City Transformation as A Platform

In our recent GoodCities Leadership Gathering in Phoenix, Eric Swanson introduced a creative approach when he gave a 20 minute presentation titled “City Transformation as a Platform” (his full presentation is available at the end of this post). His belief is that the real power of a decentralized network in a city is found in the many ways that people live out their callings and yet, unify under a city transformation vision.
Swanson notes that people will find their place within a common vision if it serves their own self interest. He distinguishes between self interest and selfish interests by stating that self interest is a belief from those involved that they will get more out of being involved with the movement than through non-involvement. Selfish interest is a viewpoint that only engages because of a self-promoting ulterior motive (i.e. a sales rep who gets involved in a volunteer organization to make sales instead of to accomplish the goals of the volunteer organization.)
He compares this new approach to Web 2.0 which has radically changed our online experiences. Web 1.0 offered a way for people and organizations to share information about themselves with others. Web 2.0 offers an interactive experience where internet users pursue their interests and engage information and organizations to get what they are looking for. In Web 2.0 Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple are four big platforms where internet users find what they need.
Swanson asks, “How can we be more like…
  • YouTube not ABC?
  • Wikipedia not Encyclopedia Britannica?
  • Airbnb not Marriott Hotels?
  • Twitter not Associated Press?
  • A playground not Little League?

City movements become much more powerful when they lift a transformational vision that engages people and organizations in their self interest. Swanson listed the kinds of self interests that various parties within city movements hold deeply to give examples of why they may become involved. These self interests include:

When city transformation becomes a platform rather than only residing in an organization, the work of a city movement will experience new levels of effectiveness.

Download Slides From Eric Swanson’s City Transformation as a Platform

The full presentation  below was recorded at our GoodCities Leadership Gathering. The video of Eric was pretty shaky, although the audio was very good, so this presentation shows a few stills of Eric interspersed throughout the presentation of his slide deck.

A Culture of Honor in City Transformation

At our recent GoodCities Leadership Gathering in Phoenix, Pastor David Drum shared about the importance of developing a culture of honor among pastors in Tucson. This important aspect of church unity has its roots among leaders of primarily African American and Hispanic churches. In the 2:48 minute video below, Dave talks  about what he’s learned and how this can be helpful in other cities as well as we pursue city transformation.

 

Top 3 Concerns of Cross Sector City Movements

I was recently asked, “What do you think are the top 3 concerns of business, church, and civic leaders in city movements across the nation?” What I offered in response was not based on a survey, but rather on my observations with the city leadership teams I coach and work with at the conferences GoodCities holds throughout the year. Here’s what I wrote:

Not many city movements have all three of these leadership groups working together. I believe this is happening in a big way in Akron & Modesto, two cities of modest size. In Portland and Minneapolis, all three groups are engaged in targeted efforts around schools and jobs. However, in each of these cases, while there may be Christians from government involved, they will rarely be involved with a regularly convened covenant group of church, business and nonprofit Christian leaders. For that matter, in most cities, pastors meet with pastors. Business leaders meet with one another and with nonprofit leaders where they are volunteering or serving on a board of directors. Nonprofit leaders meet with one another when their purposes are best fulfilled through collective impact, but generally don’t meet together otherwise.

In each of these sectors, private, public, and social, there are leaders who are bridge builders and conveners. These folks have a larger vision for God’s kingdom influence in their city. In the public and private sector, these leaders operate discretely. In the church and nonprofit social sector the anchor churches and nonprofit organizations operate with as much publicity as they can muster because they are always looking to expand their constituencies. Individually, each leader carries within them first a concern for his or her home and family’s well-being, next a concern for the success and well-being of the entity in which he or she serves, and third a concern for the peace and prosperity of his or her city or community. These are the three main callings that each of us live into throughout our lives.

With this in mind, what are the top 3 most common shared concerns of Christians involved in collaborative leadership for the good of their city? Here is my list as I understand this (in no particular order).

1. The peace/shalom of the city or community (This includes issues of justice, mercy, and safety).
2. A prosperous economy (The economic well-being of the people).
3. The spiritual, intellectual, and emotional well-being of the people (This includes access to a good education, healthy families, aesthetic beauty, and an opportunity to learn of God’s reconciling love through a contextualized Christian witness.)

What are your thoughts? Do you have a list of the top three concerns as you have talked with many of these leaders?

City Transformation through Faith at Work

Chuck Proudfit and the Origins of At Work on Purpose in Cincinnati

This five minute overview was recorded at our recent City Advance Conference in New York City. There is much we can learn from the stages of development of At Work On Purpose of Cincinnati. What Chuck talks about is central to the development of any healthy citywide movement that has city transformation in view.

The City Advance in NYC is one of three conferences that we offer through GoodCities for leaders of Christian unity movements in cities. Our next conference, “ONE,” will take place in Phoenix, AZ on January 27-29 and will engage leaders of John 17 movements working to make cities more redemptive places to live and work. We’ll have stories of unlikely partnerships between Catholics and Evangelicals, between people of different ethnic, cultural and socio-economic classes.

Catalyst Modesto: Christian Unity with a Purpose

A Place Where Collaboration is Born

Catalyst is a monthly gathering of leaders and influencers in the Modesto area who believe they can make the biggest difference in their community by collaborating and working together! This Christian faith-based group is an outgrowth of the City Ministry Network (CMN) and meets monthly with about a hundred leaders at CrossPoint Church.

Marvin Jacobo, the CMN Executive Director says “We welcome anyone to come and contribute. Our primary audiences are leaders, team members and volunteers in Nonprofits and Churches. There is also a focus on leaders in Education, Business, Media, Government, Neighborhoods & the Arts (many of whom are active in nonprofits and churches).” These collaborations often result in collective impact in key areas of city life.

I recently visited Modesto to evaluate the impact of the 2011 GoodCities Engagement/Exploration Process known as the Community Leadership Survey. I interviewed twenty leaders who were either interviewed or were interviewers in this process. Most reported that following this work, the Christian Ministry Network was strengthened as a leadership   organization that gives birth to collaborative work in Modesto around critical issues. Catalyst Modesto has become one of their primary monthly meetings where Christian Collaborations are birthed or accelerated. Below is a list of some of the organizations/movements that have taken hold.

  • Love Modesto
  • Love Your Neighborhood
  • Pray Modesto
  • Recovery Modesto
  • The Jobs Cohort

CMN has become known as a leadership group that is in touch with the people and issues of Modesto. The regular meetings of Catalyst let people know that they are commited to facilitating collaborations that will further the peace and prosperity of people in the city (Jer. 29:7) while pursuing a John 17 vision for Christian unity. This can happen in your city, too! Download our Top Ten Books List on City Transformation and to learn more about the movement. Contact Glenn@goodcities.net for more information about how GoodCities can help you take the next steps on this journey.

For Houston's Kids: Beyond Church and Public School Partnerships

Steve Capper (pictured below and featured in a 2:40 minute video below) is a GoodCities Community Leadership Coach and serves as the Executive Director of For Houston’s Kids. He will be a contributing blogger for our blog site. This article introduces the missional thrust of how this unique collaboration between people of faith and people of good will works together for the good of Houston’s children. For Houston’s Kids goes beyond church and public school partnerships by forming unlikely partnerships to accomplish their goals.

In 2004, a healing of many in the Church of Houston who were blind began.  Like the story told in Mark 8, the restoration of sight was both partially immediate and largely progressive. This miracle followed a simple question, a group conversation, and a massive investigation in search of an accurate picture of our city’s condition.

Dave Peterson, then the Senior Pastor of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, had attended a one-day conference featuring a stirring story of one man’s efforts to replace isolation and hopelessness among Baltimore’s inner city youth with caring mentors and a path to a hopeful future.  On the way home, Dave found himself pondering a suddenly appearing thought: “What would it take for Houston to be as world famous for every neighborhood and school producing whole and healthy children as we are for NASA, the oil and gas industry, and the world’s largest medical center?”  Whatever the answer, Dave realized, it would take the Church … and not just the Church.  Weeks later, Dave shared his experience with a group of 25 pastors and ministry leaders.  The room went noticeably silent and still, as if God had shown up and Himself asked us the question.  When words were again spoken, the sentiment was unanimous: this would not only be a goal worth giving our best efforts and resources to, but would both bring tangible blessing to our neighbors and city for years to come and it would expand the Kingdom of God.  As with the blind man whom Jesus touched, we were beginning to see, but the shapes were not yet clearly defined.

It just so happened that Mission Houston had months prior launched a citywide research effort to establish a baseline, the Houston Profile Project.  Utilizing the expertise of Baylor University’s Center for Community Research & Development, conducting interviews with leaders in 45 clusters of communities, and deploying volunteers in three- or four-to-a-car “windshield survey” teams to make notes of their neighborhoods, our primary initial interest was in determining both the objectively verifiable places of societal brokenness in our metropolitan area and the most widespread “felt needs” of our neighbors so that the Church of Houston would know without guessing where our serving would have the highest impact.

One finding confirmed what we had not yet seen: the single most pervasive needs found in all 45 areas of the city, and reported by both people of faith and those of no active faith, centered on concerns for the present and future of kids.  Further, one characteristic of the rapidly changing demographic face of the city was this: the number of at-risk kids in our city was multiplying far faster than the number of human, financial, educational, and health resources being allocated to them.   In spite of great efforts within and beyond the faith community, more and more kids faced an unhealthy present and a predictably grim future.  One prominent sociologist in the city even declared that Houston was on the verge of becoming a third world city, whose employers had to import their workforce because the kids of Houston were not adequately prepared. And now, as with the blind man in Mark 8, the plight of kids right before our eyes came into increasingly clear focus.  We would never again be able to not see what was now crystal clear.

Fast forward almost ten years.  The terms “collective impact” and “movement” are more common than their reality, but they provide language for the quest we remain focused on – to adequately address the needs of kids here in Houst

on so they have a likelihood of a future with a hope.  After five years of multiplying mentors in the public schools, and after over two years of one-on-one conversations with leaders of hundreds of organizations working with or for children and youth, Mission Houston joined the YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Catholic Charities, and others to birth in October 2013 a new initiative that seeks to add 250,000 new volunteers to maximize the efforts of service providers who are committed to addressing together the physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs of those age 0-19.  Called simply “For Houston’s Kids,” this fledgling undertaking is not faith-based, but it is faith community friendly.

And it has no guaranteed success.  There are significant obstacles … challenges … that loom large.  In the non-profit and government sector, and sadly even in the world of the Church, we have too little experience of or appetite for shared efforts and joint credit.  In the Church, there are still many who believe that if an organization is not specifically faith-based and names Jesus as our reason for being then the work undertaken does not contain “the gospel.”   But those of us engaged inside the Church and the wider community building relationships and casting the vision believe the work of sowing the seeds of Church unity (people of good faith) working in intentional partnership with anyone who cares about the well-being of our kids (people of good will) is worthy of our best efforts.  You see, it’s not for or about us, or the organization.  It’s “for Houston’s kids!”

We request your prayers.  We ask you to connect us with anyone in the city you know who yearns to see kids well-educated and healthy in every way.  And we’ll keep you posted on progress towards the God-sized goal, whether that includes fruit through our organization or not.

Over 100 Gospel Movements in England

On April 30 and May 1, I was a speaker at the Gather Global Conference in London at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity founded by John Stott. My presentation was on the expansion of Christian city movements internationally. What interested me, however, was what I was hearing in the many presentations from gospel movement leaders involved with purposeful church unity movements in cities and communities throughout England.

The opening report came from Roger Sutton (in photo at the right), the leader of Gather UK, who hails from Manchester and works with the Evangelical Alliance. He told of the growth of Christian unity movements in England to the point where there are over 100 such movements today including over 20 in London.

There has been keen interest in these movements since the economic crash of 2008 and the British government’s decision to institute austerity measures rather than expand their currency as we have done in the U.S. The austerity plan meant that the British welfare system would be cut back substantially. For instance, the city government of Manchester has announced a second straight year of £80 million cuts.

At the same time, local church leaders have boldly stepped forward after years of developing a sense of church unity in pastors’ prayer groups to offer the volunteers of their church to serve their communities. Roger said that as they offered to serve the poor in cities, their focused collaboration was helped along by local governments that asked for one phone number to call when they have a need.

The church is inherently decentralized and, in many cases, this has made it hard for congregations to serve together. However, in England, once the government and pastors confronted the new reality, they recognized that decentralized missional congregations were a strength offering many points of service in neighborhoods throughout cities and communities.

The government went two steps further to assist in the transition. First, they began to offer congregations micro-grants of £500-£1,500 through intermediary groups like the Cinnamon Network. This network offers motivational videos and concrete plans for churches to initate and strengthen volunteer mobilization to serve people in their city or community. (Pictured left: Musician Andy Flannagan led worship at the Gather Global Conference.)

Second, local governments have been transferring assets to community organizations at greatly reduced prices. The Localism Act of 2011 recognized that local “…councils are facing intense financial pressure, resulting in the need to maximise the use of publicly-owned land and buildings, or dispose of them and their associated costs, wherever possible.” This has opened the door to community groups such as church coalitions being able to purchase or in some cases being given community centers, libraries, and other community assets provided that they will engage volunteers or staff to provide enhanced services to the community.

This combination of the willingness of missional churches to engage their members in service and the ownership of facilities to serve their communities more effectively is contributing to a revival of faith in churches across England. The stories are numerous and many can be accessed through articles and videos on the www.wegather.co.uk web site.

I was greatly encouraged by the stories I heard in London. In the next several blogs, I’ll share more stories and videos from my trip to England. Also, some of you will be happy to know that we are working to bring some these leaders to our City Advance Meetings in New York City October 21-22 including Andy Flannagan to lead worship. I hope to see you there!

(Pictured below: the sign outside the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity where the Gather Global Conference was held.)

Two Emerging Generation Leaders Transforming Communities

Alexis Christensen and Ryn Farmer both received their Masters in Social Work from Baylor University in 2012. That year they both went to work for the Waco Community Development Corporation as Community Organizers. Ryn works in the neighborhoods of East Waco and Alexis works in North Waco.

A key quality that makes each of them effective in their asset based community development approach is that they are good listeners. Alexis says, “I have the privilege of hearing the visions and dreams of community members for their neighborhoods and work with them to translate those dreams into reality.”

Each of them are helping connect church volunteers to schools in the neighborhoods they work with. In the 2.5 minute video below, Alexis tells the story of volunteers from Calvary Baptist Church and the families of students in West Avenue Elementary School. Ryn tells how one young girl at J.H. Hines Elementary School was impacted by a volunteer from Pleasant Olive Missionary Baptist Church.

Both are stories of how social indicators are moved by the caring actions of people who put their faith into action.  The outcomes are seen in local community development that is transforming communities and creating good cities.

Emerging Leaders Launch "Initiative" A Gospel Movement in Dallas

Grant Skeldon and Edwin Robinson are two emerging generation leaders in Dallas who are working to engage folks in their late teens and early twenties in a gospel movement. Their shared goal is city transformation. Grant serves as the director of Initiative: a network of young Christians supporting a local church movement that is a part of the umbrella leadership of Unite. Initiative seeks to “connect passions, expose needs, and empower young Christians to transform Dallas with the gospel through their gifting.”  There are approximately 4,800 churches in Dallas. Grant and the 24 member staff of Initiative are dreaming big. They hope to engage many young Christians from these churches in their monthly citywide meetings. (Grant and Rebbecca Walls, Executive Director of Unite are pictured on the left.)

With Grant in the 4.5 minute video below is Edwin Robinson, the Young Adults and Singles Pastor at Concord Church. They are  connecting to Christian young adults with an emphasis on strengthening their various giftings and callings. Initiative is not only young, but multicultural. Their April 28th meeting will focus on Creatives: For the City and Gospel and is being held at Concord Church in South Dallas where there is a concentration of Black and Hispanic young adults. This meeting engages one of several channels of influence that emarging leaders are engaged with for community transformation. Grant and Edwin discuss Initiative and their commitment to multicultural partnerships through Initiative in the following video.

North Minneapolis Partnership Uses Collective Impact Approach for Jobs

Last week I visited with Rev. Richard Coleman, who serves as the Executive Director for Hope United CDC in North Minneapolis (featured in short video below). Rev. Coleman helped form the Northside Community Response Team (NCRT),  a coalition of the leaders of 60 nonprofit organizations and philanthropists who came together shortly after a tornado ripped through North Minneapolis on May 22, 2011. The NCRT mobilized thousands of volunteers to clear debris and help residents. In addition they received and distributed over $677,000 to assist the area and its residents in its recovery.

This was no small task. Of the 7,000 properties in North Minneapolis, 3,700 were damaged by the tornado in an area of the city that is depressed economically. Recently, a report was shared at Hope United’s Bridge of Reconciliation which stated the unemployment rate at 37% in North Minnepolis. In addition 67% of the residents are on some form of public assistance.

Having recovered from the tornado, Hope United and the members of the NCRT have dedicated their organizations to addressing the ongoing economic issues of North Minneapolis through a collective impact approach to jobs called the Workforce Investment Network (WIN). This is a community based collaborative led by the chief executives of Summit Academy OIC,  EMERGE, Northpoint Wellness, The Minneapolis Urban League, Urban Homeworks, Community Standards Initiative, and Hope United CDC.  The goal of WIN is to reduce public assistance dependency by 25% over the next five years.

This is a powerful example of a faith based organization working in partnership with community organizations around issues they and the community care about. They know the baseline and are working toward agreed upon outcomes using a collective impact strategy.