This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Using Systems Thinking to Explore Amplifying the Voices of Community Members

As was said in the last post, we are coming back to the Bridging Module 1 and Module 2  Amplify the Voices of Community Members map. If this is the first time one has landed on this specific map then the most noticeable features are likely to be that the primary title of the map is, ‘Modules 1 to 2 Bridge’, implying that there are both a Module 1 and Module 2 somewhere and this map somehow connects or bridges them. The map also has a preponderance of yellow-orangish colored circles, of two different shades, that the legend in the bottom left corner shows are Organizations and Organization Resources.

Not initially obvious but revealed in the narrative section is the Designing Public Participation Processes element of the map. This element was the focus of a deeper, more focused expedition that left the Collective Impact maps and dug into specific conceptual territory through a four post series.

The Design Public Participation element is only one type among many in the Amplify the Voices of Community Members map and not one of the most prevalent types, which are organizations and initiatives undertaken by those organizations. Not surprising, if one considers that making transformative change in a community of people is going to take other people. A closer examination of the elements in the Amplify the Voices of Community Members map will reveal that different organizations are working at different levels and in different sectors towards general common purposes.

A deeper exploration into Collective Impact though is going to consist of not only the people making up the organizations and initiatives but also the histories, realities, movements, ideas, reports and studies defining those efforts, both directly and indirectly.

As of the day of the start of this post, the third post of the larger Collective Impact series received a comment from Ryan.

Ryan said...
Organizing information like this into a network map is great, but it can also be intimidating. We've found it best to use a separate presentation for the main linear threads through the network. When there's always a choice about where you could go next it's easy to get lost. A simple prev/next approach is much easier to follow.

Thanks for putting this project together! I'm excited to see how it evolves.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 7:31:00 PM PDT

Ryan, it can quickly be discovered is from Kumu, the main tool of exploration for this effort, and nearly as quickly can be deduced as being Ryan Mohr, Cofounder and lead developer of Kumu / Surfer / Father of three(ish) / Lover of simplicity and things that seem irrational / Forever curious. So, going beyond the name dropping, he is somebody who’s insight is going to be taken seriously. He is undoubtedly correct, a great deal of information placed on a relational map can be intimidating or at least discouraging, as can blog posts overly packed with information, which was recognized in the post in question. Logically, it would make sense to use the main linear threads in creating a presentation and getting lost is all too easy when presented with too many choices.

Except this isn't a presentation, it is an exploration, moreover, it is an experiment in exploration. A presentation is more like a guided tour with predetermined stops. Except for the rough map set by the Living Cities course, the journey so far has not been predetermined. There wasn't a previous notion as to creating the Systemic Design of Public Participation series and even less with the latest two maps under Collective Impact related Kumu Relational Maps.

The Design Public Participation element was purposely added to the Bridge map even though it was not part of the inventory of the associated, centrally placed Amplifying the Voices of Community Members in Collective Impact blog post. It is fair to question whether insights revealed through the maps would have been as apparent through the narrative of the associated article.

Five of the elements making up the Bridge map are taken from module or week 1 of the original course, seven are taken from the primary map for week 2 and a couple are pulled from the upcoming week 5. These are included, in different combinations, with the twenty-one elements tagged 'bridge'. How they are all combined and situated on the map is also different from their original settings.

Attempting to combine the Module 1, Module 2 and Bridge maps together, in any single configuration would have made the resulting map all too intimidating and more importantly would not have had as coherent and cohesive a relationship between elements making up that portion of the system.

Ryan’s insights are still no less relevant. The Kumu maps cannot stand all that well on their own. The blog posts are necessary as a guide through the conceptual forest which the maps reflect. The blog posts are at least not as useful as when combined with the relational maps. It is an ongoing matter of how to balance more immediate insights through relational networking with deeper understanding attained through close study while leaving open avenues for future exploration. The desire is to move from incoherent complexity to a more coherent complexity on to creative complexity. It may take multiple expeditions before self-contained guided tours start to be developed. Currently, things are more like a concept safari. There is now a navigation element to assist in moving around in this evolving Kumu project, hopefully making things a little easier.

This exploration is being conducted, in large measure, using lessons learned through Systems Thinking Certification, especially in exploring the relationship of elements within the system to each other. Placing a good number of elements on the map does make it somewhat daunting to the uninitiated. However, it also makes it easier to perceive possible relationships beyond immediate connections or to raise questions about them. We are not good at seeing the causal relationships or influences between events or elements separated by time or space beyond immediate or exceedingly close connections. We are also not that good at seeing how multiple streams of influence or combined causality result in different emergent systems. Just as with seemingly disparate systems such as carburetor, pistons, transmission, steering, etc., making up the larger system of a car or parts of a watch that would make little sense if left scattered on the ground without prior knowledge that allows us to envision it all together.

Under the Module 1 map, the presence of three versions of a community engagement continuum of goals was more apparent on the map than it may have been in writing, raising the question what was the difference? The map also allowed additional concepts to be attached developing them more fully.

Later, when creating the Design of a Public Participation system map, a thread could be drawn from the Module 1 map. Included in the IAP2 and Tamarack versions and not explicit in Living Cities is the concept of the Promise to the Community. While this doesn't mean that Living Cities is not recognizing the importance of this, it can be seen as an important connection. There is a meaningful difference then between having arrived at the current map having taken the public participation design journey and not taking it. It will also influence further explorations.

The use of Kumu mapping is an endeavor to take elements of the Living Cities course and correspond them with the deepest levels of the systems thinking iceberg model, and in the future develop the most effective interventions of Donella Meadows' Leverage Points. This has been asserted in different series involving different approaches to using systems thinking, in Systems Thinking as Infrastructure for Collective Impact and Community Engagement, as part of this series, and in A Map for a Pathway to New Community Paradigms, as part of the Direct Democracy and Systems Thinking series. Working in accordance with the systems thinking iceberg model, we are not only speaking of combining different systems or methodologies but more importantly in terms of combining different mindsets.

Module 1 raised a question, Module 2 provided an answer to the 'what' aspect to that question and the Bridge map began answering more of the 'who' and ‘how’. There are a number of potential pathways open in expanding upon those answers including, “What is Asset Based Community Development” or looking at the Harwood Institute again. There is also the potential of connecting elements within the Bridge map, such as “Rethink Who You Call an Expert” with past NCP blog posts such as, “Looking for Non-Experts to Create New Community Innovations then Make sure They are Disruptive”. These will have to wait though while we move on to Module 3 for a topic particularly relevant to systems thinking - feedback loops.

Past Posts