Thursday, January 6, 2011

Listening Famine

I was reading in the paper this morning a story on the report issued by the presidential panel named to study the BP oil spill. They have concluded that the companies involved took a series of hazardous and time savings steps without consideration of the risks involved. They also surfaced a picture of company officials who failed to consult with one another on critical decisions.

Gillian Tett of The Financial Times writes in her 2009 book, Fools Gold, that our “entire financial system went wrong as a result of flawed incentives within banks and investment funds, as well as the rating agencies; warped regulatory structures; and a lack of oversight.” It turns out that the current global financial crisis is a story about people we thought were the smartest players in the industry. Their decisions turned out to be “remarkably na├»ve, reckless or, in some cases, downright stupid”, I quote Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times who reviewed Ms Tett’s book.

There appears to be a famine in our world. It is pervasive and it is having tragic and far reaching consequences. We need to name this famine and address it. It is a famine of listening.

This shouldn’t surprise us.

It’s not like the water that we seek in the big picture is flowing well close to home. If we aren’t listening or being listened to in our families, in our places of employment, in our churches, or in our neighborhoods, why do we think the large entities are better than we are?

When was the last time at home we asked each other about our hopes and dreams for the new year? Have we asked what are the challenges we are each facing in our unique journeys or in our journey of living together?

When were the voices of students, teachers or education researchers included in our education reform efforts?

How often does the top executive ask administrative assistants, who interface with large segments of customers and team members, how could we improve our product or our operations?

Listening is the path to improve relationships, inform decisions and effectively problem solve. If we are going to survive as a culture we need this skill, this orientation, just as badly as we need water in a rain drought. The good news about this famine is that we can begin to generate the very resource we need. In this case, we can be the change we want to see in the world as Mahatma Gandhi so wisely said. The change we need desperately is our willingness and ability to listen to each other.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

To Tom, Asmund, Slow Moose, Wageble...and all our One People Friends

“There are these rare moments when musicians play together…when their expression becomes as easy and graceful as friendship or love. This is when they give us a glimpse of what we might be, of our best selves, and of an impossible world in which you give everything you have to others, but lose nothing of yourself. Out in the real world there exist detailed plans, visionary projects for peaceable realms, all conflicts resolved, happiness for everyone, for ever – mirages for which people are prepared to die and kill: Christ’s kingdom on earth, the workers state, the ideal Islamic state. Only in music, and only on rare occasions, does the curtain actually lift on this dream of community, and it’s tantalizingly conjured, before fading away with the last notes.”


~ Ian McEwan

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Remember Our Words

I want to remember:
We all have the words.
The words are the guides
we can find a better way
we can move
we can shift our patterns.
Our patterns are beautiful,
let them out
let them free.

Too many voices have been silenced
the children, the women, the men's hearts.
I want to remember: this is about
what is lost in the silence
what kindness, what wisdom,
what thought and ideas have we silenced.

Let them out.
Let them free.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dating Is Going To Be Hard

I married a Red Indian Poet. Could be he was the love of my life. But there has to be dating even after the love of your life. He was grand. Deep. Thoughtful. Passionate. He is changing the world and when we were together I somehow felt I was a part of his force.

He loves our girl. He loves all his children. When it comes right down to it he loves all his ex wives and all of humanity.

But I saw the writing on the wall. And the writing said: he can love a girl, and he can love the whole of humanity but one more soul too close just doesn't work. Something in him isn't wired for that settled soul of intimacy that I crave. And the wall went on: better he love his girl and the rest of humanity than add one more too close soul to cage him in.

So dating has to happen.

I want the one who moves my soul and is determined to change the world in some way. I found an industry guy who helps 17 plants continue to spew toxins in our air and water and to stay within the bounds and blessing of our Environmental Protection Agencies.

I told him my sister was working in Portland to address the regulatory process overseeing the factory in her neighborhood that allows heavy toxins in their air. He told me the community organizing was led by professional outside entities not really from the neighborhood. He didn't know my sister so I explained that she did live in the neighborhood, she was just a mom who read a USA Today article that named her daughters' school as second in the nation in toxic air quality due to industry emissions.

I asked him what we should do with the toxic waste in our neighborhoods from these plants. He said the plants were there first. Maybe we should move the communities.

I said moving that many homes and families and schools and stores might not be realistic, couldn't we work with the plants and EPA's to move to cleaner technology? He said humanity has never been healthier or lived longer. He thought we should be happy and look the other way, that really we are pretty well off in the scheme of things. He doesn't think we need a revolution.

Must not be his children getting sick.

Dating is going to be hard.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Why Juvenile Justice Reform?...Why Now?

As a social worker for the past 24 years I have watched as we have over built the strong arm of our law in response to drugs and violence in our cities. I can understand the fear that drove us here. I have looked in the eyes of children and adults who feel they need a drug as much or more than they need love, opportunity and hope. I have sat with children armed with guns. I have spoken to children on the run, fearful that the lack of place and meaning they feel at home somehow makes all the risks they take on the street worthwhile. This should scare us. We are losing these children and all their potential worth.

In the past we viewed parenting as if on a continuum between leniency and punishment. What we have learned is that neither end of that range offers the reality of what children need. To thrive in this culture of infinite choices and risks we must all develop complex internal realities capable of seeing vision, following dreams, developing patience and perseverance and making difficult decisions. This requires a sophisticated parenting that finds a lovely balance between support and inspiration on one hand and safety and accountability on the other.

Neither leniency nor punishment has proven to produce good outcomes.

And yet as a society we consistently deliver punishment as a response to our child development issues. We have over built our institutions of control and we have underdeveloped our public skill to hold children accountable in the context of relationships that demonstrate hope and support for their future.

It is important also that we see our current policy and practice through a historical lens. Our children certainly do. Data shows that African American, American Indian and Latino children are in our criminal justice system at the most disproportionate rates and receiving our most limited and restrictive sanctions. These are children who have to reconcile a painful, unsafe and often even violent history in our country and have the least faith in our hope for their future. We consistently give them our strongest arm and weakest support. This picture should not make sense to us; it is a recipe for disaster.

The solution is within our reach and our JDAI/DMC work can show us the way:
We need to engage all our children currently in the system in a wake up call to ensure they know they have a calling and a purpose as gifted, free, healthy, contributing members of our community.

We need to be certain our criteria for bringing children into the system or for sanctioning those already in are completely objective.

We need to examine every decision point in our juvenile justice system for bias that puts children of color at disadvantage.

We need to consciously and aggressively seek the voice and genius of those segments of our community who fear our system most, our African American, American Indian, Hmong, Latino and recent immigrant communities for they must be true partners in shaping a system they experience as just.

We must seek true cultural diversity at our policy tables as it is the variety of cultural perspectives and life experience in American that will bring unique world views to the table that will inform our responses to the challenges we find most baffling.

We need to prepare and orient these segments of the community to be full partners at the table.

We need to balance the role of law enforcement in our communities with a probation system that is not driven to sanction but rather driven by child development and family development approaches to their work. We can put high level social work supervision in our probation offices.

We need to inspire our partners in community based organizations to build “with” the communities they serve not “for” them.

We need to draw on the practices of restorative justice in our families, at all levels of the system and within our schools to find constructive responses to challenging behavior.

We need our JDAI/DMC work to be contagious. Let’s do the difficult work to reflect on the decisions point within our reach that are adding to the problem not constructing the solution. Then we can hold this progress up as examples for families, schools, business and all other segments of our community to inspire their own self reflection and action.

Visionary and Collaborative Leadership

I have been thinking a lot about leadership recently. A few FullThought thoughts about visionary and collaborative leadership:

1) It's never about us. It's about our vision. What is our vision for the world that informs our work? How well can we clearly articulate our vision?

2) What are the assumptions that frame our vision?

3) Who are we? What are we ready for? What is unique about us that shows up in all we do?

4) We must know intimately the stories of those that inform and guide us. Who are these people? What are their stories? What are they telling us?

5) Our allies must be an ever expanding pool. Who shares our vision? Who is also working toward a common end? Who's skills and partnership do we need? What are the visions of our allies and how can we get behind them?

6)We must have a keen grasp of the forces that oppose us. There is wisdom in the point of view they bring to the table. Do we see and understand this wisdom?

7) Who is defending another vision? What is their vision? What are the assumptions that frame their vision?

8) What forces within us work against us? Are we facing fear or drawing unintentionally from ego?

9) We are stronger when we bring laughter, tears and hope on the journey.

10) Courage is not the absence of fear but rather strength in the face of fear.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Road to Revolutions: Women, Creativity and Leadership

The challenges we face today in all aspects of our lives need to be met through significant shifts in the way we see and understand ourselves, our contexts, and the way we operate within them. This change will best be driven by open, humble and collaborative leadership.

I am joining forces with my incredibly talented friend and colleague, Mary Tinucci to offer a workshop for women looking for new ways to grow and live in the world; paths to heal the hurts that leadership roles provoke; and strategies to bring forth our visions. This workshop is for women leaders, entrepreneurs and for those creating new projects and visions.

Join us to:

EXPLORE...
the needs and capacity of "Self" in the role of leader.

FIND the BALANCE & SKILLS...
to hear collective voice without losing your vision.

LEARN & PRACTICE...
specific, creative and powerful strategies to move yourself, your project or your organization forward.

Dates: Four Thursdays May 27, June 3, 10, 17

Times: 6:00 - 8:30 pm

Location: 444 Lexington Pkwy S St. Paul, MN 55105

Registration Fee: $150

Register by May 20: send 50% payment to:
Laura LaBlanc
444 Lexington Pkwy S Unit 1
St. Paul, MN 55105

Balance Due First Session
Registration Limit: 10

For More Information: Laura LaBlanc (651)263-0739