Monday, July 18, 2011

July 18, 2011

Implications of SC2—Smart Cities, Smart Communities
What would it look like if local communities decided what they wanted and came up with the most effective way to make it happen? As every community is unique, a customized approach rather than one size fits all, makes sense. What if adaption to changing circumstances was built into the strategy and the opportunity to align resources of multiple agencies behind one plan became the norm? What if leaders in every sphere—economy, environment and equity (the 3 E’s) understood the priority strategies of their colleagues and worked together effectively? What if the people who work in the various sectors understood interdependence and looked for ways to share resources to achieve the goals everyone wants—prosperity, safe neighborhoods, an educated and engaged citizenry, vibrant health and a widely shared community pride. SC2 offers us these opportunities and more. The choice of engagement is ours. We can act like a spectator and point at government or we can take responsibility as citizens and realize it is merely the reflection of us—fragmented. As a stand-up commented, “Blaming government is like yelling at your computer when the problem is in the software."

Vertical Integration—Bottom Up/Top Down
If you think of the neighborhoods and the federal government as two poles far apart, what would happen if they had direct communication with one another? Rather than going through channels—layer after layer of systems—SC2 offers direct access. As many resources make a stop at the state and the county before reaching communities, it is not surprising so many programs are ineffective and necessary infrastructure is so extensive to build. Triangulation is unhealthy. Direct communication works.

Fresno Is In a Unique Situation
Because of the Obama Administration’s confidence in Mayor Swearengin and the evidence of our ten year effort to build a strong civic infrastructure, we have an opportunity to take a quantum leap forward. Success will impact our community, our region and the state because our many colleagues will learn alongside. Everyone engaged in community transformation wants this experiment to work. It’s up to all of us to learn, figure out how to help, and engage.

The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods

Reading the same books has been a powerful tool for building teams and communicating. Good to Great, Civic Revolutionaries: Igniting the Passion for Change in America’s Communities, Leave No Child Behind, Reinventing Government and many more….all have influenced our experiment in self-governance. Thanks to the hard work of the Smart Valley Places team, John McKnight and Peter Block will be coming to Fresno in November. McKnight is the inspiration behind our Asset-Based Approach community value and Block has written extensively about stewardship, community and transformational change. I encourage you to read their new book—The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. It is happening in Fresno. Like Apollo 13, we turned to one another, worked with what we had, and committed ourselves to community transformation. Others are noticing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Wicked Messes”—Shifting the Focus From Problems to Possibilities

Last week, the regional leaders who make up the California Stewardship Network met in Sacramento. We have worked together for over a decade to create new approaches to problem solving as complexity and interdependence have increased exponentially. The siloed approaches of the past are ineffective, expensive and often make matters worse. One definition of a “wicked mess is a problem whose solution requires a great number of people to change their mindsets and behavior. Another way to say this is the solution requires transformational change.


  • Education—Shifting from industrial, top down, numbers driven models to life-long learning networks that support the development of creative, critical and tactical thinking skills and their application to real-time problems.

  • Justice—Shifting from a system primarily focused upon enforcement and punishment to restorative approaches and community based solutions.

  • Health—Shifting from symptom relief and high end professionals to an empowering, distributed model focused upon personal responsibility and public health approaches.

  • Human Services—Shifting from siloes of emergency and sustained support to a leveraged system focused upon pathways to self-sufficiency.

California Forward calls this “The Virtuous Cycle. Better education leads to better jobs, which leads to a healthier population, less poverty, less crime and, ultimately, less government. Smart Government would advance the Three Es simultaneously a prosperous economy, a quality environment and community equity.

Opportunity Favors the Prepared

Over a decade ago, Fresnans from all sectors began to look at our challenges through the Three Es. Understanding that the Three Es are interdependent and equally important is just the first step. One must step outside of them (Fourth Sphere) to discover where alignments can be made and resources can be leveraged. Most people do not take this step until they realize they cannot succeed in isolation. The level of complexity inherent in a "wicked mess" is beyond anyone's expertise or experience. This is new territory—we are off the map. Our choice is to learn new leadership skills or witness continuing deterioration. We must combine positional authority and leading without it to craft strategies complete enough to drill deeply into the roots while meeting urgent present needs. Go to for more detailed information and an opportunity to offer your comments.

New Models for Cross-Jurisdiction Collaboration

One of our partners, Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network, commissioned Accenture to do a white paper on cross-jurisdiction collaboration with examples from across the globe. The report is available at