Tag: community

Democracy unleashed: bringing agility to citizen engagement [Agile 2011 Experience Report]

Looking for the crowd-sourced mind map of the session? You can view/edit/copy/export it here.

Empowered individuals. Creative, participatory decision making. Connectedness and care for each other. These words apply equally to an Agile organization as to a healthy community. What might happen if we applied Agile values and methods to transform communities? I will share my experiences over the past year and up to Agile 2011 to nurture engaged community in my home town and beyond – tools and methods, trials and triumphs, how Agile applied to community differs from organization. This is bleeding edge stuff, an area of opportunity for Agile consultants to do work that transforms the world. My hope is to inspire and encourage others to join me in these efforts, and to meet others already on this journey.

Below is a copy of the experience report, best viewed in full screen mode.

Going to Agile 2011? There are two opportunities in the program to connect with me and other like-minded change agents:

  1. Thursday, 9 am30 minute experience report interactive presentation.
  2. Thursday, 11 am – 60 minute Open Jam event titled “Whatever the problem, community is the answer”. This was a proposed 90 minute session originally. I haven’t thought how I’ll modify the format for an Open Jam yet, though will likely shorten to one hour, depending on interest level. Space will be less than a dedicated room so not sure if World Cafe still best format. Ideas welcome.

No place to go

My experience of church growing up was that of an extended family. We attended small rural churches of no more than 50 people. Many a Saturday night after church (there was one paster for 4 parishes, Saturday at 5 pm was our time) was spent at someone’s house, where the adults chatted about deeper matters over egg salad sandwiches and the kids played all sorts of games. Fr. Eric, our priest back then and still a good friend likes to remind me of the time he suggested I find a mass to go to while out of town at a hockey tournament, to which I replied, “Why would we go? We don’t know anybody there.” From a young age, the people I gathered with was integral to my faith experience.

Church continued to have a significant place in my life. I stayed active, serving on parish council, organizing a youth group, leading social justice initiatives. I remember organizing a skit with the youth with me as Jésus, a Mexican coffee grower promoting fair trade. We travelled from parish to parish with our message and a car full of packaged coffee. In university I copied Protestant friends by bringing a notepad to church to take notes during the sermons. I even considered becoming a priest, attending a come-and-see weekend at St. Peter Seminary in London as part of my discernment process. In the end, Rowena won and the church lost, as Eric put it in his homily for our wedding.

Fast forward to today, where I have been seriously struggling for over a year to find meaning and fulfillment in my experience of church. In a world where I can interact, dialogue and connect, sitting passively in a pew, going through the same rituals every Sunday no longer satisfies. As a community we do not know each other, going through the motions week after week. Some continue to do volunteer work year after year, despite how unfulfilling it is. What has changed? The world and my faith journey have evolved; the church experience has not.

My work is partly to blame. As an Agile coach, my goal is to help organizations and teams transform their experience of work, where the core roots: respect, courage, focus, commitment and openness can flourish. I have tasted many times the fruits of collaborative work, where all voices are valued and heard, leading to consensus decision making. The Agile community has taught me we do our best work when we can be creative, have fun, feel a sense of purpose; that servant leadership and self-organized teams trump top-down control for results.

Agile is a way of looking at and experiencing the world that matches my personal values, values that were shaped in part by those years growing up in small church communities. I use my experience with Agile to better family life – my wife and I have weekly planning and retrospectives. Agile training helps me create an inclusive atmosphere for volunteer efforts like ChangeCamp Sault. I have often imagined the beauty of a self-organized, empowered church community.

Last October, I began an experiment to apply Agile to take steps towards creating vibrant church community. I was blown away by what this small group accomplished in just their first session – imagine an entire parish community engaged in creating its own vision! Imagine being part of a community actively working on “lives connected”, “positive power”, “bonding mission” and “spiritual partnership”. That’s what I long for. Of course, defining and creating are not the same thing, and I soon realized that major, fundamental change within the Catholic church would be necessary to achieve this vision. Governance model turned upside down. Parishioners given real authority and input. Focus in the mass shifted away from priest, choir and ministers to the people in the pews. Major systemic change that feels so far away from becoming reality.

Unfortunately, there is no real dialogue about the elephant in the sanctuary. Well, I’ve had enough suffering. Sadly, after almost 40 years, church has become an impediment to my faith journey. I feel a sense of loss, with no place to go, only that God is calling me to something greater. I know I am not alone. Starting now, our family begins a journey outside traditional church, meeting in our home, praying for direction. We invite others who thirst for more to come join us and help create that vibrant faith community. In a follow-up post, I will share more about this turn to organic church. I do not know where all this will lead, only that I have to go this way to be true to myself and my beliefs. Egg salad sandwiches optional.

Connect, share, engage: how to amplify your conference with an online experience (part 1 of 3)

This is part one of a three part series on creating an online presence to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outline needs for information and to connect conference goers which these tools can address. In part two, I’ll list my  digital tools of choice and then in the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

Last year I attended Mesh 09. That was the first conference I’d been to where I think *everyone* had a Twitter account. Sessions were filled with people tweeting and live blogging. I followed the conference hash tag to keep up with what was happening, sometimes switching rooms because of what others were posting. Events that use social media like Twitter and live blogging amplify the value of the “hallway conversations” that are often the best part of conferences. The conference felt more alive, and in turn I got more value from going.

Over the past few years I’ve volunteered to help a number of events use social media to amplify their value and impact on participants. From experience I can say that with a little effort and knowledge, integrating social media into the conference experience does not have to be onerous or expensive. All the tools I use are free, and there are ways to automate part of the effort. Remember, too, once there is an environment in which everyone can participate and share, you don’t have to generate all the content – grab your paddle and jump in the content stream with others.

If I were in charge of social media for a conference, I would start first by identifying the needs people have around information and connecting. For this round of research I sat down with myself for an in-depth interview. Well, I was available and close by.

I see four stages participants go through related to a conference. For each stage I’ve identified needs. While some needs span across stages, I refer to them once to avoid unnecessary duplication. I know you’re busy.

Should I go to the party?

AKA deciding whether to attend the conference or not

  • Sessions: where can I find more detailed information about them? What do others think of them?
  • About presenters: where can I find more detailed information about them? What do others think of them? How can I contact presenters with my questions?
  • Network: who else is going that I might want to meet?

Dress up: getting ready for the party

Getting closer to the event

  • Network: contact people in advance, organize meet ups, discuss what is coming up
  • Sessions: decide which sessions to attend. What sessions are other people going to, especially people I know?
  • Accommodations: find someone to share a room, airport taxi. What lower cost alternatives are there to the conference hotel?

Party time

Ok, we’re there.

  • Network: find people to connect with in real-time, organize meet ups
  • Sessions: decide which sessions to attend. What sessions are other people going to, especially people I know?
    • last minute changes to schedule, sessions
  • Feedback: timely, useful session feedback to presenters and conference organizers
  • Conversation: what are the hot topics? What are people thinking/doing/sharing? What stories are being told by the people at the conference?

The morning after

  • Feedback / telling the story: what are people saying and sharing about their experience of the conference?
  • Network: find for those people you met but don’t have contact details for to continue discussions, follow up on opportunities, request copies of incriminating photos.

My experience is conferences not social media savvy don’t address these needs well, and miss some entirely, especially when it comes to connecting people with each other. Fortunately, all it takes is a reasonable effort and cost to bridge the gap. In the next blog post I’ll list the tools you’ll want to use to become a conference social media superstar.

How does this list compare to what you need? Have I missed anything important? Add your comment below.

This is part one of a three part series on using digital tools / social media to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outline informational and connecting needs conference goers have which these tools can address. In part two, I’ll list my  digital tools of choice and then in the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

Can Agile transform faith communities?

Last Sunday, I had one of my most rewarding experiences as an agile coach. This wasn’t with a software team, as I normally work with, but with a small group of adult friends longing to belong to a vibrant faith community.

For a long time I have been disappointed and discouraged at the lost potential within church congregations, at the hunger for real community left unsatisfied. Most people attending church are not active nor engaged. A few people are doing a lot of work, much of which is not resonating and thrilling. It’s time to re-imagine how we in a faith community want to be in relation to one another, what we want to strive for together. We must take responsibility to create a healthy, vibrant community. For those who gathered on Sunday, this was the first tiny step on that journey.

Agile thinking and the Scrum framework have shown me that the processes and control structures we use greatly influence the values embraced and outcomes achieved. For our session I wanted to avoid it turning into a long rant of everything that is perceived wrong with the current situation. For me the goals of the session were:

  1. to find common ground across our individual experiences
  2. to establish a vision for the faith community experience we long for
  3. and to identify some steps needed to work towards that vision

After a hearty potluck meal, we began by sharing in a few words why we came and what we hoped to get out of our session. I then introduced the Remember the Future game, one of EnthiosysInnovation Games. The game helps people to define an end ‘product’ by looking at the steps in reverse. As humans we find it easier to understand and describe a future event from the past tense over a possible future event, even if neither even has occurred.

I asked everyone to pretend it’s a year from now, October 2010. were part of a vibrant faith community. Describe what it looks like. Jot down steps that were needed to get there. Each item was written on a separate sticky note. After 10 min of brainstorming we posted our stickies on flip chart paper and looked for emerging themes. From that process, four groups emerged. Taking the time to label each group brought deeper awareness of what matters to us in a vibrant faith community.

People became more comfortable sharing and participating as the evening progressed. I had hoped to continue the evening with the Sailboat game, a variation of the Speed Boat Innovation Game. This exercise would help us identify obstacles and opportunities towards reaching our goal of a vibrant community. Since time was running out and our kids were no longer interested in the movie they were watching, we skipped that and finished with an exercise to determine what to do next.

Circle of Questions is a retrospective activity from the book Agile Retrospectives by Diana Larsen and Esther Derby. In this activity, the group sits in a circle, and going around the circle, each person takes a turn asking a question to the person on their immediate left. The question can be about anything they like (barring anything offensive or attacking). The person to the left answers the question to the best of their ability, and then they ask the person to their left any other question (or the same question if they feel they’d like a better answer). This continues until the allotted time is up, or until you have gone around the entire circle twice, whichever comes last. (Thanks to John Wilger for the writeup)

The goal for our activity was to decide what to do next. What transpired was a deep sharing of desires, needs, struggles and hopes. Four guys being vulnerable to one another, listening attentively as each person took their turn. No fluffy stuff, no lighthearted chit-chat. This was a taste of that vibrant community we seek.

So what’s next? I plan to invite another group of people to go through the same exercises, and slowly build a group motivated and empowered to reach our goal. We’ll gather everyone together in about a month, again around a shared meal, and start to discuss community models already out there. Hopefully each gathering will contain the elements of lives connected, spiritual partnership, bonding mission and positive power.

This small experiment was a moving, powerful experience and we were only a group of 4. Imagine if this was done on a big scale with a congregation. We might find the shared vision and motivation to make a vibrant community a reality. I remain hopeful and determined, feeling called to use the gifts from Agile coaching to transform both places of work and worship.

It’s about relationships

The following is a posting I made on the DeoWeb discussion group, which reflects my thoughts on where online communications in the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie needs to shift (and DeoWeb‘s focus as a communications solution).

Have you been enjoying the discuss taking place? Have you been pleased to meet new people through this group, other people of faith who are interested in the same topic as you?

For myself, I give an enthusiastic “Yes!” to both of those questions.

You’ve now had a (small) taste, perhaps for the first time, of how online communications can help to draw people together, either to form new relationships or to strengthen existing ones.

We are so busy and so isolated nowadays that we don’t know who our neighbours are or the people next to us in the pew. Yet, we also have a need for meaningful and fun relationships.

Because of DeoWeb, I was able to find two people to help my busy wife with our two newborn twins and toddler. I did not know these people, and they did not know me. In a parish of 1100 parishioners, with 3 masses, the odds of us finding each other at church are slim at best. For Rowena and I, they are now a special part of our parish family.

Paul Falcioni, we really need to share the story of how DeoWeb is helping to revitalize your parish by re-connecting with schools. Perhaps I can get someone to write a story for you. I’ll get back to you.

This is just the tip of the ice berg. There are many more opportunities to build community using online tools.

Fact: More than 50% of time spent on the Internet is for social reasons, and not for research or buying another book at Amazon. My pastor spends more time counseling youth using instant messaging than in person. He has a profile on facebook.com.

Hence the proliferation of social networking sites like facebook.com, myspace.com, linkedin.com, mychurch.org.

Getting volunteers to input content for their ministry work has largely failed, and I am more convinced now that this won’t change, unless there is internal motivation to do so.

I think people are much more motivated to share about their personal lives, their hopes, questions and interests. Facilitating that kind of dialogue will bear much more fruit than say trying to get every CWL parish group to maintain a workspace. In fact, sharing the *personal* may spur the desire to promote the *pastoral*. When a lady shares what the CWL means to her personally, spiritually, others will connect with that and want to know more about the CWL.

I envision a revamped DeoWeb, where the focus is more on connecting people, where the information published is more personal and from the grassroots, and less from the established Church (parish and diocesan offices). A system that connects people who want to know each other, that builds meaningful relationships.

Paul Labelle, I hear your concerns about the people out there with extremist views that tear down rather than build community. There are very effective ways to avoid and mitigate a lot of that. We’ve just never invested much time on the people side of content… yet.

I also see a system that makes it easy to find quality faith-based content on the web, to nourish people on their spiritual journey. Some of this is being done already, but on a small scale. This would require the help of volunteers, to find those resources.

Who would like to see a Q & A section, where people could ask a hand-picked group of religious people from the Diocese questions about faith? There are already examples of this on the web.

We received last week a letter from the Ontario Catholic Bishops. What if there was a way to discuss it, and together come up with ways to live out the spirit of the letter, and then enable people to share what they are doing about it?

Jesus’ ministry was carried out through relationships, those intimate encounters that left people touched and loved. The woman at the well. The apostles in the boat. Martha and Lazarus.

If Jesus were physically present on this earth today, I think he’d be on facebook and in the chat rooms, while blogging about the challenges of following God’s path. Wait a minute. He is present now, through you and me. We’ve got work to do.

– Gerry