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Part 3 Strategy Implementation Tools


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Specific approaches that can support effective strategy implementation

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Part 3 Strategy Implementation Tools

  1. 1. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Executing Strategy Tools for Making Your Strategy Real Over the decades of the expanding effort by our change communities, we have become more professional in our approach to creating change. Primarily, this has been through improving our implementation of change tactics, and by mapping change plans to operational frameworks like logic models. While these changes in our approach have improved achievement of outcomes, we have reduced the scope of what we think are useful outcomes: ● Our usual choice of tactics require very specific and detailed planning to be effective ● Operational planning requires a specific framework and coordination of the threads of the plan to be effective ● While we tend to think that outcome focus and detailed development of the plan and tactics are the only things we are doing to improve our results, we are also reducing the potential impact of our change plans in order to make it easier to detail and coordinate our work toward outcomes. The traditional way to avoid this reduction in scope and impact is to
  2. 2. build a strategy within which our operational plans and tactics make sense. But the concept of strategy in social change has been watered down and misused, resulting in strategy becoming a useless concept. Today’s presentation is an overview of potentially useful tools in executing your strategy.
  3. 3. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Part 3: Tools of Implementation We can’t separate the implementation of a strategy from our two missions, the core mission (1) to create change, and the second mission (2) of keeping the organization or group going. Tools to make any strategy real have to operate effectively in the interaction of Mission 1 and 2. An example of the issues that can come up would be a change focus on medication access issues while accepting funding from a pharmaceutical foundation. The implementation of a mission-critical change initiative might sabotage the funding relationship or vice-versa. More generally, it isn’t possible to implement a real strategy without creating conflicts of various kinds across stakeholders in the ecosystem. A core practice across all strategy implementation is managing these conflicts, and modifying the strategy to account for the impact of the conflicts.
  4. 4. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Deep Strategy Patterns The cover image in the slide is from one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read. The author, who went on to try to build a machine that could translate between dolphin and human speech, did research for the US Navy in the early 60’s that looked at combining high dose LSD with a sensory deprivation tank. The report (which was not accepted by the Navy for what I suppose are obvious reasons) was published under the title “Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer”, and is truly one of a kind. The book discusses in mind blowing detail how belief systems, even ones we don’t actually believe, organize our thought and action. Our Deep Strategy is a consequence of such beliefs, even if all we are doing is assuming their truth without any faith that they are true. There are many such possible assumed truths that we can use to frame the creation of a deep strategy. One of my personal favorites is a rendering of the belief system of the 19th century American approach to life, one that is so different from our current
  5. 5. assumptions. I think we need to internalize Roberto Unger’s “commanding beliefs of the American people": 1. Everything is possible. 2. Vast problems can be solved if broken up into pieces and addressed one by one. 3. Ordinary people have the smarts and the energy to solve any problem, as long as they work together.
  6. 6. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Top-down vs. Bottom-up I mentioned this distinction in strategy earlier, but I want to expand on that basic description. I said earlier that top down strategies were embedded in large scale struggles. As soon as you win, the people or belief systems you defeated begin to counter your victory. Bottom up strategies produce epiphany experiences which change meaning for the individual who experiences them, often for a lifetime. My earlier conclusion was to execute strategies that have both top down and bottom up components. The clipart image shows top down strategy as a hierarchy and bottom up strategy as a context for that hierarchy. A reasonable description of a top down hierarchy is change strategy implemented at different levels (say, Federal, State, Local) drawn from an ideology and focused on specific levers of change appropriate to each level. The change effort is a struggle, carried out against some opposing force, be it the status quo or some other ideological force with its own change agenda. Victory tends to be over a portion of the contested space. That contested space doesn’t stop being contested just because one side had an advocacy victory.
  7. 7. The current national politics in the USA shows this very clearly. Bottom up advocacy produces epiphany experiences that change the framework of meaning for a specific individual. Sometimes group experiences also produce epiphanies in many if not all of the participants. But the change that occurs is a transformation of meaning in an individual no matter how many people experience it. Think of the earlier discussion of autopoiesis. The meaning of an experience is determined by the person having that experience not the creators of the event. These changes in meaning tend to last for a long time and don’t produce the struggle in the larger environment that follows a top-down victory. To the extent that a change effort is successful in triggering epiphanies, the people who change will be capable of supporting top down victories for a long time. On the other hand, strategies targeting top down victories tend to recruit people to the change effort for the period of the initiative and don’t necessarily involve even temporary change in those forces who would counter that victory. In fact, exclusion of the defeated from change consideration is the normal assumption of a top-down advocacy change effort. The strategic consequences of this reality are deepened by the common conclusion of those who participated in a top-down victory that it was final at least in regard to the specific change issue involved. When the countering begins, the immediate response is to defend the victory. Such defense, however necessary it seems, is a very weak strategy.
  8. 8. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Offense vs. Defense In military theory, the offense and defense are very different animals. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use some combination of the two in the real world, just that different skills, logistics, and planning are required to implement them. These differences alter the character of an advocacy organization when it shifts from offense to defense and the organizational beliefs of its staff. Such changes are usually articulated as, “We have lost our passion for advocacy”. In social justice change efforts, offense is equivalent to innovation, and defense is equivalent to resistance to change or constraint of opposing forces. If a change initiative doesn’t innovate in its approach to targets, the targets will adapt and the change effort will gradually have reduced impact. The target’s efforts to constrain change are, usually, reactive rather than strategic. Since the goal of the target in a change environment is usually to maintain the status quo, the target typically uses its already existing tool set to counter the
  9. 9. change. However, the target will adapt over time,trying to build capabilities that don’t require it to change core reproductive processes. For example, when special education was first being implemented, the response to individual advocacy was to use the school’s individual administrative assets to counter the advocacy. Then, education response moved to district assets, the hiring of individual attorneys for specific issues, and finally legal retainers for ongoing representation and advice. None of these steps required any basic change in the way special education services were provided, though there was some modification due to attorney advice about preventable systemic risks. The goal was to make as few changes as possible, and to define the existing education requirements as the ceiling (the most that had to legally be provided). There have also been ongoing efforts to change special education law to make it easier for targets to fend off change efforts (i.e., rule waivers), but again these efforts require no particular change from the systems actually providing educational supports. As an abstract model of how change advocates and targets interact, the description of special education response to change is a good one for any social justice change ecosystem regardless of the specific system or the issues of focus. The different dynamics between an innovation-based (offensive) and a constraint-based (defense) strategy are very general. For example, let's suppose that person slowly gains weight over a period of decades, and discovers in their annual physical that they are now in a pre-Type-II diabetic state. They will have to lose the weight they have gained to avoid Type II diabetes. To do that, the person will have to use an novel innovative (offense) eating framework, one they haven’t used before to lose the weight. Let’s say they are successful. The person can’t keep using the weight loss strategy or they will die from starvation, or
  10. 10. alternatively the strategy will become ineffective. So they have to use a new strategy to maintain a steady weight at the new level. This strategy is one of constraint (defense) and is very different from the strategy they used to lose the weight. I suspect this shift from innovation to constraint is a fundamental reason why maintaining weight is so much harder than losing it.
  11. 11. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame The Strategic Burden of Policy As I have described earlier, change organizations have two missions; one is their core purpose, and the other is to keep their doors open. I have also described how these two missions can support one another, interfere with one another, or alter the integrity of each other. This ongoing dynamic relationship between the two missions can systematically alter the ability to create useful strategies, regardless of the change organization’s funding level or other infrastructure characteristics. The evolution of policy plays a special role in this relationship between core mission and reproduction mission because the creation, maintenance, interpretation, and modification of policy commonly occupies a significant amount of organizational management time. The policies that trigger all this effort are far more likely to concern reproduction than core mission . This has the cognitive effect of privileging reproduction processes over core, and biasing management to act as though reproduction was their central task, regardless of how much marketing effort is used to convince themselves and the outside world that their core mission
  12. 12. is the most important task they do. This impacts the creation of change strategies. The development of any change strategy is partially a task of constraint. There are natural constraints on any change strategy, natural in the sense that they arise out of the context of change and aren’t forces change agents have much control over. But internal constraints, such as HR policy or choices about health insurance that limit possibilities for persons with particular kinds of disabilities, or non- mission-related constraints on behavior, can undermine or defeat an otherwise usable change strategy. Because these Mission 2 constraints tend to be long-lived, they can bias a generation of change strategies toward failure or relative ineffectiveness.
  13. 13. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Strong and Weak Links Both change organizations and targets can be viewed as networks. Any system-as-network is a combination of very strong links between the internal elements of the system and weak relationships with a wide range of others, variously called forces or stakeholders. Our emphasis is always on the strong links because it seems superficially that it is the strong links that determine all the important outcomes. While it is true that the strong links exist to support the evolution of the target’s purpose, by themselves, strong links drive volatility and unpredictability. Weak links buffer systems so that the volatility of the strong links is less. Weak links stabilize a powerful system so that it doesn’t fly off the rails. Two communities that typically have strong links without weak links are homeless individuals and the 1%, both of which reject weak relationships with others, although superficially for very different reasons. Homeless persons tend to reject weak links with others because they don’t trust people they don’t know well to preserve
  14. 14. their personal priority for safety and protection. Very rich people tend to believe that most people are after their money, and advice from such people can’t be trusted because of the inherent bias of weak link self interest. One way of thinking about weak links involves the use of community wide collaboration for the development of policy and change initiatives. Also, a tactic for dealing with bureaucratic targets is to work to isolate the target from their natural stakeholders (weak links) and then opportunistically force volatility for change.
  15. 15. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Create, Engineer, or Trigger Change? Although we don’t normally think about such conceptual issues as whether we create, engineer, or trigger change, our unconscious beliefs about which of these three is the basis of real change constrain and format our change strategies. (An example that distinguishes cause as creation from cause as triggering:) If I accidentally stick myself with a pin, I might say, “The pin hurt me”. Now I don’t believe intellectually that the pin contains the essence of pain and it transferred some of that essence to me when it stuck me. That is, I don’t believe that the pin created the pain. I know that the brain creates the pain and that the pin triggers it. Engineering change as a metaphor for action is akin to building a plane. To pull it off, you have to very carefully and specifically design, manufacture, assemble, and test the components of the plane to be successful.
  16. 16. In complicated systems, creating change and engineering change become the same thing. But for complex advocacy change, only triggering of change is effective in the long term. Except for accidental change, you need to know a lot about how your target works to build an effective triggering strategy.
  17. 17. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Data/Rule vs. Meaning/Guide One of the results of using closed system thinking is the mechanical notion that you can use data to set up rules and trigger actions with the rules, not needing conscious reflection to carry out plans. This automation of decision making works well for simple systems and well enough for complicated systems, but fails with complex systems like change advocacy. In complex systems, meaning takes the stage and guidance replaces rules. Actual decisions must be made through some struggle, using the meaning of strategy as a guide to making those decisions. Guidance is called “heuristics” or rules of thumb (RoT, ha ha!) in systems theory. In advocacy, heuristics are developed through personal and group change advocacy, and are shared by advocates with one another. Rules of thumb don’t create liabilities like, say, HR policy. Everyone accepts that RoT weren’t meant to be engraved in stone. They are suggestions and we interpret their usefulness in light of the context of our change effort. Since flexibility is a required basis for successful implementation of a change strategy, RoTs are a critical part of our change toolbox.
  18. 18. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Poking the Abyss Poking an unknown system (target) means trying to trigger a response from it when you don’t know much about the target. We ask the target some kind of question, and we see what we get for an answer: ● We hold a press conference about a target action ● We send a letter to the controlling authority of the target to see who responds to us ● We protest ● We assemble a boycott ● We attend all the target's public hearings And so on. We map the way the target responds. Sometimes the target ignores us. If this happens, we escalate.
  19. 19. Sometimes it tries to destroy us. Most of the time it tries to make us go away. We build our strategy from the our evolving map of target responses. The big responses will show us the threats that scare the target.
  20. 20. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Bricolage You have a problem sitting at your feet. Or dumped in your lap. You need to do something about it now with what is immediately available. There is no time for months of planning. Bricolage is a french term for creating a solution out of the objects in your immediate vicinity. Tinkering is what we all do when we aren't happy with the solution we are presented with. Examples: ● Personal Modification of the "NEW" software system at work that is guaranteed to "solve all your problems" ● All the steps we take in furthering our development second by second every day of our life Nothing is ever the way we want it. We always want to tinker with it so it suits us better. A change target presents as just such an opportunity for tinkering.
  21. 21. We also learn from tinkering. There is a whole philosophy of mind called "embodiment" that is based on our ability to tinker and actively use our "tinkerings" as ways of understanding the world. Tinkering is one way to poke a change target. Advocates Tinker.
  22. 22. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Collaborative Problem Solving The keys to truly collaborative problem solving are diversity of thinking and mutual commitment to outcomes. “The evidence speaks clearly: diversity produces benefits (cognitively diverse societies. cities, and teams perform better than more homogenous ones), fundamental preference diversity creates problems (public goods are underprovided and people don’t get along), and, finally, collections of people with diverse cognitive toolboxes and diverse fundamental preferences have higher variance performance (they locate better outcomes and produce more conflict).” -from The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies If your potential collaboration has the same values and roughly the same view of what those values could mean in the real world, then the greater the diversity of cognitive tools (people’s thinking styles) you assemble, the better the final outcome. Social justice
  23. 23. organizations can box themselves into a corner by believing that rigid orthodoxy in regard to methods or rigid beliefs will allow better control of change initiatives and produce better more predictable outcomes. This is entirely wrong. In fact, if there is a single underlying idea in these strategy presentations, it is that flexibility and responsiveness are the only “methods” to achieve high value outcomes. Variety is the driving force of evolution and it is the driving force of successful change advocacy.
  24. 24. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Nucleation Nucleation basically means implementing a change strategy in a variety of locations. The strategy is to make each nucleus operate roughly on its own, independent of the others. One thing such an approach does is to isolate target response to your change initiative to each nucleus. All responses by a target, at least until your effort is beginning to be threateningly successful, will be the minimum the target believes is necessary to dilute or stop your change initiative. The reason for this minimal response is because anything more will use up resources meant for the perpetuation of the target (and the interests of the target’s staff). In effect this means that each target response to each nucleus will move toward the minimum required to defend the status quo. Because the local response to a particular nucleus reflects this minimal response, there is no comprehensive response to all the nuclei. This allows two advantages to the advocacy strategy: ● One is that some of the nuclei will do better than others, and
  25. 25. ● there will be clues to improved implementation of the advocacy strategy ● The other is that successful outcomes will be more likely because of the lack of a comprehensive response by the target to the nucleation strategy.
  26. 26. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame A Hundred Flowers Our beliefs about the ways and means of intentional change separate us into "tactical" communities. We tend to think our ways are the best and other ways are dangerous, a waste of time, morally wrong, etc. This confounding of tactics and ideology is a serious flaw in social justice change efforts. Intentional change is more an art than a technique. There is no guaranteed series of steps to automatically produce the change we want. Sort of “The delusion of technique based effectiveness”. Tactics are never strategy unless you simply don’t have a real strategy. Instead, we should assume that any of the current change efforts focused on our target could produce what we want, or that some combination of the current threads in the environment could also do so. We should observe and learn, not criticize and bicker. Instead, let a hundred flowers bloom:
  27. 27. ● There are many efforts by different groups to change your target system simultaneously ● What is the right approach? ● There isn't a pre-determined right approach. Think of the many change efforts as different evolutionary efforts. Observe to see which efforts work under what circumstances. Let a hundred flowers bloom, but only choose the most effective. And remember that what is effective today won't’ be effective tomorrow. The current US political party dynamics is a great and very instructive example of what happens when you fail to respect the principle of a hundred flowers In any particular set of environmental circumstances, every species creates a wide range of variety in individual characteristics.This variety is not just to find the best set of characteristics to suit this particular environment, but also to provide variety in case the environment changes. Anything that reduces this variety reduces the ability of the species to respond quickly to changes in circumstances. So important is this maintenance of variety that the human genome has genes for increasing that variety. When a species becomes too similar in genes (as is the case for regional species of the white-tailed deer), the species becomes susceptible to massive die off in case of a new bug (think about Donald Trump, the right wing of politics in the US, and something called Gene Drive (or CRISPR-Cas9). In our work to change systems, we must be careful to learn the lesson of requisite variety in dealing with the unpredictability of our change environment. In advocacy systems, it is often the case that one set of advocacy beliefs will expend energy, money and time trying to undermine other sets of advocacy beliefs pointed toward
  28. 28. changing the same target. But no one can know the “right” way to create change. No matter how clear the path to change is to us, we can never be sure we are right or that our vision is complete. Our change efforts are never truly isolated. If an issue is important, others will be attempting change as well. We should cherish the different threads of effort. We should look to ways of collaboration that support many change efforts. And we should always watch carefully to see how our target responds to any initiative by anyone.
  29. 29. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Storytelling You have an audience. How do you communicate most effectively? Build a story (NOT a message) that explains the empathetic case for your change. Use it as the basis for all your communication. Refine the story and expand its impact. Examples: ● The individual experience of emancipation ● The local impact of oppressive policy ● The positive feedback loop of interdependence While all of us can tell and enjoy stories, we can also all get better at telling stories. In particular we can get better at telling the story of our effort to change a target. That story will never be good enough. We can always improve the story. We can improve it by building several related stories that explain
  30. 30. the why of our change effort to different parts of our change audience. We can put our stories on social networks and market them to the "wild whoever" out there. We can build our storytelling skills.
  31. 31. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Become A Change Ninja The two forms of Change Jiu Jitsu for social justice advocacy are: ● Non-violent Strategies ● Paradoxical Response Logic Non-violent Strategies are a special kind of paradoxical logic strategies, because they can be used on a large scale with very little in the way of resources. Paradoxical logic is something we are all familiar with, but it is hard to explain. Typically when we draw up a plan to create change, we think of the plan as a causal network. We do our first action; that action causes a result; we do our second action; another result; and so on. But we all know that in the real world, when we do an action to cause a result with targets of change, they don't necessarily (or ever) do what we wanted or expected.
  32. 32. The target's response is triggered by our action, but the actual response the target does is based on their values, strengths, weaknesses, and interests, and the extent to which they perceive us as a threat. This is called paradoxical because the response isn't obviously connected to our purpose in trying to trigger change. Non-violent strategies are used largely because those who want to create change don't have the resources or the moral willingness to engage in violent (not just physical, but also legal and psychological) tactics that are the bread and butter of most large scale target self-defense. As I said earlier, standard protest and moral persuasion have become less and less effective over the years since the civil rights struggles of the 1960's. Today, nonviolent actions must go beyond those change tactics and implement strategies of system disruption. Every system has points in its reproduction that are the most critical to maintaining the target's values, image, and interests. The essence of an effective non-violent strategy is to target those points with your tactics. This is the core of system disruption. ADAPT has the best examples of the use of system disruption in our community. By using the stereotypes of disability in America as the tools of disruption, ADAPT gains not only local disruption, but also media coverage, and the personal attention of policy targets to an extent far greater than any standard protest would accomplish. Some examples: ● The stereotype of inferiority makes it difficult for targets to use violence to stop the protest. ● The stereotype of deviance makes media coverage very easy to obtain. ● The stereotype of the wheelchair as a sign of weakness enables ADAPT participants to use those heavy wheelchairs
  33. 33. ● as the blockading tool par excellence. ● The overall effect of turning these stereotypes on their heads is to create an event far more powerful in its impact than any standard protest.
  34. 34. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Agenda Setting Agenda setting is a time-honored way to control and prevent change. The most basic use of agenda setting is the first public speaking of an issue and a point of view (POV) on that issue. Since targets are often loath to speak of an issue in order to avoid an uncontrolled dynamic of public scrutiny, initiation is a system advantage of advocacy organizations. Such use is an example of priming the public discussion through the first articulation of what matters most. We often don’t use this advantage well. We tend to frame this initial public voicing through the use of “inside baseball” terminology and concepts which mean little to the larger public. These concepts and terms are the end result of our personal and community development, and are difficult to grasp without experience of that historical evolution. An example arose as part of the initial efforts by environmental activists to communicate the meaning of climate change. Two examples from this are the use of “global warming” as the
  35. 35. descriptive frame for climate change, focused on mean temperature as the most important indicator of that trend, and the persistent use of Celsius measures instead of Fahrenheit ones in public articles in the USA focused on the importance of climate change. As normal as these concepts are within the academic research community, they communicate entirely the wrong frame to people not familiar with research practice. I think this complexity in choosing how to communicate meaning based on personal and community evolution to be the reason why the larger public retains disability stigma concepts from the 1950’s. The initial choices of POV initiate an path of how the issue is to be framed and reframed over time. As obvious as this might be, our tactical (i.e., not strategic) approach to messaging seems to operate on voice and response without reference to strategy. Operating as though our communication in advocacy need only depend on the current efforts by a target to counter our current message gives power to the target that is avoidable. As part of a strategic approach to setting agendas over a long advocacy initiative, we need to address target beliefs that are barriers to our change initiative and social, political, and financial elite beliefs that affect decision-making in our society. That won’t happen unless we put real effort into a strategic framework.
  36. 36. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame The Forever Fountain Let's take some time to superficially overview the development and evolution of modern music as an example of a long and very fruitful system: ● The inventions of radio and recording allowed many separate culturally and geographically embedded musical traditions to be experienced by many musicians and children/teenagers. ● Musicians became comfortable meshing snippets of different traditions and children/teenagers became comfortable listening to same. ● Incredibly cheap and universally widespread music distribution through radio allowed the emergence of rock and roll and Elvis Presley as a national cultural institution ● The Beatles took this institution globally ● The dramatic drop in the cost of creating and producing high- quality music lead to an explosion of, and reintegration of, a boatload of musical styles (a second level integration) in recent decades.
  37. 37. Try to think of what could possibly replace this existing worldwide system of musical experience and creation. It would be like trying to replace a community's primary language. So... A cultural dynamic of immense scope and power is playing out in your target's environment. How can you possibly make use of this to impact your target? Align your change efforts with the natural dynamic of this larger cultural force. The Forever Fountain: Generative Ecologies A generative ecology is a network that continues to create novelty over a long period of time in a self-sustaining manner. That’s why I refer to them as “Forever Fountains”. Such an ecology continues to create newness without a specific director or a controlling force. The entire evolution of life on earth is the most long-standing and productive generative ecology and the one within which all our other Forever Fountains arise. The popular music ecology is one with which we are all familiar, and it demonstrates the independence of the ecological creation process from changes in technology, musicians, audiences, geography, culture, distribution methods, or anything else that is ordinarily considered important in the production of products, services, supports, events, or whatever. A generative ecology represents a more or less constantly evolving force in our environment. We can either align our change efforts with that force, or against that force, but we can’t avoid it. One of the most basic strategic decisions we can make is how we will manage these ecosystemic forces. At any given time, there are a variety of generative ecologies operating in the change target’s environment. Whether we intend to or not, when we act to change a target, we are aligning and opposing all the relevant generative ecologies that affect the target
  38. 38. system (and us as well). Better to decide how we want to integrate our change effort into those ecologies than to stumble across them as we try to implement our change plan. One ecology of critical and expanding importance in our change plans is social networking (SN). Because SN is becoming a part of more and more people’s lives across the globe and most especially the disability community, a SN strategy must be part of most of our change plans. Since the people we affect with our change plan will, in all likelihood, be using SN, we don’t have the option of “excluding” SN from our strategy. It will become part of our strategy whether we like it or not. Again, better to get good at it. SN is now a basic way that generative ecosystems build and expand. Since SN technology, reach, software, and basic importance in most lives is constantly expanding and changing, we must invest time and energy in understanding and using SN if we expect to competently include it in our change plans.
  39. 39. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Last Thoughts The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” —Michael Porter “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out” — Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles 1962 “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” —Sun Tsu “Persistence is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely, and the likely definite” —Robert Half “You cannot be everything to everyone. If you decide to go north, you cannot go south at the same time.” “Don’t go for small commitments on big things, but aim for big commitments on small things” “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should
  40. 40. not be done at all” —Peter Drucker “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction”—Albert Einstein
  41. 41. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Your Presenter I am Norm DeLisle: Short Bio: hubby2jill, 2dogs, advocatefor45+yrs, change strategist, trainer, geezer, pa2Loree, gndpa2Nevin Email: Twitter: Facebook: Blogs: Change Strategy: Recovery Michigan: Disability Futures: Health and Disability: Economic Justice:
  42. 42. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Thank You! I Appreciate Your Time and Attention! Thank You! I appreciate your time and attention.
  43. 43. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Further Along The Road... The most difficult part of enhancing strategic depth in social justice change organizations is the absolute domination of mechanical thinking that we use in dealing with day to day problems. This is not something that is peculiar to advocacy organizations, but has been a human habit at least since our days as hunter-gatherers. Given the sheer number of challenges that face anyone in life, it is hardly surprising that habits which reduce cognitive load would be commonly and compulsively used. In the old days, the usefulness of mechanical thinking was that it matched the actual ability of a human community to change the world around them. The things that could be changed at all could be changed through mechanical thinking; the rest of the world’s problems seemed always beyond our reach (volcanic eruptions, plagues, droughts, etc.). The world we live in is much more complex, and we are gradually beginning to realize that problems of oppression and social justice can actually be changed, if with difficulty. In systems advocacy,
  44. 44. these problems are complex; that is, they are amenable to change, but obscurely so. Because our advocacy with complex targets produces both change in the target (through its responses to our change initiatives) and change in us as advocacy agents (as we adapt our change initiatives to the evolution of the target), our mechanically organized planning and execution techniques and planning aren’t up to the challenge. We need a more sophisticated way of approaching such complexity, one that reflects the greater subtlety of the current world. Over these four presentations, I have tried to offer techniques and ways of thinking that would help point to this new way of appreciating the task of social justice change. All of these components I have discussed are like cognitive prostheses that I hope will support this shift in the way we think about advocacy and targets, in addition to being practical. But, I am sure that the sophisticated approach I point to still seems obscure. In this last set of supplemental slides, I hope to make that way of thinking about advocacy more transparent and accessible.
  45. 45. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Improvisation as Strategy "Bricolage is a French loanword that means the process of improvisation in a human endeavor. The word is derived from the French verb bricoler ("to tinker"), with the English term DIY ("Do-it- yourself") being the closest equivalent of the contemporary French usage. In both languages, bricolage also denotes any works or products of DIY endeavors." One of the myths of modernity is that anything can be accomplished through the mechanical use of some technique. This is reasonably true for complicated systems like building an airplane (though even there, good design requires more than just the steps necessary to build), but it is not true for complex systems such as advocacy in which both advocate and target are evolving during their change relationship. In particular, no matter how well planned a change initiative is, like the proverbial military strategy, it will only last until the first response from the target. To deal with this reality, we have to embrace improvisation. Jazz is improvisation with music, and bricolage is the art of solving
  46. 46. problems with whatever happens to be sitting around. You can think of jazz as a collaborative sound art, with bricolage being its craft-like brother from a different mother. In the US, this is often referred to as tinkering and has become a staple of DIY media channels. You have a problem sitting at your feet. Or dumped in your lap. You need to do something about it now with what is immediately available, or you don't have the time or money to use a prefabricated solution. Tinkering is what we all do when we aren't happy with the solution we are presented with or forced to use. Systems continue to think that they can devise perfect solutions for us (current policy, current practice, status quo), and they go to great lengths to impose those solutions on us, to make us invoke their solutions and live with the limits of the way they were designed. And as advocates we keep twiddling the dials, looking for gaps, trying out change techniques that the designers didn’t think of. Tinkering is always a valuable thing to do, even when you believe that tinkering will not produce the change you want. Tinkering will teach you about the imposed solution and the system that imposed it, about its strengths and weaknesses, about the things the designers didn’t take into account. People who must use any solution regularly have been tinkering with it and know a great deal about how it can be subverted. Talk to those people. Work to get them to open up about what they have learned in their quest to make the imposed solution suit their needs. A great book about these issues is The Labyrinths of Information: Challenging the Wisdom of Systems, though it has become much more expensive over the years.
  47. 47. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Evolutionary Flow Social Justice change efforts are more like the evolution of a rain forest than they are like the building of a plane. When we try to make our change efforts work like building a plane, we introduce strategic errors and unintended consequences in our change outcomes: ● Our change efforts become short term because mechanical change only works in the short term (and only by ignoring unintended consequences) ● When the target doesn’t respond the way we would like, we often assume that this was because our technique wasn’t specific and accurate in its implementation. A more likely reason for the unexpected outcome is that we triggered the response and we don’t understand the target’s system of meaning well enough to capture why it did what it did. Evolutionary systems evolve through specific environmental and internal dynamics which increase variation. The outcome of evolution is not the perfect organism; The results of evolution don’t
  48. 48. correspond to any idea we have of progress. In Taleb’s work on the Antifragile characteristics of systems, it is systems that benefit from variation and disorder that endure, the global process of evolution being one of those, albeit the most universal. Our advocacy can’t just be robust or resilient. If it is just those, it will become irrelevant at some point due to changes in the larger world we can’t control. At the microlevel, our approaches will become less and less effective a little bit at a time, so slowly that we don’t really notice, like the proverbial frog in boiling water.
  49. 49. Wave Your Hand, Fan the Flame Ecosystem Flow Food webs (diagrams of how species and physical forces depend on one another in a coherent part of biological geography), regardless of where or even when (i.e., fossilized), share many important similarities that define how the networks on which they depend are sustained. I wish I could tell you that we understand these ecosystemic parameters in advocacy systems as well as those described in the linked video. But we don’t. Mostly, this is because we really haven’t tried to understand them. In many ways, this is the greatest problem in our long effort to enlarge our lives and make freedom and personal autonomy a universal expectation for ourselves and all our descendants who will become members of our disability community. If we could do a better job of sensing these underlying flows, it would be easier to map our choices in a dynamic change environment. Bur that will only happen when we can more easily think about the relationship between long term changes in large
  50. 50. scale forces and short term changes in our target focused tactics. I know personally that it is possible to get better at seeing these more strategic elements of change, but it takes a great deal of practice and reflection to do so (at least it took me a lot of practice and reflection). I hope to do a presentation of such practice and reflection eventually, but not here. For the time being, I want to offer you the challenge of expanding your understanding of our common change struggle by using observation, practice, and reflection to build your own vision of how the larger world might become a tool for genuine rights and real freedom.