A Few Thoughts on the Tamarack CISummit 2014

Five days is a lot of time and content for 300 people to spend and digest. What impresses me consistently about Tamarack is that they bring in excellent speakers who are more than knowledge experts. They also bring passion to their work and they are also here to engage and learn. The best teacher is one who learns from her/his students.

It helps too that the Tamarack folks understand the need for play space, for ample breaks and good food and of course on one of the evenings a great party: this year the theme is Bollywood! Should be an awesome time. I felt blessed that Tamarack’s lead, Paul Born, asked me to provide morning inspirations each day through music and spoken word. I don’t perform as much as I used to, so Paul’s request prompted me to reunite with my musical side. I ended up playing a ton of music at home before the summit and loved doing so. Had not Paul extended the invitation I would not have done so, and I would not have the delightful callouses on my fingers caused by the friction of my fingertips against the strings.

Quite a few folks have asked for copies of the lyrics or readings I did and if you are interested, here you go: CLICK HERE  to access materials from Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday to come.

If you weren’t there you can get a good feel for the week and what took place by going to the Tamarack CCI website. All of the materials are there. Click here for the materials. You can take a look at the slides of the various key note presenters as well as from the various workshops. I won’t summarize their work here, but I will share a few thoughts I jotted down a few notes that are inspired from the conference. Not saying these are profound nor do I expect you will agree with them. Just sharing my process.

Note #1: As human service organizations we need to “see our experience” especially as part of our overall strategy to understand and engage those we exist to help. Sometimes we think we should do this through focus group type of stuff and while I am not against including such groups in an engagement strategy, let’s remember that we engage our “clients” all the time. That engagement tells us not only about what they need and aspire for but also about the extent to which they feel heard, helped, and hopeful. We just need to listen, and we need to actually see what is going on.

Note #2: I hate it when I go to a “consultation” that is really a sales pitch for a solution and that is delivered so late in the game that there is no chance of changing anything anyway. I call this NOT a consultation but rather an INSULATION.

Note#3: It finally hit me how I might describe myself. I think I am what could be called a “constructive contrarian.” This does not mean I try to prove others wrong, but it does mean I look for what might be wrong or what is missing in order to understand things and fix what’s broken and discover what is missing. This is likely related to my affection for wicked questions and the work I have done around upside down thinking. Sometimes we have to ask “why won’t that work?” Especially when so many are jumping on this bandwagon or that bandwagon. Often when that happens, the excitement of the new model causes passion to trump critical thinking about the new model.

Note #4: Brenda Zimmerman reminded me that there is a different between buy-in and ownership. I think human service agencies and funders and governments are still immersed in the Buy-in approach to community change, even though we talk about how critical it is for communities to OWN both the aspirations and the change processes. This tells me we can’t just talk about transformation and converse about big ideas; we have to change who we are and how we see and learn. We need transformational practice as well.

Note: #5 My time at the Summit talking about community impact and all the challenges, barriers, and resistance we face undertaking it reminded me of a Zen koan which goes like this: the Obstacle is the Path. 🙂

 

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