"The Ripeness is All" King Lear
The Energy for Change is
fleeting but does come.
What feels ripe about this moment? For you? For your constituency? For the organization? For the field?
Right. Who quotes Shakespear anymore? Or should these days? Well clues about life and how to live it come from many places, and one of my favorite things to do in the world is to cross reference the learnings and experiences of one world, to figure out another. In the world of place based change
To me, ripeness for organizations and movements is when different vantage points converge and agree and illuminate a brand new kind of space - a generative space - that has a unique type of energy - to create, to pivot, to grow, or to move on. We have all felt it in our lives. Those moments that open up when there is a moment of such great clarity and energy; ripeness. We know they are rare. We know they are fleeting. I believe these moments - this kind of space - can be curated as well. That is the foundation of network-centric practice; a method of creating, protecting and optimizing generative space for new and special things to happen.
The questions in those moments are.. 'OK what about this moment feels specifically resonant, compelling and actionable? What new choices does this moment present for us? And what spaces and practices do we need now to bring these choices to life"?
My aspiration is to be of use to the amazing activists and community development professionals who are leading transformative change across the US. I've worked with so many amazing people over 40+ years, both with the people in the organizations I've been lucky to lead, Coalition for a Better Acre CBA and Lawrence CommunityWorks, as well as almost 20 years of working with organizations all over America. I've been a community organizer, an Executive Director, a business owner, a technical assistance provider and a citizen activist in my own communities.
I've directly lived through many of the dynamics that impact leaders in our field, on both the personal and professional side. Most importantly I've been a life-long learner in a field that is complex, challenging and ever changing.
You can see my Full Bio/Resume Here.
A Note on the Genesis of The Network Organizing Approach
I started as a community organizer and young CDC Executive Director in the 70's and 80's when the world was a different place, and we were practicing a tradition of organizing and power building that had been taught in the USA since the 20's. It was as style that came directly from the labor movement, and was based on the practice and teaching of Saul Alinsky captured in his widely read book 'Rules for Radicals.'
I was trained in and practiced that style, but over time came to understand that while the principles of 'cold anger' and 'direct action campaigns' had its place in winning pitched battles around issues, our communities were really suffering from larger, more seismic cultural and community dynamics leading to the de-population of civic space and the inability for people to connect across lines of difference to solve even the most basic problems... as neighbors.
Mostly I could see that what we were trying to do in place-based community engagement and power building over the past decade had not been hitting the mark and that building community in 21st century community life required new ideas and methods.
That is where the thinking - and the early practice - around Network Organizing came from. In 1998 I was incredibly lucky to be offered a Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design that provided the time and space and environment to develop those ideas in real life and a real place; (my hometown of Lawrence, MA) and with an amazing group of partners at Lawrence CommunityWorks, still today one of the groundbreaking CDCs in our field.
It's a long story but instructive to who I am today. So, for those interested in how we were able to operationalize network thinking and practice in Lawrence, here's a few pieces:
A good overview article I by Robert Preer in Commonwealth Magazine about how LCW was changing the definition of CDC
Meeting Frankie Blackburn and getting to know the work of her organization Impact Silver Spring (also still a thriving organization!) was a revelation in many ways. In two completely different environments we had come to many of the same conclusions about the need for, and the way to do, a different kind of community building. And so, the work of Trusted Space Partners is based on that cross-learning and a coming together of our lives as people and an extended blended family - our own network!
Check out this short piece called 8 Lessons of Network Leadership
Also, This was my first piece on Leadership in a Network called "Vertigo and The Intentional Inhabitant