behind sustainable organizing. Organizations of the people, by the people, and for the people should fit the lifestyles, skills, and interests of the people who are in them. These days most people are very busy. The more jobs, the more kids, the more people have in their lives, the less time they have to give to community organizations. So we have a few people with a few hours a week who want to make a difference.

So to get 1 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE), we need 4 people with 10 hours each or 10 people with 4 hours each. More likely, people only have a couple of hours per week to give so we're headed toward 20 people at 2 hours each per week for 1 FTE. So, unless Superman, Superwoman, Superboy, and Supergirl happen to live in our neighborhood, we need more and more people. When we find them, we want to keep them. If we waste their time and/or they have a less than positive experience, they are less likely to keep showing up.

The 2 most basic navigational aids that I advocate are:

1) Good organizational dynamics are vital for sustainable organizing.

2) Cities, neighborhoods, and organizations should be of the people, by the people, and for the people - neighborhood improvement is NOT just for the experts!

Navigation is about:

A) "Where are we?" and "Where are we going"?

B) getting where we are going safely and efficiently

Navigation began as a very general intuitive art with tools provided by nature - sun, stars, landmasses, ocean currents, etc. - and has develop into a very specific technical science with tools of increasing technological sophistication.

Navigation was once an arcane art bordering on the occult. So jealously guarded and carefully kept secret were the tools and knowledge of navigation that sailors commonly believed that compasses worked by black magic. In fact, binnacles were developed to shroud the compass so as not to frighten the seamen.  Today, we live in a new age and yet many of our institutions and cultural practices and attitudes are still very primitive and far behind the people they purport to "lead".

This column will be about practical nuts & bolts which make the work of sustainable organizing safer and more efficient in the work people are doing right now. It will also be about theoretical systems design and engineering. It will attempt to gain and share many perspectives on sustainable organizing. It will always be written from the grassroots, street-level, next-door, around the corner or maybe even a few blocks away, but, still in the same neighborhood and never ever from atop the ivory tower.

LINKS to Navigational Aids to Sustainable Organizing

ABCD - Asset-Based Community Development
Neighborhood-Based Planning
ARNSTEIN LADDER - A Gauge of Citizen Participation
A Ladder of Citizen Participation - Sherry R Arnstein
The History of Navigation - BOATSAFE - KIDS
The History of Navigation - PBS