Author Archives: dougknight

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Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections (Intelligence Community Assessment) 01.06.17

Read for yourself… this is what our intelligence community has determined in the alleged Russian activities (and intentions) regarding the 2016 US Election.

Scope
This report includes an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies.
It covers the motivation and scope of Moscow’s intentions regarding US elections and Moscow’s use of cyber tools and media campaigns to influence US public opinion. The assessment focuses on activities aimed at the 2016 US presidential election and draws on our understanding of previous Russian influence operations.
When we use the term “we” it refers to an assessment by all three agencies.
This report is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment. This document’s conclusions are identical to the highly classified assessment, but this document does not include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence on key elements of the influence campaign.

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Democracy at its Most Complacent

voting_booth_line

Hurry Up and Wait. ‘Merica.

Man… we are lame.

Official numbers aren’t officially tallied quite yet, but estimates put our Voter Turnout for 2016 somewhere in the neighborhood of 56%.

Fifty. Six. Percent.

If you took at your cues from social media, you would swear that 100% of eligible voters turned out (plus some dead guys voting, of course) and each and every one of us is a political pundit who has the “true” pulse of the nation. Polls, op-ed’s, TV segments with 19 talking heads cramped onto a studio set table – we feel like a society filled with civic-minded politicos that are plugged in to the issues facing our republic.

Then… a super gaggle (political term) of us sit home on Election Day.

You know, for the World’s Greatest Democracy, we are sure pretty crappy at getting out and performing the glorious action of a free and democratic selected leadership.  What’s the deal?

So, why? Why is this such a slog to get us all to get out and vote?

Well some of it is apathy, disinterest and cynicism.  There will always be a percentage of the population that flat out won’t be too thrilled about the election. It’s like that guy in your group when you pick a place to go eat and he mutters, “Sure.. I guess that will be okay.” And then proceeds to whine all evening about the service, the portions, the steak’s overcooked, and the crème brûlée being too runny. Jerk.

But the rest of us… what’s the problem? I have a couple of factors that just can’t be overlooked as to why our democracy is just a tad light on the whole democratically elected thang.

  1. Tuesday Sucks.  What in the name of churned butter are we still doing with elections taking place on the first Tuesday of November? Why Tuesday? One dumb law. From 1845.  Yep. That’s right. Our “Most Powerful Democracy in the World” status hinges on a stupid law that was done PRE Civil War.  See, when folks were thinking about voting, they allowed for travel (to and fro) and since one couldn’t travel on the Sabbath (you know, because of God and the New England Patriots kicking off at 1pm EST)… Tuesday was picked. The End.  Talk about an anti-climatic explanation for our institution of representative democracy in action…. the consideration of “Trigger the Horse” and how it would be wicked long to get to the county courthouse from “East Lostinthewoods.”  C’mon  people! We’re better than that?! Let’s undo this dopey reason, and give ourselves a proper Election Day: make it a national holiday! Have the election on Saturday! Any of these options beats this Tuesday thing!  Tied to this is….
  2. Everyboday’s Workin’ For The Weekend.  Thank you, Loverboy.  You know what the #1 reason for not voting is? “Too busy/Couldn’t Get Off Time At Work” The irony. One of the most consistent political talking points and issue in just about every election is “jobs” and “job creation” and yet a job is the top reason so many of us missed voting! By creating a day where everyone would be free to make it to the polls unencumbered by a J-O-B would spike the turnout massively (see point #1).
  3. Can I Get A Lift?  Polls are set up in a whole lot of venues. Schools, libraries, churches, and community centers make up  a good percentage of the polling stations, but still there’s the “how do I get there?” question the always looms. Let’s face it. If you have a couple of cars and a good job, you probably never considered this an issue. But if you are without wheels, getting to certain places is a logistic nightmare.  Municipalities can make the process more convenient by offering free bus rides. Setting up special “Poll Shuttles” or getting creative with transportation businesses and services to make getting to the polls safe and easy. Think it’s too much to budget for such things? ….what, you mean we can offer to make our DEMOCRACY more inclusive?! There’s no better use of taxpayers’ dollars than to help – oh, I don’t know – TAXPAYERS get out and vote!
  4. WWW.THISSHOULDBEDONEONLINE.COM.  Seriously, it’s 2016. We have FitBits, Netflix, and Drones. You can get meals delivered to your door weekly, do all your banking from your laptop, and even spend an entire day getting lost in the rabbit hole that is Reddit.. but we can’t yet vote online? Seems to me building a secure site and system wouldn’t have any more security concerns than our banks, credit cards, or my membership to “Pocket Square On Demand” (don’t judge, I love me a fresh pocket square in my jacket.)
  5. Media Madness.  Seems like every four years, the same ol’ media angles are processed through our TVs and into our brains. There’s the “let stand outside and show you the MASSIVE line that isn’t moving too much” live shot; of course, there is also the “I’m inside the polling site but I can’t talk to anyone because they are too busy handling this here big line” sh0t; next up, we have the “gaggle of voter officials huddling around the broken poll machine” angle…. and so on and so one. What do all these “storylines” have in common? All basically say to those who are on-the-fence about voting, “Hey Mr. Not-So-Sure Voter. It’s a madhouse here at Sister Mary’s of the Poor Polling Station #3. Maybe you ought to sit this one out. It sure is nutty busy here!”  Maybe we could reduce the number of unnecessary media coverage non-stories and focus on the optimism of getting out to the polls and voting. All that talk about voter fraud, broken machines, and long lines creates even more reasons for some of us to just call off the whole “get activated” thing around election time.

voter_turnout_boothThe 2016 election was indeed one for the history books. Whether you voted for President-Elect Donald J. Trump or not, this year’s election will go down as one of the most contentious, most negative, and most unconventional in recent time.  But with all the, well, amazing headlines that could come from this bonkers election season, only one for me is going to stick and make me wonder…

With only 56% of eligible voters participating… what would have happened with the other 44% get into the arena?  If we want to demand more of our candidates, expect more from our elected officials, and hold our local, state and national governments to a higher standard of excellence.. we must all first get into the game.

Because as the man said, Just Do ItMake Your Dreams Election Participation Come True!

~DK


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An Open Letter to President-Elect Trump

Dear President-Elect Trump,

elks_us_flagHey Don (do you mind if I call you ‘Don’?).  It’s DK. I hope you and your family finally got a few seconds to absorb this contentious and grueling election cycle, take a moment, and rested a bit. Because what’s about to happen next, well that’s going to make what you just went through for 18 months a little walk in the park.

I know friends, donors, and members from the “Washington Establishment” both Rs and Ds are probably beginning to circle around you looking for jobs, appointments, cushy ambassadorships and all the like. Trust me, I lived right in the heart of Washington, DC for 15 years – I totally get it.  But I hope you don’t mind getting this here note from Yours Truly with an idea that maybe would be something to consider – if not for just helping you steer into a solid direction for your policy rollouts… but to help heal America a bit.

Okay, first thing’s first. Full disclosure: I totally didn’t vote for you.

In fact, I pretty much thought from the moment you jumped on your golden escalator that this campaign was more P.T. Barnum than U.S. Grant. I had no confidence in you, your ability to govern, your experience, your sensibilities to issues, your personal bankrupt moral compass, your xenophobia, your misogyny, your knowledge of Geo-political situations, the works.  Oh, and I think your “TV celebrity” just makes you no better than a Paris Hilton in terms of true substance (other than that, I’m sure you’re a swell guy).

But… you won. So that’s a thing.

Now you are about to take the oath and get rolling. I have a suggestion that might be something that you – and only you – can be massively qualified and positioned to take on (yes, I’m not kidding. After listing a billion thing I think you lack, I am saying you have something super rare and advantageous for this idea to work).  Wanna know what I think you should hit the ground running on immediately following your swearing in?

A War on Infrastructure.

Don, you are perfectly aligned to make a massive, country-wide “New Deal-esque” frontal assault on the crumbling infrastructure of our nation. We have talked literally for years about how our country is falling apart from the inside with very little national push from the top out to the countryside. Roads, bridges, airports, trains, the entire transportation system is due for some serious facelifts. But not just words, placating a typical talking point every political office holder promises into every microphone and rubber-chicken dinner speech. Nope, a full-on WAR on Infrastructure. Why? Well there are a number of reasons why you are best positioned for this:

  • Divided Nation, Unifying Project: Don, you know that this election was split. It may “appear” you have a mandate because the Electoral College numbers were surprisingly one-side more than most thought, in addition having the House and Senate both Republican-led is a nice thing. But HALF of the popular vote went elsewhere. In fact more people voted for Secretary Clinton than you.  Tensions are high, nerves are shot, anger is boiling over in many parts of the land. But you know what many, many Americans can get behind? Fixing that pothole.  Rebuilding that bridge that looks rusted out. An actual real-deal national tain rail system that isn’t Amtrak’s joke of a fleet. This is not only super needed.. it could be super unifying.

 

  • Get People To Work:  Tons of people who voted for you are blue collars workers having it tough over the last few years. Few years?! Hell, since President Reagan working class jobs, manufacturing jobs, builders, construction-based jobs… all have been melting away. With a massive push to infrastructure, you can rally these workers and get them back on the job. And not just direct line workers, committing to this large-push for large projects means work for work clothing, equipment (assembly & maintenance), urban planners, architects, developers, catering/food trucks, event management pros, energy workers, etc. PLUS, new infrastructure means new places to start new jobs, new businesses, and new employment opportunities.  New projects? New jobs.

 

  • Um, You’re A Builder: This is your thing, isn’t it, Don? Consider yourself the General-Contractor-in-Chief.

 

  • We Need To Unite, Literally: You know what I think might be the best part of this idea, Don? This doubling-down on infrastructure could bind us closer to one another more than anything. Look at the final Electoral College map. See those red states in the middle? Okay, now check out the coasts? All blue, right? Part of the common language that we use speaks to this split in the nation, blue and red. Many call it “flyover states” or the “liberal coasts” when talking about us. How about this: let’s connect everyone more directly by creating an actual trans-continental rail system. Let’s have people go THROUGH the flyover states and travel across the liberal coasts. If we move through and interact, we might even start seeing what is means to live in other areas of OUR country, and then begin to understand and LEARN from one another.  There was a time when traveling cross-country meant experiencing the many sights and sounds of our diverse nation. Today? It’s flight with some bad food and terrible movie. Gate to gate, no experiencing other parts of our collective culture.

 

  • Everyone Hates You: Here me out, Don. This could be a not-so-bad-thing. What I mean is that your campaign ticked off everyone. Democrats and Republicans alike were horrified, shocked, angered, confused, and every other emotion to you. You have allies and foes from both sides of the political fence. But….. BUT…. that also means you are not held to a “follow the party line” standard like many others face once they take the Oath of Office.  Political promises to leadership or party? Forget it. You can use this to your advantage by pushing both sides to invest the political and financial capital to make this happen. Put is this way: everybody needs and road and a pothole doesn’t care if you’re a Dem or a GOPer.

 

  • Your “America First” Talk Could Be Realized Without Being A Dick:  There’s a not-so-subtle dog whistle about your yapping on about “America First” that is unsettling. Xenophobia, religious intolerance, the fear of “others” makes you look weak., ignorant.  But by saying we will rebuild “America First” – you show willingness to unify and connect. Metaphor AND Reality. Boom-shaka-laka.

 

  • Let’s Make A Deal (without the stupid costumes like on theTV show): You think you can make the best deals? Cool, hire some guys to fix I-80.  Feel like you can negotiate quality contracts? Awesome, let’s connect everyone to smart rail and ties our rural/suburban/urban corridors together. Put that NYC-contractor-relations to good use.

 

  • Talk Tech, Nerd: Infrastructure work will need the necessary tech savvy people to make the system hum. We can’t have a 21st century full-transportation and run on computers from the 1980s – yet in many place, that’s the reality. Trust me, I worked on a FAA contract in the 90s about the Air Traffic Control System and so much of it (radar system, traffic control hardware/software) was ancient… ANCIENT. Like Pong-looking displays. Scary. Recruit our top tech minds to back a huge (you say “yuge” when I mean huge, don’t you Don?) implementation strategy, and voila! High speed rail, driver-less vehicles, HOV lanes, modernized airport systems… check and mate.

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So there you go, Don! There are so many things that you will have to address and tackle as our new President. You said some outlandish things, hateful speech, and honestly… some flat out un-American rhetoric.  You need something that shows off your skills, knowledge, and core work experience… infrastructure is the thing!

You’ve got a mountain of worries and concerns from a whole lot of America, Mr. President-Elect. My advice to you is to do what you say you’re the best at:  Building.

First, build America’s Infrastructure…. then start to think how you could help rebuild America’s broken soul.

I’ll let you go now. Thanks for your time, Don.

Sincerely,

~DK

PS — Just a quick logistical question: Will there be a “White House Hair Wrangler” on staff? I’ve got to think you’d need a well-trained person on staff to manage that lettuce atop your head, and someone to travel with you at all times, kind of like a body man who carries your luggage. Just wondering.


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The .gov Role: The Hub for Community Development

allabrdAhh… local government. The place where we pay taxes that we complain about the most, the place we pay our parking bills that we complain about the most… actually come to think about it, for many of us City Hall is a big “complaint box” where we all gather (if ever) and complain about stuff.

Local government is WAY more than that, of course. It is truly where public policy affects us the most. From ordinances to tax plans, budget decisions to administration priorities, local government is the place where our community establishes its foundation and framework.

But here’s the thing our local politicians are missing and it’s due to their collective “traditional way” of thinking about the role of government.  They miss the importance of being The Hub.

Um, DK… what’s “The Hub?”

Good question and thanks for asking, Mr. or Ms. Reader.  Let me introduce you to the idea of the Connection Economy and The Hub.

I believe we live in a new era for our economy where the emphasis is placed on connections. That is to say that for a community to thrive in this new economy, the importance is placed on collaboration between organizations and businesses now more than ever. Why? The internet has shortened the line. Worldwide commerce isn’t just for Import/Export companies any longer. I can order meats from Omaha, Nebraska the same as I can order meats from Osaka, Japan. Both while sitting at my laptop in Anywhere, USA. Because of this, local businesses need to not only provide great product and service.. they must also entice connection. The scale also pushes the need to work together to form a cluster of stores and businesses that can benefit from each other’s impressions (i.e. store visits) from customers and guests.

Another reason for the need to work the Connection Economy? The era of the big box store is coming to an end. Small, unique store with niche marketing is the lifeblood of so many cities in the midst of revitalization. And it makes perfect sense why. Cost and Risk. The big department stores are dying off anyway, but with this reduction, they also hedge their bets when it comes to plopping down a store anywhere. They are WAY more selective (if they are expanding at all) and usually emerging markets or communities on the rebound just aren’t good enough of a risk to take with their limited money. They would rather double down in the suburbs than risk a neighborhood they “think” might come back from the brink in a city center.  Small Mom & Pop stores, stores started by a couple of friends and a dream… this is what is moving the revitalization needle in many mid-size and small cities, and it is this kind of small business owner who has the right mix of risk and capital to buy into a small shop in an area that is not booming.. but could boom.

This is ready made for The Hub.

Governments at a local level should think of themselves like Incubators. Their role is to protect and nurture. Too often we are wrapped up in the political and not the policy when it comes to our local governments.  Like former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Tip O’Neill used to say, “All politics is local” – I tend to think what is truly should be is “All policy is local” because at the end of the day, how we execute on political stances and public policy comes down to ourselves and our local governments.

But coming back to the incubator and Hub. In the most traditional sense of government operations, decision are based often by two factors: budget and staffing.

Do we have the budget?

Do we have the staff?

Honestly, both of these presumptions speak to how I believe the role of government needs to be looked at through a new, innovative lens.

It isn’t the role of government to always take the lead in money and manpower to design or manage an innovation or to implement a public policy.  There are others ready, willing, and able to carry a good portion of the load for these.. and they will do it willingly and with passion…

I’m talking about the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofiteers are built with public policy in mind. Whether it is healthcare, environment, arts/culture, education, human development (places of worship, support services, etc.) and all things in-between, the nonprofit sector is designed with impact in mind…and people at the ready. And this is the big miss made by so many local municipalities. Local governments look at the nonprofit sector as, at best, a support service along the sidelines; and at worst, a nuisance of organizations that hurt the overall community’s outlook or financial pocketbook.   Why do I say this? What are some of the issues being talked about today?

With budget cuts happening at the local (and state) levels, governments feel like nonprofits only TAKE from the treasury of cities. Wanted money is the main reason, they see, that nonprofit talk to city council or mayors. Take. Take. Take.

Similarly, local governments feel that with the rise of so many nonprofit-owned buildings and facilities in a town, nonprofits are simply BURDENS on the local economy. “They” don’t pay taxes on property, so it lowers the amount into the treasury but “they” still are given the services of a city to their facilities (this is the always-used “if a fire breaks out at your building, we as a city are still obligated to provide assets and resources even though “you” don’t contribute to the taxes paying for them” argument).  **SPOILER ALERT: Nonprofits are job creators, pay payroll tax and inject people (and their $) into communities (including out-of-state dollars via grants and foundations that would never arrive in a community).**

It’s the perception that leads to the lack of strong usage of the sector in public policy. Too much to spent on these old positions of “charity” and “funding” and “PILOTs” (Payment in lieu of Taxes) and less on the actually work that could be done if local government and nonprofits/social enterprisers got together smartly.

This is the HUB.

2-union-stationAt a train station, there are tracks leading in all sorts of directions.  Each track is filled with trains of various sizes, shapes, amounts of cars, etc. Each train car is filled with people, things, commodities, ideas, thoughts, feelings, the works.  How does all of this work? The train station. The HUB that moves the trains, the people, the tracks, the maintenance, the announcements….. the HUB is what makes it all happen. Now ask yourself,

“How are the trains running in your town?”

Nonprofit organization compete over the same grant money from that ONE BIG DONOR, every corner of the city has a neighborhood group tackling homelessness in their own way, crime is discussed in a town hall in City Section 1 while a lack of educational opportunities lead to crime realities in City Section 2. Silos develop. Funding, marketing support, advocacy are all dispersed, and then diluted due to its disconnection to one another.  Businesses, large and small, are asked to support worthy causes; but seem to feel like the impact isn’t being made enough or fast enough to show movement.  Everyone is asked to do more with less. Turnover occurs. Bureaucracy bogs down innovation. Stagnation leads to less and less “new blood” coursing through business and nonprofit veins. Apathy and, worse off, neutrality, sets in. And our communities just hobble along, hoping for change “next budget cycle” or “when the economy picks up.”

Local government can drastically assist in all of this simply by redefining its role. Be that HUB. Be the part of the equation that is the unified entity seeing how this all shapes the community. Here’s a basic example of The HUB in practice and see where your community follows this path, and where it fall off the mark:

During the “State of the City” Address, Mayor Smith announces her goal to reduce homelessness in City X by 10% over the course of this next year. “We cannot, and will not, allow our fellow citizens to not have a safe place to live and a place to begin to reshape their path to success in their lives,” she states as the applause reaches a fever pitch.

Immediately following the address, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff briefs the Deputy Mayor on Community Impact (the nonprofit liaison to the nonprofit community) on the charge and sets a series of update check in points over the course of the calendar year (tabbing this along with major community events and showcase events happening in the city, including its signature event that raises funds for the city’s General Fund).

city_hall_boardroomDeputy Mayor, along with the Marketing Director and Community Outreach Manager research in the city’s database of nonprofit organizations, and cross references the “homeless” action-ing nonprofits in the City and sends a group invite to City Hall to meet in one of its Conference Room – a War Room on the Initiative to Tackle Homelessness.

Members of the nonprofit community – all with specific missions on fighting and reducing homelessness – attend these coordinating meetings, suggest other group who need to be in on this action (example, the mentoring program at the local high school that is addressing homeless youth and how to work with them in their education and life skill training) and set waterfalls (deadline markers to show progress, update city council and administration).

Grants are researched and EACH AND EVERY ONE is sent out with a full-throated endorsement/support letter from the Mayor encouraging fiscal support of this multi-organizational, multi-level strategy to reduce homelessness by 10% in this year.  Media is made aware of this initiative and periodic visits to tv stations always includes members of the administration AND a member of the nonprofit “citizen staffing” team. Social media is coordinated to make large impress effect, corporate sponsorships and other fiscal support is “trafficked” by the citizen staffing team to best (strategically) deploy assets into the participating organizations for maximum impact, and coming with strong support from the city’s political leaders.  Events to co-branded and shared. Volunteer groups are called and unified for support. Etc. Etc. Etc.

See what’s happening? Nonprofits are doing their mission work, businesses are impacting with support to make them proud and “feel” their contribution grow, local government is there to shepherd, defend, support, endorse, and watch the big picture… and most importantly, impact is seen, felt, and succeeding at a higher level.

Is it this easy? Of course not. But again… what is? (and more to the point, is the alternative of “everyone for themselves” working any better?)

This is a case of wanting political leadership to recognize an adage that is said here at Connect The Dots Movement which is:  “Innovation Begins By Kicking The Ass of Intimidation.”  It will take political leaders to see the value in opening their doors of City Hall and little bit wider, viewing their staff as being not just those who roam the halls with city ID badges, but also includes strong nonprofit organization who are in the business of GOING OUT OF BUSINESS TO TACKLE THEIR MISSION’S CAUSE (ask a person who runs a homeless shelter: wouldn’t it be nice to have NO ONE need a bed for the night in your town?).

It take leadership. Real, true leadership to bring together sectors of the city – crossing political, socioeconomic, influencer, racial, denominational, and economic barriers – to create a legion of “Citizen Staffers” to cause massive impact on a community and its challenges. All these pieces are in town. It take someone – some entity – to be the Hub that keeps the trains running on time and in good order throughout the system. And that can, and should, be the role of local government.

~DK


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DK Soapbox: Some Hard Truths To Consider In Community Development

Category : Uncategorized

[DK climbs up on soapbox]soapbox

In the past few days I have been at (or witnessed via live stream and live YouTube) a number of conversations/panel/and speakers talking about community and our needs to revitalize them. Big cities, small towns. States and regions, all talked about. As someone who plays in this space, especially in regards to the important role that nonprofits and social enterprises/small businesses must play in this work, I try super super hard to absorb as much as I can – from all sides – to get a clearer picture about where we might be heading or what directions are being presented. And here’s my first take on this…

Yes. We know this already.

I don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer here, but these conferences, panels and messages are the same as always: (1) Here’s a study. (2) Here’s some data. (3) Doesn’t look too good. (4) Lots of factors as to why it is that way. (5) You know what would help? Better state legislature. Better political leadership. Better education. Better [inserts speaker’s industry here]. (6) Our hands are tied in many ways. (7) We need to shift our priorities. (8) We need more funding. (9) We are taxed too much. (10) We should do a Study.

Rinse. Repeat.

Look, no one has the perfect solution to anything. LITERALLY to anything. But here’s what years of doing this has shown me.

(1) You cannot say a system is broken and not include YOUR system/industry/tribe as a part of that broken system.

Politicians decry gridlock, but not from their work or out of their office. Local municipal officials abhor local regulatory processes and red-tape filled paperwork, yet never proposal radical adjustment to said processes. School administrators battle unions, unions battle admins. Developers design spaces more in line with their profit margins. The public is never satisfied with what developers create, even when it rises out from literal ashes of past (and usually WAY dead) old buildings. We are in a constant state of “waiting on the other thing to happen first” before we feel like we can leave our comfort zone and move out into the mist.

All of us. ALL OF US. We all must get over our smaller tribes and look at the bigger one. We collectively are our own worst problem, because we talk to one another about finding solutions while we never look to ourselves as needing the largest re-vamp. If we all say “Everyone is the problem but me” than literally no one will feel there’s a problem enough to act (zen on that for a second). Let’s VIBE ON OUR TRIBE, our community as a whole.

(2) “This is who we are”…isn’t.

We are NOT who were once were. We can’t be. Our society is in a constant state of evolution. So must our communities and more importantly our Social Contract with one another. Here in York, we were once a strong Manufacturing base, this is true. But the need for manufacturing has evolved (notice I did not say “changed” or “shrunken” here). Jobs moving oversees, wildly out of fiscal sense wages and pensions are not realistic (I’ll get to this a little later on). What is needed, required, wanted by the general public just isn’t at the same level as once before (Supply and Demand…a funny thing). Recognize and celebrating our future is important. Damn close to essential. Be in no way can our public policy be dictated by want to return to some past time. It doesn’t work that way. The calendar keeps flipping forward, and our discussions must look that way as well.

(3) I don’t think that’s what “innovation” means.

I speak a good deal to nonprofit organizations, social enterprise small businesses and local governmental officials, and I often use the phrase “We believe Innovation begins by kicking the ass of Intimidation.” Why do I say this? Because most people who are speaking about “innovation” are afraid of it, and so it is given lip service. Why are they afraid? Because it just might upset the apple cart too much and cause them – THEM, not the focal point that is the community, but THEM – to lose their way, because obsolete, require a radical overhaul of work and operations, or worse!

It is not innovative to partner with a nonprofit foundation or have three businesses co-sponsor a networking meeting. Innovation requires not just an idea or new concept.. it requires risk. True risk. Risk that entrepreneurs can see, recognize and respect. Here’s an example of an innovation: Imagine a municipality created a ONE-PAGE application for businesses to work in a city. This would trigger some public safety inspections and the like still needed (you know, to be sure the building can stand up on it own and stuff) but still streamlined the intake process. AT THE SAME TIME, the local government would protect this new venture from pushback from the county or state officials crying “this isn’t how we’ve always done things” by holding off threats of fines or work stoppages AND ALSO would spend their energies at the state level to tear down the bureaucracy in the same way. Push for reforming up and down the line. Damn the torpedos and challenge status quo by saying “we’re not waiting…you don’t like it, challenge us.”

We talk about our intake systems as being too cumbersome, but they never -never- get started to be fixed. Each group points to another and says “we can’t or [insert next level department/county/state/federal agency here] will not approve this. Imagine a time when a local government became a true incubator for business and not only keep it warm with easy entry into the community and system to support its start up, but also protected it from outside sources. Imagine if your city FOUGHT for this system, CHALLENGED it in courts, SPOTLIGHTED its work in the media to pick up and share its story. Transforming our community into a true incubator of innovation. That’s a community any business would like to call home.

I truly believe the role of government is the key to this. Government is reviled and often pointed to as the source of our problems. Gridlock, political division, bureaucracy, a lack of empathy, a sense of everyone there is phony or not authentic… my take is that Government is essential, but rudderless because it is running as it “perceives” it should be, not what is needed in this new era. I see government as a HUB. Like a hub of a wheel with spokes or a train station surrounded by tracks running in all directions. It cannot BE the system completely, nor can it be left out of the system. Either way and the system doesn’t work. Governments, especially LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, must be the ones to facilitate innovation, encourage it.. incubate it. Local governments must fight for their turf not be simply requesting grants and budgets, but by actively showcasing new innovations, and then defending them even at their political peril. Government doesn’t need to growth OR get out of the way. It needs to realize it’s place at the table. And that is to BE the table that gathers those in the locality to get this done. To “GET ACTION” as my favorite, President Theodore Roosevelt, once said.

(4) We have the wrong people at the meetings.

This isn’t a slam actually on those who come to these meetings. In fact, those who are active now (whether as business leaders, advocates, activists, political appointees or elected officials, etc.) are to be applauded.. it’s the other people. The others who are not involved. That’s the problem here. Example, a mayor in your town at a “state of the city” pledges to, let’s say, reduce the homelessness by x%. Everyone agrees this is a needed, important, moral challenge to tackle and work hard to hit. Everyone applauds to vision. Then, local government heads back to their corner (aka City Hall) and looks at their two factors: manpower and budget. Then, the work is shaped by those two factors. Who’s missing? Well how about the nonprofit homeless shelter who mission – MISSION – is to close its doors by ending homelessness and therefore no more need for their beds, services, support. And yes, before you quickly say “Wait DK, my town officials come to the homeless shelter and have a “listening session” with the providers.” Yes, but that isn’t what I mean here. The staffing for this project – to reduce homelessness by x% – should be FROM THE VERY BEGINNING not just be government staffers; but rather it should be coordinated by the staffers, and lead by the experts. Want to solved the problem? Bring in experts and passionate leaders in the sector… not because they are “heavy hitters” or “influential” but because they are in the BUSINESS of that particular issue. Literally the first call after a local government pronouncement about something like “reducing homelessness by x%” should be to the homeless organizations and leaders who work in that space daily. Don’t care who you are, I care what you bring to the table.

(5) Pensions… and other unicorns.

Not fun to say but, this is beyond broken. I am sorry to say this, but it is FISCAL TRUTH. We cannot – we should not – honor the pension plans of the past because the math does not work. Breaking a deal, any deal, is not noble. But this is the nonstarter that interferes in all challenges facing the modern community. There isn’t enough in the math of it all to go any more than this, so it must just be accepted. Then – and only then – can we seek solutions or at best the most non-evasive remedy to this cancer. No one wants to lose an extremity when fighting a cancer, but sometimes it is the only way a longer-lasting solution can be found. We must cut. It sucks, but it is truth.

By the way… unions? Yeah, you must reset your narrative too. Unions were important for many many years, especially post-Guilded Age when monopolies and industry barons ruled with an iron fist. Now, you are part of the problem. The problem though ISN’T the idea of unions or collective bargaining. The problem is your lack of BARGAINING because so much of what needs to be reformed you feel is “off the table.” Teachers unions? You have bad actors in your midst, many of them with many years (and union cards) in their pocket. They’ve gotta go. Don’t protect the obvious things because “that’s the role” you fill. It isn’t. You job is to best represent your industry. Bad actors don’t deserve your shield.

Management? Don’t think this is a time to break the union and throw away collective bargaining as a whole. It is a time to put all on the table and find unity solutions to reset our collective. The time isn’t to kill unions, it’s to reset what your relationship to them (and therefore your employees) means.

Many things are promised and many promises often are broken. This system was a promise destined for breaking. Hard to swallow… but like most medicine, needed to cure the patient.

(6) It takes a village (thanks, ‘Hill.)

Short changing our collective impact by dismissing (or worse off not even considering) a healthy diversity of opinions, races, creeds, religions, political leanings, socio-economic levels, education, age… this is beyond bad biz, it’s just plain dumb.

Our strength in so many of our communities is muffled because we retreat to corners. We believe too much in NIMBY and WIIFM (Not in My BackYard and What’s In It For Me) and not enough in UNITY. I’m not going to belabor this point, other than to say REACH OUT.

If you use too many “those people” or “them’s” in your rhetoric.. you need to take a look in the mirror.

(7) Regions Matter.

So you live in the ‘burbs and think those “city people” have their own problems. Conversely, those of your who live in the 6 story flat in the heart of your downtown regard the small towns around you as “cow country” or “the place where at the meth of made in the barns out there” or “Siberia.”

Well congratulations, you both miss the role of community.

A vibrant city as a hub of a spoked county (like here in York County, PA) is essential to the growth potential and health of its sister small towns and boroughs across the region. And without positive small towns scattered about a region, a city can become an isolated island with a built-in perception of overcrowded, unstable feeling of negativity. Our economy is global. The world has shrunk in terms of import/export, the internet, mass communications and the need for multinationalism for security, economics, and resources. Yet, you feel like running four miles “into the big city” is too crazy of a thing for you?

Jobs, places to live, entertainment, education institutions… these all need ALL OF US to thrive, and survive. You think your little suburb could survive without the jobs, industry, clients, customers, branding provided by that major city? Um, no. (just in the most practical, where would all you suburbanite WORK? Most suburbs are sleeper communities.. there’s just not enough jobs in your locale)… and city peeps, you think that city can survive without commerce as a result of people day-tripping and visiting your bars, restaurants, and other Third Places? Nope.

Regions matter that much.

(8) We will succeed.

This feels negative-heavy as I free write, but I do this to remind us all that can – and will – succeed. Two generations ago, my grandparents returned from World War II and felt like the community needed a revamp, and they did it. My parents fought the Greatest Generation who they thought were too square, went to Woodstock to smoke weed and listen to Hendrix, tackled civil rights, lost a lot of great great leaders to the struggle, consumed a ton of resources (i.e. paid for all that dropping out by eventually running the country on a bit of a credit card..hello US debt) but still managed to revamp the community for us. We arrived, got a bit angst-driven created punk and grudge, built an Internet into a juggernaut, consumed a ton of MTV when it actually played videos, lost a ton of great great leaders to the struggle, saw our community needed a revamp.. and started to.

We’re not done, but it is, has, and will be, done… always. Success is determined by many things, but the one thing I always consider myself is positive. Success WILL happen because the definition of success is shaped by the time we live in. In this case, more hard choices are again needed to be done. But we know, with collaboration and a connection far greater than our immediate moment… we can make them. We will succeed. It’s just what we do.

I have high hopes for my community. I love our people, our places and spaces, and the spirit that is brewing up from within and from the imagination coming from outside our borders.

Like Hunter S. Thompson said, “Buy the ticket…Take the ride.”

~DK


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Dinner And A Community

Last night I went to dinner.

Um, DK…that’s really not so much of a great blog topic.

No wait. Really. Stick with me here.

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (just hangin' out in York, PA)

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (just hangin’ out in York, PA)

Last night, I went to dinner with my beautiful bride and a bunch of friends to one of our most super fun favorite restaurants in York, PA. This place is called Tutoni’s and it is owned and operated by a husband and wife duo who we super love (Hi Tony & Toni! …see why it’s called “Tutoni’s” now?).  The reason for the dinner was that all of us who were there last night won this in a live auction during a fundraiser that builds funds for the City of York to be able to host many of our city-wide public events throughout the course of the year. “A Taste of York City” dinner and auction is one of the main reasons that other events like live music during lunch hour in a downtown public pocket park, a New Year’s Eve event, York Bike Night, and one of the coolest art experiences in the area (a little event called Yorkfest Fine Arts Festival) can all happen for the community.  So this dinner was a way to raise funds for some great happenings throughout the year in York. And that by itself might be a cool reason to blog about an evening out.

But that’s not the reason why I’m writing this either. I’m telling you about my dinner last night because of a concept called “home.”

See during the course of the evening as we were all chit-chatting, getting drinks, and finding places to sit (our table was group-styled, U-shaped…so it gave an appearance like we were about to call the meeting to order, gavel in, and then review the board minutes.)… but shortly after, we began to one-by-one “introduce” ourselves to the entire group and give one reason why we loved York so much.  It really did have the feel of every ice breaker exercise you ever experienced on Day One of Annual Conference [Insert Your Industry/Field Here].  It could have been blah and that moment when we all collectively sighed a little heavier than normal and mutter to ourselves (“oy.. I so don’t want to do these silly exercises that everyone here hates.”)… admit it, you’ve said that almost EVERY TIME a meeting organizer breaks out the “ice breaker game/activity”, c’mon admit it!

But then people told their stories.

Some were funny, some were poignant. Some had been born and raised in York and the surrounding York County, PA. Others of us told of our journey that brought us to The White Rose City. As the stories kept coming, I began to think to myself…

“These are all about home.”

No matter the reasoning, no matter the time between visits to York or the multiple moves in and out of York.. one constant was evident in the stories… home. York was a home. OUR home. And the pride that people had in sharing the transformation from what it once stood for, into what is stood for now… was truly amazing.

I talk a TON about The Connection Economy and building community by building our connections, and those beliefs are so strong in me there are times I feel like I’m “Caine” from the TV show Kung Fu, wandering the countryside sharing my beliefs and stories to anyone who will listen.  But there are these moments where all the planning, meetings, conferences, videos, talks, and debates are shaped by these pockets of “guerilla humanity” – you don’t see it coming, but it hits you like a ton of bricks.

Each one of us at the table was sharing his/her story, and that story brought us all back to relive our own journeys… and brought us back home.

I didn’t even realize what I had said until afterward when my Way-Better-Half Korey said in the car that I had said a nice line going into a group toast following the last person’s intro.  “What did I say?” I asked my wife.

“Welcome Home.”

So thank you Tutoni’s for hosting such a wonderful dinner. Thank you to my friend J.J. Sheffer and her team for putting on “A Taste of York City” that gave us all the place to bid on this dinner experience and assemble us to share our stories. And thank you to my fellow dinner-goers from last night. Thank you for connecting our individual journeys to our collective community. The power of connection is often felt in places and spaces that are designed with the spectacle in mind: big community events, sports contests, large assemblies.

But community can be built across the table, with some wine and great food…and especially with the love of friends (old and new).

Cheers…

~DK

Live Auction Recipients from 2016 "A Taste of York City" event - at Tutoni's (photo credit: Louise Luman Heine)

Live Auction Recipients from 2016 “A Taste of York City” event – at Tutoni’s (photo credit: Louise Luman Heine)


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Nothing Personal…Cuz It’s Public (Policy)

public_policy_aboutbipp580pxIt is a consistent adage that there is no “perfect” public policy. You could argue things like women’s suffrage and reconciliation to right the wrongs our founding fathers did (or more accurately didn’t do) regarding non-white races (the despicable “3/5th” compromise) should be no-brainers… but still there isn’t perfection. Someone, even those simply living with racist or sexist attitudes,  will criticize legislation stating some kind of imperfection.

But that’s the point. Public Policy will never reach a perfection. Legislation intent, wording, amendments, enforcement, repeal… our system is built with these imperfections into the systems. We actually need these imperfections to truly showcase our freedom, our democracy. Without them, we would have a dictatorship or an oligarchy… a system that denies imperfection because it can quell debate.

This is why it always intrigues me about local government and local ordinance/legislation issues. While we all, in some form of intuition, agree that laws/ordinance aren’t perfect, we often neglect that other component of public policy. Not the “policy part… the “public” part.

Laws are built and often they are in some kind of opposition to our own personal values. It’s inevitable. Ever see someone around April jumping up and down yelling, “Yee-Haa! It’s time to pay taxes! So fun!”

Um, no.

But it is done. It is done (perhaps grudgingly) because we know that the social contract we have as a community tells us that these rules (or these taxes) are used for the benefit of the common good.. or the common interest.  Putting it another way… it benefits community.

Community isn’t one-size-fits-all. It is debates, disagreements, consensus, joy, togetherness, isolation.. the works. But still, with all these things, community proceeds. It marches on. We can join it or retreat from it.

What amazes me is people who “personalize” public policy. What I mean by this is when take their personal opinion (or what they feel the effect will cause to “them”) and try to debate using that alone. They said things like the “the reason this is bad law is that ‘they’ will be hurt by it.” When pressed to identify who the “they” is, very often it is concluded quickly – there is no “they”… there is just a “me.”one_way_Economics-Degree-Public-Policy

Now understand, I’m not saying you not allowed to have a personal opinion or position. On the contrary, that is the right of every person. However, that personal opinion only fuels the public policy debate, not frames it.  Just because you don’t like something or feel something will “hurt” you, doesn’t mean it is an invalid policy. It just means you have recognized that is isn’t jiving with you personal opinion.

Now it’s your job to expand that out into the public. Other may agree with you, but you need to position your thoughts relative to that – at least you need to to be effective as an influencer.  Take politicians. No matter the level (federal, state, local) politicians build their argument by building coalitions. Strength in numbers. One politicians pushing a personal agenda is an easy dismiss. A coalition? Now that’s policy savvy.

Why is this on my brain? I was just witness to the perfect example of confusion between public policy and personal opinion AND policy versus political.  A local ordinance debate shifted to a “I’m hurt by this” discussion.

Yes, someone will have to adjust with new ordinances. Someone always does. If it is someone else, it just a thing. But if it’s YOU who senses to danger, then of course the law is terrible.

Bigger picture people are always needed to remind us all that these kinds of debates – about public policy – need to settle inside the realm of “what is strong for the community” and slide away from “it hurts me.”

“There’s a tremendous gap between public opinion and public policy,” said noted American political philosopher Noam Chomsky.

Indeed there is. 

The challenge for us who want to be leaders and community change agents is to remind ourselves that the strength of community development is not in personal.. but in the public. It is in the approach to rise our level of debate beyond out backyard.. and to see all the grass around us. (sing it, Luda.)

Just my $.02 cents…. ~DK


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A Letter to the Next Generations: Three To Think About For The “Bookends”

A Letter to the Next Generations: Three To Think About For The “Bookends”

There’s a lot of talk and writing about the inter-generational challenges and opportunities we are knee-deep in at this point in our world with the amazing “bookend generations” – The Baby Boomers and The Millennials.  Two huge generations, two interesting viewpoints, two sets of assumptions and beliefs (if one could truly broad-brush such large groups for discussion purposes), and two groups simultaneously inside the working and community development world.nerd-bookends-new

Now for a guy like me, who is based inside the ever-so-sadly-named GenX group, we sometimes feel like that kid waiting to be pick in gym for the kickball teams… waiting and waiting (and waiting) to be called.  If you follow the stereotype, however, we would probably be more accurate that kid who skipped gym *(BECAUSE it was kickball day) and decided to hang with the guys behind the gym, listening to Mother Love Bone and Nirvana while complaining with full-on angst over the state of the economy.

But here’s the thing: none of this is totally accurate.

Oh yeah, and it’s all 100% accurate too.

It is convenient, dare I say needed, to be doing these kinds of things. Defining generations, what makes them “tick” and how they differentiate themselves. It is natural. Makes total sense to organize ourselves with these categories, and it really does help us determine many ways to working and handling relationships with one another. But it also boxes us into corners – and that’s a big no-no for me.  So, allow me to suggest a couple of things here that I feel can help us all along this long and winding road that is our community and our community development when it comes to the collective “us.”

1.  There Is No Spoon.

Spoon_there_is_noLike in The Matrix” movie, once we realize what we have – and what we don’t have – we might all be better off understanding the rules of the game (or how we can toss off the rules and reset the game itself).  It is crazy to think of such huge groups we these broad-brushed viewpoints alone; however, these are good starting points of emphasis. They can be good landmarks to help guide you as you progress in your life, especially you professional life. Millennials, you are the largest generation made up of people who have a built-in sense of community-service while also looking for work that is fulfilling, flexible, adaptable to the work/life balance often hoped for, and many other things.  Baby Boomers, you are the second largest generation made up of people who saw the struggle of your parents (coming home from WWII for many) and decided that your course of action was inherently to reset the board – with a little bit of “dropping out” splashed into the mix – while at the same time running up debts needed to be covered by future generations, but justified because it enabled a stronger, fuller quality of life that sparked a new sense of pride in the individual and the community at large.

These sound familiar?

How about we recognize these things are statements in layers of accuracy, but not full and complete stories. Working with a Millennial doesn’t totally mean someone who doesn’t want to work “as hard” as a Baby Boomer. And collaborating with a Baby Boomer won’t mean the reduction of technology or tech-savvy options to challenges. These might be true. They might not. But here’s what it will definitely mean: it WILL require time to assess the INDIVIDUAL based on (1) what you think you know of him/her; coupled with (2) what you LEARN about him/her by giving yourself time.  Spoon? What spoon? Get to know the person holding the spoon. Don’t worry about what the spoon is…or isn’t.

2.  Community is Jazz

miles-davis-kind-of-blue-cover-artNo. I don’t think everyone needs to go out and download a bunch of jazz music to get along (but I do think everyone in the world should own “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis and “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane – and that it would be some of the best tribe-connecting tonic around the block), but I do think we need to start thinking like those jazz greats and many others who stood up and played with fellow musicians on this utterly American-created art form.  Jazz is communication and negotiation at its best. There is form, but it is (by design) also somewhat form-less; rather, it is framed. Inside the framing, there are numerous conversations that can happen. The challenge is to make them relevant, make sense, be heard, be comprehendable, and not turn into talking over one another.  That’s where the art really comes into play. Being able to negotiate between musicians for the benefit of the common good – the common piece of music. There is no right or wrong way to create jazz, but there are sign posts (like key signatures) and markers (chords and notes) that help plot courses and direction.  It is our job, as the musicians, to be able to read these, and react to them (as in when to play, when not to). Jazz doesn’t make all the rules, just enough rules to say to us collectively, “OK… now build something here.”  This is how community is made. By listening, negotiating, and playing alongside others. What seems like the “best practice” is often just a slick way of saying “this is how it is always been and it seems to be working.” I say, recognize how good (and different) our players are in this band, and let’s just jam!

3.  I Like To Buy the World A Coke (But Really, Maybe We Shouldn’t)

Coke_buy_the_world_commercialThis commercial was the touchy-feely feel good brand of the seventies. Connecting the world through song (and a nice product placement for us all to run out and buy of course), this was giving those who experienced it the sense of togetherness. That regardless of differences, we all were collectively in on this as one race – the human race. While I like the sentiment, what I find tough to swallow about this point is when it goes far beyond “unity” and moves into “conformity.” There is no One-Size-Fits-All in just about anything we have in terms of our community development. One man’s blight is another man’s art. So I don’t look to find ways to utterly unify at the risk of exploration of other ideas and ways of thinking. We are now on this path of the “Battle of the Work/Life Balance” connected to our roles as managers, co-workers, companies, and other systems. Here’s the thing about this: it very often aspires us to look to the extremes – either total conformity (a rigid culture of “this is what we are and that is all we are”) or total “PC” where our quest for diversity and multi-culturalism turns us into personal self-help book libraries or conference-badge collectors, just itching to learn that next “best approach to culture building.”

Our strength as a culture, and probably more appropriately defined as would be “as an incubator culture,” is our belief that with hard work, dedication, passion and drive… you can move mountains. Or at the very least, scale them for your success.  We all don’t rise at the same level, with the same purpose, with the same speed, or even along the same mountain ridge… but the sense of “rise” is what’s key. The Rising (as Springsteen said) is about “How far I’ve gone / How high I’ve climbed.”  When we are at our best, we invite, challenge, encourage, and inspire for that rising. We don’t care as much about the conformity or the climb, or the need to diversify the climb. We allow for those things to fold into our purpose – The Rising.

So instead of buying everyone the same beverage and sing the same song.. let’s present the present of climbing gear. A way to rise…. and a way to unify ourselves with the notion of ascension to high purpose and passion.

Like our best in music and sports, innovation comes from questioning standards. It comes from willingness to fail, get up, dust off, and try again. It comes from the attitude of “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” at times, and for other moments it comes from getting that special “blessing” from those who trekked before to go out and extend the creative palette forward.  All of these things are sometimes impossible to do. All of these things are sometimes totally achievable. What’s the best way to wrap up this not-so-nicely wrapped gift of thought?

“Bookends” require books. Never stop learning. And never stop looking for more things to have in your library… but definitely get those jazz albums. They’ll change your life.

~DK


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Enough “#Pray For ___” and More “#ActionFor ___”

Category : Uncategorized

I’m so sick of this.

rinse-repeatOur communities are in a cycle of “pray for’s” and I’m tired of it. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Some tragedy occurs in a community and it elevated to a nation story.
  2. We collectively pain over the situation, look to for ways to help/cope/share.
  3. A “#Pray For ___ ” hashtag starts to trend.
  4. Rinse. Repeat.

Enough.

Our collective struggle isn’t based in some sort of false sympathy or misplaced compassion. It is so genuine, and so real. I’m not disputing it at all.

It just doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.

I’m sorry to be “that guy” saying it this way, but here’s the sorry sad truth: Nothing is changing, in fact it is getting worse and worse.

Vox shared a startling article that has a title that should make you sit up – “Guns Killed More Americans in 12 Years than AIDS, War, and Illegal Drug Overdoses Combined”

COMBINED.

We have talked about this before, and judging by our standards we will be talking about this again (and again, and again).  But perhaps in the interim, allow me to suggest one small move to what I believe in a core value for me and my consulting: “GET ACTION.”

Let’s move away from the “#Pray For ____” hashtag, and move into the “#Action For ___” hashtag.

It’s a small thing, but if our national attention is indeed more and more landing on social media and hashtags to share, then maybe we can start getting our sympathy to move slowly into action. Action we can take. Action our political leaders MUST take.

I’m so sick of this cycle of words and no action. We have seen shootings all over this country, including against CHILDREN and now at a facility that supports Americans with DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES.  East Coast, West Coast. Conservative leaning victims, Democratic leaning victims. All of us. ALL. OF. US.

The power of social media is amazing, and its reach is something to be utilized and capitalized on especially at times when our nation needs to heal..or at least talk about ways to heal.  But if we stop there, then we have done nothing but made ourselves a false sense of action (“I did something. I share that hashtag to my followers/friends.”)

Nope. Not enough.

Let’s encourage greater debate. Let’s demand more than talking points and poll-tested non-answer answers from politicians. Let’s move from PRAYERS and move toward ACTION. Let’s start NOW.

#ActionForSanBernardino

~DK
@dknight44 / @WeConnectDots


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WIIFM & NIMBY: Sadly, That’s Not A New Cartoon Show

When talking about any kind of economic and community development, the conversation very quickly turns to two major factors: where and how much money?  It’s as natural as when greeting someone you instantly ask “how are you?”

Sadly though, these questions in economic development aren’t generally meant out of concern or care in the macro – it’s out of two schools of thought a little more micro:

What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) and Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY).ffbarneyhit

These two concepts dominate many conversations about community development, and though it is hard to tell someone that is often the cause of much gridlock and reduces creativity.. welp, there they are, both just sitting out there like two cartoon characters beating themselves up with those overgrown mallets on the head.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the reasoning.

You DO want to see growth in a city, but I want it to be on what I WANT here, not what the larger community might NEED (WIIFM).

You DO want to clean up the streets of the “homeless and the riff-raff” but I just don’t WANT to have that shelter or rehab center in my neighborhood… and I definitely don’t WANT to have to pay more for it (NIMBY).

It is so natural to pull these two cards, that sometimes I think we almost feel compelled to start with WIIFM and NIMBY quotes – you know, just to get the ball rolling.

I talked about this before and suggested that we all must reassess what it means to discuss public policy. The “public” in public policy is the key part here. There is no one-size-fits-all to many of our challenges that we face. And too often because of this, our policy discussions tend to trend into the idea of “my way or I hate it” feelings versus “consensus.”  We can’t design a system that will support and be liked by everyone… they just don’t exist. Yet, our debates seem to want to keep that expectation alive, and it stems creativity.. and most importantly LISTENING.

Full disclosure. I’m of a couple of ethnic backgrounds that gave me two wonderful personality traits: (1) I LOVE to argue and debate; and (2) I REALLY LOVE to win said arguments and will continue them until I do (believe me, my WAY-BETTER-HALF fiancee will back me up on this one). So I might not be the best person to be suggesting out loud that everyone needs to get over their individual feeling, suck it up, and realize that the reality is you can’t win them all and move on!

On the contrary, I’m suggesting EXACTLY that – but with one caveat.

Once consensus is made, then we shift gears into creative way to bring that policy to life… together.

Community development is like BBQ: best cooked slow and low. But in that time of development, there’s a ton of space for creativity and adjustment. A little paprika here, a dash of onion powder there. A sprinkle of town hall comments here. An extra spoonful of group creative time there… like more time for an “Idea Break.”

THAT’S where community development can mature. When we move into creative design of the policy into practice.

And yes, that might mean it won’t have much in it for YOU. And truthfully, it might be in YOUR back yard.

But that’s the building blocks of community. Sometimes you get an extra helping of that sweet sweet BBQ on the plate. Some other times you get that cartoon mallet to the head (but don’t worry, it’s a cartoon one, they in fact don’t hurt at all).  It’s amazing what we can all solve once we all realize we’re on the same side, just coming at the challenge from different angles, persuasions, and slants. We just want a great community, that’s all.

Warners_mallets_WBSo next time a public policy debate pops up in your local paper or your Facebook news feed, I challenge you to put the mallet down, don’t worry about your own personal interest and back yard for one brief moment, and ask yourself “how can I contribute some good home ingredients to this special sauce.” Leave the WIIFM and NIMBY to the guys at Cartoon Network to figure out.

~DK