Friday, November 28, 2008

Collaboration Power Point

Discuss Power Point or ask questions about additional activities for the presentation here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Collaboration in tough economic times.

We now live in tough economic times which could get significantly worse before they get better. In-spite of this, we are rich in resources and assets. We may be restricted from accessing some of these resources and assets; however, they are there plus there are many assets and resources that are not restricted or blocked. These are times when we need to work together to find and create solutions and improve the lives for everyone. These times provide opportunity for growth and success. Part of our challenge is to change the paradigm through which we look at our community and the world around us, and empower individuals, families and communities to change challenges to opportunities and opportunities to realized potential for everyone.

Cooperation/Coordination, an example

A good example of Cooperation/Coordination < LOOK_LIKE.html> that I have experienced has been parenting classes. Many years ago, when I lived in Madison County , a number of community organizations where holding parenting classes. None were well attended and this, of course, did not help discussion and the important piece of learning from each other through participation. Each organization felt it important and each organization spent a lot of resources to make it happen. Through cooperation and coordination we were able to bring them all together and have as many as 50+ people participate, per class. The same thing happened here in Lewiston , the Community Alliance for Young Children was able to bring a number of different parenting classes under one umbrella in order to provide a much larger and better attended class and for some years, a much better resourced offering.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Common Ground

If it is important enough and people try hard enough, it is usually possible to put aside differences and find common ground. It does not matter if the differences are political, religious, racial gender or almost any other issue that can divide people, with enough motivation, some skill and sufficient effort, people from very different backgrounds, ideologies or points of view people can come together to get things done which are important to everyone. Almost anyone CAN collaborate.

A lifetime of good can be accomplished in areas where people agree, in spite of many significant differences.

For additional information visit Common Ground at the Collaboration website.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What is a community organizer and what makes him or her effective?

Most of the most effective community organizers over time and across the world have gone unnoticed and without acclaim. One exception was Gandhi; however even though we all know who Gandhi was, he absolutely understood his responsibilities and place in the process, as well as the importance of those around him and those he was serving.
Great community organizers are more often in the back ground and out of the limelight. They encourage and help others to step forward. They understand that concept of taking responsibility and giving credit, as Gahndi always did.
Community organizing is a team effort, without the team, there is nothing to organize. As with any great team, if something goes well, there are many people who deserve the accolades. I have seen fabulous things accomplished and while I may have played a small part, I have always appreciated and emphasized the efforts of others.
I remember being interviewed one time about the success of a community organization I was involved with. I was asked when the organization had come to belong to the community. The question astonished me because it had always belonged to the community. When ever I hear about a collaboration where one organization is "in charge" I know full well that while they may accomplish a few things and some may even be spectacular, they will accomplish little of significance that is lasting. A great community organizer makes a significant difference in the community and in the lives of the people of that community but is almost always in the quiet background. S/he will help the community and individuals to find strengths and common ground; while promoting others and helping to strengthen the community and her people in the process.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Short thought on famlies and communities

Any group of people, living or working together, as a family or
community, in order to maintain a reasonably healthy and efficient
relationship and achieve success, needs to share responsibility and be
accountable to one another. Independence is truly an illusion.
Interdependence is reality and to achieve a healthy balance without
co-dependence should be our goal.

Monday, June 23, 2008


by Keshavin Nair

We live in a society that emphasizes rights; the majority, minorities, employers, employees, victims, and criminals all remind us of their rights. Indeed, central to the social, political, and legal fabric of the United States is the Bill of Rights. The codification into law of fundamental human rights is an essential safeguard against the corrupting influences of power and human weakness as manifested in bigotry and prejudice. However, focusing on rights as the basis of conduct and policy is to create a society that is driven by advocacy, leading to a loss of community and reducing the motivation to work for the common good.

Perhaps we can learn from the philosophy of one of the world's greatest teachers of all time. Gandhi's life and teachings represent a different point of view - a focus on responsibilities, not rights. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is best known for leading hundreds of millions of his countrymen in India to independence from one of the greatest empires in history without the use of violence. A new generation of people around the world learned about his life of service, founded on truth and nonviolence, from the Academy Award winning movie bearing his name.

Gandhi spent more than 50 years in active public service and understood the need for legal safeguards to protect fundamental rights. However, he believed that a commitment to personal responsibility, not insistence on rights, should govern conduct and social policy.

H.G. Wells once asked for Gandhi's views on a document Wells had co-authored entitled ARights of Man. Gandhi did not agree with the documents emphasis on rights. He responded with a cable that said, I suggest the right way. “Begin with a charter of Duties of Man and I promise the rights will follow as spring follows winter.”

Gandhi asked us to remember that if our rights are inalienable, our responsibility is indisputable - given to us by every religion and culture - to treat others as ourselves. He focused on this most fundamental of human responsibilities. If we keep it as our ideal and try to move toward it, we reduce the emphasis on rights and bring personal responsibility to a higher level in guiding our thoughts and actions. In both the political and business arenas, commitment to responsibilities impacts individuals and groups to look for ways to produce benefits for all.

Leadership by Example

We are moving toward a knowledge-based society. In business, the importance of hierarchy is diminishing and there is interaction among all levels in a corporation. In this environment, leadership by example will have to become the dominant mode. It is based on the premise that the leader recognizes and meets his or her responsibilities.

Gandhi always led by example - everything he asked others to do, he did himself. Gandhi did not ask others to give up the practice of discrimination until he himself had lived among those that were discriminated against.

His commitment was to serve the poor and downtrodden - they were his customers. He walked among them, talked with them, understood their needs, lived among them, and ministered to them. His personal commitment was an example to others.

For a business to demonstrate a personal commitment to the customer. Interacting with clients, listening to their concerns, and making decisions based on their desires are some of the manifestations of leadership by example in a customer-focused company. Whether the goal is customer focus, cost reduction, or operational excellence, and regardless of your position - CEO, department head, or first-level supervisor - the principle remains the same: Meet your responsibilities before you ask others to meet theirs.

When leaders set an example, they inspire all of us to live up to our individual duties. The need for supervision is lessened, and there is greater efficiency and productivity.

Changing Roles

The central relationship between the corporation and the employee is employment. Historically, it was the obligation to the employer to offer long-term employment, and in return, the employee demonstrated loyalty. Recently this symmetry has been destroyed. The rates of change in technology, markets, consumer preferences, and geopolitical forces make it almost impossible for the corporation to meet long-term employment commitments. This can result in employee alienation, diminished loyalty and commitment, and lack of performance. Both the corporation and the employee should look toward creating a new set of responsibilities that fit the new environment. Insisting on old rights will only lead to increased alienation.

Corporate leaders have the responsibility to provide, based on their best judgement, truthful information about the future and the range of employment opportunities that are likely to exist. Employees should be given the chance to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare for these opportunities. It is their responsibility to offer value to their employer by learning new skills and taking advantage of new opportunities.

We observe this happening in a variety of businesses. Global companies like GE and Coca-Cola provide opportunities for cross-functional and rotational assignments, giving employees the chance to move to where the work might be in the future. In a technology-driven company like Intel, the CEO has stated his responsibility, offering employees the training and education to be prepared for future job openings.

For the corporation to say to the employees, Amanage your own career, without providing training, or for the employee to demand long-term employment without taking the trouble to acquire knowledge, is to insist on rights without meeting responsibilities. Both the individual and the corporation benefit if there is a focus on responsibilities. There is cooperation and a sense of being in the same boat, resulting in increased motivation and heightened productivity.

The Broader Social Context

There are pragmatic reasons for all of us to focus on our responsibilities rather than our rights. A society driven by the former promotes service, tolerance, compromise, and progress, whereas a society driven by the latter is preoccupied with acquisition, confrontation, and advocacy. When we fail to meet our responsibilities to others, they are forced to insist on their rights.

The founders of the Unites States were not accountable to women by denying them the right to vote, nor did they meet their duties to African Americans by allowing slavery. Until recently, we did not meet our obligations to those with physical disabilities. Each of these groups had to struggle for its rights and get them made into law, and these struggles strained the fabric of society. If we meet our responsibility to treat others as ourselves, the fabric of society need not be damaged in the effort to achieve rights.

Gandhi took the concept one step further. He insisted that those being denied their rights also had to meet their responsibilities. Opponents were entitled to be treated as he would like to be treated - with courtesy and respect.

Even in the most intense phases of the struggles against the British, Gandhi was always respectful and courteous to the British as individuals. He sent then-Princess Elizabeth a wedding present - a tablecloth fashioned from yarn he had personally spun. He never forgot the human relationship in the political struggle. In today’s political environment, we see an escalation of personal attacks at all levels, creating a climate of animosity and distrust and making it difficult to work for the common good.

In the formation of social policy, debate often takes place on the basis of the rights of individuals and groups. This creates a climate of confrontation. Gandhi always believed in helping the less fortunate. This was a responsibility based on his fundamental belief that one should treat others as oneself. However, he insisted that those who needed assistance were obligated to help themselves.

This is illustrated in his approach to helping poor tenant farmers. He encouraged families to spin and weave cloth when they were not working in the fields. Doing work was their duty. He asked the rest of Indian society to live up to its end by giving up the more refined mill-made cloth and wearing the coarser hand-woven, hand-spun cloth made by the farmers as a way of helping them raise their economic status. Both parties were fulfilling their responsibilities; none were insisting on their rights.

Focusing on responsibilities removes the mind-set of giving something without return and of taking something without making a contribution. Both these attitudes are detrimental to the human spirit and create a society that is neither productive nor caring. The concept of meeting obligations because it is the right thing to do seems to be declining. We need to reverse this trend. When we direct our attention to our responsibilities, we are forced to look inward and ask what contribution can we make to create something better.

When Gandhi was asked about his message, he responded, my life is my message. This is true for each one of us - whether we like it or not - our life is our message. Meeting our responsibilities should be a way of life, not of gaining rewards. It should have its foundation in the family, where parents and elders are an example for their children, the leaders of the future.

Looking at the world through the lens of personal responsibility creates a landscape of hard work, high standards, commitment to service, and compassion. These values are as applicable to business and the public sector as they are to our personal lives.

Dr. Keshavin Nair is a management consultant, public speaker, and author of "A Higher Standard of Leadership: Lessons from the Life of Gandhi" and "Beyond Winning: The Handbook for the Leadership Revolution."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

When collaboration fails and it's just time for advocacy

As much as possible, be careful not to burn bridges. Hopefully you will want to try again for some level of collaboration in the future.
When nothing else works, then it may simply be time for education. The question then becomes, who do we need to educate and how.
There are many venues for education.
Community meetings, the internet, letter writing campaigns, mass media and various forms of public protest are all ways that can be used to educate.
Please tell us what you have found to be productive.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Be Careful What You Ask For

Years ago, decades actually, I was very interested in empowerment and was doing a great deal of research on the subject. During my research I came across a very interesting article on an empowerment program that had been instituted in an inner city housing complex.
Someone or a committee in a government agency had determined that it would be a good idea to encourage and empower the people living there to take more responsibility for the complex and make more of the decisions. This worked very well for a while until the people living in the complex started making decisions that the agency did not agree with and started advocating for things that did not “fit” the agenda of the agency. The whole program came tumbling apart. In a short time, the people living there were feeling more helpless and hopeless, less empowered and more disenfranchised than ever.
There are a few lessons from this experience.
1. As I have mentioned many times in the past, be clear about the level of authority and limit of choices when you are trying to empower or build consensus. If you are trying to build full collaboration there should be few if any limits imposed by you. There are always limits, but you may not know all the options or have all the information. Solutions may arise that you would have never dreamt of on your own.
2. Expect the unexpected. If you go into this with the idea that you know what the other individual or group will want, then you may be hit with a big surprise. Do not have the idea that because it is “this” individual or group, they will have a particular agenda or concerns. Be open to what they will have to share, their concerns and issues. Listen and avoid prejudgments. Perhaps if you understood them as well as you think you do, there wouldn’t be any void or a need for a special program, committee or meeting.
3. Be careful what you ask for. If you want someone to speak up, be prepared that they just might do that and even say something that you are uncomfortable with. If you ask someone to take more responsibility, they may take actions they believe are in their own best interests but out of your control.

Independence, empowerment and free-agency can be funny things. You may lose some control over someone else, while they may be strengthened, become more self-efficacious, independent, productive, and a greater contributor to the world around them. You may even find that as a collaborator with this other group or individual your own capacity has actually increased, like theirs, rather than having been diminished. Additional information about self-efficacy can be found at Emory University.
My experience has often been that those who need to control the lives of others, have little control over their own. If empowerment of others is uncomfortable for you, perhaps you need to look inward. Is part of the issue driven from your own fears? There is a great book well worth the reading, over and over again. I would recommend it to anyone whether you believe this to be a personal issue or not. The book is Love Is Letting Go Of Fear.

Remember that more real good can be accomplished from real collaboration. Yes, it can be a scary thing but well worth the effort if the goal is the benefit of all.


Sometimes, and unfortunately, after the very best efforts that you are able to muster at the time, you may have to walk away with hopes of a better dialogue another day.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Making a Mountain out of a Molehill: OR: How to turn a simple chat into a high risk divisive argument.

Sometimes an invitation to get together to discuss or chat about some problematic issues is really just what it purports to be, just an invitation to create mutual understanding and increase dialogue. Too often paranoia and suspicion creep in and tensions begin to raise. Ulterior motives are suspected, unnecessary restrictions are imposed and a good opportunity may be lost.
When this happens, practice some deep breathing and keep your cool. You may have to practice your most diplomatic and gracious behaviors in order to create a safe environment where everyone feels comfortable to express their thoughts and feelings about the issue. Treat it like a chat with friends and a welcoming family. Create a safe place and atmosphere for you and one for your guest(s). This doesn’t mean that you have to give up anything. It actually means that you are more likely to make progress. Consider that it may not be the progress that you want at this time, but if you have created a safer environment for future discussions then you have made substantial progress.
If on the other hand, you get caught up in the tension and paranoia, you will have made your own contribution in Making a Mountain out of a Molehill.

Please see VitalSmarts for more information on Crucial Conversations and creating safety.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Focus on commonalities and not on political differences.

As was said earlier, a life time of good can be accomplished if we work on areas where we agree and sincerely work to develop better understanding and more agreement.
Usually when people talk about political differences they talk about the left and right side of a spectrum or continuum. I have found that paradigm; though it may be useful in some settings, often gets in the way of true collaboration. Sometimes the people at either extreme end of the spectrum have more in common with each other than they do with the people in the middle. You might even look at it like a circle; however, I do not believe that even a circle paints the correct picture. Most people are not completely on the right or the left but may have most of their ideas on one side but other ideas that really fit better on the other. Some of us have ideas that don’t really fit anywhere on the spectrum and because of this I like to think of it more as a ball than simply left or right. If most of us were to plot all of our attitudes and beliefs they would be all over the place and not simply lined up left or right. Thinking about it this way helps me to think about us all playing ball together. It helps to take away the idea of “us against them.”
For example almost all of us want the best for our children. We may have a little different take on what that might look like or how to accomplish it, but we want the best. From this starting point we can find, if we work on understanding each other and coming to agreement, many areas where we agree and much that we can do together.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Levels of Authority

Levels of Authority
When an organization gives a team, individual, committee, or council, an assignment, it is imperative that everyone clearly understands their level of authority.
Problems often arrise not because someone does not have the authority they want but because they do not have the authority that they were led to believe that they had.

1 Research the problem Report findings No authority, Only Reporting
2 Research the problemDevelop, alternative solutionsReport Finding Solution options only
3 ResearchDevelopRecommend best solution for approval Recommend best solution
4 Research DevelopSelect best solutionReport solution decisionRecommendation for implementation Implementation
5 Research DevelopSelectImplementInform/Report Implement and report on progress
6 DevelopSelectImplementEvaluate Total authorityNo reporting necessary

Reprinted with permission from:Management SolutionsConsulting and Training ServicesA Division of Red Head Enterprises. Unfortunately a great teacher, Dana Meyers (The Red Head) passed away a few years ago.

For the same and additional information in a more user friendly format, click here. To better understand the information you will need to read additional information on the collaboration pages.

How to hold a Family Council or Family Meeting

Perhaps the most important organization or group is the family. A healthy family provides the training ground for positive interactions within the larger community. The family can also provide a refuge for peace and healing. Unfortunately not all families provide all that children and adults need to interact positively and effectively with each other and with the community as a whole. Many of the principles and strategies provided in other parts of this web site are as applicable to families as they are to other collaborations. Much of what is written on this page is as applicable to other collaborations as it is to families.Searching the internet for "Family Council" provided little information. Searching for "Family Meeting" provided a wealth of great information, some of which is linked from below. Because of the information linked from below, this page will only add a few concepts and suggestions for holding an effective family council.

When and Why

Family Councils are most effective when they are held regularly and started when children are young. Once a week or at least once a month are recommended. Special sessions for establishing goals can be held annually with review of goals and objectives and measurable outcomes at least every three months.Holding a Family Council or Family Meeting regularly and starting when the family is young, and when relationships and circumstances are going well, makes it easier and more effective to hold a Family Council when something is not going as well, in more difficult times, and under more difficult circumstances. Family Councils can be a wonderful training ground for collaboration, goal setting, and conflict resolution. A Family Council can help to strengthen family members and is a great time to share esteem and love.
What to do and How to do it.....a few suggestions.

Families do not all make decisions in the same way, some families are more collaborative and some are more authoritative. However decisions are made, in order for a family council to be effective, a few effective rules need to be followed. The following list includes both possible rules and suggestions for a positive Family Council.
1. Each family member needs to be heard without the fear of repercussions. "Real listening shows respect: It creates trust. As we listen, we not only gain understanding; we also create the environment to be understood. And when both people understand both perspectives, instead of being on opposite sides of the table looking across at each other, we find ourselves on the same side looking at solutions together." Stephen R. CoveyIf individuals are reluctant to share, you might go around the family giving each specific opportunity for comment and/or questions.
2. Only one person should speak at a time. Some times this is facilitated by a 'talking item.' Some families use a stick or a water noodle or a stuffed animal. The person who is holding the item 'has the floor' and can speak.
3. Respect each others physical and emotional space.
4. The purpose of a Family Council is to build and strengthen the family and each individual member, not for criticism; however, if there is criticism, it should be brief, no more than one minute or sixty seconds. Criticism should NEVER be directed towards a person, but should ALWAYS be directed towards inappropriate behavior.
5. If criticism is used, at least twice as much time should be directed towards and focused on a persons strengths and showing increased love. Be careful to not always link the two. For every time there is criticism followed a focus on strengths and an increase in love there should be many times where there is only the positive and loving interaction. Remember that sometimes people react inappropriately because of an unhealthy or needy system.
6. Avoid arguing.
7. Family Council is a great time to set goals both for the family and for the individual. Areas that may be considered include: Social (both internally within the family and externally with others), Physical/Health, Emotional, Spiritual, Intellectual/Educational, Recreational, and Financial. It is also a great time to write a Family Mission Statement and/or a Family Values Statement. When setting goals, plan and write how you will accomplish them and how you will know that they have been accomplished. Review and record progress. Adjust as needed.
8. Discuss finances and plan a budget. Discuss, plan, and carry out ways to save and possibly earn additional money.
9. Discuss family chores, rules, responsibilities, and consequences.
10. The Family Council can be an excellent time to schedule the week and let everyone know where everyone else will be, how they can be contacted and who they will be with. This pertains as much to the adults as to the children.
11. End with a game or something fun. Treats are almost always a great addition.
A Family Council does not guarantee perfection or that all will go smoothly in the family. It is an effective tool and an even more effective tool when used consistently, early, and in a positive and appropriate manner.

Open Agenda Conferences (Sometimes referred to as a Search Conference or a Futures Conference)

To identify and engage stake holders. Detect and determine issues. Discover, create, and initiate solutions. Encourage follow-through, and accountability. Set and complete goals and objectives.
An Open Agenda Conference is a unique experience. It is perfectly suited for multiple agencies, entire communities, or a single large or merging corporations or agencies.
The conference can include everyone who is a part of a particular corporation or agency, or even a very small community. It can bring together an entire organization, such as a school district, company, or business, or most of the employees in a single division, encourage and allow them to discover issues and solutions, and create action plans with accountability. It can also search out specific key individuals from a larger group. This search process identifies key groups (stake-holders), then key individuals within that group. (Locating and engaging stake holders may be an important exercise for the over all collaboration, service, or corporate system, that you are be involved with. Solutions are sometimes like a mystery that needs to be solved. Each stake-holder or stake-holder group may have a clue to the mystery which is unique to them. Without all the clues, it may be more difficult and sometimes impossible, to solve the mystery.) The process allows for the identification of key individuals that may not normally be considered (by those outside the group) principal leaders within the group. This process identifies those who are seen from the outside to be the most influential members of a particular group, and then allows for those individuals to identify those they consider influential and key.
The conference itself does not have a preset agenda; however, it can have a preset theme. It allows the agenda to be set by the participants according to interest and energy. The process has been compared to a potluck dinner, providing both opportunity to put forth issues and concerns, and helping to mold and implement a strategic plan for growth and amelioration. This concept requires a leap of faith and can produce, and has produced, remarkable results.

This concept can be used in corporate or community settings. The following are phases for a community "Youth Search Conference." The information below can easily be adapted to corporate, agency, or other settings.

Open Agenda/Youth Search Conference, Phases

There are some who have come to believe that solutions should be quick and easy. Sometime they are, but this is not always the case. This process is not quick. It is simple, but it is not easy. It takes work and time and it is thorough. This process is powerful and it produces results.Open Agenda Search Conference
An Open Agenda Search Conference can be used in many settings and for many purposes as noted on the previous page. The following pages have information specific to an Open Agenda/Youth Search Conference. Another type of Open Agenda Conference could use a similar format. Portions of this process can be used for specific activities such identifying stake holder groups and natural leaders among those groups.

Open Agenda/Youth Search Conference

There are six phases to the conference. Each is essential to the optimal success of the program/process. The goals of the conference are generally; to open communication between and amongst informed and influential youth and adults, to identify assets and obstacles, to learn skills and organize, and to identify, empower, and support, people and solutions. The outcomes will be specific, measurable, and observable. Individuals invited to participate in the process need to understand that the is a participatory process with additional work required outside the specific meetings and conference. This is especially true for those involved with Phase 2, 3, and 4.

Phase 1 Adult, pre-conference meeting. (Set agendas need to be used in phases 1, 2, 3, and 4)
This can occur in more than one session, but should include a local superintendent, mayor and/or county commissioner, and police chief (or equivalent) and/or sheriff. The purpose of this meeting is to explain the conference process, goals, and objectives and obtain a high level of support and commitment to participate. In order for this process to be successful these people need to not only support, but also attend and participate in at least 2/3 of the actual conference. The message must be clear that this is important enough for these people to take time out of their busy schedules to listen and participate. Places, times, and budget, also need to be discussed and set in these meetings. The ages/grades and geographic location of youth to be included needs to also be set. In addition, four to six youth, with recognized leadership qualities and from a cross section of the youth population need to be identified in these meetings. These four to six youth will be invited to the Phase 2 meeting. There are a couple of options for inviting youth to Phase 3. One is to have the youth involved in Phase 2 identify and invite them all, and the other is for the youth in Phase 2, to only identify a segment of youth and allow school principals to also identify some of the youth who will participate in Phase 3.

Phase 2 Youth, pre-conference meeting.
This meeting is for one or two adults and four to six youth identified in phase 1. The purpose of this meeting is to explain the process to the youth, obtain their opinion, support, endorsement, and commitment. If this is not obtained at this point, then there are three choices, try another group of youth, try again at a later time, or drop the idea. Youth are almost always excited at the prospect of this conference and process when they understand the potential outcomes and opportunities for open communication. This also provides a great opportunity for these four to six youth to develop leadership and facilitation skills.All or part of phases 3, 4, and 5 will be conducted by the youth at the meeting in phase 2. You will probably need to provide for some one on one follow-up meeting with these youth to help them to prepare. You want them to have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to have success. You may want to allow them to practice every aspect where they will be assigned to speak or facilitate an activity. They need to understand the process as thoroughly as possible. You also need to let them know that there will be support and back-up in case they need assistance. If the youth wish to only run part of the meetings and conference, support them in doing what they want to do and fill in the rest with a qualified adult.At this meeting these youth will need to be assigned to identify a cross section of youth that will participate in phase 3. These youth should not be their friends or associates, but should be leaders in the community and/or school. Assignments for specific aspects of the remaining phases and conference will also need to be negotiated with these youth attending. They may also want to suggest another youth who they believe would fulfill an assignment well. Listen to and consider their suggestions. These youth will also need to arrange for refreshments/food for phase 3 and 4.Decisions will need to be made in phase 1 and 2 about invitations to phase 3. As much as possible, youth should be brought to phase 3 by principals and counselors who will also be attending.Adults and youth from phase 2 will need to work together between phase two and three to assure that invitations are sent out, youth and adults are invited in writing and in person, and that food, facilities, and materials are arranged. Youth who are invited need to clearly understand that this event is sanctioned and supported by the school and that they will not lose credit. Schools may want to request that students prepare a paper on the process in order to be credited for their time in the process.

Phase 3 First Pre-conference Joint Planning Meeting. Approximately 4 hours, preferable during school hours. Start with eating. Have snacks to snack on during the meeting.
This meeting should consist of 20 to 35 youth and 15 to 25 adults, with more youth than adults. These youth should represent a cross section of youth in the community. If there is an alternative high school in the community, youth from that school should be represented. Some youth may be chosen by adults who wish to assure that younger youth or certain groups are represented. Key adults to attend would include ranking Law Enforcement, Juvenile Justice/Probation, City and County officials, Principals, Counselors, Mental Health, Child Protection, members of the organization/council/commission identified for phase 6, and the media. Other identified key stake holders can also attend and add a great deal of support to the process. It is recommended that phase 3, 4, and 5, be filmed for use in future conferences.

Introduction and Welcome Preferable this will be handled by a youth; however, if the youth has never attended an open agenda/youth search conference, it would good to also have someone who has, to tell a little about the process and answer questions. During this introduction phase, the facilitators will introduce themselves, and the process. If there is a video that talks about this process, this is a good time to show the video. Please let everyone know where the bathrooms are and that there will be formal breaks. Everyone can dismiss themselves as needed, and return as quickly as possible.

First Activity The first activity is an ice breaker and a mixer. Although many activities could be used at this point. My favorite is to have everyone stand and then instruct them that starting at one corner of the room, they are to make a circle around the room, circling according to birth day (not year). Starting with January and going around the room, ending with December. This activity should create a circle according to the day and month of birth of each person attending. To make the activity interesting, instruct everyone that they can not speak during the activity. If you want to make it really interesting, tell them that they can not speak or write. This activity will cause the group to mix with youth and adults spaced throughout the circle. The groups that will work together during phase three and four will then be created. I prefer to have groups of four to six members in each group. You should end with eight or nine groups. Start with the person with the first birth day in January (or the first birthday in the year) and count the first four to six people. These people will make up one group. Do this on around the room. This will almost always create groups with a mixed cross section of youth and adults. Have the groups sit together, preferably at separate tables.

Second Activity The purpose of the second activity is to continue introductions. Take a few minutes for people to get to know their neighbor, the person sitting next to them. Pair up in twos, (with one group of three if necessary). Have each person tell a little about themselves with their partner taking notes. After a few minutes, trade and have the other person tell about themselves with the other person taking notes. Go around the room and have each person introduce their partner. This can be made more interesting by asking everyone to tell something that they would love to do but have never done, or having everyone tell one particular quality that they have, or a hobby.

Third Activity The purpose of the third activity is to identify stake holder groups within the community. This is a brainstorming activity. Explain what a brainstorming activity is all about. Tell everyone that there are no right or wrong answers. Explain with a stake holder group is. Have a person write every idea on a board or somewhere that everyone can see. Begin to brainstorm on what all the stake holder groups might be in the community. You may need to help the group to get started. Some stake holder groups might be the Chamber of Commerce, teachers, coaches, churches, senior citizens, school board members, band members, et. etc. (These groups should consist of a very wide range of groups within the community.) This activity should take 30 to 50 minutes.

Fourth Activity The purpose of this activity is to identify informed and influential individuals within each of these groups. Each of the identified stake holder groups will be assigned to two of the eight or nine working groups that have been organized. Go through each of the identified stake holder groups and ask for two working groups to volunteer to take that group. Groups should be distributed evenly amongst the eight or nine working groups. The working groups should then identify and write down the names of three or four individuals who they consider to be informed and influential and/or leaders in each of the groups. Two working groups taking each of the stake holder groups provides for more thorough and accurate results. These names will then be divided amongst the individuals in the working groups. Their assignment will be to call the identified individuals and ask who the informed and influential individuals are amongst their friends and associates. (A suggested script for calling is listed below.) These individuals being called should not be identified as belonging to a particular group. These individuals need to be called (or personally spoken to) before the next planing meeting. The names provided by these individuals need to be brought to the next meeting or preferable provided to a designated person in advance of the next meeting. If the names are provided to someone in advance of the next meeting, the names should be alphabetized with a number beside each name showing how many times each name was mentioned in the calling. You may chose to invite only those individuals whose names were mentioned more than one time, or you may chose to invite everyone who was mentioned at all and all the people who were called. (All of the people attending the planning meetings need to be invited.) You may also wish to advertise the conference and invite additional interested individuals. You may want to consider how large you want the conference to be or how selective you want it to be.

Fifth Activity Additional assignments need to now be given to each of the working groups. Let them know what the assignments will be ahead of time, and then ask for volunteers. (1) One group should be assigned the food for the conference. They will need to be told what their budget will be, and how to arrange for payment. (2) Another group will need to be assigned the task of coming up with the name of the conference. (3) A third group will assigned the logo and art work. (Groups two, three, and four will need to work closely together.) (4) A fourth group will need to be assigned to write the letter of invitation. This letter is very important and this group needs to have an individual or two especially talented in this area. (The letter of invitation should be signed by such individuals as the mayor, county commissioner, and superintendent.) (5) A fifth group needs to be assigned to arrange for materials for the conference. (6) The sixth group needs to be assigned to arrange for computers with a word-processing program so that each session in the conference can be recorded. (7) A seventh group needs to be assigned to video tape the next planning meeting and the conference. They will need to arrange for appropriate equipment. (8) The eighth group will need to be assigned to publicity. If it is decided to open the conference to people not specifically invited, this committee will arrange for this kind of publicity. If it is decided to keep the conference closed to only those individuals invited, then this committee can arrange for publicity to raise excitement and expectation about the conference, increasing the chance of good participation. (9) The ninth group will take then names provided by everyone making calls, alphabetize, and tabulate. (If you decide to do this step.)

Script for Calling Script for calling or speaking to identified individuals in order to solicit names of informed and influential leaders among their peers and associates.
'Our community will be holding an Open Agenda/Youth Search Conference, on _____, with a cross section of leaders from throughout the county (community). We want to include as many of the most influential people as we can from every segment of our community. In a recent planning meeting, your name was suggested as someone who would know who some of these people are. Among YOUR friends, (associates, or colleagues) who are the two or three most informed people who have influence and seem to be able to get things accomplished (done).'Please get additional information. If a student, please write down what school they go to. If an adult, please get a phone number or address if possible. If home schooled, also please get a phone number and address.This information needs to be collected before the next planning meeting.
'Thank you for your help.' (We suggest that you provide a place where additional information can be obtained, such as this web site, or local people who can be asked.)

Phase 4 Second Pre-conference Joint Planning Meeting. (Approximately three to four hours. Preferably during school time, start with snacks.) Return and Report Make calls and arrangements to bring back as many of the participants from phase 4 as possible. Make arrangements for replacements if necessary.

First Activity One of the youth leaders should arrange for an ice breaker activity. It is recommended that they speak with someone such as a school counselor for ideas, suggestions, feedback, and approval.

Second Activity Review all assignments. Discuss and provide feedback and additional support where necessary.

Third Activity - Review Names for Invitation Names for invitations can be handled in a couple of different fashions. All of the participants in all of the previous phases need to be invited. In addition, and depending on how many names you have and the desired size of the conference, you may want to invite everyone who has been contacted. You may want to invite only those people who were names as informed and influential, or you may want to invite only those who were named as informed and influential more than one time. You may also want to add a general solicitation through the media. Remember that in most situation, you will need to invite from 30% to 50% more people than you wish to attend. If your goal is to have 200 people in attendance, you may want to invite 400 people. Though unlikely, be prepared for everyone to attend. Prepare to send out invitations. If at all possible, a phone call or personal visit should follow all invitations. Invitations should be formal, calls and visits do not need to be. Invitations should be signed by the Superintendent, Mayor, and County Commissioner, if at all possible. Another person of similar status may also sign. Invitations should emphasize the importance of the conference, the significance of the invitation, and the expected benefit for the community or organization and for the individual who attends. Everyone should know that that the whole conference is very important, but that if they are not able to attend the conference in it's entirety, they are encouraged to attend and participate as much as they can.

Fourth Activity Quickly review all assignments, arrange for support as needed, provide for a system to assure that all assignments are completed prior to the conference.Phase 5. The conference.

Pre-Conference Setup Three or four computers need to be set up with a word processing program. A large wall will need to be set up with an agenda (market place), showing an outline of places and times for conference sessions, breaks, and meal times. (This can also be done on large tables.) Each session on day one and two should last approximately 60 to 90 minutes. Sessions on day three should last approximately 90 to 120 minutes. Paper (generally a light color other than white) with markers needs to be set out so that individuals can write a topic, the name of the facilitator and scribe, and tape it to the large agenda posted on the wall or on tables. These papers can be taped to the agenda or use self-adhesive sticky paper. Food should be set out for snacks for each day with meals brought out with appropriate plates and utensils at appropriate times. Easels with pads to write on and markers need to be set up in each meeting location. Chairs should be set up for the orientation in a circle or semi circle with additional circles of chairs as needed. Chairs for the sessions need to be set up in semicircles around the easels. A large poster with the conference name and logo needs to be set up in good view of everyone present. Video cameras need to be set up with people designated to record. Someone may want to roam during the conference and get shots though out the event. A sound amplification system should be set up as needed. Two large posters should be set up in the main meeting room with "Rule #1, Rule of Movement, Go Where Your Passion Is" on one and "Rule # 2 Treat Everyone With Dignity and Respect" on the other. Arrange for a sign in sheet for each day. This can be used to help with followup and for attendance for students.

Conference Day One (Generally this works best during school hours) Orientation and Introduction As much as possible, this should be carried out by one of the youth leaders, with additional questions being answered by an adult, only as needed. Welcome everyone who is in attendance. Set a positive tone of expectation for the conference. You can discuss things that might be changed, improved, or created, where you are (as a group, organization, or community) where you've come from, how you got here, and how the world around you has an impact.. You may want to provide a few examples of possible discussion areas, assuring everyone that they may discuss what they would like to discuss. If the group is not too large, take time for brief introductions around the room. Explain the process which has brought you to this point and what the process will be for the rest of the conference and phase 6. Explain again that there is no preset agenda for the conference and that the participants are invited and encouraged to facilitate sessions during the conference. Explain that there is a schedule on the wall (or tables) for the three day event and that everyone who would like to, can facilitate a discussion on what ever topic they would like. (Generally there will be a theme for the conference which will give the participants subject ideas.) Encourage participants to focus on solutions, positive growth, and changes. Those people (youth should be especially encouraged) who would like to facilitate a discussion will be invited to pick up a piece of paper (right after the introduction) and write a topic that they would like to discuss, their name as facilitator, and the name of a scribe (if possible). They will then tape the piece of paper to the schedule (market place) in a space representing an available meeting time and place. (Hopefully there will be many discussions going on around different topics, in different places, at the same time.) Facilitators should be encouraged to schedule their discussion as early as possible in case there are additional discussions warranted, as a result of their discussion. The first two days of the conference should be available for scheduling discussions. The last day of the conference will focus on setting goals, objectives, and action plans. Explain that everyone needs to participate in a discussion session during all of the sessions of the conference. If there isn't a discussion that they are interested, then they can create one. If someone enters a discussion that does not keep their interest, then they are free to move (Rule # 1) to what ever discussion they would like, or go to the agenda (market place), and create a new one. Everyone is to treat everyone else with dignity and respect (Rule # 2). You may want to ask a few people what this means. You will want to let the participants know that a discussion topic may need to be extended beyond one session, and they are welcome to add additional sessions if warranted. There may also be spin off discussions which will be added after the first few sessions. Anyone can be a facilitator or scribe. We have seen excellent discussions facilitated by youth as young as thirteen years old. Adults may also facilitate. When the time is up for a discussion session. The facilitator and scribe need to go to one of the computers and enter the name of their discussion, the names of the facilitator and scribe, the names of participants (which they will have collected during the session), and what was discussed. Someone should be at the computers to help the people entering the information and making sure that it is saved and backed up in a way that can be accessed later. Because this process usually takes a little longer than is scheduled for a break. People who want to facilitate more than one session should be asked not to do two in a row.

Conference Sessions Invite people who would like to facilitate a discussion to come up and place their item on the schedule (market place). The first time that I went through this process, it was a bit nerve racking and seemed like an eternity before anyone took a piece of paper to set up a discussion. In reality, it was probably not more than two or three minutes. You may want to encourage some of the participants in phase three and four to think ahead of time about possible topics and help to begin the process. Break for a light informal meal sometime during the sessions. Some one needs to be assigned as a time keeper during the sessions, letting all the sessions know when they have ten to fifteen minutes remaining and when the time is up. Allow approximately ten minutes between the sessions for bathroom, snacks, and chatting. Let everyone know when it's time to start the next session. Remember that there will be multiple sessions going on in different places at the same time. Do not worry that one session has more participants than other sessions. Allow people to attend where their passion lies. Even very small groups may surprise you with significant results. Wrap-up About a half an hour before the end of the first day, bring everyone back together to process what has happened so far. Get some feedback, take notes on how the process can be improved in the future and any modifications that may be needed over the next two days. Ask for a few people to recap as many of the discussions as possible for that day. If there is room for more people, invite those attending to bring others for the next couple of days and quickly go over the schedule for the rest of the conference. (If they are students, this would need to be discussed with school administrators, who may not want additional students to be released from class without previous authorization).

Conference Day Two (This is usually a good day for late afternoon and evening sessions, allowing for some people to attend who could not attend during the day.) Introductions and Recap Briefly recap the previous days events and the schedule for this day. Introduce yourself and those who are helping with various activities. Sessions Invite participants to continue the process started on day one and begin the conference. Break for a light informal meal sometime during this day's sessions. Wrap-up Wrap up as in day one. Be sure to leave some time for a brief synopsis of the days events, and feedback from the participants. If there is room, again invite those attending to bring additional people the next day. (If they are students, this would need to be discussed with school administrators, who may not want additional students to be released from class without previous authorization). The people previously assigned will need to print out the information on each session at the end of this day. The results need to be copied that evening or the next morning and brought to the conference on day three. We suggest that each participant be provided with a copy of each session and with the name of the conference and theme on a front cover. These can be stapled or put into binders.

Conference Day Three (The sessions on this day can be held during the school day or a late afternoon and evening.) (Remember to provide incentive for invited students to attend as much of the conference as possible. You may want to provide multiple extra incentives meaningful to the various students who will be invited. This is a valuable educational event.) Introductions, Recap, Present Information on Sessions Briefly introduce yourself and those helping with activities if there are any new people this day. Briefly recap what has happened so far. Handout the booklets or folders with the information from the previous day's sessions. Allow for time for everyone to look through the booklets. Voting Review all of the issues/project from the previous two days. If there is more than one issue/project which is similar and if the entire group agrees that those issue/project should be combined, then combine the issues/projects. After combining the issues/projects, write them all down on a very large piece of paper on the wall (or on tables). Each issue/project should be written in a section of the paper with lines drawn between the issue/project, creating a large box or rectangle around each topic. Give each participant four dots of different colors. Attach a value of four points to one color, three, to another, two to another, and one to the last one. Ask all of the participants to place their dots on the issues/projects of their choice. If they want, they can place all of their dots on the same issue/project, or place them on all separate issues/projects. Have someone tally the results. You will want to focus on the top three to eight issues/projects. This does not mean that a small group can not work on an issue/project which did not receive as many votes. They are free to do this if they wish and may find great success. Goals, Objectives, and Action PlansTake some time to discuss goal setting. Ask the participants to explain the different between goals, objectives, and specific action plans. Clarify or add to the discussion as needed. Explain that their next assignment is to decide where they are going, how and when they are going to get there, and who's going to do what. Explain that they will be reporting on their progress as outlined in phase six. Sessions Before starting the sessions, you will need to find volunteers to be a chair person, a CO-chair person, and secretary/recorder for each of the topics/issues. These people will need to be willing to follow through with the process of creating goals, objectives, action plans, organizing the committee, following through, and reporting as outlined in phase six. It may be helpful to have a mix of youth and adults, but the primary chair person does not need to be and often should not be an adult. No more than three topics should be discussed at one time for this segment of the conference. Allow one and a half to two hours for these discussions. If you have chosen to deal with more than three topics, break and start again with your next session, et. etc. Make sure that the chair and CO-chair have the name, phone number, and possibly e-mail address for every member of their group/committee. Wrap-up Before leaving have everyone sign a commitment sheet. This should include their name, address, and phone number, and e-mail address if they have one. This should also include a line where they might write anything that they would be able to donate in money, materials, or time. There should also be a line where they can write the committee(s) that they are willing to serve on and/or chair.Allow for time for feedback. Take notes and use those notes to improve the next conference that you hold. Please send copies of your feed back to us at this web site so that we can improve the information that is provided here.

Phase 6. Follow-up, implementation, and accountability.
Were you to conduct a successful conference with only the first 5 phases, you would find that you will have opened communication between youth and adults and created an environment of increased communication and understanding. There is great value in the first 5 phases alone. I have heard many youth say that this was the first or one of the first times that they had felt that an adult had really listened to them. The first 5 phases; however, are not enough. Its great to be heard, but even better to be empowered.Phase 6 requires follow-up, implementation, and accountability. Before phase 3 ever begins, you need to arrange and plan for phase 6. There needs to be a credible organization within the community to which the various project chairs coming out of the conference have some accountability. This organization should be able to provide support and feedback and possibly resources to the individual committees developed through the conference. This may be a community council, a city council, a county commission, or higher management in a corporation or agency. Each committee needs to report their progress to this organization on a regular basis, with the first report being within a month (at the very longest) of the conference. The purpose of this reporting is for feedback, accountability, and support. It is not to take over the project or allow the project to be handed over. At some point, a member of the support organization may want to offer to attend a committee meeting for each of the committees. The purpose here is again, not to impose, but to support. Should a committee need to be reorganized, as much as possible, support the committee in reorganizing itself. Training resources can also be provided, to the committee to help them accomplish their goals and objectives. When committees are passionate about their purpose, feel empowered, and have the resources and skills to accomplish their goals and objectives, amazing things will be accomplished. (Often times amazing things will be accomplished even without many of the traditionally recognized skills or previously recognized resources. The committee will simply go out and find or create new resources, and find ways to get the job done.)
Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

The Sense of Community - What is a Community? Mobilization Capacity & Readiness for Focused Action

The following three section in this sequence are taken from Effective Community Mobilization, Lessons From Experience. Published by the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Unforunately I am unable to publish this as a table, as it should be. Hopefully it will still make sense. Numbers coorelate with the same numer under eash of the three headings.

The Sense of Community - What is a Community?

1. Sense of membership
2. Mutual importance
3. Shared world views
4. Bonding/networking
5. Mutual responsibility for the community

Strong Sense of Community
1. The active participants proudly display symbols of membership in the community.
2. The active participants recognize, cherish, and support the contributions of each other.
3. The active participants hold common beliefs and promote shared values important to them.
4. The active participants enjoy one another and look forward to time spent together.
5. The survival and health of the community is a primary concern of all its active participants.

Weak Sense of Community
1. The active participants do not view themselves as a community.
2. Participants are active only because one or a few powerful persons are involved.
3. The active participants hold fundamentally different beliefs and values and cannot reconcile their differences.
4. The active participants have no affinity for each other, and relationships are formal or superficial.
5. One or only a few persons struggle to keep the group together.

Mobilization Capacity

1. Sustained leadership
2. Formalization
3. Rewards and incentives
4. Internal and external communication
5. Community organizational know-how
6. Behind-the-scenes support

High Mobilization Capacity
1. Strong leaders have emerged to keep activities on track and motivate other community members to stay involved.
2. Clear procedures, manuals, ground rules, and role definitions exist to provide a framework for community member participation.
3. Those involved feel valued and appreciated and receive rewards that make them feel their efforts are worthwhile.
4. Active members share experiences and information on a regular basis, and the effort is well covered by local media.
5. A community member with years of successful community organizational experience is actively involved in recruitment and resource mobilization.
6. A highly effective support team functions to handle day-to-day logistics and provide technical assistance as needed.

Low Mobilization Capacity
1. The effort is muddling along without leaders who have the qualities to provide direction and motivation.
2. Community members function in an ad hoc manner, and newcomers have to define their own roles.
3. Participants don't feel that they receive rewards that compensate for the cost of their involvement.
4. Members rarely communicate with one another outside meetings or contact the media to get coverage of their activities.
5. The active members are inexperienced at working on a community-based project.
6. Tasks sometimes fall between the cracks or logistics are poorly handled because there is no one specifically responsible for their functions.

Readiness for Focused Action

1. Clarity of goals
2. Feasibility of plan
3. Capabilities and resources
4. Citizen participation and control
5. Passion for immediate action
6. High-performance team functioning

High Capacity for Action
1. The issues facing the community are clear, and consensus exists on the types of responses needed.
2. A practical and flexible action plan is being implemented and updated based on accurate feedback.
3. A practical and flexible action plan is being implemented and updated based on accurate feedback.
4. The initiative is made up of and controlled by, members of the targeted community and includes active participation of those most affected by the proposed changes.
5. The members are committed to making some positive, goal-directed and well-conceived change happen in the community as quickly as possible.
6. The members can function as a high-performance team to get the job done.

Low Capacity for Action
1. There is concern but no consensus regarding the direction for responding.
2. The group is muddling through with quick fixes and unrealizable schemes.
3. The members have no access to--or are not aware of--the talents, skills, and resources that are needed to mobilize.
4. There is minimal representation by persons who will be affected by the initiative.
5. The members like to talk, argue, and push their views but are not committed to making some positive change in the community.
6. The members have a hard time coordinating action and working together.

What is an Asset?

Assets are important for Community Collaboration, Public Participation and in every other aspect of life.

An asset can be many things. It can be financial, emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual, or social. It can be relationships, skills, time, attitude, energy, wisdom, values, or property. An asset can be almost anything.

Certain Developmental Assets have been found to be extremely important in the raising of healthy, caring, and responsible youth.

Every community, family, and individual has assets. The key is to locate, develop, integrate, and enhance, existing assets, being open to the possibilities. This can also require a shift in thinking. Instead of focusing on what is going wrong, one must spend more energy looking for what is going right. Instead of spending most of your time finding and recognizing problems, you must refocus your thinking towards solutions. It is usually easier to strengthen an asset than to eliminate a deficit. Amazingly, deficits often decrease or even disappear as assets are developed. An asset or strength based approach appreciates that the glass is half full, asks why it is half full, and then finds ways to fill it even more.

This is not a suggestion to hide your head in the sand and ignore deficiencies, which sometimes must be addressed. This is a suggestion that WHAT WE FOCUS ON INCREASES. Spend more time on the positive (or Assets), quickly deal with the deficits when it is required, and you will be amazed at how much more quickly the positive (Assets) increases. (Note on disability: The author of this site is personally familiar with disability and does not want to minimize the effects and limitations of disability; however, it is also important to focus on abilities and how they can be maximized.)


You may also be interested in the concept of and research on Resiliency. Protective Factors and Developmental Assets build Resiliency.

"We find communities with a victim psychology. The difference with asset building is that you look at the assets that a community already has and where they are located. A community then sees that, yes, we do have a lot of things going for us, and through some rearranging we can fill in some gaps. But this is done through a position of strength rather than a position of bleakness. The difference is subtle but absolutely profound in terms of how a community begins to approach taking care of itself and becoming a strong community rather than a victim of circumstance." Tom English, President Oregon Council on Crime and Delinquency

"The asset-building vision represents the other side of the coin. Instead of focusing on fixing problems, it centers on nurturing the positive building blocks of development that all young people need. This approach contrasts sharply with traditional deficit-reduction approaches." All Kids Are Our Kids What Communities Must Do to Raise Caring and Responsible Children and Adolescents Peter L. Benson

"Don't find fault, find a remedy."Henry Ford

There are two paradigms around which there is a great deal of research, programming, and intervention. They are the Deficit Paradigm and the Strength Based Paradigm. Research has clearly shown the Strength Based approach to be more effective and cost efficient. (Focusing on strengths does not mean that you put your head in the sand and ignore deficits. It is simply a matter of focus and emphasis.)

Many individuals in communities, programs, and agencies, are beginning to talk about the Strength Based models of Protective Factors and Developmental Assets. Unfortunately, many of these same individuals still appear to be thinking in the Deficit Paradigm. Shifting from Deficit to Strength Based is more than learning a new language. It is a different culture, thought process, and intervention. From a strength based paradigm there are programs and interventions that can be delivered to the individual; however, the primary emphasis is on groups, communities, and environments. The emphasis is also on building more than on eliminating. For example it is easier to think of something else, than to not think of a cow.

(Think about it :))
What we focus on, increases.
The two primary strength based models are Protective Factors, which help build Resiliency, and Developmental Assets, which also help build Resiliency. You might say that they are simply different sides of the same coin. Although we primarily hear about Protective Factors and Developmental Assets today, most of the foundation research was done around the concept of Resiliency. Resiliency tries and to a great extent answers the question, why do some people succeed and thrive in spite of multiple barriers and risks. Some people consider Resiliency as a Protective Factor and there is some truth to this; however, both Assets and Protective Factors may be easier to quantify and measure. Resiliency on the other hand is easy to recognize anecdotally. We all know stories about the person who grew up in horrible circumstances and yet became a great success. There are millions of people that we may know nothing about and who also grow up in extremely difficult situations and yet grow up to live good, contributing, and self-reliant lives. This is Resiliency.

We know from research that Resiliency can be built or diminished in both individuals and communities. We also know that no matter what the Assets or Protective Factors or Risk Factors on the other hand that an individual or community may have, there will be some that will thrive and some that will not. For the majority of individuals and communities though, we can have an impact by increasing Protective Factors and Assets, thereby increasing Resiliency. Protective Factors and Developmental Assets might be considered “Independent Variables” while Resiliency might be considered a “Dependent Variable” an “Intervening Variable” or in some cases another “Independent Variable.” For the most part we will consider Resiliency a “Dependent Variable.” Some of the ultimate dependent variables or outcomes are: a healthy lifestyle, productivity, contributing to society, and self-reliance.

The most effective way to build Assets or Protective Factors is in collaboration with the individual, group, or community; however specific interventions can also be introduced which will have a positive impact. Most of the more effective programs that use Protective Factors as an intervention avoid the concept of “Identified Patient” and instead focus on the group or community even when there is an individual of particular concern. Protective Factor programs have a tendency to focus on prescriptive intervention for a particular concern. Developmental Asset related programs have a tendency to have a more global or community impact.
Protective Factors can look at very specific individual issues such as: Initiative, Self Control, Attachment, or strong bonds with family or pro-social institutions such as schools and religious organizations. Protective Factors may also consider much larger issues such as community attitudes about drugs and alcohol.

Developmental Assets may be an easier way to develop a general program to improve Resiliency in individuals in a family, school, or community, while Protective Factor programs may be an easier way to increase Resiliency or general health and safety around specific issues.
Developmental Asset # 25 is “Reading for Pleasure”, and for elementary age children it states: “Children and an adult read together for at least 30 minutes a day. Children also enjoy reading or looking at books or magazines on their own”. We know from research that a very accurate numerical predictor for the need for jail space is reading levels in third grade. We also know that communication, which is a protective factor, as early as age two, is a strong predictor of delinquency behavior later in life. From this we understand that if we build reading and communication skills, children are more likely to follow the rules and laws of society as they grow.

There are many Strength Based Programs or Tools. Each has strengths and some limitations. To some extent, supporting any of them is more important than which one you support. Local ownership and support for the program is easily as important and sometimes even more important that which program or programs are used. The best program in the world, imposed or where there is the perception that it is imposed, will usually become a failure or have very short term success.

Conflict Resolution and Prevention

"Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude". William James
"Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional". Max Lucade
"Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict - alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence." Dorothy Thompson
~ The first and most important aspect of conflict resolution is prevention. When you earnestly use the suggestions found on the previous pages you will usually avoid combat and reduce conflict.~ Formal, simple, written, Collaboration Agreements between organizations and agencies can be very helpful for mutual understanding and funding. They can also help to prevent conflict through clarification of boundaries and responsibilities.~ Act, avoid reacting. ~ When conflict is inevitable, keep it to a minimum. Do not include more people than absolutely necessary. (Avoid gossip and negative comments.)"He that would live in peace and at ease must not speak all he knows or all he sees." Benjamin Franklin Sometimes wisdom is not so much knowing what to say, as it is knowing when to keep your mouth shut, and then keeping it shut.~ Never expect anything that you say or write to be kept confidential. Both the written and spoken word have a way of getting to those whom you least want to hear or read them.~ E-mail is a great asset, but is sometimes too quick. In the past if you wrote a letter, you had some time to think about what you had written, and if there might have been a more tactful way to have said it. Usually you would have the time to retrieve and rewrite the letter. Today we can quickly react and hit send. Any e-mail should be reread out loud. When it is a possibly conflictual subject, write the e-mail, then wait a few hours, or a few days, and reread it before sending. Sometimes, even an absolutely perfect response (if there is such a thing) can cause escalation when there isn't enough time between messages for tempers to cool and clear thinking to take root.~ When you put something in writing, request someone who is removed from the situation, objective, and skilled in diplomacy, to review the material to help you avoid any further antagonism and encourage resolution. Conflict is natural as are cycles of conflict. A third, skilled and objective person, can often help to break the cycle.~ Sometimes it may be helpful to make an audio recording of meetings.~ If at all possible avoid contentious votes. Discuss possibly contentious and controversial votes, one on one or in small groups, before the meeting. Look for any possible compromise which fulfills everyone's most important needs. Be sure that controversial issues are on the agenda and that everyone has a copy in advance of the meeting. Try to avoid possibly controversial surprises. The surprise can often worsen the controversy.~ Don't sweat the small things. Remember the prize (goal), which will be better accomplished through good understanding and relationships.~ Always be magnanimous, and assertive as necessary. It's amazing what can be accomplished through good relationships.~ Consider mediation by a skilled, objective, outside, mediator.~ Everyone has different gifts. We need to learn to appreciate these gifts. Focus on a person's strengths. Not everyone may be as impassioned about a project, program, or cause, as you are. Some people may care deeply, but feel that they need to meet other obligations, or their priorities may be different from yours. They can and will still contribute, their contribution may be extremely valuable, and sometimes they will provide some balance and perspective. Sometimes conflict arises out of unfulfilled expectations.~ Occasionally, though rarely, it may be necessary to start over with a smaller, less conflictual group. ~ Occasionally there are people, who for various reason act in ways which are destructive and divisive. Usually these people can be worked with and difficulties can be overcome. Sometimes it may be necessary to distance the group from a person such as this. Normally, this should be used as an absolute last resort. This can sometimes cause as many or more problems as it resolves.~ Sometimes using more formal and generally accepted meeting procedures can help to alleviate conflict. You may want to adopt some or all of the Robert's Rules of Order Revised.~ You may also want to review and adopt some of the many useful and practical resources and strategies found in The Conflict Resolution Information Source.~ Remember that there is often a lifetime of work which can be accomplished when you focus on areas of primary and basic agreement.~ Remember to let go and forgive.
"But peace does not rest in the charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper, let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace in the hearts and minds of all of our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings". John F. Kennedy
Additional Resources:
The Mandt System
United States Institute of Peace

How To Keep It Going ... Sustainability

In order for a collaborative effort to continue, it must continue to fulfill a purpose for everyone involved.Continually provide value to the participants. You can provide information and/or service. Everyone needs to feel like they gained or accomplished something at every meeting.Information/data must be accurate, relevant, and easily understood.
Create and maintain a process for feedback.
Connect with the community.
Continually locate and engage resources.
Bring in people from outside the collaboration who can provide new information/training/service.
Have the members of the collaboration participate in meetings. Presentations should be made by many different individuals within the collaboration including as many of the members as possible.
Continue to be open to change. Over time, success may require a change of direction, emphasis, or focus.
New goals need to be continuously set and achieved. Evaluate Outcomes. Celebrate Success!! Advertise Success!! Let the community know about your accomplishments.
New people often provide new energy. Commit resources to leadership development.
Much, if not all, of your work may depend upon volunteers. They can came from many places. One resource that may help volunteers in the United States is USA Freedom Corps. To register for Volunteer Match, go to: We have seen great success with programs such as those listed through USA Freedom Corps; however, it would usually be a mistake to overlook the many other potential volunteers in your community or organization. Many individuals, clubs, faith groups, and organizations, are willing and able to donate time, money, and resources.For information on Sustainable Communities around the world, visit the Institute for Sustainable Communities.
Find ways to sustain the collaboration without grants. Grants may be a great addition to your collaboration but may not always be available.
Depending upon your collaboration, program, or project, sustainability does not necessarily require funding. Many long lasting programs and projects have used little or no funding but have been sustained entirely by volunteers and in-kind contributions.
Help individuals find and follow their passion. Provide incentives and rewards to volunteers. You can often develop partnerships with business and organizations which may provide valuable incentives, rewards, and acknowledgments, to volunteers, at little or no cost to the business or organization.
Sometimes collaborations outgrow their usefulness. Sometimes we lose our passion for a particular issue. Change can be good and revitalize. Sometimes a collaboration is better served by merging with another.
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."Attributed to Albert Einstein
If it doesn't work, do something else.
Additional information on Effective Community Mobilization, is contained in this blog.

Why and How to Build Consensus

A Consensus is a generally accepted agreement or opinion. It does not require unanimity; however, should represent extensive, if not comprehensive support.


~ There can be extraordinary energy in a group of impassioned people working on a common goal.
~ Consensus building resolves conflict, creates, and builds workable solutions.
~ Conflict requires an enormous amount of energy that might be better used towards a common good. It also undermines progress towards the goal. When the conflict is thoroughly processed, it can create a better, more lasting and viable, solution.


~ A lifetime of good can be accomplished in areas where you agree. You will find that over time, as you accomplish positive goals that you agree on, you will find more and more areas where there is agreement and genuine mutual cooperation. It is often easier to find agreement in "what" than in "how." We may agree that what we want is healthy and happy children, but disagree in how this can happen. Find areas where you do agree.
~ Even a group of very diverse people can find commonality and work on common goals, with effort, patience, and the right skills. Develop relationships. Listen more than you speak. Look for areas of agreement. Support and reinforce positive movement and achievement, even it isn't exactly what you are impassioned about.
~ Leave egos at the door.
~ Try to understand your own worries, fears, assets, motivations, and strengths first, and the worries, fears, assets, motivations, and strengths of everyone else in the coalition and those who may be affected by the coalition or whose interests may be aroused by your work together. Never assume that you completely understand yourself, and absolutely never assume that you completely understand anyone else. Be open and slow to judge people. (Discern behavior.) Most of us have common and basic fears, insecurities, concerns, needs, and desires. What is different is how we respond and search for solutions. Build on the commonalities, acknowledge, and in most cases, appreciate the differences.
~ Understand that you may not know everything about the issue. Even when your perspective is absolutely correct, not listening to......really listening to, other perspectives, is almost always a mistake. Listen more than you talk.
~ Develop relationships with other members of the collaboration.
~ Set goals and move forward.

Who To Include

Who to include depends upon the purpose and scope of the collaboration.
~ Some collaborations need to have almost unlimited membership. Some others need to be extremely restricted.
~ It is often useful to be more inclusive than exclusive. Sometimes it is possible to mix both inclusive and exclusive collaborations by the use of a general committee or council and adhoc or subcommittees.
~ Restriction can be based on purpose, relationships, geographic, or legal restrictions such as confidentiality.
~ Early on in the process, it can be helpful to avoid inviting individuals who may be particularly disruptive, unless there is an especially skillful facilitator.
~ Later on in the process, after the collaboration has been established, the same person who was considered disruptive, may be able to provide a valuable different perspective on the issue and actually help to strengthen the collaboration.
~ Be careful when you specifically do not invite someone or group because of concerns that they may be too disruptive or present an opposing point of view. This can cause problems than could unravel the process. Be prepared for them to show up on their own or request to be invited. Unless you have a good reason for them to not attend, it is sometimes easier to allow them to attend, and help your facilitator/manager prepare for any possible disruption. Opposing points of view can create energy which can be productively harnessed. Sometimes a few (though not overwhelming) "nay sayers" can actually help the group to focus. Critical Thinkers can add significantly to the process. ("Nay sayers" can also alert you to challenges which may be unknown to you and are "under the radar." If handled correctly, they sometimes can become an asset, and eventually even an ally.)
~ There needs to be a place in the process for all stake holders. It is not necessary to include all stake holders in the collaboration. It is necessary to identify and engage all stake holders if you want genuine lasting success, unless there are legal or safety issues. When there are legal or safety issues, always speak with an attorney and/or law enforcement. (When identifying stake holders, it may be useful to use a search technique such as the one outlined in Open Agenda Conferences.)
"Real listening shows respect. It creates trust. As we listen, we not only gain understanding; we also create the environment to be understood. And when both people understand both perspectives, instead of being on opposite sides of the table looking across at each other, we find ourselves on the same side looking at solutions together." Stephen R. Covey
~ When developing a collaboration, two or three people with a Passion for the Purpose (interest, subject, idea, or cause), should sit down and brainstorm about all the people or organizations that may also have the same interest. Arrange for a place, date, and time, and send letters of invitation. Follow-up with a personal visit or phone call. Over time, when the collaboration allows, invite additional people. Encourage more people with energy and passion to join the collaboration as the group becomes more stable with direction and purpose.
In the case of the Madison County Community Council we started with Agencies, Organizations, Schools (including a local college), Churches (Faith Groups), and Law Enforcement, with a common interest in children's issues. Over time, specific subcommittees were developed. One of these committees has a closed membership because of confidentiality. Other committees are more open, including anyone who wants to help. Over the years the Community Council has grown to over 70 members (which is quite large for a small community), including youth. Our purpose now encompasses both youth and families, and many general community concerns.
~ Typical organizations that may be included as a part of a community collaboration would include: Business Community, Schools and Universities, Health Care (both Mental and Physical), Non Profit Organizations, Elected Officials, Media, Law Enforcement, Corrections, Faith Based Organizations, Cultural and Ethnic Groups, Parents, Youth, Court System, Youth Services, Government Agencies, Early Learning, Military, Parent/Teacher Organizations, Employment Organizations and Agencies, Intergenerational Participation, et. Etc.

What does Collaboration look like?

The purpose of collaboration is to: Increase Capacity, communication and efficiency while improving outcomes.

Collaboration can be found almost anywhere. Some of the roots of collaboration are found in natural social skills developed by children through play. When these lessons are learned in childhood, we learn that together, we can accomplish more than we can usually accomplish alone.

Collaboration can be found in: teams, councils, boards, neighborhoods, committees, families, marriages, churches, governments, et. etc.

Real collaboration is more often voluntary, based upon one or more common goals, values, needs, ideals, vision, or interests. It is two or more people, organizations, or groups, working on a common goal or towards a common purpose. Collaboration can grow out of passion, anger, energy, frustration, fear, or love. Sometimes collaboration includes people who may view the world from very opposing points of view, and yet have come together for a greater good.
Collaboration is the sharing of Vision, Mission, Power, Resources, and Goals.

One size does not fit all.

Collaboration comes in many shapes, sizes, and of varying duration. It may not make sense to develop a broad in-depth collaboration when a short term coordinated effort is all that is needed. For example, a coordinated partnership may be the most effective and practical way for two or more organizations to come together for a joint project or grant. In this scenario, each organization may have clear responsibility for specific aspects of a project, without joint management of the whole project.

Collaboration often develops in stages which may include.
1. Competition Competition channeled and in the right situation can help groups or individuals to stretch themselves and excel. For example, competition is important in many sport and free market situations; however, in order to achieve true success, there must be a balance between competition and cooperation and at times even collaboration.
2. Networking/Communication As information begins to be shared and communication increases, it benefits everyone. There may be more of an interest in gaining information than sharing information at this stage. Trust will develop as more information and resources are shared for the benefit of all.
3. Cooperation/Coordination Information sharing becomes more formalized with structure and agreements; though, individual interests are maintained. More resources are shared and duplication is limited.Coordination: Formalized sharing of resources, information, and some common goals.
4. Coordination/Partnership Resources are brought together to create, discover, or access, new resources. The management of resources is shared to a greater extent, becoming more mutually beneficial, increasing resource capacity for everyone. This is a more formal and structured relationship with signed agreements. In many good partnerships a partner is as concerned about the other partner's success as their own.
5. Coalition Leadership and decision making is shared by all through a direct democratic or an indirect representative process. Decision making is formalized and clear, as is communication. More resources are developed, created, and discovered for the benefit of everyone in the coalition.
6. Collaboration A written vision and mission are shared by everyone within the collaboration. Programs, information, resources, and projects are interdependent. Communication is very clear and open, trust and relationships are strong. Members have a strong sense of accomplishment, belonging, purpose, and responsibility. Goals are clearly defined and often met. Shared, developed, and discovered, resources, are significantly amplified through the collaborative process. Resources are shared within the collaboration and often outside the collaboration, reaching for greater collaboration and capacity.
Collaboration: Shared vision, mission, power, resources, and goals.
"People live in communities. But the real importance of "living in community" is that people – and groups of people – develop the ways and means to care for each other, to nurture the talents and leadership that enhance the quality of community life, and to tackle the problems that threaten the community and the opportunities which can help it.
When people do these things, communities become healthy; when they do not, communities deteriorate. Communities that have the ways and means to undertake challenges demonstrate “capacity”.
Without capacity, communities are merely collections of individuals acting without concern for the common good; they are without the necessary ingredients required to develop a healthier community. Communities without capacity really are not communities in any meaningful sense, but have given way to negative conditions like apathy, poverty or ineptitude."Measuring Community Capacity Building (Aspen Institute, 1996)