Start Here: Part 2 – Exploration to Engagement

In the first part of this two-part blog post, the focus was on discovering who God has brought to your city and what inner motivations has He planted in their hearts. In this second part the focus moves from discovery to engagement.

To solidify what you learned from the interviews, write a report based on what you and your team learned during your discussions with grass-tops leaders. Writing a report that can be shared with others is work that my Research Director and I often do at the request of city leaders. To move from discovery to engagement, you will want to have a professional document that serves as a milestone in your movement.

The people you interviewed will want to know what you learned from your conversations. Many will look to you and your team for guidance about how they might act on the inner motivations and passions they have shared with you.

Here are the final four steps that will take your work from discovery to engagement.

Hold a community report session: Invite those who you’ve interviewed, their families, friends, and other interested parties to a community report session. Have printed copies of the report on hand. Present the findings and offer an opportunity for those present to join a task force around 3-5 of the top identified pressing problems facing your city.

Launch task forces. Be sure to have one or two leaders for each of the top 3-5 identified pressing problems facing your city who are ready to greet those interested in joining a task force on one of the issues. The role of each of these groups is to discover what’s currently being done to address the issue. In the process, each task force may discover gaps in services, duplication of services, best practices that are under-resourced, and opportunities for developing an effective cross-sector collective impact strategy. (Check out our podcast on Axioms for Collaboration)

Become a learning organization. Ask the leaders of each task force to write a report based on their work about what is being learned and what they recommend. We recommend that members of the initial interview team form a steering committee to hear from the task force leaders and guide their next steps. In this way, the developing movement has an opportunity to grow in their understanding of how the ecosystems of the city are addressing critical issues.

Join with others whenever possible. Only launch something new if it is the only way forward. Our witness is best when it is incarnational after the pattern of Christ. We are at our best when we join with others who have a similar passion about a pressing issue in our city. If you do launch something new, be open to others joining with you who may not have a church home or who may not believe what you do. These kinds of friendships matter and become the bridge point for meaningful witness.

When you and your team become known as leaders who listen carefully to others and who are prayerfully looking to understand where God is leading, you will start processes that move the needle in areas critically important to the common good and to the work of God’s kingdom in your city. The process shared in these two posts builds relational equity (social capital) and alignment in a few areas. The experience gained will give you confidence to act when new opportunities for kingdom collaboration arise.

Start Here – Part 1: Exploration & Discovery

For more on this topic visit http://goodcities.net/resources/podcasts/ and select podcast 007 -“Three Stages for Movement Leaders”

Leaders often ask us “Where do we begin?” as they consider how to engage their communities in ways that result in measurable improvement. We have a bias toward the notion that God is already at work in every city. God understands the local context and has brought talented, gifted and motivated people to your city or community who are ready to advance Jesus’ redemptive vision for the common good. The place to start is discovering who God has brought to your city and what kinds of passions He has kindled in their hearts. So begin by asking good questions and becoming good listeners.

Collaborative leadership is the key to the long term well-being of cities according to a 2012 report by the Federal Reserve’s Community Affairs Division. At GoodCities, we have used our exploration and discovery process successfully to expand the quality and depth of relationships among people in cities where we work, launching a spirit of collaborative leadership that continues many years after the process began.

Below are the first five of nine steps in a process that will foster collaborative leadership in your city. These first five steps will help you and your team understand internal motivating factors that are already in the hearts and minds of key leaders in your city. (In the next post, we will delve into the last four steps that will move from discovery to engaging these leaders.)

Begin with prayer. We begin with a robust understanding that we serve a living God who desires that we would comprehend what He is doing. Our prayer lives need to be alive and attuned to the mind and heart of God for our city. Gather people you already know to pray together and to discern what God is up to in your city.

Form a team. As you pray, ask God to lead you in forming a team of people who are willing to join with you in having a series of one-to-one conversations that will reveal the inner passions of grass-tops leaders.

Make a list. Ask God to show you the grass-tops leaders He has in your city who influence others both formally and informally. Make lists of people who you see influencing others. Include people from government, nonprofit charities, churches, businesses, education, philanthropy, and healthcare. Your list doesn’t need to be comprehensive. If you plan to interview 100, begin with a list of 30-50. One of the questions you will ask, “Who else should we interview?” will build the remainder of your list.

Conduct interviews. Set a goal for each member of the team to interview two leaders each month. If you have 10 on your team this will result in 20 interviews being completed each month. Over a five-month period you will have completed 100 interviews. For the kinds of questions to ask in these interviews, contact us at info@goodcities.net. We can help you form a process that will reveal the inner passions of the people you interview. We recommend that the interview consist of no more than eight questions.

Write a report: Ask each of your interviewers to submit a report on each interview within 24 hours. This way the information will be fresh on the interviewer’s mind. When you have completed 100 interviews, write a report that reflects the answers to each of the questions asked. The report will reveal the level of agreement around several areas where those interviewed would like to move the needle in your city.

Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City

(Third in the series on 30 Actions and Ideas that Create Good Cities)

In 1975 I was considering a position with Young Life in the Pittsburgh area. All potential staff met with Reid Carpenter (pictured below), the Young Life Regional Director. Reid began that day with the big vision for the region, the nation, and the world as he shared the newly minted vision of the Lausanne Movement: “The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world.” Riffing off his friend and Lausanne Cities Associate, Ray Bakke, he quickly refined the statement to: “The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole city.”

Reid identified Young Life as a part of this larger international evangelism movement and said, “Our vision is to make Pittsburgh as famous for God as for steel.” In doing so he interpreted Lausanne’s mission for the local context  in order to land tangible results. He and others in Pittsburgh took this worldwide missional vision and made it their own.

Reid took it down one step further. He applied the vision to the youth ministry work we were considering as he said, “Young Life believes in an approach that values evangelism and discipleship with youth. If you had two tea cups and five eggs, three eggs would be in the evangelism cup and two would be in the discipleship cup.”

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Community Leadership With a Focus on Neighborhoods

Geography is important within cities. People have a sense of place attached to their identity. It is never just a general sense of place as in “I’m from Cleveland.”I may say this to someone I have just met, but the truth of the matter is that I am from Bay Village, a third ring western suburb of Cleveland with a 5 mile shoreline on the southern shore of Lake Erie. When I say that I am from Bay Village, I mean that I grew up there through the first 21 years of my life. My memories of this place and the people I knew there shaped my identity in powerful ways.

Today, I’m from the Twin Cities. I have lived here for 20 years. During that time I have lived in the same house in a second ring southwestern suburb, Eden Prairie. As an adult, my life and my identity have been developed in a far more intentional way through my marriage to Kathy, my choice of vocation, my interaction with my children, my neighbors, my church, and the leaders of the communities I choose to interact with here in the Twin Cities.

I serve as a community leadership coach to cities. One of the cities where I am currently working is Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati is composed of 52 unique neighborhoods, each with its own sense of place. The residents have formed neighborhood associations that look out for the good of their neighborhood and its interests. Children’s memories and identities are formed by the geography, architechture, and social relationships fostered in each of these areas. Adults have more freedom and mobility than children, yet to a great degree, their lives are shaped through their experiences of where they live, work and serve.

The group I coach in Cincinnati is called Neighborhoods Embracing Transformation (NET). It’s a name that is active and filled with a sense of mission. The name itself points to the shifting and changing nature of places and people over time. Their hope is that there will be an internal, eternal change spiritually for the people in each neighborhood that will result in economic, cultural, and social improvements for the people who live and work there.

NET is begining their work in two townships, Colerain and Anderson. Currently, the leaders of the NET team are encouraging prayer through an initiative they are calling Ignite and they are interviewing local residents and leaders to learn about the assets that currently exist in each community. I interviewed Chuck Proudfit, the founder of At Work On Purpose of which the NET team is a sub group. (90 second video.)