Archive for the 'community' Category

Aug 24 2015

Pete Kaminski: Tools as Substrates for Community

codrawing3A while ago, my friend Peter Kaminski wrote something that was so terrific, I said “May I blog that?” He said yes. So it is about time I share this (emphasis mine):

I just wrote elsewhere: “The trick with wikis is to think of them as a substrate for community, and to work on the community, not the wiki. A wiki is like a table in a meeting room. It doesn’t create the meeting, or the discussion, but does enable it and create a place to spread out, organize, and retrieve information.

The other thing is that most people aren’t good at using wikis; you need 5-10% of the participants to be “wiki gardeners,” specifically tasked (and constitutionally able) to keep the table somewhere in the middle between sterile and a terrible mess.”

And, “Remember not to fetishize the tools; rather, use them as part of enabling people to work better together.”

There is so much goodness packed into those words. I might add “remember, not to fetishize community!” :-) And a great reminder as we gear up the online part of the UDGAgora project and Project Community. (I’m going to share this post over at our Project Community faculty blog as well!)

Thanks, Pete!

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Feb 11 2015

Biscuits and Being Better Together

biscuittweetAll it takes is a tweet about grating frozen butter to make better biscuits to get me to click into a web page. And when I arrive, I find this most wonderful quote that can certainly apply to far more than biscuits. (Emphasis mine)

Sitting down to a plate of towering warm biscuits, with butter, sorghum and orange-blossom honey, we get philosophical on details, like placing biscuits so they’re touching.“When you’re touching, you lift each other up and you rise higher,”

Duvick agrees. But if they rise too high and slump over, they still taste good.

via What’s the secret to really tall biscuits? |

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Nov 07 2014

Elinor Ostrom’s 8 Principles for Managing A Commmons – Words to Live By

The work of Elinor Ostrom comes up again and again as I engage with people from different parts of my diverse network. This is always an indicator to PAY ATTENTION. Here is a brief summary of Ostrom’s * Principles for Managing a Commons via “On the Commons.” This has been in my draft file for too long, so I’m getting it OUT!

A classic example of this was her field research in a Swiss village where farmers tend private plots for crops but share a communal meadow to graze their cows. While this would appear a perfect model to prove the tragedy-of-the-commons theory, Ostrom discovered that in reality there were no problems with overgrazing. That is because of a common agreement among villagers that one is allowed to graze more cows on the meadow than they can care for over the winter—a rule that dates back to 1517. Ostrom has documented similar effective examples of “governing the commons” in her research in Kenya, Guatemala, Nepal, Turkey, and Los Angeles.

Based on her extensive work, Ostrom offers 8 principles for how commons can be governed sustainably and equitably in a community.

8 Principles for Managing a Commons

  1. Define clear group boundaries.
  2. Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions.
  3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.
  4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.
  5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.
  6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.
  7. Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.
  8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.

As I prepare to facilitate a research scientists team retreat with communications and teamwork on the agenda, I am refreshing myself with some foundational ideas and thinking. Anything else I should be looking at or revisiting?

via Elinor Ostrom’s 8 Principles for Managing A Commmons | On the Commons.

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Nov 06 2014

Why The ____ Would I Wake Up at 4am for a Hangout? Project Community – CogDogBlog

Why The ____ Would I Wake Up at 4am for a Hangout? Project Community 

Alan shared a great blog post about the final Project Community Hangout – it is wonderful so I’m being a lazy blogger and pointing you towards it. I’ll have a final reflective blog on this… but later! I need to catch up on my sleep first!

Of course, I also have to share the great pic Alan found…

Why The ____ Would I Wake Up at 4am for a Hangout? Project Community - CogDogBlog

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May 27 2014

“Things We Need in Order to Do Our Jobs and Make the World Better Dammit” (TWNODOJMWBD)

From 2004 Hero's Journey WorkshopI strongly recommend all of you who (still!) read this blog and who work in nonprofits, care about the role of service in our communities, have been served or have served a non profit, (etc. etc. etc.) to read Vu Le’s post, General operating funds, admin expenses, and why we nonprofits are our own worst enemies . So that means ALL of you who are readers from the US. And this applies to NGOs as well, so that probably means ALL of you.

I have worked for non profits as staff, consultant and/or volunteer most of my adult life and all I can say to Vu is AMEN! The farce of fundraising language used to drive me crazy as a non profit staffer. The way we fund and account for money in US non profits is insane, and take that in the context of the proliferation of non profits, the whole thing starts sinking. And if you think the US is crazy, look into large NGOs and UN agencies. Mama mia!

And at whose expense is this farce? Those we seek to serve. So get our your checkbook, bitcoin, credit card or even cash. Walk over to your favorite non profit and give them money with no strings.

Accountability you say? Here is the magic sauce. After you fork over your money, fork over your time. Pay attention to what’s happening around you. Then you become part of the real accountability process. Is something good happening that the organization with and for its constituency? Is there learning happening through both successes and failures? Are more people talking about and aware of the organization and its mission, bringing in more support?

Vu also outlined 7 ways non profit staff can help shift towards more honest funding and accountability. I’m putting in some snippets here:

  1. Stop saying “100% (or 98%, or 95% or whatever) of your donations go into programming.” …The next time you attend a fundraising event that says “100% of your donations…,” forward them this blog post. Or, raise your paddle and then loudly proclaim, “I want my donations to support administrative expenses!”

  2. Publicly recognize funders who support general operating funds. …These are our strongest allies, like Unmi Song of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation or Paul Shoemaker of Social Venture Partners. 

  3. Stop using the term “overhead” or “indirect.” We need to change these crappy words and phrases with all the negative connotations. …From now on, in all our annual reports and in general, let’s call it “critical infrastructure” or “core support” or “Things We Need in Order to Do Our Jobs and Make the World Better Dammit” (TWNODOJMWBD)

  4. Stop artificially deflating numbers and apologizing for percentage spent on critical infrastructure….“There is no standardized way to calculate admin expenses, so the comparison is meaningless. Plus, we strongly believe that investing in critical infrastructure like staff development leads to much better outcomes.”

  5. Stop seeking the approval of charity watchdog organizations like Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and Better Business Bureau/Wise Giving Alliance. …until they figure out a way to accurately measure organizations’ effectiveness, their rankings are misleading and distracting.

  6. Write in a line-item for reserve funds in your organization’s operating budget. … Build in a line for reserves, and if anyone whines about it, explain why it’s important and ask them to support it or else to stop asking about sustainability.

  7. Push back, and be willing to lose a funder. …Sometimes, telling the truth or refusing to break down our expenses and forcing people to focus on outcomes, or refusing to accept funds to do things that would ultimately cost us more than it brings in revenues, may cost us a funder or donor, but this short-term sacrifice may be far better for our organization and for our sector in the long run.

I’ve forked over my money. Now I have to hold ME accountable and return to forking over time.

A confession: A few years ago I did some work for Social Venture Partners here in Seattle. I was deeply impressed with how they operated at every level and their strong intentions to see and work at a systems level. I almost became an investor, but personally felt outside of the culture of the other investors so I shied away. But as I read Vu’s comments about the value and importance of how SVP invests in its communities with both money and time, I am reminded how important these approaches are. Whether I join an SVP, or I find a kindred approach, I reconfirm my intention that it is not just what we do to support our communities, but how we do. And funding all facets of the work is critical.

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