Leadership Development and Inclusion

Leadership Development and Inclusion
How do we select candidates for leadership development programs? Once we have them, what and how do we train them?
Our answers to these questions need to be shared and talked about if we are going to improve inclusiveness in our leadership development efforts. I’m making a call for you to share your thoughts on Facebook, LinkedIn, via email and by making a comment on the blog.
Here is my take.
There is a growing awareness of diversity issues, cultural competency and inclusion. We are all making efforts to be more inclusive in our leadership development programming, if for no other reason than the philanthropic community and government funding are making representational leadership a requirement. I believe that beyond funders’ criteria, there is a genuine desire among leaders to become more diverse. There are plenty studies that show the benefits of creating diverse teams; creativity increases, more energy is brought to the group, and participant satisfaction is improved. However, broadly speaking, current leadership teams struggle with the nuts and bolts of becoming more inclusive and representative of the people we serve.
Typically, leaders look to people they know to seek out candidates. In some cases, though rarely, there may be a more formal search process. This means that the search occurs primarily at a very high level, meaning that candidates are recruited from individuals that have obtained a certain status level within the community. They may have advanced degrees, head successful businesses, are seen as leaders of target populations (ministers, politicos, etc.). The assumption is that these individuals who have distinguished themselves (1) have capabilities or significant promise necessary to participate on the leadership team and may bring added value to the deliberative process, and (2) they are representative of the target population and therefore counts toward achieving the team’s diversity goals.
My view is that, while leadership teams should be applauded for their efforts, this approach falls short of inclusion goals. I refer to this as the “creaming approach.” As cream rises to the top of raw milk and may then be scraped off the top of the bottle, so goes this leadership development approach. Individuals who have risen to the top of targeted populations are scraped off and nominated for leadership roles. Often, these nominated individuals are admitted into leadership development programs designed to better arm them to function within societal leadership norms. Graduates of these programs are deemed to be better equipped; more likely to make and take advantage of networks, understand the structures and systems in place that regulate the flow of resources, and view social/economic issues from a leader’s perspective. In essence, this approach widens the gap between our newly accepted leaders and the people they are said to represent.
The newly ordained leader may have been predestined to stand out from the crowd due perhaps to both nature and nurture factors. The effects of these factors tend to create space between the individual and her natural community, however it may be defined. Factor effects are demonstrated by perceptions and behaviors at conflict with her community’s societal norms. It is these very same perceptions and behaviors which strain relationships within her community are viewed as desirable and valued traits among existing leadership teams.
So, do traditional inclusion efforts truly lead to providing equitable representation at the leadership table? What are you doing to deal with this? What can be done differently?


Go to the People

To the people;
Live among them;
Love them;
Learn from them;
Start from where they are;
Work with them;
Build on what they have.

But of the best leaders,
When the task is accomplished,
The work completed,
The people all remark
We have done it ourselves

~ Lao Tsu ~

Critical thinking as a community development skill

So, the other day this happened…
I was training a Local Development Practitioner and his organization’s leadership on some organizing methods he could employ for community change. The community is an undeserved/marginalized (you pick) urban neighborhood known for high crime, drug abuse, high unemployment and other characteristics of a dysfunctional community.
I invited the assembled group to accompany me to a garden located across the street from the community center where the training was being held. Unbeknownst to me this completely emptied the center. We were outside for about 15 minutes.
When we returned to the building, one of the staff noticed that his laptop and external hard drive was missing. Some of the group had noticed a young man loitering around the front door of the center during our discussion at the garden. This was someone who has come by the center from time to time looking for some help. They felt pretty strongly that this man “did the deed.”
I asked the staff members what were they going to do about the theft. They told me that they wouldn’t do anything because they felt there would be negative consequences if they did. For example, if they called the police one of two things would happen. Most likely, the police wouldn’t do anything, even if they could. Or in the event that the police confronted the suspect, then he or one of his friends would retaliate against the center or its staff.
I asked them if they would question neighbors to see if they saw anything. They responded that the unwritten rule was that you saw nothing and that you knew nothing, even if you did see or know something (the Sergeant Shultz syndrome–Hogan Heroes).
They said that they would remember the suspect and keep extra vigilant when he came by. They expected him to come back around for food or some other kind of assistance. If he does, they’ll help him if they can; they won’t confront him or even allude to the theft, because it’s just not done in the neighborhood.
That night another young man, knocked on the center director’s front door with a story that he had purchased the computer on the street and found some papers in the bag with the center’s letterhead and thought the director would like it back. He asked $60 for the laptop. The director asked to see the laptop and the man explained that he didn’t have it on him but that he’d take him to it. The director refused and the man left.
I processed this with him the next day. His logic was that the two men were in the scheme together and selling the computer back to the center was the plan all along. He said that the thief could get maybe $15-20 for it on the street, but the center would place more value on the item because of the information contained on the hard drives.
This spurned a learning opportunity of which we took advantage. We talked about magical thinking versus critical thinking. We were able to identify how the thief and his partner were thinking magically and how the center’s staff were also engaged in magical thinking. More to the point, we discussed how the whole experience promoted magical thinking by all involved.
Part of my job, as I see it, as a community development specialist working in the urban environment is to facilitate critical thinking as a skill necessary for improving quality of life in the neighborhood. Replacing magical thinking with critical thinking is the best way (I believe, the only way) of creating sustainable development of marginalized communities.
What do my colleagues think? It’s your turn to talk about your experiences and how they have shaped your views about community development.

Capacity vs. Capabilities Development in Community Development

Capacity, plural ca·pac·i·ties: the maximum amount or number that can be contained or accommodated; an individual’s mental or physical ability.

Capability, plural ca·pa·bil·i·ties: the quality or state of being capable; a feature or faculty capable of development; the facility or potential for an indicated use or deployment. (Merriam-Webster)

Community Development, as practiced in North America, typically focuses on the development of capacity of community-based organizations and local governments. This focus on capacity directly impacts the processes of engagement and projected outcomes for the local development practitioner (LDP). Capacity development also reinforces a community’s propensity to look towards the development of things rather than the people who make up the community.

Community Development organizations, therefore, tend to engage in creating housing, infrastructure, culture, economic/workforce, nutrition, transportation, environment, education, aging or other program development. Even in our programing that directly serves a specific client base (social/welfare), there often is a focus on models, structures, and procedures to which the clientele must conform in order to qualify for and receive the intended benefit(s).

Community Development programs that focus on capabilities development of community members requires LDPs to prioritize the development of individual and collective capability to directly impact their own quality of life. Developing “thing focused” programming is relegated to a lower priority, in fact should be seen as a by-product of the capabilities approach.
Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winning economist, would suggest that the capacity approach leads to the development of what he terms as “functionings:”

Functionings are the valuable activities and states that make up people’s wellbeing – such as a healthy body, being safe, being calm, having a warm friendship, an educated mind, a good job. Functionings are related to goods and income but they describe what a person is able to do or be as a result. When people’s basic need for food (a commodity) is met, they enjoy the functioning of being well-nourished. Because functionings are aspects of human fulfillment, some functionings may be very basic (being nourished, literate, clothed) and others might be quite complex (being able to play a virtuoso drum solo). Functionings can relate to different dimensions of well-being, from survival to relationships to self-direction to arts and culture .

The capabilities approach, he describes as:

Capabilities are “the alternative combinations of functionings that are feasible for [a person] to achieve.” Put differently, they are “the substantive freedoms he or she enjoys to lead the kind of life he or she has reason to value.” Capabilities are a kind of opportunity freedom. Just like a person with much money in her pocket can buy many different things, a person with many capabilities could enjoy many different activities, pursue different life paths.

For this reason the capability set has been compared to a budget set. So capabilities describe the real actual possibilities open to a person. As T.H. Green wrote, “We do not mean merely freedom from restraint or compulsion … when we speak of freedom as something to be so highly prized, we mean a positive power or capacity of doing or enjoying something worth doing or enjoying.” As both the definition of functionings and Green’s quote implies, capabilities include only possibilities that people really value. Having some options matter more than others of course – it is usually more valuable that a young man is physically safe than that he can choose between rival brands of toothpaste. But activities or states that people do not value or have reason to value could not be called capabilities .
Another way of looking at the difference in Capacity and Capabilities:

What does this mean for LDPs, funders, evaluators, and other stakeholders? I encourage you to read the source document for this article located at https://hd-ca.org/publication-and-resources/introductory-recommended-readings, and other introductory articles provided by the Human Development and Capabilities Association.

Comment on this article, let’s start a conversation!

Community Development is Human Development

University of Missouri Extension, with the Jackson County Extension Council, supports the development of communities within the county through its many research-based educational programs. You may recognize 4-H Youth Development, Master Gardeners and Naturalists, Family Financial Education, or perhaps, Nutrition Education programs. These and other Extension programs have significant impacts in our county. They are as diverse as the people they serve. What each program has in common is that they are all about the development of human capabilities. Capabilities that help us all live better, more integrated lives.
Community Development is one of Extension’s programs in Jackson County. It too is about human development. Sometimes we forget about the human part of our community and focus our attentions on the things that humans use. We think of roads, streets, housing, businesses; all things that serve humans that make up community. It’s easy for us to imagine new roads, businesses, and affordable housing projects. They are solid, we can see and touch them. They are real. But they are useless things without capable humans to use them.
It’s much harder for us to see growth in a person’s capabilities. Most of the time we cannot touch new skills, attitudes, and behaviors. Usually, we can only see the results (roads, streets, housing, and businesses) that come from appropriate use of newly gained capabilities.
Extension’s distinct mission is to improve lives, communities and economies by producing relevant, reliable and responsive educational strategies that enhance access to the resources and research of the University of Missouri. In short, we develop human capabilities which, when appropriately used, improve the quality of lives within communities. Community Development’s mission is to work specifically with people who are concerned with improving the quality of shared community life. We work with individuals, community-based organizations (non-profits, faith communities, neighborhoods, etc.), and local governments to identify commonly held human values, and conversely human problems. We then assist humans to address those values and problems together as community.
We help organizations (made up of humans) examine their organizational needs and come up with training and planning options they can apply to those needs. We conduct tailored leadership development training programs (for humans) and facilitate civic (human) participation in decision-making and planning processes. There are other ways Extension’s Community Development Specialists can help communities dealing with difficult issues.
From time to time, I will report on some of those human development successes that are improving the quality of lives in Jackson County communities. Until then, give me a call or send me an email if you would like to talk about your community or community-based organization. I can be reached at 816-482-5863 or cashdr@missouri.edu. Talk to you soon!