The danger of homogenaity

Photo by Daveybot on FlickrJust a quick follow up to my post on who to invite: it’s downright dangerous to have decisions made by people who all think the same.

First, their decisions won’t have the strength of multiple viewpoints.

Second, the decisions will face more opposition when they come to the larger group.

I saw this recently when the City of Ann Arbor was considering creating a greenway through the city. In good municipal fashion, they convened a greenway committee.

Who signed up to be on the greenway committee? The people who are passionate about a greenway!

Now I’m not a greenway advocate, so when I look at their decision, it doesn’t have legitimacy to me, because I don’t think it really looked at the issue in a comprehensive way.

Another example: a local Catholic parish used to have a Life Committee (or some such group). In Catholic social teaching, the sanctity of life leads the Catholic Church to oppose many things, not just abortion and euthanasia but also war, poverty, and the death penalty.

But the Life Committee just cared about abortion.

They were a faction.

And they lost legitimacy for it.

So, if you want to create a faction that will promote a narrow perspective (and there is value in this, to be sure), by all means, only seek out the hard-core fringe of people who would volunteer themselves to be on that committee.

But if you want sound and balanced decisions that will have more legitimacy in the wider community, then you have a harder task ahead. Then you need to recruit not just people who already agree with you and think like you, you have to recruit people with different perspecitves.

And then the hard work begins…

you have to respect those different perspectives.

Who should you invite to collaborate?

One of the things that I like about You Don’t Have to Do it Alone is that it invites us to be thoughtful about the things we often decide on auto-pilot.

For example, who we invite to participate in a project?

Often the answer is “whoever we can get.”

You don’t have to however challenges us to:

  • include more people
  • consider what types of people you need to include
  • consider when in the project you need what types of collaboration.

In terms of the considering the types of people to involve, the authors identify six categories of people to include:

  • people who care;
  • people with authority and responsibility;
  • people with information and expertise;
  • people who will be personally affected;
  • people with diverse points of view;
  • people who are considered troublemakers

I have a board member who is an expert at this. She has an excellent grasp on the fact that difficult decisions need to include a variety of people: people with different perspectives, people who know the topic, people who can get it done.

She also knows that you can sometimes prevent a lot of opposition from troublemakes by getting their involvement as the start. That way they aren’t opposing you at the finish.

And as a bonus, you often get a better, more informed decision by including them.

What kind of help do you need?

"I want to get lost" by Xabier.M on flicr.comLast month I took a personal mini-retreat and learned came to an important realization.

I don’t know how to ask for help. I tend to insist on doing everything myself.

So, true to form, I’ve started to read about how I can do better on this. Yes, that’s right. I’m not asking for help to learn to ask for help. I’m doing it myself when it comes to getting over my obsession with doing it myself.

And I’ve found the perfect book for me, or at least the perfect book title: You don’t have to do it alone.

The authors talk about how to create effective involvement in projects, and the first step the identify is to ask, “What kind of involvement do you need?

They identify 4 types:

  1. Know-how involvement: Somebody knows how to do something you don’t know how to do, or they know how to do it better, and you need their know-how.
  2. Arms and legs involvement: Think of a barn-raising, or a park cleanup. You need help to carry out a task that is just too big for you. Or maybe it’s not the best use of your time to do it all yourself.
  3. Care and commitment involvement: The other common phrase here is “buy-in.” This kind of involvement is to ensure that people are on-board and committed to a chosen decision, project, or endeavor.
  4. Teaching and learning involvement: this is the king of involvement where people learn and grow and develop in their ability to complete a task or shoulder a responsibility. This kind of involvement is a big reason why I think it’s important for ICPJ to have interns.

Those are the 4 involvement types listed in the book. To them I would add a fifth: Leadership involvement. Sometimes there’s a project that just won’t happen unless someone else takes the reigns and says, “I’ll make sure this moves forward.”

At ICPJ, as a volunteer-based organization, many of our projects depend on volunteer leadership involvement.

I find this taxonomy useful because it helps me thinks more clearly about what kind of involvement do I need in various projects. In fundraising, it’s a bit of all of them. With structure changes and strategic planning, it’s less about arms and legs and more about care and commitment. Knowing that helps me fine-tune how I approach getting involvement in each of my projects.

And yes, so far I still figure that out on my own.