Saturday, December 5, 2009

November 30, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
One of nature’s greatest visual gifts to us is the beauty of Fall. Our trees and vines are covered with gold, yellow and red leaves as they prepare for their winter dormancy. The leaves fall gently to the ground with an assurance that next Spring they will reappear wearing a coat of bright green and inspire us once again. The thought occurred to me that while we are conscious of this annual process, we often forget that it is not the leaves that make our trees what they are, it is the root system. We are making progress around here not because of bright colors. Rather our momentum has grown because of our unseen but critically important community-based root stock. A critical component of our root stock is this Business Council. It is my hope that all who read this weekly Bulletin will commit to some type of Council membership support in the upcoming year. For more information visit our website Our leaves are depending upon us.

One Employer’s Solution to Healthcare—Safeway
In order to learn more about national and state private sector thinking on healthcare, Dr. Alan Pierrot and I attended a meeting convened by the Committee for Economic Development, a national business think tank, and the Bay Area Council. One speaker offered Safeway’s approach based upon research and partnership:

• 70% of healthcare costs are driven by behavior.
• Four chronic conditions create 74% of costs.(Obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease)
• Obesity is a driving factor in all 4 chronic conditions.
• Noncompliance with recommended care reaches 67% for obesity.
• Transparency is critical to control costs.
• Obesity rates: Japan 3%, Switzerland 8%, Canada 15%, USA 34%.

Solution to Rising Costs
• Insure everyone.
• Create more personal responsibility.
• Encourage prevention and wellness by linking healthy behaviors to financial incentives.
• Provide cost and quality transparency.
• Pay more for results and less for services rendered.

Safeway’s Program
• Open to all employees.
• Focus on 4 issues—weigh, tobacco, blood pressure, cholesterol.
• Earn lower premiums through changed behavior.
• Distribute information on procedural costs and quality. For comparable services cost ranges go from 10:1 to 4:1. Hard costs $887 to $8,650; $3,538 to $16,779.

Since the program began in 2005, Safeway and its employee’s annual savings have gone from $19 million in 2006 to $5

Monday, November 23, 2009

November 23, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
Thanks to all who accepted my invitation to share their “Thoughts of Thanksgiving” with us. This has been a difficult year and I believe it is critical that we don’t let the negatives overwhelm our blessings. Here are a few responses, some of which I have abbreviated. I am hopeful that you will add your own.

“We are thankful for the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man--nature, music, great books and the opportunity to serve others.”
Lee Ayres

“Family and good friends. The “things” in my life pale in comparison to the people I care about. People are eternal and everything else is not.”
Kurt Madden

“I am thankful that we live in a place that allows us the opportunity to think, learn, create and contribute.”
Alice Saviez

“The Marjorie Mason Center is grateful for the incredible numbers of compassionate, generous and energetic individuals who make this such a wonderful place to live, work and thrive.” Pam Kallsen

“For me it can be the little things, looking at the sun shining through the three leaves or our fourth grandson’s birth.”
Kathy Bray

“I am thankful for life, love of family and friends, health and well-being and that we live under the protection of a free and peaceful nation each day.”
Kay Garabedian

“I am thankful for learning so much from God – relationships, caring, intimacy, and connectedness.”
Doug Davidian

“I am thankful to have an opportunity to make a difference, work with extraordinary people, and for my wonderful daughter, Noelle.
Deb Nankivell

Monday, November 16, 2009

November 16, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
I would like to try something I’ve never done before in the fifteen plus years I have been privileged to contribute to our Bulletin. Next week we shall celebrate Thanksgiving Day. For what will you be most thankful this year? Please send your thought(s) to me ( so I can pass your feelings on to others. We will share as many of thoughts as possible in next week’s bulletin. As for me, I shall once again be thankful for family, friends and all of those who understand that in exchange for living in an imperfect democracy we owe it to ourselves and others to try to leave this a better place than we found it. Such is the mission of the Fresno Business Council. Such is the Spirit of Thanksgiving.

California Forward’s Budget Reforms and Local Control Measures
The current structure of California government is based upon another era and patches that didn’t fix the underlying problems—structural, systemic and power dysfunctions. Our board has endorsed the 2010 Reform plan aimed at two primary goals—serving community before single interests and restoring power to local government. The reforms include:

Best Practices Budget Accountability Act
• Planning Ahead—two-year spending plans with 5 year fiscal forecasts.
• Results & Accountability—goals for every program linked to budget decisions.
• Performance Review—Oversight of major expenditures; ten year review cycles for programs.
• Reduce Debt When Revenues Spike—Use one time revenues to pay down debt.
• Pay-As-You-Go—No new programs without funding source.
• Majority vote budget/deadline—forfeit pay and per diem if not on time. Retains 2/3 vote for tax increases.

Community Funding Protection and Accountability Act
• Protect local taxes—state prohibited from taking local taxes or fees.
• Collaborative Problem Solving—encourages local institutional alignments to solve problems and eliminate duplication.
• New Resources for Community Services—If county-wide plan adopted, county can ask for sales increase up to 1 cent to be distributed to local government.
• Accountability for Outcomes—discretion coupled with reporting on progress and support of voters to continue.

For more in depth information, go to the website,

Monday, November 9, 2009

November 9, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
A year has gone by since the voters of this nation used the privilege granted them in our constitution to elect by majority vote those candidates for public office they prefer to serve them during the ensuing political cycle. Whenever we become disenchanted with the performance of the party in power, we make a change. The underlying strength of this country resides in having a strong two party system with the primary responsibility of the “out” party being to serve as the watchdog over the actions of the other. Our history tells us that rancor, diatribes pitting one party against the other and forecasts of impending doom have always been a part of this process. What has never changed has been that cadre of citizens who quietly and efficiently continue their quest of transformation amid the ongoing political turmoil. Such has been the role of the members of the Fresno Business Council and our extended family of those dedicated to making our tomorrow better than our yesterday.

“It’s Different This Time”—A Community Steps Up Together
Barn raising is an American tradition where everyone came together when someone needed a barn. Most were volunteers, a handful of those with special skills were paid and everyone benefitted, not just the family with a new barn. Early Americans understood interdependence and that there are challenges we can only meet as a united whole. Community transformation is one of them. As the RJI continues to accelerate driven by the EDC, Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State, Lyles Center, WIB, State Center and others, the City of Fresno is sparking increasing engagement from many institutions and organizations to revitalize the Lowell Neighborhood. Here is an excerpt from a recent blog from Craig Scharton, the head of the Downtown and Community Revitalization Department:

What an unbelievably great meeting! Fresno State is on it. They have departments lined up with classes and internships all focused on Lowell. Off the top of my head: construction management, recreation, education, the library (for research and database), political science, psychology, business, engineering, arts (lighting)...and others that I'm forgetting. They have a matrix of every department's involvement. They have specific classes that will be involved. They are organizing an event to link nonprofits in Lowell to students. This is so incredibly gigantic. They are hosting a national conference for Urban Universities next year and will bring schools from around the country to Fresno to see how an engaged city and university can work together. Somebody pinch me...I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that this would all be happening so quickly. Dr. Welty, the Provost and Assistant Provost are all actively engaged to pull this focus and follow-through together. I do not believe that there is anything quite like what is happening, anywhere in the country. As Mayor Swearengin says, "it is different this time." Folks, it is different, I've been doing this stuff off and on for 25 years. I have never seen things happening like this before.

Friday, October 30, 2009

October 26, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
Last Tuesday a number of partners convened a Community Conversation Forum. Approximately forty private and public sector leaders came together to attempt to gain a “level set” understanding of the many issues we face and a framework we can use to align resources behind shared goals. The session was ably moderated by Kurt Madden, a community leader who serves in all three spheres (economic, infrastructure and human development) and is a steward of the whole. While differences in thinking and approaches to solving problems were rightfully expressed, there was an underlying unity of purpose and intention to create a better tomorrow for all. One of the major conclusions reached is that we can’t hire others to cure our civic illnesses. We are our own doctors. As an example, we learned that in a decade FUSD students have gone from 58% living in poverty to 81%. This is unacceptable and affects everyone in our community. Changing this circumstance will require a commitment from people in every sphere to work together. Tomorrow’s generation is depending upon our wisdom and commitment to improvement. The session-ending conclusion was recognizing if we think we can achieve our goals alone, our vision is too small.

Shared Themes—Community Forum, San Joaquin Partnership Summit
A common theme emerged at two meetings last week—the importance of steward leadership. Einstein told us we cannot solve a problem at the level of thinking that created it. Whether its water, safety, education, or economic development, if we only come together as self and single interests, we spend precious resources fighting to get more, rather than focused on long term solutions to serve the whole. Interdependence means problems do not confine themselves to one jurisdiction or interest any more than smoke paid attention to nonsmoking sections on an airplane. Our region is demonstrating through the Partnership that together we can accomplish much more. One of the gubernatorial candidates emphasized, “We are all Californians.” A key question is how do we create governance models that reflect this belief? Fragmented thinking and acting got us here. What would a “CEO function” that served the whole look like locally, at the regional level, at the state level and at the national level?

Key Thoughts on Water From the Partnership Meeting
...The amount of water available is static—97% comes from precipitation.
...Every region has different water needs and resources.
...The amount of water permits issued far exceeds the amount of water available.
...Regional antagonism drives the water wars.
...The solution must be based upon co-equal values—water supply reliability and improved and protected Delta eco-system.
...The state is close to a solution largely due to the ability of the San Joaquin Valley to remain united rather than fragmenting along single interests. (The Partnership is a platform to unite, lead, and change the way the public’s business is done.)
...We are in this mess because of all of us. Rather than clarity of purpose, we have 200 state and federal agencies engaged in water issues. When everyone is involved; nobody is in charge and nobody is accountable.
...There is no piecemeal solution—there must be a complete solution.

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 19, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
Is there anything more American than October and the excitement of all of the festivities surrounding the World Series? While baseball may be our national pastime, I would submit that for many of us it does not overshadow our year around determination to win our own pennant by leaving this a better place than we found it. Most of us can only superficially try to comprehend all of the good work taking place in our community as we have learned the skills of collaboration and the power of shared visions. To attempt to do so is to begin to understand the depth of the commitment of all of those who care enough to give so much. As we watch the progression over the next couple of weeks to see which team shall emerge as our baseball champions, let’s not overlook our own champions among us who work unendingly without public acknowledgement in creating a brighter tomorrow for all who are among us and will come after. They are our real heroes.

Embodying the Community Values Through Insight and Practice
As a way to deepen our understanding of Community Values and strengthen our resolve to act in accordance with them, at each board meeting we discuss one of them. At last week’s meeting, Hal Bolen offered some thoughts about the value “Commitment to Resolving Conflict.” The value’s description notes that conflict is inevitable as we have differing world views and life experiences. It also acknowledges that conflict is often required to achieve the best outcome. The challenge is learning the skills to use conflict as an asset to help clarify a strategy or build motivation. As part of his presentation, Hal offered 8 steps to resolve conflict: 1) Know thyself and take care of self, 2) Clarify personal needs threatened by the dispute, 3) Identify a safe place for negotiation, 4) Take a listening stance into the interaction, 5) Assert your needs clearly and specifically, 6) Approach problem-solving with flexibility, 7) Manage impasse with calm, patience and respect, 8) Build an agreement that works. Imagine how quickly positive changes would happen if we all mastered the art of conflict resolution. By doing so, we would “be the change” and help spread this skill throughout the community.

FBC Board Endorses CA Forward 2010 Reform Plan
So often when we blame people, the real problem is context and structure. The CA Forward reforms are intended to insure that community interests are placed ahead of single interests, protect local funding and deliver better outcomes. Other states and successful businesses have already shifted to results based budgets and a focus on long term, collaborative strategies. This thinking has also moved to the local level in some cities, regions and counties. The shift will allow cities, counties, school districts and others to work together to solve community problems and overcome the industrialized, silo model of thinking, funding and acting that has prevented innovation and collaboration for so long. “If you can achieve your goal alone; your vision is too small.” For more information, the CA Forward website is

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
As we celebrate Columbus Day it is worth dwelling upon the similarity between the reality of Christopher Columbus traversing a vast ocean in a few frail boats to reach his destination and our ongoing journey to cross our extended community’s lake as a broad-based coalition dedicated to arriving at our vision for this region. While “Uncle Chris” used sails and oars to propel his tiny fleet, our armada is akin to a large contingent of ducks. From above we may appear to be gliding calmly across the water when in reality underneath the surface we are paddling feverishly. We shall reach our destination not because we made short lived waves and splashes upon the surface but because we mastered the art of propelling ourselves forward by paddling in the same direction together. The next time you see one of your fellow ducks, give each other a quack.

From Ruben Navarrette to John W. Gardner—The Same Message
The mission of the FBC is to transform our community from good to great, inspired by the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. Implicit in this idea is whether it is a company or a community, greatness requires a commitment to excellence. “Excellence implies more than competence. It implies a striving for the highest standards in every phase of life…in every endeavor and sector…in short, universally.” In a recent column, Navarette contrasted the work ethic of his immigrant grandfather with himself and came up short. He challenged all of us to let go of playing the victim or thinking you are entitled. As Gardner noted in his book, Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent, Too?, The best kept secret in America today is that people would rather work hard for something they believe in than live a life of aimless diversion. The growing number of volunteers and philanthropists in Fresno are a testament to the truth of this statement made in 1961.

School/Business Partnerships Reception—A Win/Win/Win Proposition
We are looking for businesses that want to have a substantial positive impact on their community. Today in our schools we are preparing the next generation of community and business leaders. We need businesses to consider adopting a school in a partnering relationship. Any size business can participate in a school partnership and the rewards to the school and the business are substantial. It is a chance to positively affect the lives of the youth of Fresno. You are invited to a reception at The Shops at River Park, (west end of the Plaza opposite Edwards Theater near REI) to provide you with an opportunity to learn more about these partnerships. The reception is being hosted by the Joint Task for School Business Partnerships, of which the Fresno Business Council is a member. There will be good food and information provided to you in equal measure. You do not have to make any commitment beyond giving us an hour or so of your time. The reception is on Thursday October 22, 2009 at 4:00 PM. If you plan to attend or would like additional information please RSVP to Mike Wilhelm at 490-0950 or

Monday, October 5, 2009

October 5, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
Some day I hope that future generations will be able to look back upon our era and find recorded how we were able to transform this region from the “Appalachia of the West” into a vigorous center of prosperous economic activity. Therein they will find that the key to our transformation was capitalizing and leveraging the opportunity to live within a multicultural environment and accepting that those things that united us were far more important than those things that divided us. While this transformation is still a work in progress, it is the shared commitment of many individuals to abide by the standard of behavior called for by the community values that has made change possible. May it be our legacy that silo based philosophies and crude accusations against those with differing opinions will one day be only footnotes in the history books of those who will come behind us.

Workforce Investment Board (WIB)—Steward Leadership in Action
The first issue of the New Valley Times was issued in 2002 with a dateline of 2015. This newspaper, delivered alongside The Fresno Bee, was filled with stories of success across every sector. Embedded in every one was the notion of compound interest, a commitment to the long-term, not just short-term results. Years ago WIB was a reactive, human services program that “prepared people for jobs that didn’t exist.” Today, thanks to the early commitment of Chamber leaders and the strong staff leadership of Blake Konczal and Pam Lasseter, the Fresno WIB is considered exemplary. Their adopted WorkKeys System, measures skills across a wide workplace spectrum, guides participants in matching their skills to specific careers and provides certificates that can be used in the hiring process. This win/win, matchmaking approach led to the creation of the Central California Career Readiness Certificate which is supported by nine WIB’s across 14 counties, community colleges and Fresno State. The work was done through a grant from the San Joaquin Partnership. Today’s WIB mirrors similar long term results of stewardship and collaboration in other organizations.

Results—Quantitative and Qualitative
To prepare for a December opportunity to share stories about Fresno with regional leaders from across the state, we are assembling a list of accomplishments that have resulted from our shift to steward leadership. The list is impressive and humbling. The WIB story helps to explain why numbers alone are an inadequate measure of success and are easy targets for cynics, single interests and spectators. While unemployment remains too high and many are ill equipped for the workforce, changing the underpinnings of the economy and education are long term endeavors. The fact that our region is aligning resources, interventions have occurred in major institutions, we continue to gain expertise in collaboration, and more people are engaging is strong evidence of the qualitative changes happening in our community. We are changing the way we think and act in terms of issues, solutions and one another. Cultural change—how we do the community’s business--is sustainable change. We are collectively developing the skills of innovation, resilience, adaptability and collaboration stemming from a one page contract—the community values.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September 28, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
The more I learn about this region’s collaborative efforts, its interactive programs and its commitment to higher community values, the more my mind goes in circles. It was not that many years ago that the Fresno Business Council dropped its first pebble into our civic environment lake and created a noticeable ripple on its smooth surface. Today that same surface is covered with ever expanding and deeper penetrating concentric circles created by the impact of larger and larger pebbles being dropped upon it. For this we owe appreciation to the dedication of all of those who are involved in creating a measurable improvement in our social and economic wellbeing throughout ever expanding parameters. As you read this Bulletin and other sources to which it refers, see if you, too, don’t agree. The chances are you’ve helped create one or more ripples yourself.

Structures for the 21st Century
There have been a variety of books describing at will organizations based upon partnership, personal responsibility and empowerment. Many believe that in the rapidly changing, global economy of the 21st century, we must master this form of organization in both the corporate and community domains to thrive. Dee Hock, founder of VISA, wrote a book entitled One From Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization. His book provides some answers to questions about aligning diverse organizations and individuals behind a shared purpose that is in their collective self interest. He also explains how to create a culture that empowers individuals to make good decisions in real time in the field. Central to making such an organization work is the character of the people. “An organization, no matter how well designed, is only as good as the people who live and work in it.” In other words form, control, bureaucracy and hierarchy are no match for individual motivation and mutual trust. The execution of the RHI and HII are terrific teachers of this art.

Human Investment Initiative Moving to Neighborhood Level
When the HII action plan was printed, the words “preliminary version” were included on every page. John Dewey’s insight, "We learn by doing after we have reflected on what we have done," captures the courage to try new approaches coupled with the humility to learn to fail fast. As many heroic attempts to address poverty fill history books, who would dare to try yet again. What have we learned so far? A couple of key lessons:
• Hope and trust must precede accountability. The HII is about relationships built over time based upon respect and truth telling.
• The field of neuroscience offers tools historically unavailable. Understanding how trauma affects brain structure and function underscores the importance of preventable trauma and offers a path to healing.
• No one sector can effectively address poverty; nor are solutions linear or easily measured. This challenge requires simultaneous economic, social, infrastructural, systemic, and individual changes.
• We cannot talk our way out of a problem we behaved ourselves into individually and collectively. Success is about long term commitment and relentless action.

Monday, September 21, 2009

September 21, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
Does it seem to anyone else that we are in danger of redefining the definition of democracy? This Business Council was founded on the premise that a better way needed to be developed to bring people with divergent views to a common table. Recently we have seen examples of the emergence of another definition of democracy which I choose to call despotic democracy. Philosophical extremes from all across the political spectrum proclaim themselves to be passionate believers of democracy so long as everyone agrees with their position. It is the ongoing challenge of this Council and its allies to ensure that all viewpoints on major issues have an opportunity to be evaluated through a non-partisan democratic, not dictatorial process. God Bless Democracy.

California Dreamers (Excerpts from an article by Benjamin Schwartz)
Kevin Starr, thought to be California’s best historian, has written eight books about the Golden State collectively titled Americans and the California Dream. With great detail his series covers the events, influences and people that made California an international symbol of the “good life”, not just for the outliers, but for a large and growing middle class. Why did the dream end for so many? Starr notes that today, the good life is available but only to those who are “fiercely competitive”, the most gifted and ambitious regardless of their background. As Schwartz concedes, “…most of us are merely ordinary.” The question many are trying to answer is how do we rebuild access to the tools and opportunities that yielded a strong middle class? Starr pointed out that historically comprehensive high schools had commercial, vocational, and college prep tracks and a sense of common experience and mutual respect among young people heading in different directions. As we execute the Human Investment Initiative, the honoring of unique talents and abilities is a central tenet along with restoring multiple pathways to achieving economic self reliance.

Oregon Business Plan—A Comprehensive to Create More Quality Jobs
Last week, regional stewards from across the state met with Jim Meyer, CEO of Fresno Forward, to discuss structural, systemic and programmatic renewal in California. One topic was a potential emulation of the Oregon approach—craft a community agenda and execution strategy to strengthen traded-sector industries, those that sell their goods and services primarily out of state thus creating jobs and resources to benefit local communities. The plan focuses on the 4 P’s—people, place, productivity and pioneering innovation. They added a 5th P—public finance—to underscore the importance of strategic investments in the infrastructures that grow jobs, educate people and create a high quality of place. Political platforms are often long on vision and goals and short on execution strategies and alignment of the people needed to deliver results. Imagine a gubernatorial platform that named names, specific strategies and demonstrated the philosophy of stewardship—partnerships and empowerment. For more information go to

Upcoming Meetings & Events
Thursday, September 24 at 7:30 AM—Executive Committee at Deloitte
Tuesday, October 13 at 7:30 AM—Board of Directors at Fresno Pacific North

Monday, September 14, 2009

September 14, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
As Dick is out of town, I decided to share his principles for living that he included in his first book, A Passion for Stewardship: The Legacy of a Generation. Dick has served as the FBC torchbearer since its founding in 1993. He has inspired many to grow beyond narrow concerns into stewards of the whole. He listed the following thirteen principles at the end of his book: 1) Trust and be trusted; 2) Have some heroes; 3) Acknowledge Your Frailties; 4) Accept some challenges; 5) Set the bar carefully; 6) Create a sense of urgency; 7) Don’t just care—act! 8) Adopt a code of conduct; 9) Have a confidant; 10) Find a mentor; 11) Never stop learning; 12) Love kids; 13) Be inspired--be inspiring.

Connecting and Leveraging Resources Locally, Regionally and Statewide
Understanding how a community works, how to measure and achieve success and developing the skills and abilities necessary to serve is a humbling challenge. For more than a decade, we have sought to do just that in partnership with other regions across the state of California. At the outset, there was a general understanding that the “three E’s” were essential building blocks for a strong community—economy, environment and equity. However, most leaders understood one, sometimes two of these domains. Few had working relationships across them. Over time, many of the regions have built networks of relationships within each sphere and across them. In Fresno, we added a fourth circle to encompass the whole and a new operating system, the Community Values, to build trust. Stewards look through this larger lens to discover ways to link, align and leverage resources so that all might thrive. If you serve on a board that might have an interest in learning more, let us know.

Firing Up and Stoking the Engine—Why A Strong Private Sector Matters
A successful life and community requires many kinds of literacy. An absence of financial and entrepreneurial literacy often lies at the center of failure. Blame and quick fixes are distractions. The Kauffman Foundation is devoted to personal and economic entrepreneurship. One of their recent articles offers a path forward both in terms of rationale and specific policies to shift resources and alignments across fundamental arenas. The key areas include education, workforce, infrastructure, intellectual property, taxes, and commercialization of university innovations. If you are interested in the full policy dialogue, it is available upon request.

Neighborhood Based Transformation
There are many ways people have tried to address poverty and its many symptoms. There is a growing emphasis on a Four Sphere approach recognizing the importance of a concurrent focus on the economy, the quality of place, leadership development and removal personal barriers. Many participants are seeking an effective balance between personal and community responsibility—empowering individuals while changing the context. A special thank you to Doug Davidian, Lee Ayres, Kris Walter, Kurt Madden and Ken Newby who are applying their entrepreneurial skills and diverse experiences to this difficult and long standing challenge.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

September 7, 2009

Message From the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
As an organization whose vision is raising the level of the lake for all who float upon it, nothing is more critical to our success than strengthening the bond of our professional public servants with those who willingly give of their discretionary time in this noble effort. Therefore, I think it is fitting that as we celebrate Labor Day this year we give recognition to that special cadre of men and women who continue to be so generous with their discretionary time and talent in contributing to the aura of civic transformation existing all about us. People such as Ken Newby, Doug Davidian, Alan Pierrot, Lee Ayes, Pete Weber, Cathy Frost and so many more are personifications of volunteer community service “laborers” walking among us. To all of those who volunteer their services in community betterment let’s dedicate Labor Day, 2009.

Commitment to Renewal—Remembering the Mission
As inventor Dean Kamen taught us years ago, sometimes the solution is not to patch what is broken; it is to start over. One of John Gardner’s last books was entitled, Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society. Whether an object, a person, a thought or a society; decay is inevitable. So the choices are basically hold fast to the status quo, a comfort zone or whatever we believe we are entitled to or embrace change and build renewal into the game plan. As we live in a time of rapid change, the opportunity to reform, literally create new forms, is now. Sustainability, a current buzzword, has more to do with a commitment to regular self-renewal, than stasis. Life is change.

Most of our major systems were based upon thought forms that emerged during the industrial age. In this era efficiency, commodities, precision, conformity, compliance, speed, replication and more is better were common themes. Today, customization, adaptability, nimbleness, project based learning and partnerships, boundary crossing, quality and an awareness of environmental limitations are disruptive thought forms. Pioneers and early adaptors are well down the road in applying new strategies. Government, by its very nature, does not move quickly. But the time has come to ask, if we were to start today, what would we do? What does renewal look like?

California Forward—A Proposed Path Forward
The FBC board will be evaluating the California Forward Reform Plan at its meeting on Tuesday. You can find it and background documents at There are three key themes: 1) Responsible Budgets on Time; 2) Government That’s Closer to the People; 3) Constituent Access and Accountability.

In the details, you will find many of the thought forms we have been using for the past decade--stewardship of the whole, leveraging resources across sectors to achieve major goals, and investing in outcomes rather than spending on symptoms. When something is big or longstanding, it is easy is assume it will last forever or that it is right. However, if it was built on an old thought form, collapse is inevitable. By embracing a pattern of renewal, we will create an adaptive, resilient and sustainable culture.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August 31, 2009

Message From The Chair Emeritus--Richard Johanson

There is something about the beginning of Fall that fills most of us with an energetic call to action that replaces our more relaxed pace of summer. So it is with the Fresno Business Council. In keeping with this stepped up level of activity, Executive Committee agreed we need to revive our Weekly Bulletin in order to keep our members and friends up to date on what is going on related to our actions and aspirations. Watch for it on Mondays.

I was asked to resume creating an opening paragraph hopefully worthy of your readership which I am honored to try to do. The rest of the Bulletin will be designed to bring to our attention those broad-based and substantial affairs in which the Fresno Business Council plays a major role.

As before, my focus will be in trying to share with each reader a thought or two pertaining to the efforts of so many Council members and their co-horts working so hard to transform this place which we call home from Good to Great. We welcome your comments or suggestions.

A Broad View

Our community has come a long way in the past decade. Initially, working together across sectors and organizations to achieve shared goals was very difficult. Today, there is a lot more alignment within the economic, infrastructure and human development spheres. Comprehensive strategies like the Regional Jobs Initiative, Human Investment Initiative and the Metro Rural Loop offer opportunities to link, align and leverage within their respective focus areas. The next step, is a better understanding of the interdependence across the three spheres and alignment behind the overriding goal of transformational change. Those who have developed a sense of responsiblity for the whole are populating a Circle of Stewards and providing overall leadership and support. The goals have always been simple--prosperity, a quality built and natural environment and healthy, well educated and productive citizens. It's discovering the most effective paths to achieve them that requires stewards, entrepreneurs, experts and a diverse interests working together relentlessly.

Horizons on Land Use--A Landscape by Intention
Decisions regarding how we use land have a lasting impact on every issue. Without clear values, a many generation vision and political discipline, we stand the risk of continuing old patterns that have destroyed valuable farmland, increased air and water pollution, and created neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, obesity and crime. As land use decisions cross jurisdictions, how do we insure sustainable decisions? On Friday, a cross section of individuals have been invited to explore how we might create a sustainable community agenda that is specific, has designated champions and and is broadly supported. In addition, the group will discuss the new realities we face as economic, environmental and social givens of the past have evaporated. Times of transition and crisis require deep reflection if we are to make sound decisions leading to a better future.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 11, 2009

Common Themes Underlie Solutions
The headlines call our attention to so many issues that seem overwhelming. $41 billion dollars spent on obesity in California. Water is at a crisis point with solutions blocked by single interest groups. The budget is held hostage by ideology and single interest groups. The status quo is blocking innovations in health care, the justice system and education.

The Mental Health Cluster of the HII, led by Dr. Alan Pierrot, begins with a paraphrase of Pogo, "We have met the solution and it is us." There are three aspects to this statement--the aggregate impact of individual choices, steward leadership of the whole and restoration of an American tradition--barn raising. Applied to obesity, this suggests we all have a personal responsibility for our health. Unless individuals choose healthy lifestyles, our medical system will collapse and the costs will continue to hamper every sector. At the leadership level this could mean a farm bill that supports farmers who grow specialty crops rather than commodities. It could mean that food processors who use toxic, addictive and metabolism slowing chemicals would pay an added cost in recognition of the health implications. It could mean that communities insure that every neighborhood is safe, has access to healthy food, and schools embed knowledge about healthy lifestyles and opportunities to practice healthy habits into curriculum. It could mean that teachers, administrators and staff all commit to being role models for healthy lifestyles as what we do is often the most potent teacher.

The themes of personal responsibility, steward leadership and barn raising can be applied to other issues. While many of our founders were formally educated, others educated themselves. A commitment to life long learning was common. Yet, many seem to believe the schools are responsible for education rather than individuals. Of course there is a both/and aspect. However, as a friend mentioned to me, "In Brazil our kids go to school under trees and they are passionate about learning. In America, you worry about whether or not the buildings violate codes." Rather than steward leaders aimed at transforming education to meet the realities of this century, single interest stakeholders block needed reforms and argue over details.
Rather than barn raising, where everyone steps up to accomplish the essential task of educating our children, too often parents and the community expect the schools to not just educate, but raise children, too.

Blame is easy, especially when the challenges seem so overwhelming. However, the first step out of blame is personal responsibility. Unless you are stepping up to do your part as an individual, steward and barn raiser, you are the problem. Being a citizen is a verb, not a spectator sport. Typically, those with the harshest criticisms are the ones who think someone ought to do something but don't take action themselves.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

June 15, 2009

Educating California--Choices for the Future
The Public Policy Institute of California recently released a short, compelling monograph about why the growing skill gap in our state matters and possible solutions. The report can be found at

Key facts:
...By 2025, 41% of jobs will require a BA
...Only 35% will earn a BA if changes are not made
...HS grads are unemployed at twice the level of college grads
...HS grads earn half as much as college grads
...HS grads pay fewer taxes, use more resources
...35% of retiring boomers are college grads
...Only 25% of 25 to 29 year old graduated from college
...1 in 4 CA students graduate from HS
...Historic influx of high skilled workers from other states has stopped
...Projected shortfall by 2025 = 1 million college graduates

Three Potential solutions
1. Increase college going rates by lowering drop out rates, improving preparation, early interventions, align resources, increase career technical education and early college commitment programs, inform and coach parents, and address costs.

2. Increase community college transfers--70 % of students attend at community college and only 12% transfer to four year schools. Need better alignment and stronger focus on effective remedial programs.

3. Increase completion rates, particularly in CSU system where about half graduate.

4. Increase two year degree and certificate programs.

Every aspect of economic development is impacted by educational attainment. A highly skilled workforce impacts our ability to attract, keep, grow and start companies, particularly high quality ones. As we have learned through both the Regional Jobs Initiative and the Human Investment Initiative, a vibrant economy is built upon a high quality community both in terms of people and place. We all have a stake in insuring our children are motivated, skilled and reach their potential. A commitment to life long learning must become pervasive.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

June 1, 2009

Barn Raising Solutions For Vibrant Health
Last week the California Health Care Coalition and a number of local sponsors held a health care forum in Fresno to share information and discuss ways to improve health, care and availability. The first speakers, Dr. Ed Moreno, Fresno County's Public Health Director, and Dr. John Capitman, head of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, spoke to environmental and social factors that affect the health of the population. So often we focus on individual symptoms and behaviors, when external conditions and cultural norms are the most potent causative factors.

According to Dr. Robert Mendelsohn, medical director of the Head Start Program, the great preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that the four primary determinants of health are individual behavior, social relationships, physical environment and economic status. While improving access to health care and improving quality are high priorities, we all have an important role in the solution to the health care crisis starting with personal lifestyle choices and taking responsibility for our impact on others. The principal tools for improving the quality of life, health, safety and economic well-being in neighborhoods rest in citizens and their collective relationships. We create the culture and set priorities, not the government.

In practical, next step terms these concepts add up to the work of Craig Scharton and Elaine Robles-McGraw in the City of Fresno as they work with a widening assortment of partners to improve the quality of neighborhoods, support resident led efforts to address issues, and build pathways to the tools and services that will enable residents to qualify for quality jobs.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

May 25, 2009

Citizens Creating The World We Want
It is appropriate to talk about the responsibilities of citizenship on Memorial Day. Since our founding, citizens have found a wide range of ways to give back out of a sense of gratitude and duty to those who have gone before. Last week, leaders from California Forward ( to town to meet with a cross section of our community to answer the question--Can local innovations underway in Fresno be replicated in other regions and at the state level? These innovations include the Regional Jobs Initiative, the Human Investment Initiative, the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley and the Metro-Rural Loop Project.(Case studies available upon request)These efforts are examples of citizens taking responsiblity for the quality of life in their community.

What these efforts have in common is their roots in an earlier project, the Fresno Area Collaborative Regional Initiative (CRI). The(CRI)was launched in 2000 along with similar regional efforts across the state. The Fresno effort was unique in that it was not housed within a single organization, nor did it simply enhance work already underway. The CRI was a joint venture between Fresno State and the Business Council operating in the space in between--the civic sector--to serve the whole aimed at transformational change. In addition, a set of ten community values were developed as a contract for behavior in this new civic space to build trust, the essential social capital that makes the effective use of ideas, talent and money possible.

With every new initiative and project, this civic space has grown larger, the level of talent has increased, social barriers have fallen and results have become visible. Scale, acceleration and replication are the next steps. In essence, we have recreated an American tradition--barn raising--and applied it to challenges that no one sector, organization or individual can meet alone. Whether it's growing a vibrant economy, raising and educating our children, taking responsiblity for our health, or creating peace and safey in our neighborhoods, success requires everyone to step up to do their part--no excuses. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, not just in terms of external threats, but the internal threats of self absorption, addiction and lack of purpose. While single interests have an important role to play in hashing out priorities and strategies, everyone must also have an active allegiance to the well being of the whole for a community to thrive.

Friday, May 15, 2009

May 15, 2009

Celebrate Entrepreneurship-Impact of the Lyles Center
Last night the Lyles Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Fresno State held its year end dinner event. Year by year the spirit of entrepreneurship has been building in the San Joaquin Valley as representatives from the Lyles Center have developed incubators and programs in community colleges, entrepreneurship classes in high schools and spread Kids Invent Toys, Food, Games, etc. through summer camps.

Graduates and students still working on their degrees are starting businesses, developing products and services and learning skills that will serve them for a life time as they adapt, create and inspire there way through life's challenges.

While clearly driven by high standards for excellence and a sense of competition, the Lyles Center is also creating a culture of collaboration, mutual support and and fun. As each student and graduate spoke of their experiences, everyone expressed their deep appreciation for their teachers, their mentors (many business people have stepped up) and their colleagues. Any time we doubt that one person can make a difference, think about the impact Professor Tim Stearns has had on our community. In addition to inspiring generations of entrepreneurs, Tim has played a central role in community collaboratives including the RJI and the Central Valley Business Incubator. Standing with Tim at the root of all this change is Dr. John Welty. He has provided a steadfast platform for a host of initiatives that are transforming the social and economic conditions of the Central Valley and demonstrating what an engaged university can accomplish.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

May 9, 2009

The World of Social Entrepreneurship in Fresno
What a priviledge to listen to the students of Lee Ayre's social entrepreneurship class share their ideas to transform neighborhoods with concentrated poverty. Social entrepreneurship, one of 11 courses offered through the Lyles Center at Fresno State, joins Craig Scharton's class on urban entrepreneurship and Tom Jones' class on civic entrepreneurship as a hat-trick for developing change agents.

As defined by Paul Light, social entrepreneurship is "audacious social change." Social entrepreneurs seek to change "Unfortunate, but stable equilibriums that cause the neglect, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity." (Martin & Osberg) Examples: demoralizing graffiti, low graduation rates, high child mortality rates, low family incomes, high crime rates, distrust of neighbors, and chronic homelessness.

What characterizes social entrepreneurs? They are inspired, creative, action oriented, courageous and have fortitude (Strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity). Social entrepreneurship combines the passion of a social mission with the business-like discipline, innovation and determination commonly associated with pioneers of new industries--think high-tech or green.

Recommended Resource
If you are interested in learning more about social entrepreneurship, pick up Forces For Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grand. This highly regarded book--The Economist hailed it as a top ten book of the year in in 2007--shifts the thinking away from building an organization to building a movement. Thanks to John Brelsford, Dan DeSantis and I recently had an opportunity to hear Heather McLeod speak at a conference in Santa Barbara. Her theme of blending the savvy of best business practicies with a passion for strategic philanthropy is potent. Her points: 1) Advocate and serve, 2) Make markets work, 3) Inspire evangelists, 4) Nurture nonprofit networks, 5) Master the art of adaptation and 6) Share Leadership.

Thank you, Lee! As a civic, social and urban entrepreneur all rolled up together, your impact on our community has been extraordinary. Not only have you tackled tough infrastructure issues, the role you have played in the Human Investment Initiative has had immeasurable impact. Plus, you are building a pipeline for the future.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bulletin 4.22.09

Planting the See for a New Economy & the RJI Transition

What a difference five years make. When the Regional Jobs Initiative launched in 2003 to fundamentally change they way we think, act and invest in economic development, we were just beginning to develop our collaborative skills. Today, with the launch of the next version, a joint venture between Fresno State and the Economic Development Corporation, collaboration is normal operating procedure. The RJI also added two other key commitments--a passion for excellence and an ongoing focus on innovation. This new culture has spilled over into other sectors along with the ten Community Values and has become what Fresno is known for across the state.

Kudos to all the presenters at today's Fifth Annual Meeting of the RJI and those that helped pull the event together behind the scenes. A large crowd at Tornino's heard Mike Dozier, the new director of the Office of Community and Economic Development discuss the the transition of the RJI and the critical role of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. Following Mike, a panel discussed "Leveraging RJI Resources For Your Business' Success". This team was kicked off by Professor Timothy Stearns, executive director of the Lyles Center. He focused on three areas for wealth creation--innovation, entrepreneurship and captial. The Lyles Center is spreading this message to young people reaching into high schools, grade schools and community colleges across our region.

Travis Sheridan, director of member services at the Central Valley Business, Incubator explained how existing businesses are thinking about themselves as start-ups as they change course and add new lines to make it through the changing economy. The first goal is profitability. This leads to wealth creation and jobs. He also talked about our world leadership in water technology and the huge opportunities the water technology cluster holds for our region.

Blake Konczal, CEO of the Workforce Investment Board, detailed new and restored programs for businesses. Funds are available to employers who could retain employees if they were retrained. The youth employment program has been restored with funds for 3,000 youth for six weeks. All salary and benefits will be picked up via government funds.

Steve Geil finished up with an overview of the new EDC--"our staff is your staff." The BEAR Network, winner of a statewide award, turns one staff person into six by tapping resources of other agencies. He talked about wealth being about more than money; it is first class healthcare, first class arts and culture and first class education.

Financial Advice for Today's Economy

A second panel kicked off with Riley Walter who discussed what he is seeing as a bankruptcy attorney across the region. While much of the report was grim, he noted that angel capital is on the increase. People are demonstrating that the economy is beginning to turn around and those who have charted an effective course can capitalize. Dan Doyle, president of Central Valley Community Bank, offered his insights as a seasoned banker who has experienced a number of downturns. He talked about the importance of communicating with all partners, employees and customers. He also said banks are lending, it's a matter of sector. He talked about the importance of morale and the basics of self care. He said one thing local governments can do to help is keep their money in local banks. Brad Triebsch, a partner in Central Valley Fund talked about the difficulty of finding capital, the growth of angel networks and the importance of setting clear priorities in terms of customers.

Focus on the Future
Mayor Ashley Swearengin completed the program by telling the transformation journey beginning with the Collaborative Regional Initiative and the release of the Community Values. She emphasized that the reason we collaborate is to achieve better outcomes for the community at lower cost. Self interest and limited thinking had held us back for too long. She urged everyone to stay focused on their unique part, be extremely honest with one another and aim for excellence across the board. If you are charged to it. If not, be an excellent follower. Bottom lines--be honest, be excellent, be connected and be ready. As a community, we will achieve the extraordinary.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

FBC Bulletin--April 13, 2009

April 13, 2009

Welcome to the Next Iteration of the FBC Weekly Bulletin

The Past

Since the early 90’s, we have sent a weekly message to our members, originally by fax and then by email. We sought to deepen our understanding of issues, keep people informed about progress, and encourage engagement in projects and events. Once the Collaborative Regional Initiative launched in 2000, we included our partners on the distribution list. With the launch of Regional Jobs Initiative in 2003 and the Human Investment Initiative in 2007, the depth and breadth of activities and participants has multiplied exponentially.

New Approach

Our plan is to provide regular updates in three interdependent spheres of work:
Economic Development
Infrastructure Development

Each sphere has strong leaders and a growing network of people working on specific projects. The leaders are “tri-lingual” in that they understand that all spheres are equally important, have a working understanding of the primary strategies in each one and are in regular communication with their counterparts in order to maximize opportunities to support one another.

Collaboration is Crucial
Gaining a sense of urgency due to economic upheaval, communities across the country are working hard to develop collaborative skills in order to align resources behind priorities. Fortunately, in Fresno we have had a lot of practice and thanks to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, , our region has also developed collaborative skills.

New Website
While we have the same web address, thanks to Cynthia Downing at Professional Exchange Services, we have a new website that is interactive and will enable us to distribute real time information to those interested in more timely updates in areas of interest. The website is Also, on the site, you will find links to our partners, action plans and other documents. Anyone interested in receiving the bulletin can simply sign up on the site.

Communication Goals

While sharing information is central the purpose of the bulletin, our goal is to provide an added value—an attempt to help answer an ongoing question, so what does it all mean? While only a perception, our most active members and partners are in a position to see how the pieces fit together and where progress is happening in key strategies. In addition, we hope that you will be inspired by a project, issue or initiative and get engaged where you can have the greatest impact.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Welcome to the Relaunch of the FBC Weekly Bulletin

March 9, 2009

Welcome to the Relaunch of the FBC Weekly Bulletin

The Past

Since the early 90's, we have sent a weekly message to our members, originally by fax and then by email. We sought to deepen our understanding of issues, keep people informed about progress, and encourage engagement in projects and events. Once the Collaborative Regional Initiative launched in 2000, we included our partners on the distribution list. With the start of Regional Jobs Initiative in 2003 and the Human Investment Initiative in 2007, the depth and breadth of activities and participants has multiplied exponentially.

New Approach

Our plan is to provide regular updates in three interdependent spheres of work:

  • Economic Development
  • Infrastructure Development
  • Human Development

Each sphere has strong leaders and a growing network of people working on specific projects. The leaders are "tri-lingual" in that they understand that all spheres are equally important, have a working understanding of the primary strategies in each one and are in regular communication with their counterparts in order to maximize opportunities to support one another.

Collaboration is Crucial

Gaining a sense of urgency due to economic upheaval, communities across the country are working hard to develop collaborative skills in order to align resources behind priorities. Fortunately, in Fresno we have had a lot of practice and thanks to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley,, our region has also developed collaborative skills and a platform to perform critical work.

New Website

While we have the same web address, thanks to Cynthia Downing at Professional Exchange Services, we have a new website that is interactive and will enable us to distribute real time information to those interested in more timely updates in areas of interest. The site will also provide an opportunity for people to weigh in with comments and suggestions. The website is Also, on the site, you will find links to our partners, action plans and other documents. Anyone interested in receiving the bulletin can simply sign up on the site.

Communication Goals

While sharing information is the central the purpose of the bulletin, another goal is to provide an added value-an attempt to help answer an ongoing question, so what does it all mean? While only a perception, our most active members are in a position to see how the pieces fit together and where progress is happening in key strategies. In addition, we hope that you will be inspired by a project, issue or initiative and get engaged where you can have the greatest impact.