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Experiment with Actions

Green Tree Canopy

Finally, the exciting part – ACTION!

During the expansion phase, a council moves from governance and structural focus to taking action within the community.

Why experiment with actions?

Experiment? Really? Sounds odd?

Framing our actions as experiments:

  • Helps us get started more quickly.
    Groups often get stuck trying to find the absolute best approach.  Loosening up the expectation makes it easier to choose a starting point.
  • Recognizes that we don’t really know what will happen when we act.
    We have best guesses, but in an inter-connected system, one small change can result in big, and often unpredictable, changes.
  • Makes it easier to build relationships and trust.
    Within the working group, we are also experimenting – with how to work together.  Intentionally reflecting on this aspect of action helps groups work better together over time.
  • Sets up an expectation that we need to learn from what actions we take.

Typically we celebrate the conclusion of a project – the actions are done!  Less frequently do we review and reflect what happened to learn what works, yet this learning is imperative for being effective over time.

What does this look like?

The following approach is adapted from June Holley’s Network Weaving Handbook:

  • Ask people to self-organize into 3-8 person groups that align with their interest and energy.  Actions might come from:
    Community priorities
    Strategic plans
    – Grouping responses to: “What action (that you are willing to do) would make the most difference in the next six months?”
  • In these small groups,
    1. Share what interests them about the action and why they selected it.  What overlap seems to appear?
    2. Generate ideas for small acts that could help the group explore the overlap in their interests.
    3. Select which acts the group will prioritize in the next six months.
    4. Identify a champion for each act.
    5. Identify the skills and resources needed to accomplish each act.
    6. Determine which of the needed skills and resources each group member can provide for each act.
    7. Figure out who and what else needs to be brought into the group.  Designate who is responsible for getting each item.
    8. Select a coordinator to oversee the progress on acts.
    9. Determine how the group will communicate and when the next meeting will be.
    10. Document decisions on a mini-project worksheet and share with council leadership.
  • Request reports from small groups at the end of six months. Ensure that each group reports on their activity results as well as how they worked together as a group. This exercise primes the larger council for various types of collaboration and develops capacity among council members to enhance the collaborative learning environment.

What else should you consider?

  • Balance action with process and reflection.
  • Align actions with community priorities or strategic plans.
  • Celebrate both expected – and unexpected – results, good and bad.
  • Keep the reflection focus on results – not the activities themselves.
  • Communicate what is being done and what has been learned.

Here are helpful tools and resources for action experimentation.