Learning Communities LO6187

Alan Mossman (100733.3202@compuserve.com)
24 Mar 96 17:59:16 EST

Replying to LO6087 --


Greetings from the Cotswolds where the sun has just broken through the
haze. Thanks for yours direct of the 12 Mar 1996 and for LO6087. I'm
sorry I have not replied before but I 'lost' your message. Oh to be a wiz
at this technology !

In 12.3.96 you said you thought:
>community development could be
>expanded to include facilitation of developmental learning, both among
>citizens and public officials.

I would go further - good community development is necessarily
developmental for all those involved. In my experience here in Stroud and
20 years ago in Trafford in Greater Manchester everyone learnt/is

>I went through Robert Fritz's "Technologies for Creating" training in 1993.
>What struck me about it is that it parallels strategic planning and
>contemporary leadership theory. My conclusion is that strategic planning is
>a creative process that is a fundamental tool of a contemporary leader.

I agree that it should be. But what I see in practice in organisations
and in urban planning is anything but creative. It is a reaction to what
is there now. Why else would reviewers of Hamel and Prahalad's "Competing
for the Future" (Harvard 1994) describe them as reinventing strategy ?

What I feel is unique about what we are doing here in Stroud and did to a
much more limited degree in Trafford is to drive the community planning
process from aspiration rather than circumstantially. Yes there are
problems to be solved but our focus is much more on the town we _want_ to
have. In the process many of those problems will cease to exist. People
say that this is a much more enertgising process than they have
experienced before - and there are many involved who have taken part in
single issue campaigns to prevent planners and or developers rasing the
High Street or felling a stand of beech trees for road straightenning.

>Like you, I have used affinity diagraming to "back into" an understanding of
>visions, common values, and purpose for communities. Your project, however,
>is much bigger than any that I have done. I've found it to be a very
>effective technique for gathering diverse thoughts and finding commonality.
>Most recently, I used it with a group of 55 business owners in downtown
>Littleton, trying to develop a strategic plan for revitalization of their
>historic (in American terms) commercial area. What I found was that the
>long history of disagreement among them was based not so much on substance,
>but on emphasis. Everyone wants the same things, but the differing nature
>of their businesses causes them to place more or less emphasis on the things
>that they all need.

I'm still thinking about that one but I think it is true here too.
Certainly there was general agreement that this town needs revitalising.
The differences were about how that should be achieved and who should take

>As I said in my recent post, . . . I was only trying to identify the knowledge
>and skills that would enable citizens to be more effective participants in
>policy formulation. This will require a fundamental cultural change, one in
>which active dialogue among citizens and between citizens and officials
>becomes a ritual.

>This may be done very differently in the US and the UK.

>If you like I could provide you with references from the Kettering
>Foundation, from the National Civic League, and from the Heartland Center
>for Leadership Development, all of which are involved in strengthening

yes please to all three.

In LO6087 you refer to the Kettering research and public officials only
doing the legal minimum to gather input from the public they serve.

>Richard Harwood of the Kettering foundation did extensive research into
>the perceptions of public officials regarding the value of input from the
>general public. He found that most policymakers do not "seek" input,
>rather they provide opportunities for input in order to meet their legal
>responsibilities. While there are exceptions such as Alan Mossman
>(LO6030), officials do not tend to promote dialogue between themselves and
>the public, nor do they facilitate dialogue among citizens on complex
>matters of public policy.

Nor have they in Stroud. I asked a number of councillors and senior
officials if they would sign the open letter to the people of Stroud with
which I kicked this whole process off. But they declined. In one case
because they detected a coded criticism of the council.

To be fair the position now is that a number of councillors, officers and
chief officers including the District CEO attended the first conference
and many are still actively involved in the working and factfinding groups
which were formed there.

It was only in Trafford 20 years ago that I got a council to go beyond the
legal minimum in consultation.

>I suggest that the initiative for more
>productive public involvement may need to come from the public itself. On
>the other hand, government officials, as positional leaders, may be in the
>best position to facilitate, nurture, and maintain this participation.

I agree. I think we as citizens do create that situation. Certainly in
the UK we do not allow them the time or the resources to consult in the
way we would both like to see. There was some research in the UK a couple
of decades ago - I think Roy Madron may have done it or will know who did
- which suggested that high levels of involvement in design decision
making reduced overall planning time. That seemed to be the conclusion of
the work done on Charrette by USOE DHEW in the late 60s and early 70s. In
order to reap the savings inherent in high involvement processes public
authorities need to invest time and cash to enable it to happen. In the
UK local services have been cut to the bone and I sense the same is
probably true in larger US communities.

>In LO6059 Peter Pflaum wrote:

>>Just a note to say look at the work of Steve Halperin " Design with Nature
>>" he was famous in the 60's and 70's for community planning and values -
>>also a lot of great projects in urban space - Based on Mumford Walk around
>>and the GLCC new towns -

>Good point, but are you really thinking of Ian McHarg?

I think that is correct. And it was Ebenezer Howard and the new British
new towns movement at the end of the C19 which Lewis Mumford picked up on
- and that it is Laurence Halperin from San Fransisco to whom Peter

I believe that Halperin worked closely with some communities though he was
the master planner for others I think (e.g. Sea Ranch). Howard on the
other had was a theoretician. The results are very pleasant indeed but
there is no sense of a communal aspiration at work. Nor do I recall that
from McHarg or any of Pflaum's recent outpourings.

McHarg and Halperin have both produced some stunning landscape ideas IMHO.

In LO6087 also
>>My basic questions are whether communities
>are organizations, and to what extent LO principles might apply to

This raises the possiblity of a whole new tread "what is an organisation
?" deep in concept but probably of limited practical use. But maybe that
has been done to death already. Has anyone done a summary ?

>Senge writes, "The organizations
>that will truly excel in the future will be the organizations that
>discover how to tap people's commitment and capabity to learn at all
>levels in an organization."

That may be true - but is the learning the end or the means to an end. I
belive it is the latter and this loops back to the whole questions of
"what are organisations for ?" another thread. Notwithstanding Michael
McMaster and John Warfield's comments (LO6038 and LO6021) I believe it is
important to have a purpose. Like learning, money, however measured, will
only be a means to achieve the purpose in most organisations whatever
people say.

The true measure of our success here in Stroud will be the extent to which
we contribute to the social, cultural, spiritual and economic regeneration
of our town.

That requires that we tap personal commitment and capability, that we
learn individually and together, that we raise money and in the long term
learn to pay our way, become self sufficient and sustainable as a
community inter-dependent with our neighbours around the globe.

Thanks again for starting this thread, I've found it very useful.



Alan Mossman e-mail 100733,3202@compuserve.com The Change Business Ltd voice (+44) 01453 765611 19 Whitehall Stroud GL5 1HA England fax (+44) 01453 752261

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