Things I Don't Understand

Just a few things I don’t understand:

  • Why are 90% of beauty salons named with a pun? (“Shear Energy.” “The Mane Event.”)
  • Why do real estate and insurance agents have their photos on their business cards, when it actually makes them seem less trustworthy?
  • Why do bureaucrats (and people who aspire to bureaucratism) say “at this time?” What is that supposed to mean?

What don’t you understand?

New Collaborative Governance Council Mandated By Law in MN

One of my very first clients when I started working independently (I hung out my own shingle back in November 2003) was a group called the Policy Consensus Initiative, along with its sister organization the National Policy Consensus Center. I will always be grateful to PCI’s founder Chris Carlson and NPCC’s director Greg Wolf for giving me that needed boost in the early days. My work with PCI-NPCC involved helping them develop a strategic plan along with some key language and taglines.

PCI-NPCC works to increase the adoption of collaborative governance (where office holders use their innate convening power to bring together all parties to craft solutions to hard problems, working across sector and across jurisdictions) at the state and local level. Getting everyone involved together to work toward a solution seems like common sense, but one interesting facet of this work is that many of the rules and structures in government make it very difficult to do this.

I was therefore excited to learn of a new bill passed in Minnesota that establishes a “Collaborative Governance Council,” that includes office holders as well as others, with the goal of reducing barriers to collaboration.

Here is the article from PCI-NPCC’s newsletter:

Rep. Marsha Swails (l.) and Rep. Carol McFarlane (r.) high five after completion of the bill establishing Collaborative Governance Council
Rep. Marsha Swails (l.) and Rep. Carol McFarlane (r.) high five after completion of the bill establishing Collaborative Governance Council

The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law to create a Collaborative Governance Council that will increase collaboration between state and local government.

The law creates a 12-member council to develop recommendations to increase governmental collaboration by:

  • reviewing laws and rules that slow collaboration efforts;
  • using technology to connect entities and share information;
  • modernizing financial transactions and facilitating credit and debit card transactions, electronic funds, transfers and electronic data interchanges; and
  • creating model forms for joint power agreements.

The council will include the State Auditor and a member of the League of Minnesota Cities; Minnesota Association of Townships; Association of Minnesota Counties; Minnesota School Board Association; American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 5; MN Chamber of Commerce; Education Minnesota; and Service Employees International Union.

The bill was a bi-partisan effort, co-sponsored by Rep. Marsha Swails and Rep. Carol McFarlane.

Initially, Reps. Swails and McFarlane convened a work group to examine shared services among school districts in Minnesota. Swails, a high school teacher, described the work group as “an informal process that was more like a classroom than anything else.” McFarlane and Swails traveled across the state together, attending Education Service Cooperative meetings, and heard more stories about the challenges local governments encountered in attempts to share services among school districts or among other units of government, such as fire departments. From these discussions, McFarlane and Swails realized that the question underlying many of these conversations was “what are the obstacles that keep communities from sharing?”

Swails noted that while some groups were initially skeptical of what the workgroup would accomplish, “Carol and I kept asking them to come to meetings. Building trust was key to getting people to want to be part of a solution, and so we did what we could to break down formalities. Carol and I sat at the witness table facing the group in the galley and engaged them in lively discussions rather than a formal hearing process”

As the bill passed in the House, 108-22, Rep. Swails twittered, “True bi-partisan work brought this to reality. Most important bill of my two terms.”

State auditor Rebecca Otto, who will chair the Council, said, “”Local governments are already collaborating, but we want to identify other areas where they could collaborate in these tight times. If there are laws in the way of allowing that to happen, we will make recommendations to change current statute.”

The Council’s first meeting will take place by July 30th of this year.

Cool Optical Illusions

I was doing some house cleaning in my “Brad Personal” folder and ran across these cool optical illusions. No doubt you’ve seen some of them before, but I like them collected in one place:

Old woman . . . or young girl?
Old woman . . . or young girl?
Man playing a horn? Or a woman in silhouette?
Man playing a horn? Or a woman in silhouette?
Two faces, or one?
Two faces, or one?
Is this a rabbit, or a duck?
Is this a rabbit, or a duck?

A New Role with the Kettering Foundation

As many friends and colleagues know, I have enjoyed a long association with the Kettering Foundation. When I first came to know the Foundation while I was working at the Institute for Global Ethics, I felt I had discovered an intellectual and philosophical home. And I was right.

Over the years, the good people at Kettering have become more than colleagues — they are friends and family. For some years, I have been proud to say I am an Associate of the Foundation. (This means I am not an employee but an independent professional working on a range of learning projects.)

KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a research foundation (not a grant making foundation) that studies the question: What does it take to make democracy work as it should? A fundamental part of that is to study public deliberation — how people make choices in communities. An excellent overview of Kettering research is in this brochure.

To further its research, the Foundation supports the development of issue books on various topics and makes them available to organizations throughout the National Issues Forums and to others. These issue books can serve as the basis of public deliberative forums where people wrestle with the difficult issues of the day such as energy, health care, economic security, the national debt, and more. I have written some of these issue books over the years.

I am thrilled and humbled to report that I’ve taken on a deeper role as a Kettering Associate, serving as executive editor of the issue book library. (I’ll still be working on all my other projects too, with other clients and collaborators.)

I’ll be doing this work closely with my friend Ilse Tebbetts, a longtime Kettering colleague, who will be serving as managing editor.

The announcement Kettering issued is below:

Two familiar names have recently taken on new duties in producing the deliberative issue guides that have long been key parts of the Kettering Foundation’s work.

Brad Rourke has taken the role of executive editor of the issue guide library. As executive editor, Rourke will have overall responsibility for the issue guide series, overseeing the writing of new books and the updating of earlier guides. He will work with David Holwerk, Kettering’s director of communications, to oversee the work of writing and updating issue guides.

Rourke has been associated with the work of the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums since 1997. His first learning agreement with the foundation was in 1999, when he worked on framing the issue of election ethics and campaign conduct for public deliberation. Since then, he has been closely involved with Kettering’s work and has written a number of issue guides and reports for the foundation, including The Energy Problem: Choices for an Uncertain Future and Coping with the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need?

Ilse Tebbetts will work with Rourke as the managing editor of the issue book series. In that role, she will have primary responsibility for editing the text of new and revised books and will work with Holwerk to oversee the design and production of the books in both print and digital formats.

Tebbetts, a freelance editor and writer, has worked on a variety of projects with the Kettering Foundation for more than 30 years. She has edited and written portions of many of the issue guides published by the foundation and has written and edited abridged versions for new readers. Tebbetts has also edited a number of the books published by Kettering Foundation Press, as well as a variety of occasional papers and KF reports. She was one of the principal editors of Selected Writings of Li Shenzhi, published this month by Kettering Foundation Press.

Thank you to Kettering for this unique opportunity.

Some Contrarian Bullets

Just a few contrarian bullets . . . thoughts, complaints, and predictions:

  • When someone talks about their “personal brand,” I cringe. You have a reputation. You must manage it. But please don’t put on airs. You ain’t Pepsi.
  • If someone trots out “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” one more time for grads, I’ll . . . well, I don’t know what.
  • In what universe is marketing really “about the conversation?”
  • Speaking of which, I trust sales people more than marketing people when it comes to advice. Sales people actually have to deliver.
  • There are lots of blogs about how to blog. Why? What do they know?
  • What’s wrong with newspapers: They have to fill space no matter what.
  • What’s wrong with online news: No space or time limitations.

Got any to add?