Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Karen Ray's Advice to Task Force: Pivot

The $20K Meeting: Worth it?



The true the goal of this meeting was to fix the "big problem" facing the Task Force: irrelevance.

If you want to know the details of  Karen Ray's $20K session with the Task Force members (mentioned only briefly here), this blog is for you.  Try not to let the fact that you paid $20K for the session affect your assessment of its value.

Ray began her segment of the Task Force's November meeting by telling the members present (hereinafter "TF") that tonight she wanted them to talk to one another, to step outside the planning role they'd been taking, and "think a little bit about how you're going to keep all your good ideas alive and healthy in the community."  She said, "if we are going to take ahold of the Task Force recommendations -- and they are multiple and complex -- and move to implementation, we need to understand some alternative structures that the Task Force can be thinking about as you complete your work."  She said that there were three more meetings during which the Task Force could look at the recommendations in detail, so she did not want to do that during this meeting.  She continued:

Instead, we're going to take a broad look.  If these are the kinds of...strategies that your subcommittees and your experts have suggested can impact homelessness effectively [FN1], what kind of structures are you going to need to implement those alternatives [sic]?

She next put up a slide of all the people who had been "working behind the scenes for a year" to "generate the best ideas."  Then she put up a slide showing that four more committee meetings were scheduled, and read the schedule aloud to demonstrate that "the work continues."

The next slide was a graphic of a leaf.  She said the TF should think about "all these good ideas...as if you've been exploring a tree piece by piece."

You have more than 75 people [FN2] discussing the minutiae of homeless girls and the minutiae of helping vets, who may or may not understand that there's an alternative to their lifestyle [sic].  You've had lots of interesting ideas about how to fund, how to negotiate with the federal government, how to advocate at the state level.  

Putting up a graphic of a branch and explained, "So you've been looking at the...leaves on a big tree, and some of your committees [FN3] have started to put these leaves together on a branch -- well this piece fits with this piece, and this piece fits with this piece" until, over the last nine months, "you've created a tree."  Graphic of tree.  "And that tree" she said, "you're getting ready to plant."

Don't Look at the Leaves
Come February, someone's going to ceremoniously dig a large hole, and you're going to ceremoniously stand around this tree you've assembled, and plant it.  So, our charge tonight is not to look at the individual leaves -- you have 75+ people [FN4] doing that.  But instead, look at this whole tree.  To look at what the whole tree is doing.  So, before we go any further, I would like to take a moment, and have you talk about your experience in the subcommittees, and your experience on this Task Force.  I'd like you to think about whether you believe the subcommittees have been doing quality work.  [FN5]  I'd like you to think about what you have gained in knowledge or experience as a result of being on this Task Force.  I'd like you to reflect on the quality of work that's been done.   
Ray then asked the TF to share their thoughts privately with the person(s) next to them, which with some exceptions they did, for about two minutes, while the public watched.  [FN6]  After apologizing for interrupting them, she asked if anyone would like to make a statement "publicly, about the quality of the subcommittee work as you've experienced it."  Bruce Bailey and Chief Moore spoke.  In summarizing, Ray said she was hearing that they'd learned about resources they didn't know existed, and also that resources were not adequate to meet the problem.  Councilor Bednarz responded, following which Ray said,

The Task Force agreed to meet for a year and plan.  We need to put a period on the planning, so we can pivot to implementation, so that planning doesn't become the only thing the group does.  And how will we ask the community to structure its implementation work?...What will the Task Force ask the community, and its organizations, to ensure that all the study that's been done by excellent thinkers in the subcommittees [FN7] actually take frution [sic], that you actually plant the tree and it starts to bloom. 

Ray directed the TF's attention to a "chart of recommendations" (a paper document they had before them) and read aloud from a slide those that had been approved.  She then gave the TF five minutes to read their paper charts, which included recommendations not yet approved, while the public watched and waited.  When they were done, she asked the TF to turn to the person(s) next to them, and say whatever they wanted to about the proposed recommendations.   

Strategic Challenges

After a couple of minutes, she interrupted, invited the TF to share their thoughts with staff later, after the meeting, and turned their attention to the three columns on the right side of the chart labeled "Funding", "Coordination", and "Advocacy."  She spoke of the need to find funding, and to coordinate.  She asked the TF again to turn to the person(s) next to them and share ideas on how to coordinate.

After a couple of minutes, Ray interrupted them, and asked them to share their conversations publicly, while she kept notes on easel paper.  Commissioner Carlson, Mayor Clark, Councilor Bednarz, David Leith offered comments, following which Ray asked Jon Reeves and Bruce Bailey to share their thoughts on coordination.  Ray followed up with this observation:

Successful collaborations exist and do good work when they pay attention to the self-interest of each member organization.  So as you shape some kind of implementation team, we'd be interested in what it is that business people need, in order to engage the business community as a whole, [and so on, citing the Salvation Army, UGM, MWVCAA].  Now the payoff for that, then those organizations would need to go to their boards, and we would get board approval and board energy for adopting some kind of strategic framework...If we can get all of the boards of all of the major service providers to be looking at the same document, then we avoid the big problem of this becoming something that sits on the shelf.  [FN8]

Councilor Andersen at the Nov mtg

Mayor Peterson then commented on Bruce Bailey's comment, and expressed gratitude for Councilor Andersen's attendance at Task Force meetings.  After observing that Mayor Peterson would be leaving office in 2017, Ray asked if the Task Force recommendations could be discussed at a January meeting of the Salem City Council, to which the Mayor replied "Absolutely", that the Mayor-elect fully supported what the Task Force had been doing.  [FN9

Ray said, "So what I'm hearing so far is that we need some kind of backbone organization ... some kind of team of people ... who will hang on to the shovel and remember that you are planting a tree, and try to get that tree planted deeply in the proper ground."  She again asked for ideas on how to coordinate such a team.   Carlson said "There has to be some dedicated staff support."  Ray asked if anyone had any ideas how to make sure that there's paid staff?  Carlson suggested that someone in the community ("LT/Ron") might provide funds or a "project manager" for that purpose.

Karen Ray

Ray said she wanted to turn to "a second piece, advocacy", and asked the TF how they could make sure that, during the implementation phase, advocacy actually occurs.  Bednarz, Carlson, Peterson spoke.  Ray asked the TF whether they wanted to ask the committees to continue in some way after February 2017 "Or -- I don't know the culture in this community -- is it important for you to release them, and then invite them back in again?"  Peterson, Shaney Starr, Carlson commented.  Ray said she was hearing it was important to "release everyone", to "complete the charter" and then reassemble in a new, "more nimble" structure, and asked the TF what they thought that might look like.   Reeves, Bailey, Moore offered comments.  Ray responded,

Executive Director Reeves and Executive Director Bailey have spent 33 years putting together powerful collaborations that change [sic] the way business is done among -- in the non-profit community, in a given organization.  [FN10]  You know, down in Eugene-Springfield, they came together, non-profit organizations and safety-net clinics, and an insurance company came together, and they insured 25,000 men, women and children in a two-year period, and provided them with a medical home.  Now that took a big change in the way those non-profits decided to operate together.  Do you think there's a climate where, with specific help and direction, non-profit organizations in this community might use the homeless issue as an opportunity to overcome some of the turfism that Chief Moore is alleging--is allowing?

Following a comment by Reeves, Ray spoke of having met privately with Reeves and Bailey, and of their "great commitment to doing something, because what you're currently doing isn't working", and said she had heard "the same commitment from the three co-chairs."  Verena Wessel and Bednarz commented.  While Bednarz was speaking, Shaney Starr got up to leave.  Ray asked her if she was "leaving angry?", to which Starr replied she was not.  As Bednarz continued, he was interrupted by Carlson, followed by Clark, who invited comment from Irma Oliveros.  Ray attempted to take back the discussion at that point by saying, 

So I'm hearing a kind of multi-step plan already, and Step one is to find some kind of backbone organization to organize the ongoing effort.  Step two, is to ... develop this strategic plan that staff have showed me ... Step three would be to get organizations to officially engage that plan and say yes, this is our plan, and then the next step is to prioritize sets of projects for funding.  That solves several problems, including coordination and funding.     
She then asked the TF if what she'd just said "does indeed summarize what we've said so far about implementation."  She then re-summarized what she'd heard, and asked the TF to agree or disagree, and everyone nodded agreement.  Peterson and Carlson commented.  Ray then asked the TF to be thinking about what organization could serve as the "backbone", and said they could leave the questions of funding, coordination and advocacy to the new, more nimble implementation group that would convene March 1.  She then asked the TF to "turn to the person next to you one last time, and say how was this meeting for you? Was it a good use of your time?"  After a couple of minutes, during which the TF conversed privately, she asked them to rate the meeting's usefulness by a show of fingers.  All fives.  She then asked them whether they believed they could find a backbone structure to implement the recommendations? Mostly fives.  "I plan to be as involved in the future as I have been in the past?"  Mostly fives.  "Karen Ray's style matches my style?"  Mostly fives.  Ray then turned the meeting back to Commissioner Carlson.

Here's Councilor Bednarz's report on the meeting to the Salem City Council:

We have a finite number of days that we're going to be holding these [Task Force] meetings...and we've got to come to -- I don't want another report, I want some action items to come out of this whole discussion, and I will just let you know that after this last meeting we had [with Karen Ray], I'm really glad to see that something's really coming out  -- there's wheels underneath this plan, there's some ideas that are happening, and there's a lot of cogs, a lot of things that are moving out there.  I do know one thing that came out of it is, the discussion about having a permanent, more of a permanent, overall, I mentioned something like SEDCOR, but it's the idea that there's somebody out there advocating for the homeless, who coordinates between all the multi-jurisdictional - jurisdictions - that are out there, and likely - I guess what I'm saying is that likely, I'm going to come to this [Council] - as well as the county, as well as the other communities around here, to help fund some of that, and I certainly hope I won't be on Council when that comes up to fruition.  But I certainly hope that this Council finds some resources, as we were mentioning earlier to help solve, resolve, a little bit of the homelessness problem that we have in our community.  I've noted very much that they're lining up on the sidewalks on Liberty Street next to Rite Aid, I saw them down on Court Street...down across from Busick Court, and boy, they're really coming out in droves.  It's getting colder and wetter out there and we need to take some action quickly about this matter.   

                                       Notes from the Gallery

FN1 - With the possible exception of the Health and Housing Committee (which is not a Task Force committee) and the Veterans Committee (whose recommendations, though submitted, were not included in the chart), there has been no discussion, in either committee or Task Force meetings, about whether a particular recommendation or "strategy" was likely to impact homelessness effectively, and no experts (i.e., researchers, statisticians, data or program analysts, etc.) were consulted in making or adopting recommendations.  See  here and here for further details and analysis of the committees.          

FN2 - It's unclear what basis Ms. Ray had for citing the number 75, but it's likely an assumption based on the total number of Task Force members (20) + the total number of Technical Advisors (50) + staff.  However, it would be wrong to assume that all the TAs have been involved with the work of the Task Force.  Although a handful of TAs have attended most of the Task Force meetings, some have never been called upon, and the rest have been involved in only one or two meetings.  There are certainly not 75 people immersed in committee work -- the average committee size is about six, including non-Task Force members, attendance has been poor, and only staff appear to be working outside of  meetings. 

FN3 -  There is no evidence that any of the committees has tried to "fit the pieces together."  See  here and here.     

FN4 - See FN2.

FN5 - See FN1.
FN6 - This was the first of four times the audience was excluded while the important people asked each other what they thought about the quality of their work and how they might persuade the community to implement their brilliant ideas.  Ray could have asked the audience to turn to the person next to them and speak about these things, but she didn't.  It was as if we either didn't exist, or our opinions were of no consequence, even to each other.  The message could not have been clearer or more consistent with the views of the Task Force's current leadership, which is, of course, why Polk County quit, and why the Task Force has a relevance problem. 

FN7 - Ms. Ray is assuming facts not in evidence here.  See FN1.  Of course, she has no personal knowledge of what's occurred in committee, and knows nothing about this community except what she's been told. 

FN8 - "If we can get all of the boards of all of the major service providers to be looking at the same document, then we avoid the big problem of this becoming something that sits on the shelf." -- That is the $20,000 message Ms. Ray was hired to deliver.  But who decided this was a "big problem"?  What if the community disagrees with the TF's assessment of its work, and concludes its strategic plan probably deserves to sit on the shelf?  What then?    

FN9 - The Mayor is known for her enthusiastic belief that others will ensure her promises are kept.

FN10 -  See FN7.

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