A good friend writes on Facebook:
Now is not the time, but sometime soon, while the searing memories are still fresh, we must have a candid conversation about how we all will live in the new world climate change is bringing to us. After a disaster, there is a defiant urge to remake what was lost, brick for brick and beam for beam. But the real challenge before us will be not to remake what was, but to make something different. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.
By Flickr user dpu-ucl
I think he’s right . . . and I believe there is a growing consensus that it is time to have a national (or global) conversation about climate change and how to live with it. This conversation would not simply be an argument over what causes it or whether it is occurring. Neither would it be simply about how to stop, or slow it.
It would be about what we should do — how should we live, how can we adapt, how can we mitigate?
This is not a technical conversation, but a political (small p) conversation. That is, it is rooted in what we hold valuable. We have mistaken the problem as something that experts can handle, and because all the answers really cause us to face tensions between things held valuable, we slide into partisan rancor. It’s time to hold a conversation on that level, rooted in our concerns and aspirations.
There is a very interesting piece by Andrew J. Hoffman in the latest Stanford Social Innovation Review on this topic — sorry to say, it may be behind a paywall.
Photo credit: Flickr user dpu-ucl
I write a monthly column published at Ethics Newsline, the flagship publication for the Institute for Global Ethics and one which I helped develop when I worked at that organization. This month’s column is about the “ethics fatigue” that has grown up around today’s young people, as they are constantly bombarded with aspirational messages and lists of important values and virtues.
I recently had the good fortune to lead a session on leadership and ethics for a group of high school students. It went well — all except for one part, which fell sort of flat. As I reflected on the ups and downs of the talk, I realized that I had been having the same experience with high schoolers for some time.
I’ve been giving addresses on ethics and leadership in public life for many years and in front of many audiences. These events almost always go well and generate insights in the attendees. I liberally mix my experience with the Institute for Global Ethics, my experience in civic engagement, and my experience in politics to make the basic point that, in public life, we ought to root our decision-making in shared values rather than solely in policy or law. A part of these sessions often includes an exercise in which people identify and discuss what their shared, core values might be. Later in my address, I typically use this as a foundation for other points about how to analyze situations and make decisions.
It is this “shared values” portion that fell flat with my high school audience — as it has been for some time. Why? Students these days continually are bombarded with messages throughout school and extracurricular activities that remind them of what their “core values” ought to be. There are posters in the hallways with acronyms designed to generate pep and morals all at once. There are T-shirts, stickers, decals, pencils, and more — all boasting aspirational lists of values and virtues to be memorized, abided by, and spread the message.
What’s more, many students also have been subjected to meetings, classes, lectures, and rallies designed to underscore these values. They’ve broken into small groups, shared their feelings, written on white boards, and addressed postcards to themselves as reminders, all in workshops designed with the same attention to psychology that an adult-education specialist might use when designing a high-stakes board retreat.
The end result increasingly appears to be cynicism and fatigue.
(Continued . . . )
Read the full piece here.
Don’t argue with me by Flickr user ClaraDon
I was recently asked to respond to the question, “What trends have you been seeing in democracy?” I thought I might share my response more broadly.
One of the core experiences when it comes to democracy in the U.S. context is the effect of hyperpolarization. This is a pathology that goes beyond simple ”partisanship” (which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing). Hyperpolarization refers to the inability or refusal to consider other ”tribe’s” views as valid and to (at the same time) actively seek out tribal markers.
This plays out in the most obvious way in presidential-year politics. To a liberal, anything Romney says ought to be parsed so it can be seen as showing how anti-worker he is. Similarly, a conservative (under this model) will seek out reasons to find Obama to be a government-first softie.
But it matters beyond presidential electoral politics. In a hyperpolarized world, citizens on an individual level are constantly looking for cues to see what tribe people belong to. And, once the tribe is identified, we scour the person’s words and deeds for reasons to hate or love them. I have seen this play out on a local level, as people examine one another’s speech to determine if they are for or against a certain housing development (for example). Once the judgment is made, everything that person says is either agreed with and defended, or subject to ridicule and derision . . . entirely due to which ”tribe” or ”team” we believe them to be on.
This hyperpolarization stands in the way of productive choice-making in communities and is one of the key pathologies we currently face. (Not the only.)
As many friends know, I have a monthly column published at Ethics Newsline, the flagship publication for the Institute for Global Ethics and one which I helped develop when I worked at that organization. This month’s column is about the lessons organizational leaders should take from the recent University of Virginia contretemps.
One email caught my eye recently. On Sunday morning, June 10, I received an announcement that the University of Virginia’s president was stepping down. The announcement was terse. “On behalf of the Board of Visitors, we are writing to tell you that the Board and President Teresa Sullivan today mutually agreed that she will step down as president of the University of Virginia effective August 15, 2012.” Later in the announcement, a statement from President Sullivan referred to “a philosophical difference of opinion.”
Odd, I thought to myself. She’s new on the job. This sounds like she was fired.
Odd indeed. The announcement email, which had been sent under the name of Helen Dragas, Rector of the Board of Visitors (akin to board chair), turned out to be just the opening act of an intense drama that played out over the next 16 days.
This drama has forever changed how the university of Virginia will do its business. Beyond that, however, it also perfectly illustrates a new set of institutional ethics that leaders must deal with.
(Continued . . . )
Read the full piece here.
As some know, I have begun a monthly column published at Ethics Newsline, the flagship publication for the Institute for Global Ethics and one which I helped develop when I worked at that organization. This month’s column is about recent research that sheds light on just how divided we are — in public vs. in private life.
Only Divided Because We Think We Are
It is conventional wisdom among those who worry about the strength of civil society that Americans are polarized due in large part to the rhetoric of the political and media elites. Deep down, we are not so different from our neighbors, but the messages we hear from the news shows and from political podiums is that we must vanquish our foes lest the nation spiral ever downward.
New research by the Pew Research Center adds nuance to that, and provides a troubling counterpoint. According to this new report, Americans have remained moderately divided on important issues when traditional demographic measures are taken into account — race, gender, age, income status, etc. The differences have remained steady at (depending on the marker) between 4 and 14 percent from 1987 to 2012.
During this same period, however, the difference between Democrats and Republicans has climbed rather steadily and steeply, from 10 percent in 1987 to 18 percent today.
Put simply, the parties are pulling farther and farther apart.
And it’s not just the parties. While it is true that people have been abandoning both parties in public opinion surveys, so that “Independent” is now an important designation, the truth is that most Independents lean one way or another.
“Even when the definition of the party bases is extended to include these leaning independents, the values gap has about doubled between 1987 and 2012,” according to the researchers.
That’s the bad news. But there is also good news, mixed with a warning call, when we look more closely. Because it is not truly the case that people are drifting apart when it comes to values — it is our institutions drifting apart, leaving us behind.
(Continued . . .)
Read the full piece here.
I’m pleased to announce that the Case Foundation has released a new report co-authored by me (with Cynthia Gibson) titled To Be Fearless.
The report, commissioned for the Case Foundation’s fifteenth anniversary, is an exploration of what it means for organizations in the social sector to be fearless. It is rooted in five key principles:
- Make Big Bets and Make History. Set audacious, not incremental, goals.
- Experiment Early and Often. Don’t be afraid to go first.
- Make Failure Matter. Failure teaches. learn from it.
- Reach Beyond Your Bubble. It’s comfortable to go it alone. But innovation happens at intersections.
- Let Urgency Conquer Fear. Don’t overthink and overanalyze. Do.
The To Be Fearless Report lays out the framework for a wide-ranging initiative by the Case Foundation to spark a conversation about fearlessness across the social sector. It was released at an event streamed live on Ustream featuring Jean and Steve Case, Sen. Mark Warner, Walter Isaacson (CEO of the Aspen Institute and Steve Jobs’ biographer), and many notable social sector leaders.
The full report is available for free download at the Case Foundation’s web site.
Steve Case, Jean Case, Walter Isaacson
At my most recent yoga teacher training weekend, our teacher challenged us to find the essence of what drives our commitment to teaching yoga. We were asked to complete a simple sentence: “My name is __________ and I am a commitment for __________.”
The invitation came at a funny time for me. I had traveled to the west coast for a number of business meetings just a few days earlier. A lot of anxiety was involved. In one meeting, my colleague asked me an odd question: “What is your essence?” he asked me. You don’t get questions like that in a business setting very often. It took me by surprise and I said the first thing that came to my mind that felt true: “To help others to feel they are becoming better people.” A little sappy, I know. But it accurately captures what motivates me most right now. It has not always been this way, but for a while now this sense of helping people has been a core driver.
I am a commitment for clarity and inspiration.
Now, in teacher training, I was being asked to boil it down to one word. I thought. First I wrote down “love.” But the more I thought about that, the less I was happy with it — too vague. Easy to misunderstand.
Finally, the word “inspiration” came to me. I crossed out the “love” and wrote “I am a commitment for inspiration.” That felt right. With that, the exercise was complete and we dove into our yoga practice.
After practice was complete, we sat in a circle and talked a bit more. At one point, we were asked to quickly say what we get out of yoga. First word that popped into our head.
Out from my lips came the word “clarity.” I hadn’t expected to say that. But there it was: Again, it felt right. Yes. Clarity is what I get from yoga.
As the weekend progressed, the two words tumbled through my head. Clarity and inspiration. Neither won the battle for supremacy — they are tied together.
I get — and seek to give — clarity and inspiration from yoga.
Having these two words as guide stars as I practice and as I live life has been illuminating. They give me an anchor in difficult parts of practice. They guide me to the right attitude with which to step onto my mat.
I have tried to unpack each of these words slightly.
- Clarity: In thought, in deed, in word, in intention.
- In seeking to inspire others, we find our own inspiration.
I recognize that I am a work in progress, like anybody else. These guiding words will no doubt shift over time as I grow and change.
But, for now, they work for me.
My name is Brad, and I am a commitment for clarity and inspiration.
I am delighted to announce the release a new report I co-authored for United Way Worldwide with my friend and colleague Mike Wood at UWW.
From my announcement at the Mannakee Circle Group site:
Last week at a national conference held in Nashville, TN, United Way Worldwide released its latest report, Voices for the Common Good: The World Speaks Out on Opportunity.
This report is based on more than 120 community conversations in a dozen countries. In these conversations, people from all walks of life talked about their aspirations for and challenges facing their communities, along with what it would take form them to see real progress in the areas central to a good life – education, income, and health.
Mannakee Circle Group president Brad Rourke reviewed notes and transcripts from the conversations and, with United Way vice president for field engagement Mike Wood, wrote the core elements of the report.
I appreciate the chance to work on this terrific project!
As some know, I have begun a monthly column published at Ethics Newsline, the flagship publication for the Institute for Global Ethics and one which I helped develop when I worked at that organization. This month’s column is about the lessons to be drawn for leaders from the Secret Service and DEA scandals.
When The Curtain Parts
Last week, two figures at the heart of separate scandals spoke up, adding another side to each of their stories. Together, they offer a sobering view to those who lead organizations about what can happen when the curtains are parted.
The first: A woman who appears to be the Cartagena prostitute whose early morning dispute over payment with a U.S. Secret Service officer touched off a controversy that already has claimed the careers of nine officers came forward and spoke to Caracol News in Cartagena. Dania Suarez described a night of carousing with more than one American on the night in question. Her interview has spurred members of Congress to ask why the Secret Service had not been able to interview her in their own investigation, which they now say is closed.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the University of California San Diego student who was forgotten in a holding cell for five days and who barely survived by drinking his own urine, told his story. He was swept up in a raid as U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officers cracked down on a major Ecstasy distribution ring. Daniel Chong, however, appeared to be at the raided house in order to smoke some marijuana. DEA agents later decided to cut him loose, along with others who had been picked up in the raid, but never returned to his cell after telling him he would soon be free to go. He says he could hear agents outside of his cell and called for their help. They either never heard him or ignored his pleas. When he finally was discovered, he was near kidney failure and had to be hospitalized. This event is building momentum, there are investigations pending, and he is suing.
Each of these situations was touched off by one unfortunate event: an early morning dispute over payment, a misplaced prisoner. Each event then pulled the covers off of what may be bigger problems. . . .
Read the full piece here.
I’ve been thinking lately about how our attitudes shift over time, especially when faced with new learning or practices.
Many people are familiar with the “attitude curve,” which describes people’s response to change. It’s a U shape — people have to go through a low point before they accept change. This is a familiar idea in leadership studies (see, for instance, The Art of Leadership for an example).
I have been thinking about attitude curves in a slightly different context, however. Specifically, learning new practices. This can be a new job (learning new functions and norms), a new skill (learning how to do something), or even a new place (learning a new community).
The “Learning Attitude Curve” looks a little different, in my experience:
Here’s how it breaks down:
- At A, you’re in your normal state
- At B, you’ve been thinking about making this change, and have just begun. You are elated.
- At C, you’ve been learning your new skill for a little bit, and the bloom is off the rose slightly. The elation has passed.
- At D, you’re in the doldrums. This isn’t what you wanted, you don’t like how it’s going, you question whether you even want to continue. People bail out here. But then . . .
- At E, you’ve turned a corner. Turns out D was a bottom of sorts — here, you begin to acquire your new skill or knowledge with increasing ease. Your attitude improves and you begin to see that, even if you have a ways to go before you are an expert, you might be able to make it.
- At F, you feel as if you are well on your way. You know the worst is behind you, and you are glad you pushed through. But then . . .
- At G, it turns out that there are still ups and downs to be had. You continue to encounter mini-troughs. People often bail out at this point, because they worry it’s going to get as bad as it was in D. But it won’t. You’ve passed your low point. This is just a natural “down,” not a true inflection point. If you can stick through, it gets better. (Note that there are a number of “G” points, a number of ups and downs as you go forward.)
- At H, your new skill or culture or whatever is fully integrated. It’s a part if you, and you’re basically back to your attitude back before you got on the curve.
The length of the curve is different for different people and for different circumstances. As is the depth of the low spots. Taking guitar lessons, for instance, brings less intense low spots, and they come a bit quicker than major life-change pursuits.
When I first learned about the “attitude curve,” I thought it was an incredibly negative way of looking at things. But I have come to see that it is actually quite hopeful — at least it has given me hope, on many occasions.
It also helps me in dealing with others. With a new job, for example, it is helpful to know that “D” often comes about 6 months in. If I am interacting with someone who is new on their job, I can understand more about how and why they are behaving.
In recent months, I’ve been going through a learning process and have been riding this curve. Recently, I woke up and realized I had passed through “D” and was on my upswing. I know there will be ups and downs to come, but there’s a spring in my step and a song in my heart.
Knowing that there is a curve is useful, because it reminds me that whatever I am feeling about where I am at . . . it is temporary. It will change. That gives me the motivation to push through low spots and not bail out.