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.