The world is roiling from stress on many fronts, felt deeply by public servants. Prompted by a friend's question, "What are we all about anymore," I was inspired by a recent article to put democratic principles into a venn diagram. The challenge of "government of the people and by the people" to create a government for the people is coaxed along through important institutional supports. Public servants are a huge part of this dynamic relationship and I am honored to support them. Creating this helped me, and I hope it can be helpful for others, as well (with apologies to the graphic artists of the world).
As articulated so well by Podger, a comprehensive list of democratic principles might comprise the following:
Government of the people, by the people:
Heading into July 4th, this is time for civic mindfulness. Wishing all a peaceful long weekend.
My grandma used to say "it's not what happens to you, it's how you happen back." Wise words in an easy to remember catch phrase. But right now, we are really experiencing pressure on our ability to "happen back."
The stress of the global pandemic, the tension of the current political climate, the overdue reckoning on race and America --it can all feel overwhelming. These are serious and challenging realities. To respond, I'd like to make the serious case for optimism.
How can optimism help? Lets start with what optimism isn't. Optimism isn't all pep talks and cheerfulness. And it is not the same as confidence. Optimism is also not the absence of criticism. In fact, criticism is, in its own way, an expression of optimism.
While optimism can be expressed with an upbeat attitude, confidence, and even criticism, what it comes down to is more than way of behaving. It is a way of being. A personal belief in better days to come. Ultimately that belief is grounded in an internal dialog, not an external expression. What are you saying to yourself about how you respond, adjust, adapt and make a difference?
In coaching, that dialog is facilitated. I like to put it this way: this partnership approach looks like a conversation between you, the coach, and you again. That's not the same as talking to yourself or even your friends. It is instead an intentional and creative process to expand possibilities.
We're going to get through these tough times, but not out of tough times. To forge a better future, we commit to doing the work. Optimism can fuel the work. I think grandma would approve.
'In coaching we often ask for a "mindful moment" for the individual client or group, and the coach as well, to center themselves and be present. It seems that many folks are introduced to the concept of mindfulness through images or narratives evoking eastern religious traditions. Where to start in such vast and rich expanse of tradition, information and experience can be overwhelming. I often wonder if that this is the reason I have gotten a few side-eyes upon the suggestion for a mindful moment. It is fascinating, then, to share what has been learned by the work of Ellen Langer who approached her study of mindfulness from a western researchers perspective. Originally looking at "mindlessness...a state of mind characterized by an over reliance on categories and distinctions drawn in the past and in which the individual is context-dependent and, as such, is oblivious to novel (or simply alternative) aspects of the situation," Langer's research honed in on mindfulness as the simple act of noticing. In doing so, she uncovers why mindfulness contributes so powerfully to creativity and problem solving. "Less is More," the saying goes. So less mindlessness is more mindfulness! May we all tap into this deep wellspring of capability, and be confident in our potential for mindfulness.
The budget is a book. Don't you believe it!
One of the most common traps of local government budget preparation is addressing the task of budgeting as a task of publishing. Collecting and compiling information, validating assumptions, winnowing that to a viable proposal, editing and publishing the document...and oh yea, don't forget balancing the budget can feel like a feat of publishing accomplishment. And it is.
Indeed, the important and rigorous Government Finance Officers Association standards fully conceive of the budget as a document and the standards of excellence reinforce the publishing paradigm. But budgeting isn't just the world's greatest term paper for local government finance nerds (a group with which the author proudly identifies). Budgeting is an exercise in values. How can organizations facilitate decision-making in a manner consistent with the duty needed when making value judgments?
One way is to focus on the principles of emergence. Committing to civic engagement, sustainable development, efficient & effective services, and positive human interactions create an expansive space for local decision-making. Making value judgments isn't easy, but committing to emergence can help communities do the job to the best of their abilities.
Susan Hockenberry's blog of suggestions for info and updates.