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We've moved ... to a great new home

Please bear with us as the website gets updated--a polite way of saying "taken apart and re-assembled"--over the next few months.

We moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, becoming The Community Problem-Solving Project @ MIT, in late January. I left the Harvard faculty, after six years, and joined MIT with a great big invitation to keep developing this work and other projects. MIT will be a wonderful home for us.

Meanwhile, we push on: We're thinking about brand new functions for the website, thinking about taking down the LEARNING COMMUNITY section altogether--or actively organizing events there to jumpstart it--and thinking about adding more use examples and self-directed curricula (plans you can follow to teach yourself and others) and other other changes.

Please give us your thoughts at feedback@community-problem-solving.net. I'm not able to reply to all the email personally, but we very much appreciate your ideas and support of this work.

Xavier de Souza Briggs
Date Created:
Mar. 08, 2005

Previous Logs

Almost showtime

Soon, we launch this experiment. Having recruited quite a cast of allies and "partners in crime" to inform the larger project over the past three years, I now find myself immersed in website buttons and internet jargon to put on the finishing touches.

Today, I'm editing from the San Francisco Bay Area, on the West Coast of the U.S., where I'm doing a case study. The case centers on the extraordinary, decade-plus-long effort to signficantly expand resources invested in young people in the city--and to invest those resources better, too. In the mix are community organizers, goverment reinventors, concerned parents, the young people themselves (learning civic identities, building bridges across race and class and other divides), elected officials campaigning for office or fulfilling campaign promises, and many more. The plot has twists and turns, and the players change roles from time to time, fighting and making up, building coalitions and then shifting them.

Two weeks ago, I visited Barcelona, Spain. Like San Francisco, it's stunning to visit--very, very beautiful. But new communities of immigrants, new technologies, and other changes are compelling Barcelona's leadership to look at the city in new ways. A tradition of strong local and regional government--there and in other regions of Spain--is faced with challenges that government can't solve on its own.

Talking to people who do problem-solving for a living--or who identify with the phrases "community change" or "civic leadership," as the case might be--always leaves me impressed, bewildered, overwhelmed, and hopeful ... all at once. I don't ask others to share MY faith, but as a person of faith, I think of the little picture that reads, "Lord, the ocean is so big, and my boat is so small."

Like communities worldwide, San Franciscans are dealing with a deep economic slowdown and its ripple effects: lower tax revenues and philanthropic dollars to fund good stuff, higher unemployment and social need, economic winners and losers. They're also dealing with changing demographics and feelings of displacement and guarded turf. In the bigger, churning sea, problem-solvers in their (comparatively) little boats are heading to meetings, going door to door, calling up colleagues and neighbors, and tackling vital issues, from how to keep kids out of incarceration by investing in them and their potential to how to keep schools safe without turning them into armed barracks with more cops than counselors, from how to make housing more affordable for all kinds of families to safeguarding the environment so that there IS a world for the next generation to inherit. And broader issues as well--such as how to balance the need for autonomy (in HOW services are delivered) with accountability (for how EFFECTIVELY resources are spent). It's not just about complying with the rules any more. It's about accomplishing results that matter, even if the scale seems too small.

I know that the tools on this website won't provide easy answers to those challenges. I do hope they will help people and institutions ask better questions, to see clearer choices, and--as we say upfront--to make NEW mistakes. In this weblog, I'll be commenting on the site as it evolves and as users write in with feedback. It will be a running journal, a kind of regular news column, I use to offer more ideas.

But for now, back to dotting i's and crossing t's (or the digital equivalents) ... Please forgive the occasional misspelling. I am writing F-A-S-T these days, trying to get this ready for showtime.

Date Created:
Jul. 19, 2003

What do we need to accomplish?

In the past few years, a number of tools pioneered, or most widely applied, in the business world have come to public interest work--the kind that government, nonprofits, and sometimes businesses too are doing to make a social impact.

One key example is logic modeling or theories of change. Not the most inviting labels, I know, but these models can be very useful and very powerful as tools for making a difference in the world. They're also known as "pathway" models because they challenge us to outline pathways of cause and effect linking "where we want to be" with "where we are now."

The term "logic model" seems more popular in the realm of business strategy: "What are the A-leads-to-B-leads-to-C conditions I need to create to change the ultimate outcome (D) that I care about?" When businesses ask the question, "D" is usually profitability or perhaps market share. When social-purpose organizations ask it, "D" is a lower disease rate or an increase in the number of children who graduate on time or in the number of low-income parents who earn wages and build assets, etc.

Evaluators studying social programs more often use the label "theories of change" to describe these same models. "Theory" sounds fancy and technical, but the idea is simply that when you make claims about what-effects-what, you are building up a simple theory about what will produce desired change in a social condition. By setting up a program or initiative based on that theory, you are putting your claims to the test.

Not a rocket science idea, but you'd be surprised at how often well-intentioned practitioners and their supporters have not made their assumptions explicit or tested them with evidence. Put differently, if you have no real theory of change--even an informal one, step-by-step--you're probably flying blind. It's important to be clear about your end outcomes (targets for change) and then "map backward" from there to what it will take to shift those outcomes.

Training and practice help, of course. Andrea Anderson of the Aspen Institute, who has worked with many local practitioners to apply theories of change, says that the habit of reasoning logically is hard to teach and learn, and so is questioning cherished assumptions, some of which turn out to be wrong or untested. It's not that theories of change are too complex or that people aren't smart enough. It's shifting the way they think that's tough sometimes.

Still, there are more and more free tools to help you leverage the power of logic models. Here on the site, we have a number of them posted, both under Strategy Tools/Planning (the function of these models is discussed in the strategy tool "Planning Together," and links are listed below it) and Program Tools/Multi-Issue. Hands-on tools and more background info include great stuff at CommBuild (Aspen Institute), Theory of Change Dot-org, KnowledgeBase (WK Kellogg Foundation), and the Bridgespan Group (in "Introduction to Business Planning for Nonprofits").

One key contribution of that last item on business planning is that it links theories of change developed for a specific program with the larger organizational arrangements needed to implement the program well. That is, a great plan without implementation capacity is just a plan. Theories of change make clearer what we need to do, but they don't guarantee we'll have the capacity to do it. Many for-profit organizations develop great product ideas but find they can't produce and get them to market well. The same is true for organizations that create and run social programs or more informal community initiatives. So use theories of change, but recognize that their usefulness is very specific and, as such, limited.

What's more, so-called technical planning--what exactly do we want to accomplish, and what exactly will it take, in the way of intermediate steps, to accomplish it?--is almost never entirely technical. Practitioners, funders, and others sometimes wrestle over how formal to make a theory of change, over whose knowledge counts as "expert" enough to rely on, over how soon a program should begin to show results, over how much investment in capacity is needed and by whom, and other issues. But to mix my metaphors, I'd rather wade into this sometimes-stormy water--if it helps get better results--than just fly blind.

Date Created:
Aug. 07, 2003

Learning to know, do, be

We call this site a "learning resource" for people and institutions worldwide, and we mean that in the broadest possible way. Here in the U.S., it's back-to-school time this week, from nursery school to advanced graduate school, and so it may be worthwhile to reflect for a minute on (a) what learning is about and for and (b) where and how it happens.

What learning is for, what it's all about

More and more, we need ways to learn that help us know and do--but also "be" in new and more effectve ways.

It's common to think that learning transmits knowledge, as in "facts" and perhaps opinions and other kinds of ideas. When learning happens, knowledge is gained. But this is just one of its purposes. Learning can also build skills, which implies not only having the background knowledge about something--a bicycle, a social condition, a civic organizing initiative, a special region or community--but having some ability to usefully use that knowledge in the world. In the very, very old days, before formal schooling existed on a large scale, people apprenticed to "master" craftsmen, often their fathers. The master woodcarver, for example, taught the apprentice about wood but also taught specific techniques for working the wood and what tool to use for what purpose.

So knowledge and skills cover the "knowing" and "doing" aspects of learning, and those two are often closely linked. What we've learned in the past generation, though, is that important kinds of learning are about identity and will--"being"--having the personal capacity to re-think your place in a community, organization, or project team. Apparently successful practitioners from all over the world tell us that the most difficult challenges they face are not limited to knowing or to formal skills but to understanding what roles to play in order to be effective--and then summoning the courage, patience, and other emotional resources required..

Learning to "be" is a very personal kind of learning, often as much emotional as it is rational. It tends to happen best when people we trust help us reflect on and learn from our own experiences. This is one reason good parenting is so important and can have such a lifelong impact. Now we need caring, insightful others to help us mine our experience throughout our lives, expanding our personal capacities, helping us recognize our limits, helping us choose roles that are a good fit with who we are and leave other roles for other people to perform. Some of the most respected "leadership educators" in the world employ these ideas, but they're accessible and useful for all of us.

In terms of what learning can produce and what it's for, it's not just the knowledge or skill, then, but the will and self-awareness that matters.

Where and how learning happens

As the world changes and learning needs change, so--slowly--do our ideas about where and how learning should happen. School is an important place for learning, and for reasons outlined above, so are the home or other arenas where people we know help us develop--relatives, community leaders, mentors at work, friends, and so on.

More and more experts on learning are identifying self-directed learning, team learning, and organizational learning as key mechanisms for producing learning. The reason is that no school or caring person in our lives can imagine every type of task that will be demanded of us. We need ways to learn flexibly, almost anywhere and anytime. And to do that, we need more than accessible resources and infrastrastructure--such as the Internet--we also need to think of ourselves as lifelong learners and the ability to get those around us to be willing and able to learn continuously, too.

Being a lifelong learner doesn't mean studying constantly, not in the traditonal sense of preparing on a topic. It does mean looking for ways to gain mastery as we do our work day-to-day.

We're hoping the tools on this site give you flexible ways to learn, both on your own and with others, so that you're headed "back to school" on a regular basis, from anywhere in the world on any set of topics, learning to know, do, be--more effectively.

Date Created:
Sep. 03, 2003

Compliments and Complements

A friend and colleague wrote from Los Angeles a few days ago with kind words about the website. She added that it should make a good complement to another, quite different website--that of an organization called Policylink (to which we link under "program tools/multi-issue").

I certainly hope my friend is right. We've posted links to quite a few websites that we hope this one complements. But it may help to offer a little more background on HOW and WHY different resources now on-line can complement one another.

There are many useful ways to "type" sites on the web, and we hope our site complements many key types. For purposes of the social problem-solving--and, in particular, the local public interest problem-solving--that is our focus here, some key types are:

A. "Portals" -- designed primarily to be clearinghouses, to highlight good work done by others (and often available on-line). It's not just an age of information anymore but of info overload. Portals or clearinghouses help us find our way to important stuff faster, usually by linking us to original resources available elsewhere (see below). Highlighting is, by definition, a selection and filtering process, though. So be mindful of what has been filtered out of sight--and perhaps out of mind. Ask: by what criteria were THESE items highlighted and not others? What else, not available here, might be important for the learning I want to do?

B. "Original resources/programmatic" -- sites designed mainly to share original material about specific domains of action or public interest, such as health, housing, econmic development, the environment, education, etc. Or newer, encompassing domains, such as "sustainable development," that may embrace several domains. The organizations producing this material and putting it on-line are public, private, and nonprofit. Some are direct producers and some are funders that provide the resources needed and help shape and disseminate the ideas. Our PROGRAM TOOLS section is focused on (B) type websites.

C. "Original resources/process and organization" -- sites concerned with social technologies, such as negotiation and visioning, or with means of organizing politically and operationally around any number of (programmatic) ends. Our STRATEGY TOOLS section is focused on (C) type websites.

The lingo gets tricky. Programmatic resources are about the substantive things we want to achieve and the areas in which we want to improve human life. That's why, in the main text of the site, I call these "ends" to go with the "means" of process and organization.

But the "substance of process" is well worth learning, too. The world won't make it on programmatic expertise alone, less and less so as our expectations about engaging stakeholders, cutting costs, developing better solutions, and so on evolve. That list covers HOW we work on stuff, not just what we work on.

"Strategy" is another tricky concept. The strategy tools on this site are, as I note above, process-focused. They're about the new civics and management of social problem-solving. But programmatic tools often include strategies, too: recipes for having an impact on a social condition.

I wrote about one of the most promising forms of program strategy--a logic model or "theory of change"--in an earlier entry of this log. (And lately, I've been thinking about big-picture strategies for accomplishing daunting and controversial things, such as making increased racial and ethnic and other forms of diversity work in changing cities and nations.) Fancy label aside, a "logic model" is an important tool for program strategy because it makes success more likely--and key gaps in our knowledge more evident.

Programs or process? "Substance" or civics? It's not either/or. For many practitioners, funders, educators, and others in the business of making the world better, a key question is this: what kinds of expertise do I want to develop in depth--and continually update--and for what kinds will I need to turn to others?

This site is, among other purposes, meant to help you explore just how wide and deep our learning about problem-solving can be. We're hoping for many complements, because so many groups are producing great stuff out there. Some more compliments (kinds words, kudos) would be nice, too.

Date Created:
Sep. 13, 2003

What do you think?

I'd love to hear from visitors to the site about what's useful, what you'd like to see more of, and whether you're sharing this new learning resource with your partners, students, co-workers, etc.

Here are some tentative plans (on our end) for the months ahead:

* Create simple, brief, skim-able presentation (overhead) versions of the strategy tools--and perhaps a global overview, "What is community problem-solving?" We want users of the site to be able to share these ideas easily, and discuss them, with others.

* Create brief introductions to each "Program Tool" section offering a little context on what's linked there and why.

* Organize some "discussion blitzes" in the Learning Community section of the site. Most discussion boards need a trigger or catalyst to get them going, and then others will join in. (Feel free to organize your own blitz by getting a discussion group going there on topics you and your network care about.)

And .. ???

Date Created:
Oct. 07, 2003

Learning, deciding, doing

Recently, I sat in on a meeting held by a nonprofit child advocacy organization. The meeting included the group's core staff, board members, and key volunteers. Held in a beautiful city park in a public meeting room, the gathering focused on the year ahead: How much should we focus on this issue or that, what do we need to learn about what's really going on in schools and neighborhoods, how much have we listened to the young people on whose behalf we do our work, and more. Everyone seemed motivated, eager to listen, eager to contribute.

As the day drew to a close, a member of the staff got up to lead a conversation about communication. Like many groups I've visited with (or heard about in the classroom), this one has a broad mandate, many willing souls, and never enough time to pay attention to everything or make sure the proverbial "left hand" of the organization knows what the right hand is doing.

But as the ideas for what to do about this recurrent challenge spilled onto the flipchart in front of the room, it hit me that the group was really tackling four more or less distinct challenges all at once, i.e. under the broad umbrella category "communication." It's worth thinking about how we all, in our communities or organizations, develop routines or capacity for addressing these:

(1) The classic left hand/right hand problem: Routine communication to allow coordination across the organization. Busy organizations with big, multi-dimensional scopes of work and entrepreneurial habits often struggle with this one. But so do organizations that just have weak operational processes. People in different parts of the organization often need each other to accomplish key goals, but the organization may not be set up to allow the day-to-day flows of information that coordination requires. Setting up effective teams that cut across units of the organization can help. Some nifty books on this include The Horizontal Organization, Structure in Fives (on why organizations get structured the way they do), and Groups that Work (and those that don't), which is about effective teams.

(2) Figuring out who knows what across the organization: Mapping and managing our knowledge. Beyond everyday coordination, sometimes we need special know-how about something and aren't sure whether this knowledge exists anywhere in the organization. Big companies invest in technological solutions to this one ("knowledge management" systems). But there are low-tech solutions for those with limited resources. For example, you can create a "face book" with everyone's picture and their key areas of expertise, asking members of your organization or community to update their profile once per month or so. Or create some other mechanism for cataloging the kinds of knowledge that different people have (not to be confused with cataloging all their knowledge! That would be impossible, and trying would be very costly). You simply want to "map" the areas where the organization has rich know-how so that the question "Does anyone in my organization know about X?" is easily answered. Small organizations can use daily communication mechanisms, such as meetings and email, to check. But bigger organizations. networks, and communities need to map a bit.

(3) Learning things we don't know: Mechanisms for ongoing learning, fresh perspectives, growth. In the "balanced scorecard" invented by organization experts at the Harvard Business School, "learning and growth" is a key dimension of organizational success. Most groups need to build in learning, challenge themselves with new perspectives on things, even assign people to do homework on something and come back and role play (e.g., take on the role of strong advocate or opponent) just to make colleagues or fellow community members think harder. The question isn't "How do we learn things that will reinforce what we already believe and the ways in which we already think?" but "How do we position ourselves to think in many ways and learn in new ways over time?" Some organizations create informal advisory groups (not be confused with a formal board of directors) to stay in touch with people who will challenge their thinking. Don't connect your organization only to people who know the kinds of things you already know or think just like you. Add "lateral thinking" and contrarian instincts where you can. "Communities of practice" (see links on this site) are one way to learn stuff with others who share your interests, not just swap the knowledge you already have.

(4) Planning and deciding together more effectively: Communication to improve input, deliberation, and decisions. The group I was visiting has strong norms of input, consultation, and deference to other's judgment. At the same time, it does political work and tries to balance independence with the virtues of coordination, accomodation, and consistency across the group. (After all, the reputation of an advocacy organization depends on what everyone connected to it does and says.) Designing ways to do this is the central theme of the "Planning Together" tool on this site, though there's much more one could say about how to do it in organizations.

Beyond day-to-day coordination, managing what we know, and learning new things and new outlooks, then, the last one is about communication that lets us shape each other's expectations and input on key decisions that the organization must make. It moves the focus from mere acting (operationally, on given strategies) in #1 and creating and sharing knowledge (in #2 and #3) to shaping strategies by deliberating, advocating, negotiation, and deciding amongst ourselves.

Date Created:
Dec. 07, 2003

Doing good with less

Earlier this year, a friend in philanthropy asked me to pen some ideas about how to be effective when funding is extra scarce and the needs seem endless. While oriented to funders, then, these ideas address, more broadly, the keys to making a difference when many resources (not just funding) seem to be in short supply.



We all have informal theories about the way the world works, why it should change, and how to go about changing it. These “mental models” have, in fact, become the focus of great attention in recent years, along with “frames” and “paradigms” and other ideas that are about ideas. During the 1990s, “theories of change” got the attention of philanthropies and other investors in social programs, just as “logic models” (same thing) had in the business world. But theories of change capture only part of what I mean by informal theories—and without giving us all the leverage we need on hard social problems. Where else is there leverage, and how should we think about it at the moment?

Scarcity in the most visible resources—money, say, to fuel good stuff—can make other resources more important, such as the appetite for experiment and a willingness to embrace tested ideas despite the uncomfortable adjustments they call for in how we think and work.

But start with first principles. What does impact—on anything—depend on? A simple rendering might look like this:

IMPACT = talented, motivated people + opportunities to develop their skills and commitments + promising substantive ideas about how to deploy their energies and other resources (equipment, infrastructure, etc.) + capable, adaptive organizations to serve as platforms (for the people and the promising ideas) + capacity and willingness to team up across those organizational sandboxes, promoting synergies and accountability in public life

Think about how much leverage we forego if we ignore any of these—and, more to the point, if we fail to take advantage of opportunities to re-assess our own organization’s (or group's) priorities under a meaningful strategy for having an impact.

Let’s take a quick example in higher education, focusing first on talent, the first item in that formula. For years, colleges and universities in
America have debated the issue of racial and ethnic diversity on the faculty. Some of this has been honest, productive deliberation about the value of diversity in institutions and about what it will take to serve the next generation in an increasingly diverse America. But much of it missed the bigger picture. Most exceptionally talented students of color (as we say in the U.S.), at least in terms of the writing and analytic reasoning skills developed by the early 20s, choose the professions of business, law, and medicine, not the academic Ph.D. programs that are faculty feeders. Coming from poorer families than whites, on average, and wanting best-possible incomes is surely part of the career decision. Perceptions of status in society and intriguing job content count, too. But the point is that while colleges do need to reach out better to those comparatively few students of color who have chosen the academic route, the bigger pool problem remains. We do almost—emphasis on almost—nothing to make the academy more attractive to those with terrific potential who never check us out. And we badly need them to do that.

Talent flows in waves and even in fads. When the film “All the President’s Men” (1976) hit theaters nationally, it was the best thing to happen to journalism school admissions in a generation. The film showed journalists in the important role of speaking truth to power--specifically, exposing the abuse of Presidential power in the Watergate events. A wave of young, bright, motivated men and women suddenly saw journalism as a way to make a difference in the world, not to mention an exciting way to spend time sleuthing.
Hollywood marketing and well-known movie stars didn’t hurt, but the larger fact is that, mostly by accident, someone steered the talent pool in ways that enriched a major area of public life. It remains unclear whether we will figure out how to use 9-11, which framed public service favorably, the way Watergate was used—in this rare instance, for the good.

Talent is just the tip of the iceberg, however. The fuller list of impact strategy questions, including but not stopping at substantive theories of change, might read like this:

1.      What are we or others in our fields of interest doing to attract the very best new talent from outside the field? How much do we know about the talent pool and flows?

2.      What are we doing to develop the skills and commitment of those we have—and signal to those we want to attract that the field offers the chance to grow, not just toil away? Are there systems for self-directed, in-service learning? Are we getting all that we can from formal, classroom learning, certification, etc.?

3.      Is financial scarcity a signal that we need new substantive theory-of-change ideas about how to affect social conditions, or do we need to make much more of the ideas we have? Political and managerial systems are notorious for turning uncomfortable adaptation into a technical problem: “If only we had a better best practice for doing this work!” The questions are, why are demonstrations not demonstrating what they are supposed to? Why isn’t there more replication of proven stuff? Whose job is it to make the cost of failing to experiment, adapt, and learn higher?

4.      Sticking to the substance of the interventions we make, have we applied risk and reward thinking effectively to our work? “Investment” can be a buzzword. Or it can be, yes, a frame for deciding strategically from a big, mixed menu: ventures that are high risk but high potential reward, those that are low risk and also low innovation but meet critical needs, the occasional and very wonderful low risk/high reward ones (“cherries”). It’s not at all clear that institutions should make their decisions about how to behave on this menu via backroom huddle, i.e., without give-and-take with other players. And as for basic needs, “basic” is a very great thing. It means these needs, if met, create the foundation on which everything else happens and on which the next wave of change can grow.

5.      What are we or others doing to make organizations in our field(s) more capable, adaptive, and responsive? What are we doing to weed out non-performers without simply adding to reporting burdens? Do we create a culture of performance around our investments? Do we know how? Ditto for teamwork across organizations. It’s not a world for tuned-up solo artists. The orchestra’s the thing.

Working along this list, beware three great temptations. The first is technicalizing things that aren’t technical (“if only …”). The second is dismissing the talent issue as elitist distraction or, worse yet, disrespectful of the faithful. To the contrary, done well, drawing in new talent beyond "the usual suspects" is the highest form of respect to pay to the field that already exists. The third temptation is planning and pondering forever. Don’t.


Date Created:
Dec. 16, 2003

Effective school communities

I'd be very interested in hearing from users of this site who are working on, or know about, how to create more effective "school communities." A wide array of players around the world are thinking about, and in some cases saying a great deal about how parents and others can work with teachers, school administrators, and of course students themselves to improve educational experiences and outcomes.

But i find that specific concerns vary widely. Some are most interested in making schools more accountable to families. The theory is that schools aren't doing what they should or could be, especially when they serve low-income or otherwise disadvantaged students. In other instances, innovators and advocates are worried that efforts of teachers and other school staff alone aren't nearly enough. In the language of the strategy tool (on this site) on Organizing Stakeholders, what some service providers want is more families who are willing and able to "co-produce" the desired outcomes by working carefully with teachers, students, and others, as appropriate. In still other cases, some are writing about how a variety of stakeholders can change the governance of local schools, shift directions, raise new resources, change policy. This perspective isn't always clear about how changing those things will actually affect educational outcomes.

But the larger point is that while these are not all the SAME concern, they all relate to creating more effective school communities, not just changing what happens at school itself or, more specifically, in the classroom.

Date Created:
Feb. 04, 2004

Sending us feedback/sharing your stuff

I want to apologize for the technical problems we had receiving email, apparently since December. The companies that host the site and provide email services shifted some things, and it appears that email bounced back to those trying to send us feedback. It was very frustrating.

The "receive" function has been fixed at last, and we're debugging "send." So send us feedback, links, and more -- see the options at the CONTACT US button -- and we'll reurn your email shortly.

To answer some frequently asked questions:

* As a general rule, the project isn't set up to provide hands-on consulting, but if you want to tell us what you're after, we may be able to refer you somehow.

* If you want your website listed among our many links, it always helps to have some sense of WHERE. This is an international site with two main domains (strategy tool, program tools). If your group only works in the U.S., for example, and concentrates on, say, natural resources or children's programs or community safety, it would help us to have those details clarified in the email you send.

* In general, we don't list training or conference events. The site isn't a bulletin board in that way. But if you indicate clearly what your site covers and who you serve, a link to the SITE/ORGANIZATION as a whole (on our site) may help.

Thanks very much for your interest in our work.

Date Created:
Mar. 08, 2004

The Center for Reflective Community Practice

The Center for Reflective Community Practice at the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) is an extraordinary institution--in the literal sense of out-of-the-ordinary.

Built on a long-standing commitment at MIT to put the best ideas in universities to work with seasoned practitioners and community engagement projects, the Center helps communities build creative solutions, with particular strengths in political strategy, team building and alliance building, information technology, and more.

An example is the recently held, 5th annual Grasroots Use of Technology conference.

For details, check out their new website at http://crcp.mit.edu/

Date Created:
Mar. 25, 2004

Pathways to (better) outcomes

In a column last year (see August 7th, below), I overviewed the concept of "pathway" models or "theories of change" that map out strategies for affecting a problem, step-by step. The premise is a simple one but also very powerful: that knowledge about chains of cause and effect can improve planning and action on hard problems, whether getting kids to school ready to learn, dropping the rate of AIDS transmission in a community, improving air quality, expanding access to quality housing, or something else. I'm pleased to announce that Professor Lisbeth Schorr, known for such books as Within Our Reach and Common Purpose, has just launched an updated, expanded, enhanced version of her effort to share an invaluable knowledge base on pathways for positively affecting children and families. The main pathways on her site cover school readiness and family economic success.

The new website is www.pathwaystooutcomes.org, and we link to it from several spots on our site (under Program tools/education and .../children and families, for example).

I recommend using the program-specific resources at her site together with the process-focused strategy tools on mine, in particular the tools entitled "Planning Together" (since pathway models often encourage planning and broad participation) and "Perfect fit or shotgun marriage?: The power and pitfalls in partnerships" (since pathways sometimes expect different players--service providers, community residents, others--to perform effectively in teamwork fashion).

So check out Lee Schorr's website, and please let me know of other websites or available resources for designing better programs and projects to affect tough, important problems.

Date Created:
May. 24, 2004