Friday, May 9, 2008

Systems Thinking, or the day I learned about the importance of establishing core values

Hey gang, a great week...lots to report.

My Wednesday and Thursday were dedicated to attending a "visioning and planning meeting focused on organizational and systems thinking" for the King County Food and Fitness Initiative at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. Not just a mouthful, but a brainful as well. Going into the first meeting on Wednesday, I was prepared: I had blank paper; my favorite pen; some slick, professional clothes on; and an open mind. I definitely needed that last item.

First, let me write that I was incredibly impressed with the quality of people that attended the workshop. There were Leadership Council members, various industry representatives and, most importantly, many community members from Delridge and White Center. Also, the attendees were racially, ethnically and every-which-way diverse. In fact, out of 35 or so people, I was one of two white males. I think that's impressive. For me, that was fairly unusual. I pride myself on being accepting of all people, but most of the time, I'm probably with people that look like me. Most of us are like that. So, when I took a look around the room Wednesday morning, I got a little excited and thought "this is good. This is the diversity that we've been trying to capture. I think we'll get some interesting work done." Then I thought "oh, great. We're going to get nothing done, as everyone will either A) tip-toe around important issues for the sake of "political correctness" or B) no one will agree on anything and we'll spend all day arguing and forming into factions to plan against each other and promote singular views." Pessimistic, I know, but I've seen so-called "collaboratives" function in both ways (A and B) and neither way is effective or enjoyable.

Well, my initial thought was more accurate. The people that chose to show up did so because they believed in the vision of a better future for Delridge, White Center and King County and wanted to work collaboratively toward that vision. Very exciting.

**Note: I am having difficulty writing this. So much happened at the workshop, much of it in broad brush strokes of grand ideas...I'm not belittling it, quite the opposite, it's just hard to capture all of it, especially so soon after taking part. Bear with me.

Okay, in an effort to keep y'all interested and to make this a manageable post, I'm gonna sign off for the moment and try to process all of my thoughts, then continue with this topic on the next post.


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