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

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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.

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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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.


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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).



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.


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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.


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the most hated four-letter word: “status quo.”

Do not enter signBoy, am i terrible at “the math.”

Too often these two words are combined in debate/discussion/some other “d-word” to be a literal buzzkill to creativity. We speak about “get action” – well this thing goes the other way and “get brick wall to the forehead.”  And here is the worst part about this naughty phrase:

We are all at fault and responsible for it…. yes, you too over there on your laptop shaking your head.

Many of us talk a great game and use words like “innovation” and “idea exchange” and “paradigm shift” when describe ourselves, our vision, or even our organizations. But here’s what happens: nothing. or barely nothing. Life kicks back in, reality shines its light upon us like a security guard walking a dark hallway. we say some great things… and then we stop and go back to the status quo.

Funny enough, we don’ t even mean to do it. Most of us truly want to innovate or exchange ideas. It is just when we snap back into our rhythm, those opposing forces are embedded in our day-to-day; and that always seems to gum up the works to launch something truly new.  You have seen this. You go to a membership organization meeting (like an elks lodge or rotary luncheon). A dynamic speaker or community leader stands up front and begins to dazzle your sense of possibility. She amazes you by challenge the “what is” and envisions a “what can be” and you feel the creative meter getting full… you are ready to make that impact, you are ready to shift gears…

Then the rubber chicken arrives, you notice the time, and head out of Conference Room A to get back to the office because you need to sit in on that development meeting – you know, the one where no one comes prepared to do anything, and no one has anything to say worth the price of admission. Business As Usual.


Remember, they won “Best New Artist” … and then fell off the Earth.

Yep, status quo just jumped up and bit ya again.

And when I say we are all at fault, I mean all of us…. with very few exceptions. It. Just. Happens.

But why? Why does it happen. (Here’s where I tick off some friends.)

Fear. You are afraid of going it alone. Innovation requires that someone/something goes it alone for some portion of time. It may be seconds, it may be years. But there is always a constant: a set time frame where you might be out on the edge by your lonesome. And that’s scary That’s unsafe. That’s unprotected.

Cowardly. Understandable, but cowardly.

Status quo allows for people to stay in the herd, fly straight, and hope that others come to the scene to build momentum so that you can come along for the ride. Status quo protects folks by allowing for awful phrases like “we’ll see how this plays out” or “let’s take the temperature of the room first”  and the greatest kick-me-below-the-belt-before-saying-this-to-me-ever-again phrase “but we’ve always done it this way” before an action is taken. Status quo banks on your hesitancy. Thrives on it.

Now you’re saying: Risk can’t be a constant thing. Stability and familiarity are good things, aren’t they?

Yes…however, when we are representing ourselves as innovators and change agents, then we must start acting like them. Convening “committees” and organizing talks to inspire are good, but it’s in the next steps – that’s where the leaders lead. That’s the sweet spot. That’s where we “get action.”

I speak for a living and connect with organizations, nonprofits, business leaders, community activists, and government officials. All come from strong places of wanting to do wonderful things. I never question someone’s intent or where their hearts are on issues surrounding community and economic development. But we need to “get action” – too many “meetings”, not enough “meet ups with sleeves up.”

we_have_always_done_it_this_wayAnd P.S… No saint here. I am just to blame in this hypocrisy. I need to step out and keep a-steppin’ more and more. We at Connect The Dots Movement say “we believe innovation begins by kicking the ass of intimidation.

Welp, Mr. “Status Quo”…. I think you and me need to step outside, pal…


  • 0

tune up those community fibers

Community is what defines us, in so many ways. We are shaped, inspired, challenged, and even celebrated through out connection to community. But too often this shaping requires a little adjustment, some “re-shaping.”  Like Herman Melville explained, “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.”  I believe it is time of a little fiber-tuning.

What makes our community thrive? There are as many answers to this, but for me they come down to a few buckets: Education, the Arts, Spiritualism, Environment, and Innovation. And for my duckets, the nonprofit sector is where these buckets are filled with ideas, impact, and inspiration.

Yet at the same time, most nonprofits are regulated to the sidelines when it comes to shaping policies of a community – the actual laws and governance that makes up the system of a community’s thriving or growth. This, therefore to me, means that what defines US??? Well it isn’t made up completely of the right fibers. Namely those fibers that bring a community’s IMPACT to light. Nonprofits.

I feel it is time for nonprofits to stand together and build their collective voice as this Keeper of the Community.

WHIG_bannerThis isn’t a progressive thing or a conservative thing. This is “hippie talk” or social engineering. This is what we all know, truthfully, in our hearts. Forget “It Takes a Village” and think more about you. Your own life. Family, friends, institutions… all brought you influence, assets, challenges, and support. Now take them away. You – as well as I – would be very different people.  It isn’t a political thing. It’s a HUMAN thing. We are shaped by our community, and we need to get these fibers a-tunin’ again.

And what is especially nutty about this is that we KNOW this to be true. There really isn’t dispute over it. Political conversations have turned into Monday Night Football as Democrats taking on the Republicans, when what we should be seeing isn’t the “battle” on the field… but the make up and conversations in the STANDS. That’s where the oohy-gooey good stuff happens. THAT is where you find community.

So if we recognize that a community is based upon the work of those who protect and foster our buckets of definitions of strong community; while at the same time we see that the current political landscape keeps us collectively misdirected in the “game” versus what is need to bring policies to bear on a community’s growth. Then why don’t we reset this!?

Simply put: fear and leadership.

The nonprofit sector, of which I proudly count myself, is at a moment needing clarity and bold action. Too long is was felt like the adults needed to handle policy, and the nonprofits should be satisfied being sat at the kid’s table. We are good to be “charity” but not welcome to be considered “policy assets” or “influential idea-makers” – that was the realm of the elected politician.

But who is THAT?

Our elections – and especially our crazy Electoral College system – stymies true democracy or event representational democracy (to which we actually are)… the game is rigged on so many levels based upon wealth and political “influence”… but if you really think about it….

Pair_TensWho has more influence than those who shape the community’s fibers? Who cherishes innovation, inspired creativity, support direct services, enriches community? Nonprofits do. And not at the expense of  big business or other industry… but as a COLLABORATOR with those other sectors.  We’re the guy at the table who’s holding a two Tens,  but is thinking of splitting them instead of holding with Twenty.  it’s not an automatic win, but it’s a great hand.. we just don’t know it, or have been told it is a great hand.

It’s time to double down on our sector. Here’s how:

1. Get involved in local politics. Who’s running for office? What is their feelings on nonprofits and connecting policy to nonprofit work in a community? Can’t find an answer? ASK. Don’t get an answer? ASK AGAIN.  Statistics tell us that nonprofits make up 10% of the American Economy and over 10% of the private employment in the country.  A smart politicians or strategist will see the value in getting support from his./her local nonprofit community, and believe me, the rhetoric will changed amazingly once that math is revealed.

Cocktail_Weenies2. Forget Marching ON City Hall, March INTO City Hall.  My rule is: If you are marching to city hall to fight for cuts to a budget or law/ordinance passed, then you have missed the meal already and as battling for those little cocktail wieners and a half-empty punch bowl with the fruit ring still in it. The nonprofit strength should not be in getting back to zero (if you started with X in the budget; it is cut to Y; you rally to City Hall and then do to “public influence” it is brought back to X… well you see what you “achieved” right? Not much.) We need to be at the party while it’s happening. Avail yourself and your leadership as just that… leaders. Leaders to the issues you are passionate about, what you are mission-driven by. Politicals look to value-added guests as much as deep pocket ones… get in with your brain, not your ability to raise pitchforks and matching “save our budget” t-shirts.

3. Make Policy Check in as Normal as “Staff Meeting.” It doesn’t mean you turn into a policy advocacy organization, but information is key. Too late and it is too late to do anything. You need to stay on what is happening as if it was a program of your organization. Schoolhouse Rock was right, “Knowledge is Power.

I look at this like a musician would a piece of music being written. I like the melody, but I think it’s just in the wrong key. Let’s move it up or down the scale into we find a please sound.  Sooner, more than later, our nonprofit sector will find that right key, tune up those fibers… and get a rockin’ on rebuilding our community with impact and A Whole Lotta Love.