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 www.oregonbusinessplan.org.

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 www.caforward.org 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.