ENGAGING CITIZENS 40 YEARS AGO

ENGAGING CITIZENS 40 YEARS AGO

“Town Meetings in ’76 are where I learned program organization skills and the power of group participation. The explosion of spirit always happened when the new song was sung and the new story of the community-past, present and future-was read.” – OliveAnn Slotta

town-meetingsIn 1976, the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) launched a Bicentennial Commission approved initiative to convene Town Meetings in 5,000 counties across the US, creating one of the most comprehensive data sets of community challenges, aspirations, and proposals. Many of those original documents are in ICA’s extensive archives.

This past year our Archive Team with Dominican University Library Science graduate students explored the community challenges and project proposals that were developed in nine states as a result of ICA Town Meetings. I first found the results surprising but then remembered that this was the post-Watergate Presidential Election Year. What I find disturbing is how relevant these findings are for today’s politics and Presidential Election Year.

Finding #1 from Town Meetings during America’s Bicentennial was the gap between government and citizens fostered by poor communication between citizens & government.

Finding #2 from 40 years ago was the lack of citizen and community involvement and the extensiveness of public apathy.

Finding #3 was no appreciation for diversity amidst racism.

Finding #4 was the challenge of planning for long-term development when confronted with few public services, aging infrastructure, loss of resources, and not enough jobs.

OliveAnn Slotta worked on Town Meetings from ICA offices in Cincinnati and Cleveland. As she reflects above, the experience of engaging citizens to identify challenges that their communities face and to build consensus on action for solutions can be powerful. It is also essential to the spirit of our democracy if we are to trust government to represent its citizens.

OliveAnn now lives in Denver and teaches at Metro State University. With her husband Jim and other ICA colleagues, she is working to Accelerate Climate Action there.

“Now in Denver, it feels like deja vu. We are eliciting agency resource support, and telling the story of possibility that happens when local people join together to share visions and plan, to anyone who will listen,” reflects OliveAnn. “The major difference this time is that we are working with an experienced team of ICA and ToP facilitators, and Climate Action is an urgent message that everyone recognizes. We are expecting 50 representative participants on October 22nd at the Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods [CHUN] Community Hall. No red, white and blue balloons this time—but maybe some green and blue ones.”

Yet this urgent message of Climate Action is missing from our current political discourse. Climate Change is not a Chinese hoax. It is a Chinese calamity when air pollution is killing about 4,400 people in China every single day.

childrens-trustCurrently, a landmark US constitutional climate change lawsuit is pending a ruling thanks to twenty-one youth from across the United States, age 8 to 19, and Our Children’s Trust who filed a landmark constitutional climate change lawsuit in 2015 against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. Check out their website and sign the petition in their support.

Perhaps, it’s time to be even more direct and personal by starting to sue climate-denier elected politicians for “political malpractice.”

bob-sandra-rafos

Bob & Sandra Rafos

At ICA’s Board meeting on September 18th, Bob Rafos (who will be terming out as a director at the end of this year) was asked to offer the Closing Reflection: “We are facing the greatest threat of our time: Climate Change. This is our one mission. Our role now is as it was before:

  • Be a source of awakenment.
  • Sound the call to commitment; and
  • Demonstrate what is possible.

Using ICA’s GreenRise building as a symbol of service and sustainability, we must outreach to others working on climate action.”

That’s what we must do at ICA to fulfill our mission to “build a just and equitable society in harmony with Planet Earth.” That’s what we all must do to engage as US citizens.

Climate Action cannot wait for the 2020 Elections.

FAILING THE POPE FRANCIS TEST

FAILING THE POPE FRANCIS TEST

I, the LORD, have called you for justice, I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you as a covenant for the people — ISAIAH 42:6

The first reading from Mass on Sunday January 10th at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Phoenix certainly was relevant to numerous politicians. I was there because I was attending the 25th Anniversary Gathering for the Technology of Participation (ToP)® which draws upon decades of worldwide community development experience of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). It was good to meet in person with ToP Network leaders, trainers and facilitators.

A workshop I co-facilitated on using ToP as a tool for climate change action sparked interest for on-going dialogue. A small group discussion on faith-based outreach shared the interesting use of ToP methods with the Muslim Reform Movement. The ToP Champion Award to the Maricopa Public Health Department demonstrated how the process can enhance government’s ability to serve their constituents.

Enabling government to be a covenant for people was certainly an aspiration for Dr. King. I again joined 100 parishioners of our church Old St. Pat’s to attend this year’s Faith in Action Assembly on January 18th for Martin Luther King Day.CRS Jan 2016 Over 1,500 people from Community Renewal Society’s congregations and neighborhood organizations filled First Baptist Congregational Church on Chicago’s near west side.

To address Chicago’s new refrain of “16 Shots & a Cover-Up” from an African-American teenager being killed by a white police officer, an effort has been launched to create the Chicago FAIR COPS (Freedom through Accountability, Investigation and Reform for Community Oversight of Policing Services) Ordinance, which would create an Office of Police Auditor in Chicago. The Assembly won commitments that morning from 19 city and state elected officials to improve police accountability, enact fair tax reform, and increase job opportunities for people with criminal records.

Rev. Eddie Knox, Jr., the pastor of Pullman Presbyterian Church and Board President of Community Renewal Society stressed:

“When black and brown people are constantly at risk from police violence, when our communities are destroyed by economic injustice, we must stand up and demand commitment to real action now!”

For those politicians who did not attend, we prayed: “May God transform your heart and bend your mind toward justice.”

Such prayers were certainly needed at the January 21st hearing of the Chicago Plan Commission. A proposed amendment was submitted by Montrose Clarendon Partners, LLC for land purchased from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in order to demolish the vacant Cuneo Hospital Cueno Hospitaland construct two new high-rises of luxury apartments; one with 381 units and a second with 250 units. Total number of affordable units to be provided on site? Only 20.

Yet, the City of Chicago has approved a $15.9 million TIF subsidy for these luxury apartments. The developer has only promised to contribute $4.6 million to help renovate the Clarendon Park Community Center across the street and $5.7 million to Chicago’s Low-Income Housing Trust Fund but not to be spent in Uptown.

That’s a major net profit for the developer since the project is being rushed for final approval before more stringent affordable housing requirements become effective later this year. According to my calculations, the new Affordable Ordinance would require this project to provide 158 affordable units on site (25%). Even if they were allowed to buy their way out of affordable units on site and given credit for the park donation, I calculate that the developer would need to contribute an additional $6.9 million to the Low-Income Trust Fund.JDL

ICA’s Program Director, Seva Gandhi, testified and asked that the project be put on hold until there is actual community representation at the table, the proper studies take place, and funds are allocated to increase broader community engagement for this particular planning process.

“This proposed Montrose-Clarendon development will overshadow a wonderful park, will create a greater divide between the have and have-nots in Uptown, and is not responsive to the need Uptown currently has… for affordable housing that is already not being met, and will continue to be exacerbated if it is ignored and development without understanding the needs of the community it serves continues this way.”

Seva had also attended the last community meeting and noted: “as a community engagement specialist and facilitator I can say those meetings only took into account the voices of individuals who have one particular vision for Uptown; each meeting was met with more community members opposing the project than wanting it; however it was those who were in favor of the project that had a vote…. The process gave power to block club leaders and experts who, despite having been carefully selected to represent diverse interests, were not accessible or accountable to the community members they were supposed to represent. ICA, a large community stakeholder in Uptown for over 40 years, did not have a vote in the community zoning and development group that approved this proposal.”

In Paragraph 93 of his ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’, Pope FRANCIS reminds us:

“The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property.”

He goes on to quote Saint John Paul II: “there is always a social mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose that God gave them…. it is not in accord with God’s plan that this gift be used in such a way that its benefits favour only a few.”

Luxury apartments in Chicago’s most racially and economically diverse community is a legacy that the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart should not accept as meeting the aspirations of Pope Francis and Saint John Paul II.

ADVANCING HUMAN DEVELOPMENT WORLDWIDE

As CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA)-USA, I am one of 25 statutory ICA members authorized to vote in the icai-logoGeneral Assembly of ICA International. As a membership organization, ICA-I represents a global community of individuals and organizations, supporting participatory and sustainable global human development.

This past week I had the professional privilege of participating in my first international “Adobe Connect” conference, offered twice to address the diversity of time zones. It was also a personal pleasure to join colleagues across the globe who are dedicated to a decentralized “peer to peer” approach, with regional perspectives, as the most effective way for national ICAs to support one another

Directors of the ICA International board shared their proposed Strategic Directions for 2015-16:

Board of Directors and Global Leadership Team 2015 BACK [L o R]:  Martin Gilbraith, ICA UK, President Yawo Gator Adufu,ICA Togo  Vice-President (West & Central Africa) Svitlana Salamatova, ICA Ukraine, Vice-President (Europe & MENA) Charles Luoga, ICA Tanzania, Vice-President (East & Southern Africa) FRONT [L o R]: Staci Kentish, ICA Canada, Secretary  Lisseth Lorenzo, ICA Guatemala, Vice-President (Americas) Shizuyo Sato, ICA Japan, Vice-President (Asia Pacific) Seva Gandhi, ICA USA, Treasurer

Board of Directors and Global Leadership Team 2015
BACK [L o R]:
Martin Gilbraith, ICA UK, President
Yawo Gator Adufu,ICA Togo Vice-President (West & Central Africa)
Svitlana Salamatova, ICA Ukraine, Vice-President (Europe & MENA)
Charles Luoga, ICA Tanzania, Vice-President (East & Southern Africa)
FRONT [L o R]:
Staci Kentish, ICA Canada, Secretary
Lisseth Lorenzo, ICA Guatemala, Vice-President (Americas)
Shizuyo Sato, ICA Japan, Vice-President (Asia Pacific)
Seva Gandhi, ICA USA, Treasurer

1. Fostering Global Connections & Collaboration to Support ICAs to Thrive

• Support Peer-to-Peer Collaboration & Capacity Building
• Facilitate Inclusive Global Communications
• Gather, Synthesize & Share Info/Data of Value to our Membership
• Develop & Strengthen Global Partnerships

2. Boosting ICAI Resilience and Safeguarding the Integrity of our Global Community

• Strengthen Organizational Resilience & Sustainability
• Safeguard the Integrity of the Global Membership

3. Recognizing & Leveraging ICA Wisdom & Nurturing New Leadership

• Recognize & Appreciate Contributions/ Achievements
• Strengthen and Share our Collective Wisdom & Approaches
• Share & Nurture Global Leadership within the Membership

As in any association, members discussed how these directions are critical to addressing obstacles such as: Generational Transition Requiring Systematic Transfer of Wisdom & Values; Financial Imperatives Distracting from Mission & Values; and Unsustainable Business Models Resulting in Vulnerability. Of course, adding “Local & Global Threats Requiring Constant Course Correction” poses further challenges.

ICA-I Global MapThe experience from Canada, Chile, Guatemala, India, Japan, China, Taiwan, Togo, Ukraine to UK is a rich one empowering, through methods and values, an authentic and sustainable transformation of individuals, communities and organizations. I look forward to learning more about their initiatives.

A new ICA-I website was previewed for a launch later this year to share these lessons. Seva Ghandi, ICA-USA’s Program Director, serves as Treasurer of ICA-I’s board and participated in shaping the new strategic directions at the ICA-I’s May board meeting in Tanzania. She notes: ICA-I website logo

“The new ICA International website will allow for increased communication among members, serve as a website for ICA’s without their own sites, feature a blogging component, and encourage resource sharing among ICA member organizations. The website was created after many months of meetings with ICA’s around the globe communicating and understanding what functionality members would like on the new site.”

The major decision waiting for the votes to be tallied by the end of this month is where the Global Conference, held every four years, will be held in 2016. The proposal waiting for approval is to co-sponsor it with the Initiatives of Change, a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behavior, starting with their own. The potential is to share and learn from each other’s decades of work in human development and to explore and (potentially) mutually enrich each other’s methodologies and approaches.

ICA-USA’s interest is to create connections and opportunities for partnership and collaboration for future action on Climate Change between ICA and IofC at both the global and local levels. There is also an opportunity at next year’s Global Conference to plan the 40th Anniversary of the “Band of 24” when ICA’s Human Development Projects were underway by 1977 in each of the 24 global time zones.

The Power of Image Shift is an advanced course of ICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP)® facilitation methodology to thoroughly understand the complexity and depth required in transformational change and the need to rethink and adjust to current realities. An appropriate segue to this week’s lyrics for the U2Cando playlist:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Imagine
by John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band

FACILITATING FOR ENGAGEMENT

FACILITATING FOR ENGAGEMENT

So my Objective for this week’s blog is to share with you how facilitation training can enhance your efforts whatever they may be.

Ted in 1985My Reflective observation from this week’s re-immersion into facilitation methods is that refresher courses are good even if you wait 30 years to take them. Yes, that’s my blurry photo from getting “ICA facilitated” in 1985 in my early CANDO days.

My Interpretive analysis is that engagement of communities is key for the cultural paradigm shift required to address climate change. And now the Pope has basically proclaimed: “Lord knows we need to do that asap.”

My Decisional advice is to start your facilitation “non-fossil fuel” engines. Find a certified facilitator and start the conversations, build the consensus, and plan your actions.

I spent two days this week with Dennis Jennings and Judy Weddle, Certified ToP Facilitators [CTF], and twelve trainees from around the country in learning ToP Facilitation Methods. ToP LogoICA’s Technology of Participation (ToP)® facilitation methodology harnesses the energy and wisdom of a group to build consensus and create and implement strategic plans. ToP participatory processes draw upon decades of ICA’s worldwide community development experience.

In this starter course [next to be offered in Chicago at ICA-USA on September 15–16 and November 10-11], three proven ways to activate group participation are covered:

Focused Conversation to provide meaningful dialogue while broadening a group’s perspective and allowing the entire group to participate.
Consensus Workshop to generate creativity in a short amount of time and build practical team consensus.
Action Planning to clarify directions, align resources, and designate responsibilities.

But my week of facilitation was not yet over because the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) collaborated the next night with the Chicago Chapter of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) IAF Chgo Logoto address the focus question: “What are effective and innovative ways by which the Chicago city government could expand civic engagement in order to improve the quality of city services and programs?”

Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel has designated his Second Term Transition Team to take a fresh look at how City Hall consults residents in developing and implementing policy by examining, among other things:

• The process of regularly consulting communities on developing and implementing new policy proposals and initiatives.
• The process for receiving input from residents on City services and policies.
• Improving the process of regular communication with residents about City services and initiatives.

Facilitated by Jim Troxel, ICA-USA’s Vice-Chair, attendees used the “dot method” to pick six ideas from the group’s brainstorming to launch with mock public service announcements. My suggestion made the proposed list: “One Chicago; One Conversation” to be held monthly at each public library. We’ll see if the Mayor likes it.

So now I’m faced with the challenge that the Coyote only faced once when he finally caught the Roadrunner and held up the sign: “Now what do I do?” I’ll keep you posted.

This week’s U2Cando lyrics were conducted by Dennis Jennings in a sing-along to the tune of Home on the Range:

Oh! Give me a way
To have dialogue all day,
For we need a good way to reflect,
To start with the real,
Then move on to the feel,
And find meaning before we direct.
O-R-I-D is the way,
Objective data gives our senses their say,
Reflection opens the heart,
Interpretation then starts,
And decisions will follow – OK!

The Dialogue Song