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.