Posts Tagged ‘ODKM’

Radical Evolution book coverSchool’s back in session, which means I am hitting the books again.  This semester delivers up a strange mix of texts and I decide to start (while still in vacation in Vermont) with Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau.

I have to admit, I started off hating this book.  The author seemed to be trying to shock and awe in every paragraph without actually reflecting or challenging his own thinking.  Early on he also puts down the Virginia Square neighborhood (where my campus is), so I was annoyed at him on that front as well.

Anyways, once he got passed drawing the reader in with salacious examples, he actually got to a very interesting presentation of scenarios.  Scenario planning is a technique that we first read about in The Age of Heretics, and ever since reading about it, I have wanted to try it.  Garreau takes the assumption that “technology drives history” and this concept of the exponential rate of change of technology to posit three scenarios, Heaven, Hell, & Prevail.  As a  critical optimist (?), I saw prevail as the most likely scenario.  However, I overcame my disagreableness with the Hell scenario as Garreau explained that thinking about worst case scenarios is a helpful way to actually avoid worst case scenarios.  In the end this book raised many questions in my mind and answered almost none.  Hopefully I can come back and reflect on some of those questions on this blog.

For now, a few highlights from the book:

Quote about immortality from Francis Fukuyama, who sees this issue as a moral issue,

The deeper issue is, can people conceive of dying for a cause higher than themselves and their own f***ing little petty lives?

Quote from Bill Joy,

Scientists do not believe they can do their work if they have to consider consequences, but such free passes are no longer sensible in the age of self-replication.

Quote from Brown and Duiguid,

It is through planned, collective action that society forestalls expected consequences (such as Y2K) and responds to unexpected events (such as epidemics).

Quote from Jaron Zepel Lanier, who thinks that “the belief that a human is like a computer [is] the current repression”,

The very nature of oppression has always been to force people to live within the confines of some idea about what a person is.

Quote from Don Kash,

The great management issue in the world is not scarcity, it’s surplus.


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Last night was our last class of the semester. Now I just have to finish a very important paper. As well as wrapping up two other papers from our ongoing LearnComm class. But it still feels fantastic to be on break. I plan to recap soon some of the highlights from the semester as well as a recommendation of which readings I found to be most thought provoking. For now though, it’s time to sit back, eat a cupcake, and toast to another round of classes under my belt.

Cupcakes for class made by Justino Abad

Cupcakes for class made by Justino Abad

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Well, my graduate program keeps moving and I am now in my 3rd semester, studying “Leadership in a Diverse World”.  For this class I will be writing a series of blog posts reflecting on my understanding of leadership and reflecting on the reading that we have regarding leadership.

For the initial post I will be addressing the question: Coming into this class, how did you understand leadership? Who were the people that you most strongly identified with leadership, both in your personal experiences and in the models you received and believed from others (in your education, culture, peers, organizations, media, etc.)?

When I hear the term leadership I think of someone inspiring others, being an exemplary community member, and standing up for their beliefs.  I grew up learning about leadership in the context of community groups and volunteer opportunities.  As I mentioned in class I have often thought as my mom as a good example of a leader.  Although my mom did not often take on roles with formal authority, she has a presence that compels others to contribute to a cause or to engage in the activity that she is involved in.  Since receiving feedback in group dynamics that I am influential in a group, I have realized that my mom and I share this trait.  Even when walking in a group, we often gravitate towards the front, walking confidently in a direction even if it turns out we do not actually know where we are headed.

That example gets into a distinction about leadership.  There are leadership traits such as confidence, communication skills, the ability to influence others, … and then there is the context that a person is in when demonstrating leadership.  What are their motives?  Are they aware that they are perceived as a leader?

Since reading about leadership in ODKM I am now more interested in how individuals perceive their own ability to take ownership and demonstrate leadership.  I am more aware of how frequently we talk about people giving us the authority to do something or empowering us, and I wonder why?  Why do I need to empower volunteers to be volunteer leaders?  If I am empowering someone it implies that I have the power and am transferring it to them.  Why do I have the power in the first place?  Do volunteers feel a need to be empowered or do they already possess the necessary conditions to embrace their own personal leadership and agency?

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If you are not immersed in the world of volunteering and volunteer management, you may not know that next week is National Volunteer Week. I am acutely aware of this fact as it means that I have a packed schedule.

Here’s what the week is looking like:

Class of course on Friday and Saturday (check out our Saturday Learning Community on Twitter @GMUGoldenFleece)

Sunday – Annual Volunteer Appreciation Reception (big event at which the Arlington County Board and County staff recognize people who have volunteered through County programs over the last year).  I am in charge of AV and am preparing a 5 minute slideshow (in Windows Movie Maker).

The Chair of Community Volunteer Network (the program that I am the Liaison to), Brendan O’Connor, is receiving an Outstanding Volunteer Award.  I nominated him for the award so that will add something extra special to this year’s reception.

Monday – HandsOn Network has talked about convening the representatives of Affiliates (like Volunteer Arlington) in the evening to kick off the week.  It would be great to meet some of my colleagues from around the country, so I hope that this happens.

Check out this awesome close up I got of last year’s Celebrity guest, Usher.

Tuesday – The LEAD Summit (see this post) will be the biggest event of the week.  I am lucky enough to have 2 CVN volunteers in attendance as well so I will have someone to enjoy it with and get a chance to bond with our volunteers.  The event is followed by a reception.  They have promised a celebrity guest.  Last year the celebrity guest was Usher.  It’s going to be hard to top that.

I just learned today that after the reception there will be a DC Tweetup at Iron Horse Tap Room.

Wednesday- I spend all morning at Longfellow Middle School’s Charity Fair spreading the word about volunteer opportunities in Arlington.  In the evening I hope to drop by Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon for the Happy Hour to benefit the Reading Connection.

Thursday – There may or may not be a special reception at the British Embassy hosted by Greater DC Cares that I hope to go to.

Friday – And Friday brings us back to class again!  Friday and Saturday I have class.

Saturday – Saturday also happens to be when the Arlington County Board announces their budget.  Since my position is currently on Tier Two (a secondary option of budget cuts) I am very interested to hear what they decide.

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Well today, Saturday (yes, Saturday…), was our first day back at class for the Spring semester. Our degree program is a cohort model, so we take all of our classes with the same group of people.  With that and the fact that most of our assignments are group projects, we are a very close group.  It was great to see everyone again!

This semester I am taking three courses, Strategic Knowledge Management, Collaborative Technology, and the New Professional as Reflective Practitioner.  I’m a bit excited because this semester we get to step outside the classroom and choose an organization to work with for our group projects.  For the knowledge management course, my group has chosen to approach a local community organization in the hopes that our work will actually be of benefit to an organization that would not normally be able to fund such a project.

This semester we will also be getting into the more technical aspects of our degree program, designing sharepoint sites, wikis, and a virtual work environment.

The hot button words of this semester appear to be “knowing” “conversations” and “collaborate”.

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I have been following the Collaboration Project since Gov 2.0 Camp last year. This is a fascinating undertaking by the National Academy of Public Administration looking at current case studies of Gov 2.0 in action. If you are wondering how to succesfully undertake a paradigm shift in what seems like entrenched bureaucracy, this is the place to go to explore the possibilities.
Recently, the Collaboration Project came out with a white paper examining these issues called Breaking the Failure Cycle: How Collaborative Technologies Can Drive Organizational Change, written by Frank DiGiammarino. A quote from the paper very relevant to what my prof has been saying all semester is, “A hundred thousand front-line employees can not provide the singular vision and leadership required to manage a large bureaucracy, but the experience they bring to bear remains inaccessible to those who are in positions of leadership”.
The paper reviews a few case studies.  In one, he talks about the innovative approach that TSA took, saying that instead of going through a reorganization after 9/11 to improve airport security, the new agency leader chose to transcend the org chart and embrace collaboration.  DiGiammarino ends by reviewing a few best practices for implementing collaborative technology in order to create transformational change.

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The title for my blog comes from The Simpsons and is actually said by Marge defending grad students.  I have started this blog because I am in my first semester of Grad school and we are learning to be reflective practitioners.  Truthfully I do not yet fully understand what that means, but in step towards being more reflective, I am choosing to write down my thoughts in this medium.

I am a student at George Mason University in the Organizational Development and Knowledge Management program, so you can expect to read reflections about organizations, change management, group dynamics, etc.  I am also an employee at Volunteer Arlington and am passionate about volunteerism and building community so you can also expect to read reflections about those topics.  The views I express are my own, I am not speaking on behalf of Volunteer Arlington or Arlington County in this blog.

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