Learned about Zebras Unite and their conference Dazzle Con (Katie will be there). This movement came out of a great think piece called Sex and Startups and has turned into a movement. Basically they are promoting funding more feminine business practices. Here’s an image from sister.is that they shared:
Howard Brodsky speaking about co-ops. The numbers, and the stories, are bananas. 90% of co-ops still in business after 5 years; worker co-ops double worker wages; 900% more women CEOs. #platformcooppic.twitter.com/Wo9Ed5AxsK
Last month was the 6 year anniversary of #OCCUPYWALLST, a political movement in the US that needs no introduction. September 17th, 2011 was a pivotal point in my life. It was the day I started down a road divergent from the status quo, the day I left the confused world of early 20’s “adulting” and joined The Movement. It brings hope of a world arranged in such a way that poverty is impossible and extractive ecocide is not the basis of economic activity.
It took me three years to begin to grasp a very important lesson that The Movement demanded I learn.
“Change must start from within”
It’s almost cheesy in its simplicity. But this was such a profound realization that I recall the exact moment it truly stuck. Sitting on a low wall, looking over the East River on September 17, 2013, I realized that change starts within me. This is why a protest that seemed to be about big banks and income inequality spent so much time talking about systemic racism. It’s why I was constantly being told to “check my privilege,” why I was told to examine my bias. The systems that created the economic crisis of gross inequality didn’t come from nowhere; they came from people just like me. People who hold within themselves the schematics of oppressive systems. It is through people that these horrors are birthed and through them that the horrors are overcome.
“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves.”
In this quote, Bell Hooks is describing the connection between violence against women with the internal violence against one’s self. She makes a similar connection to police violence in the US and its roots at home. There is a thread of commonality that runs between the unaccountable violence we see from police as an institution and the individual acts of violence we commit against ourselves and others. The way we treat ourselves as individuals and those around us is linked to the whole of a culture.
As Above, So Below
I believe the message here is that we cannot hope to address systemic violence in our institutions if we do not also face the violence in and around ourselves.
More broadly, we cannot change anything outside of ourselves if we do not also change within. This is why:
“Change must start from within”
I don’t believe that it is a controversial thought, that a person who commits domestic violence will bring that same violence into their workplace and, inversely, a workplace that is violent will be carried home by those who work there.
What The Movement taught me with #OCCUPYWALLST was that I couldn’t hope to change the way the world worked if I didn’t change the way I worked within the world. If I want women to be equal I’d better treat them as equals. If I want equality, then I must practice equality in my life.
The fractals of change
These thoughts are not groundbreaking; the Dalai Lama was tweeting about this before I even integrated it into myself.
A genuine change must first come from within the individual, only then can he or she attempt to make a significant contribution to humanity.
What I want to do is apply this truth to work we do and how we do that work. Consider the leap between me not interrupting women at meetings and systemic violence against women being eliminated. I’ll admit, a single act of not-being-a-dick doesn’t do much to erode thousands of years of systemic oppression. But the actions of the self and the actions of a culture are fractal reflections of each other, with too many steps in between for a single act to resolve this deep-rooted issue.
For the purposes of this article, “culture” is defined as the dominant form of human activity on earth. This could be K-12 education, nation-states, money, etc. Basically, everyone except for the 0.01% of tribal people still holding on.
If we consider culture to be a mighty river, then the individual is but a tiny spring that flows into it. These individual springs flow together to form a small creek, and all the creeks join together to form a stream, and the streams join to form the river…we can see how this analogy might be used to map the fractals of human endeavors. The individual flows into a group, the group into a team, the team into an organization, the organization into sectors, the sectors into economies, the economies into culture.
So, if we agree with the premise that “Change must start from within,” we see the fractal connection between the atomic part (the individual) and the whole (culture, or all humans). Change the humans, change the culture. This connection is present between every step in that system. To change the family, you must start with the family members. To change the team you must start with the members of that team. Again, I suspect that this isn’t earth-shattering news to you. Basically, what I’m saying is, “To change the whole you must start with the parts.”
There is a relationship between the components and the whole. If you want to change the educational system, teachers will change how they teach, schools will change how they run, school districts will change how they operate, and so on up the fractal ladder. If we want to address police violence we must address violence along the fractal, from violence against the self to domestic violence, to violence among nations. The violent tweet is connected to the bombs dropped on Syrian children is connected to a bully beating up a peer is connected to the violence that the bully witnesses at home. All are parts of the fractal.
You are part of the world and part of the fractal
At this point, we must be careful not to get lost within ourselves. Change along these fractal ladders happens all at once. Its influence is omnidirectional, happening up and down and at all points. It can be easy to confuse the need to start within with the desire and ease of staying within. We must address state violence as we address police violence as we address our own violence. It all happens in tandem. The spring flows at the same time as the river.
You might think that you need to do all the internal work before facing the work that needs to be done in the world. This is not the case; I can advocate for a carbon tax while still driving a car. You can and will be a hypocrite and that’s okay.
The whole system moves at once. We start from within because it is where we have the power to start. I can only move my body. I cannot move yours, yet by moving my body, I inspire yours to move too.
What you do is how you do it
Let’s consider how we make change in the world. The kind I’m talking about is often done through activism and organizations with social good as their bottom line, which in the US take the form of non-profits or a 501c3. These organizations seek to change something other than the numbers in their bank account. The idea that “Change must start from within” is probably very familiar to them. Personal development, anti-oppression training, and other means to change the “within” of the individual are often present. But what doesn’t seem to be given much thought to is how these organizations’ structures mirror the fractal patterns they target for change.
Can an organization that wants to reduce inequality in the world complete their mission if those very patterns of inequality exist within their own organization?
“Change must start from within”
Even if the people in the organization are all woke as f**k, that organization also needs to start from within.
This is the fractal ladder we must climb to get out of our current crisis. Just as we need to look inward to work through our internalized biases, so too must our change-oriented organizations look within. How can a group fight for women’s rights if women are talked over in meetings discussing this very subject? How can a group push for greater democracy in the world while organized as a tyrannical hierarchy? How can a group demand equality while it’s interns go unpaid?
It is this relationship between the meta and the micro that we need to address. I do not mean to say that a group cannot work toward change without being perfect. Instead, we need to always remind ourselves that working towards change means working to change –on all levels of ourselves, our lives, our peers, and our culture.
This is why my co-op chose to organize as a co-op instead of any other hierarchical business model. This is why we spend so much time working on our internal culture. If we want to be able to shift other groups’ culture towards alignment with their goals, we too have to shift our culture to align with ours.
As a designer, I love a good challenge. A recent favorite of mine was working for the DSA on a 3-day deadline.
Delegates were about to pick the new leadership body, but were dealing with the unique challenge of needing to represent the true scope of diversity that exists within the democratic socialist left. Charles Lenchner – with People for Bernie – and his team wanted to create a booklet and worksheet to help delegates in the selection process. It would help see at a glance how diverse their choices were before casting their votes.
With the 3-day deadline, we needed to act fast. We had to be agile and adaptive.
The booklet Charles needed had to contain the list of candidates. Each profile would describe them, including a short bio, the region from which they were, their gender, race, and a few other stats that were easy to read for the regular voter with a quick scan.
The worksheet we created would allow to tally up the diversity categories’ totals.
With such a short deadline, the challenge was not only to deliver on time, but also to design alongside Charles and his team. While we created the actual document, they were putting all the information to be printed in the finished booklet together. For this very reason, we needed to work with live documents, so we worked in Google Docs. That’s how Charles and his team were able to update and edit everything as it was created. I watched their edits in real-time, while I fixed up the formatting and design.
Because Google docs’ styling tools are not as robust as in my software of choice – Adobe InDesign – formatting was a challenge. However, the limitations lent to a clean and very simple design, resulting in an easy-to-read document with clear organization. It wasn’t the most indulgent of designs, but what we lost in flashy graphics, we made up for with time. Thanks to the live documents, we had no back and forths of confusing revisions, so all we had to do was work.
With the magic of Google docs, we were able to create live/editable pie charts of the diversity data with customized style and colors. As the data was updated, transferring the new stats to the pie charts was as easy as, well… pie.
In the nick of time, we called it done. We exported the doc as a pdf and went to print. What a rush! Thanks to this time-constrained challenge, I got to enjoy adapting my process to our client’s specific needs. There are a lot of really great tools out there for us to use. Though I may be more comfortable with a cordless screwdriver, sometimes I need to use a hammer.
My partner put me in touch with an old client of theirs. They needed help to add a page to their existing WordPress site and fix a few cosmetic issues. I agreed to help and dove in, expecting a simple process. The theme was using a baked in version of page builder which I quickly found was both out-of-date and totally not working.
I was to extract text and images from a PDF and apply them to a page in WordPress. I was able to extract the text as HTML (formatting it with some regular expressions) and gathered the source images from the client.
Once I attempted to add it to the page using Page Builder I found that the raw HTML input wouldn’t capture the input text. No wonder the client was having problems! I was able to hack the system by adding the text directly to the input element via the browser’s development console. An impossible task for someone with a only a working knowledge of browsers and web technology.
After shimming the content into the page and fixing some other esoteric theme related issues I was done. This simple act of adding a page to their website cost 300% more than it should. In fact it shouldn’t have taken an engineer to do such a basic operation.
The client had three options. Try to fix the site, recreate the site, or keep using this hobbled site. Because the site hadn’t been maintained the off-the-shelf theme, WordPress core, and many plugins (some integrated with the theme) were all out of date. Updating and fixing the site might introduce a host of new problems and might not even fix the site.
To keep the site as is and just deal with the wonky broken system would cost way more in the long run for the client. The whole point of using a CMS like WordPress is to make tasks like page creation simple enough for a client to manage on their own. The process of adding content to a page was so onerous that it would be faster to just build pages out of HTML!
So my recommendation was to recreate the site in Squarespace. The client accepted this and we began work.
I opted to use the ishimoto theme as a base to create the site. The original site was very clean and minimal so it was fairly simple to remake using only Squarespace’s theme and design tools, no code necessary.
By using gallery blocks and the intuitive content tools provided out-of-the-box by Squarespace I was able to quickly recreate all of the pages. Better yet the client was able to jump in and figure out how to use the system without much hassle. The cost was about twice as much as adding a single page to the old site!
On top of this we were able to leverage Squarespace’s e-commerce tools to begin setting up a system to sell prints directly off the site.
I love WordPress. It is a triumph of free open source software and a gift to the world. With a few plugins and a decent theme you can create a powerful website that does anything for a fraction of the price. It puts power into the hands of the user. However it requires some upkeep, there is a cost to maintaining WordPress. I would say that when compared to Squarespace’s monthly cost (~$12) it’s about even.
The power of Squarespace is that it just works, the server and updates are all handled by someone else and requires no intervention. When all you really want to do is display some text and media (and perhaps a store) it can be a very good option.
As a designer I feared that products like Squarespace would take away from my livelihood, but I find that my skills as a “power user” make it worth while for clients to hire me to do the initial setup and design pass. I can then hand it off to them without needing to provide a long term maintenance agreement. It’s easy for me to build and it’s easy for them to edit, a win-win in my book.
Over Labor Day weekend, a small group of Agile Learning Facilitators attended the Twin Oaks Communities Conference in central Virginia to host a workshop titled Culture Hacking 101, covering the Agile Learning Center Change Up meetings and the Community Mastery Board. We wanted to share this ALC culture creation practice with people who work hard at creating intentional culture and gather feedback from them to strengthen our own practice.
The workshop went well, and we all had some very interesting and exciting conversations about community, Agile Learning Centers, and education throughout the event. This post intends to share resources related to our workshop and outline what we did.
Change Up Meetings & Community Mastery Board Resources
The focus of our workshop was on the Community Mastery Board (CMB) which is “changed up” during a regular Change Up (we use “∆-up” as a shorthand sometimes) meeting.
Liam suggests using the CMB as a way to stay true to our organization’s guiding principles with the Roots Mastery Board. This is a great example how to “hack” the tool and find new uses for it.
Look at our Starter Kit for information about how ALCs run and how you could start one (or adapt our kit to fit your needs!).
Over 40 people came and attended Culture Hacking 101! We presented outside in a cool temporary dome structure.
We created an outline of the presentation on a kanban board with:
Introductions and tone setting
Played Rock, Paper, Scissors, Cheerleader
This went super well and really got people’s energy up!
Played Allies where people stated what they wanted to get out of or learn in the workshop & added those things to a practice CMB
People seemed to really enjoy this process as well. Rochelle was in another workshop later that weekend that adapted Allies to start off their session too.
What are ALCs?
Rochelle gave an intro to the ALC project & SDE
Plato is wrong
Abe talked about how all tools are just tools, not answers
Rochelle gave an overview of the value of making the implicit explicit & gave a quick overview of kanbans and gameshifting
Drew intro’d the CMB as tool
Liam took us through a change-up meeting
Questions and answers
We took questions and gave answers as we wrapped up the presentation
Feedback for next time
We got a good bit of feedback, some very positive. People said they had fun and are excited to try it out. Other’s helped us with more critical feedback.
One glaring misstep was our use of the world “culture”. Some people said they didn’t know what was meant by culture. In ALC land we talk about culture all the time and mean a very specific definition:
the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group.
But culture can also mean:
the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.
We could have been more clear when choosing our title!
The next major mistake was making our demo confusing. We tried to take people’s intentions for the presentation and move them through a rapid Change Up meeting. It was confusing, weird, and burned up a lot of time!
Some other feedback from our new friends (and ourselves) includes:
Too many presenters: This was interesting feedback in that it didn’t fully resonate with us as presenters, who felt that the ways in which were able to jump in & contribute to each other’s presentations felt useful & in trust. Her feedback was that allowing us to add to each other’s speaking bits created the impression that none of us knew what we were talking about & didn’t trust each other’s understanding of the content. Regardless of how we felt, this is still useful feedback as to the feel or flow of a workshop with multiple presenters & how we came across to the audience.
Trust: A change-up meeting won’t look the same at home among people who trust each other & know the process as it does here among a group who’s come together for a 2-hour (ish) workshop. Remind people that this process requires trust, and we haven’t talked about ways to build trust among community members (or in the facilitator).
Go directly from Allies into the example Change-Up: We should have addressed the awarenesses generated from Allies right away. Waiting to check in on them made them seem distant, confused the process, and made it more difficult to address one-off questions as opposed to potential group norms (if we use the process of gathering Awarenesses from workshop attendees about the workshop itself at all).
Review what’s on the agenda at the beginning of the workshop: So that people know what to expect re: the flow of the conversation. We got feedback that the board was hard to see (given an audience of 40, this is no surprise!) and that a quick review of the agenda would have helped. This also would have allowed us to give a quick 30 second demo of kanban right away as well.
Create a sticky with a clear outcome by which we could judge the success or “mastery” of attendees (and presenters!) in the workshop: And check in with it a few times throughout the course of the meeting.
Know your audience: And know how to create expectations for them. Some people reallylike tight containers, and expect containers focused on info downloads in shorter time-frame environments (like 2-hour workshops or presentations). Some people may also be a bit hesitant to jump in & start creating with one another. How can we created a sense of shared (yet playful) responsibility to engage in an example Change-Up in a 2-hour time frame?
Rochelle also gave a workshop about Gameshifting during Open Space on Sunday that was attended by about 10-12 people. You can read more about Gameshifting here: http://gameshifting.net!
We would love to hear your questions, feedback, and examples of how you might use these tools in your community, please leave a comment below.
Then I somehow got sucked into creating a whole branding guidelines page after stumbling on Slack.com’s branding page. It turned out awesome! I had already started organizing brand assets on a train ride home one day.
So I took all those images, exported them into a bunch of different formats and dumped them into the ALC shared Google Drive. From there I had everything I needed to put together a resource page for people wanting to use our branding assets. This is pretty much limited to ALFs and ALCs.
So it’s National Novel Writing Month and as is my way I am not writing a novel but instead committing to publish one blog post per day. This intention setting post is a meta level (and cheap) first post.
Another thing I’ve started to do is track my time, like I did when I was doing more paid work. I use a tool called slim timer to track time. So far it’s working pretty good.
This week I was out at Acorn community where I taught a few people about using Kanbans and then created these two one-pager documents about Gameshifting and Kanbans.
Last fall at ALF Weekend 2014 we participated in a game where we wrote out what we did, what we have “juice” for, what we want to be doing, and what action we are taking to get there. We wrote these down then went around the room and spoke them out to our peers, then everyone would suggest additions. It was a super powerful process an
It’s a year later and prompted by @abbyopost and @ryanshollenberger post I’ve decided to update my ALF Accountability information. If any ALFs out there want to do the same I’ll leave instructions at the bottom of this post.
The following is taken from the Mapping ALF Accountabilities Doc, updates are sub bulleted, additions are italic, while subtractions are strike through. Note: Some of these bullet points were added by me, others were added by my fellow ALFs, that should explain the change in tense.
Overall I see my role in this network to make it easy for people to accomplish what they want to do. Be that existing ALFs or people out in the world who want to create a better future for children. I feel that the more I define and document how we do things the easier it will be for people to engage with our network or create their own complementary networks.
It is through my work helping other people achieve their goals that I am fulfilled. Every time I see someone use a process or tool I’ve developed (or better, helped them develop) I am inspired to do more.
My time in this organization has been a great one, truly an upward spiral
Just like the last time we did this, if you see anything I’ve missed please comment below.
Write your own accountability post!
If you wish to participate please write a blog post with the tag:
Answer the following questions:
What I do: (for the network and in your local ALC community)
Juice: What gives you juice (what about the community or your work powers you up?)
Want: What do you want to do (in an ideal world)
Action: What actions are you taking or will you take to do this
You can see everyone’s post on the network feed site (this is a thing!) under the alfaccountability tag: