Check out our online courses at Work Done Better Together. Webinars start this week on Art of Hosting, Systems Change and Applied Learning as well as the Leading Effective Meetings Online Course coming this Spring.
Check out this short video blog on what are the group sizes that shift the design, methods and approach ...
In 2016 we worked on the Spring Garden West Public Engagement - it as was great process that lead to major changes in the design influenced by the public input. Here is a video from the developer talking about how they think development should be happening based on their experience working with us. I hope it could be useful for anyone trying to build a case for proper engagement in the design of infrastructure:
Follow the process from the beginning. This document illustrates the collaborative process on how the design evolved based on a dialogue between the public, the developer and design professionals. I hope this illustration of the engagement process can be used as material to support other projects. Check it out here or download it below:
Recently there has been an excellent exchange of resources on the Art of Hosting email list around how evaluation connects to the work of participatory leadership. I hope you find these resources and reflections as useful as I have. I have separated the content based on the person that contributed to make it a bit more accessible. Check it out below.
Here are a few resources that have been meaningful for me:
The New Directions for Evaluation Journal (special issue on evaluation and facilitation)
The Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact
Also here is a resource that Miranda Cobb and I created as an introductory toolkit for community-based, participatory and developmental evaluation last year.
"In my experience, so much of what Developmental Evaluation does is already naturally embedded within Art of Hosting practices, especially if there is a strong and rigorous harvesting strategy, so I'd suggest syncing up at this level with the evaluation team (otherwise needless overlap can occur)."
We are doing lots of developmental evaluation connected to many of the hosting projects of the Future Services Institute in Minnesota. But most are 'under construction.'
Kathy Quick and I have done a few articles that are more theory building / basic research. One is published in a journal, another in a book chapter, and another forthcoming. I've attached them here:
Another form of harvesting that we did is an e-book from how Art of Hosting was implemented throughout our University system. It can be found here: http://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/155523
There's a distinction to be made based on what are you evaluating. Do you want to know: how effective the program is that uses hosting? Or how hosting works? Whether the event was hosted well and whether hosting was the right approach?
Depending on your answer, I'm listing resources below. And of course, I am open to a conversation (DrRita@ritafierro.com), if you feel like you're swimming and need support.
A distinction is needed between evaluating the effectiveness of programs using participatory leadership (how effective the program is), publications on participatory leadership and evaluation (publications on the area above), research on participatory leadership practices (how participatory leadership works), and evaluation of participatory leadership practices (how well participatory leadership works).
1) EVALUATING PROGRAMS USING PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP - how effective the program is
I've been combining participatory leadership practices in evaluation for several years now and training on the topic for the past four years, including three years at the American Evaluation Association.
Currently, one of the developmental evaluations I am conducting is of a trauma training for police officers and community members in Newark, NJ, which began with a community visioning process for the best role for police in the face of violence in community--Using World Cafe and Circle Practice. We are using developmental evaluation to track the increased mutual understanding between police and community especially on issues of race.
More on the added value that participatory leadership provides to evaluation on my blog: Seven Great Reasons to Use Participatory Leadership in Evaluation.
2) PUBLICATIONS ON PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP AND EVALUATION - publications of program effectiveness
I also co-edited an issue: Evaluation and Facilitation in the New Directions in Evaluation Journal that digs into these issues more deeply.
If you're interested in purchasing it, you can a discount here, or contact me. The issue includes my article:
Enhancing Facilitation Skills: Dancing with Dynamic Tensions
As for the use of complexity theory in Evaluation there are two articles I wrote for Better Evaluation on:
- Using SenseMaker in Child-Centred Research
- Using SenseMaker to Understand Girls' Education in Ethiopia
3) RESEARCH on PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP PRACTICES - how hosting works
Jodi Sanfort has been a leader here and links to her articles are in the section above with her name.
4) EVALUATING PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP PRACTICES - how well an event or training was hosted
This is the area that is least developed, and that is growing. In the above mentioned journal there is one article on an
Evaluation of Participatory Leadership practices:
Invisible and Unbound? The Challenge and Practice of Evaluating Embedded Facilitation 107 by Jessica Dart, Megan Roberts
Further, in researching for the journal I found four reports on evaluations of Art of Hosting - but it's mainly evaluating the impact of trainings:
- Practicing the Art of Hosting Report
- AOH Success Works Evaluation Report
- Cultivating Change in the Academy
I hope this helps.
Happy to get a mention in this piece of research done by Rachel Sinha and Tim Draimin. Check it out - a good 20 thousand foot view with lots of jumping points for those wanting to dig deeper. Read online or download below:
One of my earliest and most impactful mentors has been Toke Moeller. To say he has had an impact on my career and life would just be scratching the surface. One of the things he said to me the first time I met him around a fire in 2000 at a Slovenian Castle (you know, as you do ... ) was "keep good company".
The phrase has always stuck with me and played out in lots of ways, particularly as a mantra for who I hold close as friends in my life and who I choose to work with. There is now question that the results of my work are dependent on the quality of relationships I have with the people I deliver it with. Over the years I have chosen "my company" carefully and built relationships which enable us to offer services of an equal quality to any studio or bigger company. It is not by becoming bigger as a business that we can do this but by being more connected as friends, colleagues and entrepreneurs.
I wanted to introduce some of the brilliant people I get to work with. This is not only to showcase them and their work on my blog but also to make visible a business model that enables small entrepreneurs to collaborate and take their work to scale. There are notable omissions from this list. I have focused on folks I work with who are not facilitators / hosts / front of room. Check out the who page on my website for a full list of people and links to their sites.
Gary Blakemore - cutting edge music creation / production
I've known Gary since I was 18. He has always been one of those people who has blown me away with new music from across all genres. So when he got into music production and making his own music it just made sense to combine forces whenever possible. Any music, sound production or original music you hear on blogs and videos, that's Gary. Gary also produced and mastered my album with Marc Durkee - Everyone Else Is Taken .
Karen Densmore - top notch project management, strategic counsel and communications
Karen is the back bone of the many of the major projects you see on The Work page. She joined in the role of project management and communications and quickly became a key strategic thinking partner. She also supports with co-facilitation and recently added media relations to her tool box! Her ability to learn skills in response to the needs of the projects we have taken on together has been outstanding, especially when it comes to public engagement work. More on Karen on her website .
Katie Condon - managing partner and administration
Katie is my wife and life partner. She also has an incredible attention to detail. Her partnership, guidance and friendship are a massive part of anything I do. Katie runs my business; from bookkeeping, calendaring and contracts to helping me think through complex professional issues. She also has her own bookkeeping business where she provides cloud based accounting and some admin support for small to medium sized businesses.
Meg Craig Wiens - branding genius and fabulous website builder
Robert Wright - advice, coaching and therapy
Tim Reeves Horton & Justin Pickens, Picnic Studios - video
When I read the book ReWork (by the folks who made Basecamp) they had this whole section on "hiring mangers of one". It made total sense to me. I find I am working with brilliant mangers of one (or two or three but not big companies). To finish, here's a quote I took from their website which talks about it:
When you’re hiring, seek out people who are managers of one.
I had a great weekend working with folks from the Forestry Lab who are launching innovative solutions to the challenges in the forest sector. On the second day we re-visited the Two Loops of Systems Change (which we have been using as a model to understand our work) and Alastair Jarvis integrated his perspective on Lean Start Up. I loved seeing progressive entrepreneurship positioned in this big picture model. Check out the video - it's about 9 minutes and worth the viewing:
If you want to know more about Two Loops of Systems Change of Lean Start Up, here's some links:
It's been a good year, 2015. One of the things I have enjoyed is getting back to listening to music. Taking the time to listen to albums all the way through, friends recommending bands or making me mixes. It inspired me to digitize my CD collection (I'm about one quarter of the way through - great to have a winter project right?) - which has lead to me discovering some albums I love but had forgotten - like Al Jarreau - Glow, Gomez - Bring it On or Nitin Sawnhey - Prophesy. I ended up making mixes for friends as Christmas presents this year! Anyway, here's some of the music I picked up in 2015 that is carrying me into 2016. Music for the change in year, in no particular order ... I hope you enjoy and please beware there are explicit lyrics in some of the following. Enjoy what you like and skip what you don't.
I have been having a blast doing a few keynotes this year. It has mostly been audiences of 70-200 people in all kinds of settings - from International Port Authorities and Education Communications people to Disease Control professionals and Urban Planners. It has been a lot of fun and I feel like I am right at the beginning of learning how to do it well!
Keynotes can be a good gateway for those who want to explore new or alternative ways of doing things; a starting place to dig deeper. I think the best use of a keynote is to provoke people to figure out their own solutions in conversation with each other. Here's a video that shows a bit of what I have been working with and some talking through of how we have been designing the sessions afterwards. Hope it is helpful of others who are stepping into more speaking gigs and also really invite thoughts about what would make it better ...
I am sitting at the airport on way to England to help run an event to launch changes in the UK Tax System sponsored by the Finance Innovation Lab and ICAEW. I am thinking a lot about what makes good events - especially what makes a good opening. One of my mentors in change leadership taught me early on "in all beginnings and endings, be careful."
My friend and colleague, Tuesday Ryan Hart, recently wrote what is copied below in an email back and forth around a design. I thought it was brilliant so wanted to post it to my blog. I find that how we open and frame our events/meetings and work is crucial to setting the tone for what will follow. It is like the first notes of a song … they define the rest of tune. Here's what Tuesday said, I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this too ...
"I find my attention drawn to what we've learned here about opening (and continuing) high level work. We've found that this initial framing is crucial to not only setting the tone of the gathering but also supporting people to locate themselves and their work in the purpose of the event at the outset so that they can access the rest of the gathering.
The Art of Hosting is an approach to leadership that scales up from the personal to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and the co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges.
What is Participatory Leadership?
“The participatory leadership paradigm is based on respect and engagement. It constructively focuses energy in every human to human encounter. A more democratic and more effective model of leadership, it harnesses diversity, builds community, and creates shared responsibility for action. It deepens individual and collective learning yielding real development and growth.”
What's the minimum order we need to navigate change meaningfully and productively? Too much control and we kill learning, too little and everything falls apart. My go to is the chaordic stepping stones. I use the chaordic stepping stones all the time: project planning, meeting preparation, long term strategic plans, my own personal reflection, designing events and trainings, writing proposals … the list goes on. Key to moving through the steps is having solid questions to ask that can get to the information you are seeking. Below are some of the questions I use it again and again in my Change Leadership and short intro for those meeting Chaordic for the first time.
Using the Chaordic Stepping Stones for Planning
Ok, so there's some questions I ask every time before choosing to work with someone on a project, event or long term initiative. They help me get a sense of the landscape and discern if the conditions are in place for me to do my best work. People often ask me for these, so here they with a little decryption after each one:
What is the long-term purpose? What is the larger aspiration? What bigger picture or strategy this engagement process part of? We have got to have a good understanding of the overall context things are happening within. There is always larger circumstance that is provoking the need to meet and/or take action. Knowing what this is massively informs what would be helpful and the purpose of whatever you are undertaking.
What is the short-term purpose - the actual engagement? How does this process fit in the bigger picture?Understanding and clearly articulating the purpose of what you are undertaking is essential. The unique role of what you are trying to achieve can position you for realistic outcomes - rather than expecting it to change everything all at once. Purpose is "the invisible leader" (Toke Moeller) to everything that follows. Unclarity here - or lots of different understandings among a team lead to breakdown and confusion. Clear purpose is magnetic and draws in people, resources, new ideas - basically all the good stuff you want!
What are the context and the "givens"? Non-negotiables? What can the participants not change? Let's know what is off limits! That way we do not need to waste our time on it. Knowing the givens is like drawing the white lines on a soccer pitch. It makes for a better game. The clarity of the field of play or envelope of the work is a gift. Communicate it loud and clear as part of everything you do … that way there will be no false expectations and people will know what they are coming to.
What is the "clay" of this process? What can the people change and influence by participating? A meeting is only worthwhile if we can actually change and influence something by participating. Otherwise you could just send us a memo or do a an information session! Clearly articulating what can be changed is the compelling invitation people will need to fully participate - whether we are calling a meeting or a 5 year strategic planning process.
Who will - or needs to - be participating? What views is it essential we engage for success? How have those people already been engaged? Who are the stake-holders? Who will be most affected by this engagement? Understanding who will be impacted is essential to good design and planning for scale of the work. I believe that those who are impacted need to be involved - "if it is about us, don't do it without us". All too often systems, services, products, programs, infrastructure etc are designed without fully engaging the people who will be most impacted or the most frequent users. These questions get us beyond our own egos into what is truly helpful. I always ask "who else?" once this conversation seems to be at its end.
What or who are you afraid of? Always good to know our fears and limiting beliefs - that way they can be our conscious companions, rather than underground, invisible movers and shakers! Some of the fears are also fears of the process itself, which can be worked through in early conversations. For example, people often seem afraid that the process will be hijacked if it is participatory - once the fear is surfaced it is possible explain how the design of participatory sessions is built to surface collective voice rather than the voice of the loudest individual. Equally often I encounter the fear that minority or marginalized voices will get lost in collective swamp … if you surface the fears you can meet then head on and design for them, if necessary.
What are the outcomes you want and how will you work with them? Let's get clear on what information and outcomes you want and how they are going to be used. Is it leverage points? action teams? Who will make final decisions? What is the level of accountability that is being built in? Is there an infrastructure we need to put in place to support the actions being developed? etc … you get the idea …
Who are the callers here? Who is at the heart of this project and the final decision makers? Who do I need to trust to make this happen? Know who is putting their credibility, passion and more on the line for this to happen. Who is the change leader - courageously stepping up to do something in the face of uncertainty? That is the ally. That is the persons or group that I want to be working directly with.
What would success look like for you at the end of the day? Not outcomes but success. What's the feeling inside people, in the room, across the system. What will have changed and be different as a result?
What are your own questions in connection to this work? Let's get them out there. That way we can navigate them as we go along.
Hope this is helpful! Lots more to say but this seems plenty for now! Comments, ideas, alternative questions please!
I continue to be amazed by what happens when you create the conditions for people to step and truly own their own situation and find solutions together. Lighthouse Media Group in Bridgewater is forging a way forward. We had a fantastic all staff day, have reformed the core team and are moving ahead with innovation projects to bring to stakeholder event in May. More to come on all that once we are further down the road ...
For now, I wanted to share the video we did to invite projects. We are working with a model that my mate Alastair Jarvis introduced to me called Disruptive Innovation. Here's the video:
Welcome to the Change Ahead blog! I'll be posting in five main categories to help you navigate the content:
On the go - short notes or max 2 minutes videos on insights, questions, connections, ideas etc These will not prepared just put up and off the cuff. I expect to do a lot of these.
Reflections - written articles or max 10 minute videos on things I have been thinking about for a period of time. These will come less frequently but be more thought through and structured.
Project Updates - news from the ongoing projects that I am working on. This could include onsite interviews, summary documents, written reflections, slideshows etc. There will definitely be some other voices in this section.
Resources - any methods, models, tools or other practical help I come across which seem useful and innovative.
Tim in the news - anytime myself or work I am involved in turns up in the media.
Look out for some super guest apprearances too. Have a dig around and enjoy whatever you discover.
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