Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, January 15, 2015
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40 year community-wide effort to promote heart health and healthier
habits in a rural low-income county in Maine has resulted in less
illness, lower mortality, and millions of dollars in savings according
to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Authors believe the initiative can be widely adapted and that today's
new data sources and technologies can make implementation even more
feasible than when the program began in the 1970s.
Franklin County Court House
In the late 1960s community groups in Franklin County,
which then had a population of about 22,000, identified cardiovascular
disease prevention as a priority. A Community Action Agency and Rural Health Associates (RHA),
a non profit medical group practice, which were both new at the time,
coordinated their efforts with the community hospital. With the
hospital's sponsorship, RHA established the Franklin Cardiovascular
Health Program (FCHP), which targeted hypertension, cholesterol,
smoking, diet and exercise. FCHP used county health data from the past
decade as a baseline and compared Franklin with other Maine counties and
Dr. Daniel Onion, a MaineGeneral Health physician and one of the researchers, told Kaitlin Schroeder of the Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
the project was powered by volunteers who worked in the community to
help people quit smoking and adopt other healthy behavior. An HPLive story by Gale Scott
describes other details. Federal funds were used to start an insurance
plan for 3,000 indigent residents. The University of Maine developed a
health education degree program and trained local people to be outreach
workers. Hundreds of volunteers, including 200 nurses, did health
screenings and educated residents. Schools were persuaded to serve
healthier meals. A health fitness center with the area's only indoor
swimming pool was built with funds raised by the community. Over the
years, 150,000 people had an average of five contacts each with a
story reports that between 1994 and 2006 lower than expected
hospitalizations saved an estimated $5.4 million per year in hospital
charges for Franklin County residents. The program, which continued
through 2010, had many successes. Among people with hypertension there
was a 24.7 increase in the portion of people in control of their blood
pressure. Control of cholesterol increased 28.5 percent. The quit rate
for smoking improved from 48.5 percent to 69.5 percent. The overall
death rate and the cardiovascular death rate dropped below state levels
during most of the study period.
Darwin R. Labarthe
, MD, MPH, PhD, and Jerome Stamler
, MD, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago say in a JAMA editorial
that the Franklin County experience deserves to be examined and copied.
They say the results reinforce importance of disease prevention at the
local level. They call on communities to document and publish past
experiences in community health to "inform ongoing work and foster wider
application of program evaluation and implementation research,
exploiting new data sources and technologies to accelerate replication
and scaling up of community-based prevention. Intervening
developments-not least among them the Affordable Care Act-have made this
task clearly more achievable today."
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, September 25, 2014
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farms are blossoming in several big cities, including Chicago, Kyoto
and Singapore, with plants growing in artificial light in specially
reconfigured buildings. The Brooklyn-based design firm Aprilli
has expanded the idea with a proposal for a giant tree-shaped
skyscraper the architects believe will maximize food production and
improve local environment through water and air filtration and renewable
The Urban Skyfarm, winner of an A'Design Award, is described in a FastCompanyExist story by Adele Peters.
Architects Steve Lee and See Yoon Park told Peters they envision the
giant agricultural skyscraper in the heart of downtown Seoul, South
Korea, a densely populated city with air pollution and other
environmental problems. There's little space for on the ground farming
there, and fresh fruits and vegetables at local markets are in demand
but very expensive.
Urban Skyfarm by Aprilli Design Studio
design mimics the shape of an enormous tree, with leaf-like open air
decks built of strong but light weight materials that provide as much as
24 acres for growing fruit trees and plants like tomatoes. The more
enclosed lower and inner portions of the structure have space for plants
growing in a more controlled environment. The roots, trunk, branches
and leaves have different characteristics to suit different farming conditions. The trunk houses a hydroponic
farm for greens, and wind turbines and solar panels at the top provide
energy to keep the whole mini ecosystem in operation. The solar panels
generate energy for night time lighting and heat where needed for plant
Another idea for agriculture in places where farms won't fit comes from JAPA, a design firm in Barcelona now called Forward Thinking Architecture. Architects there propose a system of looping towers that could float in harbors and provide new space for year round crops. In another FastCompany article by Peters, JAPA architect Javier Ponce explains that a network of towers called floating responsive architecture (FRA)
is designed for Singapore-or any other densely populated city near
water where food is expensively imported from long distances. Throughout
the towers, which would surround the city, networks of sensors would
monitor crops and communicate with networks in the city creating a data
management system that would keep track of food supplies and purchases.
Economists say as much as 30 percent of food is wasted, and Ponce says this system would aim for zero waste.
Kyoto Group - proposed network of towers around Singapore
While creative architectural vertical design may help supply nutritious
food to urban centers in the future, many creative projects are already
producing food in urban areas. One example is the work of entrepreneurs in Chicago
who bought an abandoned factory building and transformed it into a
multi-story indoor farm that produces everything from fish to salad
greens to beer. Another example is Urban Farming Guys,
a nonprofit based in Kansas City, dedicated to creating sustainable
urban communities, starting with local food and water security,
alternative energy and economic resilience.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Updated: Thursday, May 29, 2014
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in our fellow humans is eroding, according to polls and surveys, and
nearly a third of Americans reportedly don't even completely trust their
A Pew Survey on social trends found that the Millennial generation,
people ranging in age from 18 to 33, have emerged into adulthood with
considerably lower social trust than earlier generations. Asked the
long-used social science survey question "Generally speaking, would you
say that most people can be trusted, or that you can't be too careful in
dealing with people?" only 19 percent of millennials say people can be
trusted. By comparison, 31 percent of Gen Xers, those born 1965 to 1980,
40 percent of Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964, and 37 percent of those
born in 1945 or before say people can be trusted. The poll, conducted in
February, also showed millennials are less attached to religious and
political institutions than older people.
An AP-GfK poll conducted in 2013 suggests most Americans are suspicious of each other in daily interactions. Fewer than one third
said they trust clerks who swipe their credit cards, other drivers on
the road, or strangers they meet traveling. Only a third of those
responding to the AP-GfK poll said they thought most people could be
trusted. In 1972, half of adults surveyed said others were trustworthy.
Only 69 percent of Americans questioned for a World Values Survey
reported that they completely trust their family members. That places
the U.S. near the bottom of the 55 countries surveyed on that question.
Family trust was reported to be lower only in Ghana, Lebanon, Azerbaijan
and the Netherlands, where just 59 percent of respondents reported
complete trust in their families. Three quarters of Americans think war
is sometimes needed to obtain justice-second only to Pakistan. And 16
percent of Americans surveyed say they carry a gun or other weapon for
security. That sounds low, but it places the U.S. third in the world,
behind only Libya and Lebanon. See the Washington Post Wonkblog charts on world values.
scientists and political analysis say trust is necessary for a civil
society-it helps people work together for the common good, and promotes
cooperation among people who have different beliefs and backgrounds. April Clark, a Purdue University
political scientist, says distrust promotes rancor and incivility.
Surveys appear to confirm we have an increasingly wary view of others.
Theories differ on why. A USA Today story quotes Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone,
who says Americans have abandoned clubs and civic associations in favor
of watching TV at home, thereby reducing common social experiences and
the ties they create. University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner
studies politics and trust. He writes that economic inequality drives
distrust. If you believe the world is a good place and that you can help
make it better, you'll be trusting, he says. If you think it's a dark
place run by forces beyond your control, you won't.
says trust has declined as the gap between rich and poor has grown
because more Americans feel they no longer have a shared fate with the
affluent and rich. A 2007 Pew Research Center analysis, showing
minorities and low income adults had lower levels of social trust than
wealthier groups, theorized that people who feel vulnerable or disadvantaged find it riskier to trust "because they are less well-fortified to deal with the consequences of misplaced trust."
a more trusting society emerge? Millennials, the digital natives who
build their own social networks and use social media with ease, hold the
key. Despite their low levels of trust, they are more optimistic than those who've gone before them. The Pew research shows nearly half think America's best years are in the future.
Trust men and they will be true to you. Treat them greatly and they will show themselves great. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, May 1, 2014
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people who care more about social capital than market capital, and who
think access is more valuable than ownership, will increasingly disrupt
established businesses and transform economies, according to economic
and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin.
Rifkin is the author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society, a new book that describes how the emerging Internet of Things
is propelling us toward an era of nearly free goods and services and
how a growing culture of sharing rather than owning is speeding the
growth of a global Collaborative Commons. And those forces, he says, will mean the eclipse of capitalism as we know it.
In an essay posted at CommonDreams.org, Rifkin cites opinion surveys by Latitude Research
reporting 75 percent of respondents believe their sharing of physical
objects and spaces will increase in the next five years; 78 percent said
online interactions have made them more open to sharing with strangers;
and 85 percent think the web and mobile technologies will help build
large scale sharing communities.
In a New York Times essay,
Rifkin identifies what he calls "a paradox at the heart of capitalism."
He says the "inherent dynamism of competitive markets" is bringing
costs so far down that many goods and service are becoming cheap,
plentiful and no longer subject to market forces. He says that began
with peer to peer file sharing that let people bypass conventional
sources for entertainment and information. He predicts many giant
enterprises in a variety of commercial sectors won't survive the trend.
is a six-year-old start up that has booked three million guests for 10
million nights in 33,000 cities in 192 countries. This year, Rifkin
writes, Airbnb expects to fill more rooms than the Hilton
InterContinental hotel chain -the world's largest hotel operation. Airbnb
connects people who want to earn income by renting out their unused
space and people looking for interesting, inexpensive temporary lodging.
The website offers accommodations that range from rooms and apartments
to boats and tree houses. Its biggest competitor, Couchsurfing.org
is described on its website has a global community of 7 million people
in more than 100,000 cities who "share their life, their world, their
members provide free space to each other, and emphasize the opportunity
for social interaction. Rifkin says more than 19.1 million friendships
have developed from couchsurfing visits.
A multitude of websites offer sharing and renting of cars, toys, tools, and clothing for children and adults. Tie Society is a subscription service for men who can receive and exchange the high-end fashion accessories for as little as $11 a month. The Freecycle Network is a nonprofit that claims more than seven million members world wide and allows users to give away used items for free.
not surprising that a younger generation that grew up recycling
plastic, glass and paper would turn to recycling items they own," Rifkin
writes. "The notion of optimizing the life cycle of items in order to
reduce the need to produce more partially used goods has become second
nature to young people for whom sustainability is the new frugality."
thinks The Internet of Things, a recent phenomenon based on a
technology platform that is beginning to connect everyone to everything,
has potential to create a new economic model in which collaborative
consumption outpaces owning. According to WhatIs.com, a thing, in the Internet of Things (IoT), can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low -- or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. Rifkin
writes that today, more than 11 billion sensors are attached to things
and feeding data into the IoT. People can connect to the network and use
available tools to access a huge range of products and services. Rifkin
calls IoT a game changer that will allow a collaborative commons to
flourish alongside conventional commercial markets.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, April 17, 2014
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data, the combined billions of pieces of information available
electronically, can be expected to change the whole realm of managerial
decision making, according to Tom Davenport, a business analyst and the President's Distinguished Professor in Management and Information Technology at Babson College.
Davenport, the author of Big Data at Work: Dispelling the Myths, Uncovering the Opportunities, describes the challenges and changes he anticipates in an interview with Strategy+Business.
For starters, much of the data used in big data analysis is
unstructured, which means it takes considerable time and effort to get
it into a format that allows for analysis, and even then it's not always
easy to get shades of meaning. Another problem, he says, the sheer
speed and volume of data makes it hard for businesses to use it for
that can develop high speed decision making capabilities in response to
the speed of big data will be taking a big step forward, he told the
magazine. He notes that Peter Drucker warned 20 years ago that
corporate IT's reliance on internal data created a dangerous focus on
inward costs and efforts. But big data will create a healthier focus,
Davenport says, because so much of it comes from external sources-from
social media, data gathered from macro economics, science, politics and
weather. Companies that learn how to include this external data in their
models for decision making will have better ideas on how successful
particular products and marketing campaigns might be.
For example, Davenport cites the company Recorded Future,
which scans vast amounts of information on the Internet-news
publications, government web sites, financial data bases, trade
publications and blogs-and analyzes content to forecast future events.
Davenport notes intelligence agencies use Recorded Future data
to assess potential for terrorism, and private companies use it to
evaluate their competition, their present and potential markets, and
changes among customers or suppliers that might impact their success.
data may produce surprising changes in healthcare. Technology experts
expect that wearable devices that record and monitor people's bodily
functions will increase quantity and potential uses of data in health
data bases. Social media is already a rich source of new heath
information. In a recent New York Times column, economist Eduardo Porter described research indicating analysis of the way a woman used the first person singular in her Twitter
posts provided an uncannily accurate prediction of her odds of
suffering post partum depression. Researchers from Georgia Institute of
Technology and Microsoft analyzed two years Twitter posts
from four cities in Mexico and identified numbness and other mental
health issues among bystanders who had witnessed violence resulting from
activities of drug cartels. They said the findings had potential to
provide mental health resources and other aid to impacted groups and
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, December 24, 2013
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The image of Buddha is serene and lovely and visually beautiful in a garden, says sculptor Indira Johnson,
but it serves a different purpose when it appears in harsh and
dangerous spaces. Dozens of sculpted Buddha heads are emerging in
unexpected places in troubled Chicago neighborhoods, and Johnson hopes
their presence will be a catalyst for conversations about peace and
In a story by Mark Guarino in the Christian Science Monitor,
Johnson explains that she is convinced public art can serve social
issues and alter the way people think about their environment. She
approached community organizations and activists
and suggested using her sculpted Buddha heads in ways that could
generate discussions about peace. The heads are incomplete. They appear
to be growing out of the ground, out of sidewalks, near train tracks, in
parks, near schools and in what she calls marginalized spaces. Johnson
suggests her symbolic intent was to make the heads seem to emerge from
earth, "Just like all of us ....growing in our self-realization and
spirituality." Johnson isn't promoting Buddhism or any religion. Her
goal is to provoke and inspire transformative thought.
The effort was started by Ten Thousand Ripples, an art and civic engagement project Johnson launched a year ago with the nonprofit organization Changing Worlds. Communities were offered ten heads each,
and local people chose where to place them. Johnson wanted people in
the communities to respond in their own way, and she reports that they
have. The heads have been moved around and made to face in different
directions. One head decorated with painted makeup was later cleansed
and painted white. In Albany Park community residents said the
sculptures were a call for peace and harmony, a message that fit with
violence prevention, youth training and conflict resolution efforts
begun in response to gang related shootings.
In an interview with Jenniffer Weigel in the Chicago Tribune,
Johnson, a native of Mumbai, India, who attended the Chicago Art
Institute and made the city her home decades ago, talks about her art
and a universal desire for peace and a better future. She thinks
individual experiences with art can help people think about huge
concepts like peace and how an individual can have an impact.
"I like the metaphor of
ripples," Johnson said, referring to the title of her organization. "It
was based on the idea that your actions go on and live past you."
Read the Christian Science Monitor Story here, the Chicago Tribune story here, and to learn more about the Buddha project visit www.tenthousandripples.com.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, October 31, 2013
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leaders can learn valuable lessons from the exuberant four day Carnival
celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo and other big Brazilian
cities, according to a scholar who has studied how people in samba schools prepare the elaborate floats and present imaginative themes and fabulous performances in music and dance.
Carnival, with its festivals, costumes and parades
coming just before Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter, has been
celebrated in Brazil for centuries. Samba schools, which compete for
prestigious rankings of their Carnival entries, aren't teaching
institutions as the name might imply. The Rio Service Carnival Travel and Tourism website
explains that samba schools are more like social clubs, community
organizations, and sometimes political groups, that also spend months of
every year preparing for Carnival. They got started in the 1920s, the
website says, among people from the Bahia state in eastern Brazil who
came to the cities bringing the music and dance of their Candomble
religion. Today's samba schools are big, complex organizations, and Alfredo Behrens
, a professor of Global Leadership at Faculdade FIA de Administracao e Negocios
in Sao Paolo, believes big corporations should pay heed to how they operate.
Behrens, whose most recent book is Shooting Heroes and Rewarding Cowards: A Sure Path Towards Organizational Disaster, studied Mocidade Alegre,
a samba school that won first place in the Sao Paolo parade in 2012 and
2013. He interviewed people throughout the organization, including
dancers, who have no managerial authority, members of a
250-man percussion orchestra known as a bateria, many directors and the school's president. He writes about his findings in his Harvard Business Review blog. He explains that referees judge the samba schools wins and rankings based on 10 criteria similar to key performance indicators (KPIs) used in the corporate world.
many samba school participants hold corporate day jobs, they put in long
unpaid hours for Carnival preparation. Behrens says Mocidade
members feel like family. He quotes Daniel Sena, the schools' director
general of harmony, as saying winning is important, but the core of the
school business is treating people nicely. "That's what makes people
come back for the renewed challenges even after losing a parade," he
told Behrens. Sena, who works in finance, thinks niceness is undervalued
in the business world. A corporate mediator and samba coordinator told
Berhens she'd seen "corporations discarding people as if they were
garbage when they are past their prime" while samba schools "recycle"
and respect their "oldies." Behrens says Mocidade is a closely-knit
community with strong focus and great teamwork. It has more than 30
directors, who have considerable autonomy in their own projects. The
president is a woman, newcomers are welcome, and the organization
doesn't rely on conventional discriminatory ethnic and social
hierarchies. Behrens thinks businesses in Brazil and elsewhere can be
more successful if they learn how to build community and practice in
ways that make people want to engage and work together. Read Behrens blog here
. And see some fabulous photos in the Daily Mail
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
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Soap operas about soccer are being broadcast on radio and TV in 17
countries around the world to promote understanding, create dialogue, and
reduce conflict among people from different religious, ethnic and economic
groups. Each story about "The
Team," is crafted to address issues in the country where it is
presented. In Kenya, the members of the team come from
different tribes; in Morocco, they're both urban and rural, rich
and poor. In the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC), the players on an all-girls team are all having
problems related to sexual violence.
The productions are the work of Search for Common
Ground, a nonprofit based in Washington, DC that was founded 30 years
ago and now has offices in 30 countries, works with more than a thousand
partner organizations and has a staff of 600. A story in The Christian Science Monitor by
Gregory Lamb says Search for Common Ground has
become the biggest conflict-resolution and peace
building organization in the world. In addition to the soap opera
stories, the organization uses youth mediation training, back
channel diplomacy, music videos and call in radio shows, and community
initiative such as shared farming projects, soccer matches and participatory
John Marks, president and cofounder of the
organization, explains in the story that "We’re retaining about 25 percent of
the Congolese army in respecting the rights of women.” Women in the DNC still struggle for economic and
social equality with men, and there are also serious threats to their
well-being and safety.
Common ground has programs in several volatile regions including
Tunisia, Yemen, and Jerusalem
and is beginning
operations in Libya
The Monitor reports that Common ground will honor five
peacemakers with awards this November, including a posthumous award to Christopher Stevens, the American diplomat and
ambassador to Libya who died in an assault on the U.S. consulate.
Other recipients are Ingoma
translates as "New Era”, is Rwanda’s
only female Hutu and Tutsi drumming troupe
and is the subject of a new documentary film "Sweet Dreams." Marks explains
drumming in Rwanda has been a "man’s thing” that women didn’t do even though it
is the national music form. The group provides a place where ethnic hatred can
be replaced by a culture of hope respect
and reconciliation. An award will also be presented to three leaders from different faiths: Lord
George Carey of Clifton, former archbishop of Canterbury; Imam
Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the American
Society for Muslim Advancement; and Rabbi
David Rosen, international director of inter-religious affairs for the
Jewish Committee. Read the Monitor story here.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, June 20, 2013
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Freespace, inspired by Burning Man
and experimental civic hacking, is a grass roots effort designed to use
empty commercial spaces temporarily for the purpose of creating lasting
community change. Freespace co-founder Mike Zuckerman, the director of
sustainability for the Zen Compound,
which bills itself as the world’s greenest nightclub, got a $1 lease on
a 14,000 square foot warehouse in San Francisco for the month of June.
With help from a local real estate firm and the Mayor’s Office for Economic and Workforce Development, Zuckerman, fellow Freespace organizers and several hundred volunteers turned their imagination and energies loose. A FastCoExist story by Ariel Schwartz
explains everything at the warehouse property now-desks, couches,
paint, art supplies, gardening tools, sound systems, refrigerator and
food-has been donated or foraged.
So far, murals-some by well-known artists including Zio Ziegler and Ian Ross-have
beautified internal and external walls, plants from a former
agricultural education program have been transplanted into a community
garden behind the warehouse and people have repaired bicycles and
started a bicycle library where bikes can be signed out for as long as
two days. Participants have also started a book club and yoga classes
and created space where people gather for lectures, speeches, panel
discussions, open mike sessions, and concerts. And they have conducted
neighborhood tours and a clothing drive.
"We put a weekend hackathon into a 30 day window,” Zuckerman told FastCoExist. "It’s up to people inside to decide what happens.”
Many of the Freespace organizers are veterans of Burning Man, an annual gathering in Nevada where people experiment with shared innovations then honor the environment by leaving no trace. Many also took part in the National Day of Civic Hacking,
held the weekend of June 1-2, in which 11,000 participants in 83 cities
organized to help governments, computing enthusiasts and ordinary
citizens collaborate in using technology to connect people and address
local problems. While hacking has conventionally had negative
associations, the hackforchange blog explains, "We like to think of a hacker as someone who uses what’s available to improve or enhance our homes, workplaces and lives.”
that Fortune 500 companies, including Deloitte’s Center for the Edge
and Orange Telecom labs in San Francisco, are looking at Freespace with
an eye to bringing more creativity and innovation into their own
businesses and work spaces.
Zuckerman thinks the experimental nature of Freespace
appeals to business. He says it’s interesting to corporate America
because it’s emergent and free and has "massively distributed creativity
only because there is a container and a context,” A design firm
executive tells her corporate clients about Freespace to "get them
excited about the idea of experiencing design in a space as a social
While Freespacers recognize their experiment is temporary, they are trying to extend it another month with an Indiegogo campaign
to raise $25,000 to pay July’s rent. Gentrification in San Francisco
and elsewhere often means high paid tech workers displace other
residents, and many fear that’s a loss for the community. Freespacers
hope many of the new projects will continue to improve neighborhoods and
bolster the city’s arts and creative spirit. They also hope Freespace
will be replicated in other cities.
Francisco warehouse, before and after, from the Freespace Indiegogo campaign
Posted By Jeff Cohn,
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 19, 2014
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The dictionary defines bestas "of the highest quality, excellence, or standing.” From this comes best practices, which Wikipedia defines as "a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means.” The definition continues, "a ‘best’ practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered.” What happens to our drive for improvement when we hear a practice being referred to as best? I think there is a natural tendency to think only about the first part of the definition and assume that our work is done. Couple that withthe fact that many things referred to as best practices are developed elsewhere and "shared” with us for us to "adopt.” Often these decisions are made near or at the top of our organizational hierarchies, and the challenge becomes one of implementation: "do what worked for them and it should solve our problems too.”
I met a colleague this week that arrived at her current healthcare role via a pathway that brought her to Silicon Valley. She has been struck by the tendency for healthcare workers to look to their "superiors” for permission prior to trying something new. She stated that things were quite different in the IT world. People, recognizing situations in which improvements were needed, took the initiative to try to make changes and then inform their bosses about the results of those experiments. There was a culture of ongoing improvement that included and, in fact, relied on the idea that for many of our problems, we’re going to have to discover solutions that work for us.
I believe that our organizations and communities need a learning approach to improvement. We may learn that someone else’s best practice is exactly what we need, and then enthusiastically go about implementing it. We may find that we can improve that practice as "improvements are discovered” that the originators hadn’t found. Maybe those improvements are intimately intertwined in the relationships, processes, and culture of our particular organization/community. In that case the improvement works for us and won’t work for others. For this reason we may learn that what was a best practice for someone else actually isn’t useful for us, because the "superior results” were intimately intertwined with someone else’s relationships/processes/culture and are not transferable to ours. We may actually discover that there already exist superior results that work for us- our internal best practices, our positive deviants, whose practices our organization/community will embrace once they are able to discover them from their peers. And, finally, we may find that we have to create our own solutions through an iterative process of innovation, experimentation, and continuous learning.
There is a clear link with all of this and how leadership occurs. A focus on imported best practices is consistent with a traditional hierarchical leadership model, as "solutions” flow down into the organization from above, leaders providing both the vision of what needs to happen and how to do it. The learning approach requires what Plexus Institute Board member Mary Uhl-Bien, PhD calls complexity leadership. Formal leaders create the conditions for the emergent learning necessary so that those who own the work can make decisions most useful for them. They provide a general vision and acknowledge there is no clear path for getting there, enabling and supporting the multiple possible "hows” that may work in local contexts. For me, organizations embracing this approach to improvement have the potential to go beyond best practices and become truly best.