Monday, June 19, 2017

Sharing Power

As we’ve said from the beginning – and I’ve said many times in this blog – the Tribune Building is about far more than a building. It is a testament to the resilience of a community. It is a new approach to community development. It is a physical representation of our belief in the wisdom of residents to determine and shape the community they desire. At its core, it is about people.

Incourage is honored to have the Tribune’s user-centered process featured in Stanford Social Innovation Review’s recently released cover story “Creating Breakout Innovation”. The research is about a new way of working – of collaborating for solutions – that consistently delivers better results. 
As the article shares “…even more important than the [Tribune] building was the transformation and sense of leadership built within the community through the design and decision-making process.”

Take a moment to read the article and learn more about the five practices of breakout innovation, as well as why incorporating an authentic user-centered approach is challenging work.  

For an on-the-ground perspective of whether engaging residents and sharing power matters, view the 2016 Tribune Participation Survey results.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Putting People at the Center: Establishing, Restoring and Growing Trust

The divisive mood and behavior of our country is eroding the very thing that is essential to our vitality: trust. We are near record lows on measurements of ‘trust’ in many areas according to Gallup, Pew Research Centers and others. Lack of trust in media, news and information sources. Lack of trust in government. Lack of trust in institutions and each other.

We can identify with this in central Wisconsin.  When economic crisis struck our community 17 years ago, there was no clear path forward. The sense of loss – which included jobs and a company headquarters - was palpable. The accompanying uncertainty, fear and anxiety did not engender collaborative behaviors or trusting relationships. In retrospect, trust is what we needed the most and it was in the shortest supply. Not unlike what we are experiencing in our nation today.  

Incourage began our trust building efforts in 2005. Our goal: increase individual and collective action to rebuild a strong, local economy in a community that works well for all people. We offered leadership training programs that equipped residents with the skills, tools and knowledge to build trusting relationships. We supported study tours that fostered relationship development among participants, created shared knowledge and motivated new thinking. We coordinated a civility initiative. We co-created norms and collaborative guiding principles for community initiatives with partners and vendors. We helped businesses identify shared value propositions and mutual interests, and establish norms that guided their relationships with one another. We invested in approaches that integrate adaptive skills into school curriculum. We changed our own policies and practices for authenticity and values-alignment.   

Incourage evaluated and applied what we learned through these efforts to our organizational strategy, understanding that “building trust” and “authentically engaging residents in shaping the future of their community” was central to achieving our goal.

The Tribune Building embodies this learning. It is more than a building. It represents a user-centered approach to growing a community – one in which we trust, value and respect each other. We began by asking the community a simple question: what do you want this building to be? This question launched a multi-year process of engaging residents and helping them gain confidence, skills to build trusting relationships and a sense of ownership for the future of our community.

Incourage has learned a lot about listening, building trust and the importance of user participation in community decision-making and economic development strategies through the Tribune process. We’ve also learned about and experienced the challenge of changing old practices. 

Putting people at the center and building trust is not easy, a quick fix or short-term work. It requires intentionality and long-term commitment. We believe, however, it is “the work” that must be done if we are to realize a sense of unity and shared purpose in our neighborhoods, institutions, communities and nation.  


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mission Possible: How Foundations Are Shaping the Future Of Impact Investing

I’m pleased to share with you that, together with other foundation leaders from across the nation, I was invited to author a piece as part of a Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) 11-week series, produced in partnership with Mission Investors Exchange. SSIR describes this series as one that is exploring what’s next in impact investing and what we can learn from some of the most innovative foundations. It is a privilege to be published as part of this group and to present a rural, place-based perspective from “Middle America.”  

Read the full post here.  

See the full 11-week series here.

Thanks for reading.