Welcome to Together for Together for Change, the podcast where we explore the transformative power of systems change and civic infrastructure.
Part of the work in transforming systems is understanding how different social systems intersect: education, housing, health, criminal justice, etc. On the flip side, there is a large cross section of social impact organizations who have different but overlapping approaches. In this episode, we’ll talk about the role civic infrastructure plays in building collaborative relationships where organizations can work toward a common vision. And, we’ll discuss how this approach can transcend international borders to get results.
Hosted by: Bridget Jancarz, Chief of Staff at StriveTogether
Featured Guest: Danya Pastuszek, Co-CEO of Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement
Hi, I’m Bridget Jancarz, Chief of Staff at StriveTogether and your host for today’s episode of Together for Change. This season, we’re focusing on our North Star of economic mobility by diving deeper into how children and families are better off as a result of social impact work that treats the root cause of issues rather than only focusing on the systems at StriveTogether. We do this by changing systems and building civic infrastructure.
Today, we’re going to talk more about civic infrastructure and what it means to work on systems in different contexts. Part of the work of transforming these systems is understanding how different social systems intersect systems like education, housing, health, and criminal justice. And the flip side, there’s a large cross section of social impact organizations who have different but overlapping approaches. In this episode, we’ll talk about the role of civic infrastructure and building collaborative relationships, and how organizations can work together towards a common vision. And we’ll even discuss how this approach can transcend international borders to get results.
I’m joined by Danya Pastuszek, co-CEO of the Tamarack Institute, and one of my favorite titles, Director of Vibrant Communities. Let’s get started. So Danya, we’ve had the pleasure, I think I was looking back, I think we’ve had the pleasure of knowing one another for almost a decade, through our work at StriveTogether, through your former work at Promise Partnerships of Salt Lake, and this is people building work, this is people centered work, and I’m excited we’re gonna get to dive into that because civic infrastructure, while we talk about physical infrastructure as the roads, the bridges, the buildings in place, civic infrastructures is really about how the people interact. And I think relationships are just such a big part of that. So I’m so excited to be here with you today.
I’m so grateful to be here with you, Bridget, really grateful to be joining today as a settler of Jewish and Ukrainian descent on the traditional lands of the Algonquin Anishinaabe People who have stewarded the lands and the Ottawa watershed for many, many, many years. I was thinking back on some of the times that we spent together face to face and Salt Lake City and Cincinnati and Chicago and San Francisco. And it’s just a joy to get to be with you here today. Thanks so much for having me.
So Danya, before we jump into the conversation about systems and how that takes shape, I want to begin by learning more about you and your why can you share with our listeners more about your journey, how you got into this work? And what are some of the big lessons you’ve learned along the way?
I love how you ask this question. As I’ve been listening back on the last couple seasons of this podcast, one of my favorite parts is hearing people respond to the why question. My why is really based in amazing women who raised me. My grandmother on my father’s side, as a refugee from Ukraine, she came here after she was interned in concentration camps during the Second World War, and came here and learned a new language and built a new life for her children. My maternal grandmother built a neighborhood. I remember sitting with her in her dining room with this huge window in St. Louis, Missouri. And her telling me the amazing stories of the gifts that her neighbors who were walking down the streets had. My own mother is a person who is so committed to community, and all of the professional roles that she’s had.
And so my why is really wanting to uphold, I think the way that I want to be known in my family and wanting to continue this legacy of, of women who have contributed to in their own different ways, creating a world of equitable outcomes, and creating a world where the path toward those outcomes is one marked by joy and connection among the people doing the work.
That’s such an incredible foundation and set of roots for this work. When you think about those incredible women who have influenced you from your formative stages, like what have you taken away? And what have you brought from that into your own work, whether it was in Salt Lake or now at Tamarack in Canada? What are some of the core lessons that you just carry with you from those incredible experiences?
“We have to be honest with each other about the impacts of what we say and what we do…or what we don’t say or what we don’t do.” — Danya Pastuszek, Co-CEO of Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement
One of the lessons that I try to carry with me is around love for self. My mother always used to tell me love who you are. And I don’t think I really understood what she meant until very recently, as I’ve started to learn about some of the systems that really prioritize perfectionism and prioritize the idea that we aren’t self-actualized, but that we have to grow into our full selves. I’m realizing how harmful those narratives can be. And one of the lessons I’ve learned is that we really do need to start with loving ourselves with our imperfections. We need to know our gifts and our assets. We need to know that they’re not, and that to your point, Bridget, when we are privileged enough to be in communities, where people are working collectively, the combination of all the gifts that different people will bring into the work that’s needed to be done is enough. It’s always enough and loving who we are, knowing that the work of getting to equitable outcomes means that we’re doing work, where we are both complicit in creating some of the very conditions that we’re trying to change.
Acknowledging that, knowing that really wrestling with it, but still being able to have grace for ourselves. And of course, grace for others, is one lesson that I’ve learned that I really try to carry into this work. Another lesson is around power. I have learned, I think through these amazing women, but also through the work that we’ve done together, that we all have power, we don’t need to we don’t get to empower anyone, we all have power. And I think when we have power that’s related to our titles, our social networks, our ability to give rewards, we also have the responsibility to offer perspectives that are in service of what’s just when we support teams, and people and networks. When we have platforms, when we have an audience, we have an obligation to call on people when they’ve caused harm, because of what they’ve done, or maybe because of what they’ve not done. That’s something that I often do it’s harm by omission or harm by silence. Sometimes, I think this is particularly true for white people who are in relationship with each other, we have to be honest with each other about the impacts of what we say and what we do.
Or as I said before, what we don’t say or what we don’t do, I think this is one way that we have to be if we’re going to stand beside the racialized people in this work toward justice. So I didn’t have those words, in my mind as I was growing up. But to your question of what have I learned, and what have I carried from the people and the women who have been so instrumental in my life, those are two things that come to mind the need to really love and hold grace for ourselves as people if we’re going to be in collective work, and the need to really understand and use the types of power that we bring into the context that we’re in.
I think these are such important lessons, because in a lot of the work that we do, when we talk civic infrastructure, when we talk economic mobility, when we talk policy change, those terms in and of themselves can feel a little cold, we know that they’re not because they’re working to get these better, more equitable outcomes. But when you partner those with a true humanity, that is messy, and unnecessary, and joyful, and beautiful, and vibrant. I’d even say in this work, it really does. It moves us from the polarity of this is technical, this is programmatic or this is people work. This is messy and really holds both of those. So, Danya, before we get into some of your work, and what you’ve done in a few different roles and systems, I have to go back to this Director of Vibrant Communities because I think it’s so encapsulates even what you were just sharing. Can you talk a little bit tell us what does that look like? And why is the notion of vibrant communities so important?
“Communities are places of vibrancy, of joy, of great assets” — Danya Pastuszek, Co-CEO of Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement
So the idea of a vibrant community is now more than 20 years old. Tamarack truly is like StriveTogether, a network first and an organization second. So the idea of vibrant communities is birthed from this idea that our co-founders and 13 initial vibrant communities across Canada had for how to organize at the community level to end economic poverty. And the idea was that communities are vibrant communities are full of assets and communities and the people in those communities have to be the starting place to end economic poverty.
Much like StriveTogether, Tamarack was founded on this belief that things have to start with those most impacted negatively by current systems, not those who tend to hold the power and to run those systems that may not have some youth line into what it really means to be negatively impacted by systems, whether intentionally or unintentionally. So that’s the idea of vibrant communities, communities are places of vibrancy of joy of great assets and if the narratives that we let infiltrate our beliefs, and therefore our actions start with the idea that communities are complete, communities are vibrant communities are joyful, that will really have important impacts for the work today, Tamarack continues to do the work around economic poverty. But I would say that the focus has really expanded over the last 10 years or so, building on the model that was proven to work in the initial 13 communities, we’ve really started to recognize through how we operate, that ending economic poverty on its own is not enough.
We know this when I look at people who have large amounts of economic wealth but who are still suffering from depression and anxiety and other mental health conditions, money does not make happiness and money and economic growth and ending economic poverty, if not done in ways that are in real relation with the planet and the other living beings on this planet really won’t be sufficient. So today when Tamarack thinks about vibrant communities, it’s both about ending economic poverty, but it’s about ending as well. The poverty of loneliness and social disconnection, the poverty of our relationships to the lands that we steward and therefore obligation that we hold to really work toward climate justice, the poverty that comes from education and equity, and educational systems that don’t support young people to have positive experiences learning and to want to build that learning into a passion that helps them live a life that works for them and their families and their communities, Tamarack reaches 58% of Canada’s population.
Today, we are in partnership with more than 400 communities, including First Nation communities coast to coast to coast. And one of our proudest accomplishments is that we were involved in the development and implementation of a set of local, provincial and national poverty reduction strategies that lead to really significant poverty reduction successes, over the period from 2015 to 2022, two million Canadians in a country of about 38 million people exited poverty, in part due to the contributions of Tamarack to convenient and network and amplify work in communities.
“Ending economic poverty on its own is not enough.” — Danya Pastuszek, Co-CEO of Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement
That’s incredible. I feel like people just need to sit with that for a moment. That’s the impact I think people are often looking to uncover on Earth in this work. So I want to dive a little bit more into that. But I want to take our conversation on a little bit of a sequential journey. So as we were reminiscing, we’ve been in this work together for about a decade. I know we both approached it for longer than that in different ways. But I first got to know you when you were at the Promise Partnerships of Salt Lake, and you were an integral member of that leadership team of the foundation at the United Way of Salt Lake, the Promise Partnerships in Salt Lake to be able to really start transforming systems. So much so that the Promise Partnership of Salt Lake was StriveTogether’s first, designated Systems Transformation Partnership. And I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit more about the partnerships developed over the years in your work in Salt Lake City that really enabled the partnership to be able to scale impact to be able to do the work on a slightly smaller geographic scale than across the entire country of Canada, but really focus on impact in the Salt Lake City region.
I moved to Salt Lake in 2012, and was so grateful to my mentor and friend even though we don’t talk very much anymore, I still consider him a friend Patrick Poulin, who used to be with the International Rescue Committee. Patrick introduced me to Bill Crim, and to others on the team at the time in the Salt Lake work. And what’s amazing is when I think about the first people that I met in Salt Lake back in 2012, so many of them are still involved in the work, which really speaks to the passion and the commitment of so many people in Salt Lake to transforming systems to achieve equitable outcomes for young people in the community with young people in the community. One of the most important memories, one of the most present memories I have of that work is the way in which the partnerships were built. When I first joined the work, the partners in Salt Lake were well into the job of building community schools and community schools that became hubs of the community that offered lots and lots of the services that young people and families like my own rely upon, in order to experience well-being and happiness, but also community schools that were really working to integrate with the educational goals of schools, it was amazing to see partners, everyone from vision and dental care partners to after school partners, to counseling partners, really trying to understand what was the fabric of the school and how is it going about in achieving attendance and educational outcomes for young people and then asking themselves the question of how could we to contribute to those academic goals, even though those might not be the things that we’ve always thought about?
So when I think about the evolution of the work, I think it’s really important to me that it started grounded in community schools. And then built up I’m really trying at the stage of my life not to use jargon. But I’m going to give myself some grace for this one point to say that there’s a system of nested partnerships, there’s the jargon for you, in Salt Lake that I think is really special. There’s a set of work happening at the school level, there’s a set of work happening at the city level, there’s a set of work happening, the regional and state level. And all of these sets of works together, add up to a set of strategies that are really well designed collectively to transform educational systems so that young people can achieve outcomes. So that’s a very strong memory and reality of the work and Salt Lake that came up for me Bridget is you, you share that piece of our time together.
I’ll share one more really impactful piece of that work as well, which is in 2014, I was really grateful to get to be part of one of I think it was StriveTogether as first experiment in building systems leadership skills with a partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation. And I had the honor of being in a cohort with Jennifer Blatz and with Colin Groth, and Marian Urquilla and Jolie Bain Pillsbury, and Adriane Johnson Williams and Mark Sturgis, and so many other people who have been in the work of play space changed and equitable outcomes in the US for a long time. And the opportunity to really think about what is systems change? What does it look like to question the narrative that we’ve been offered and to build new ones? What does it mean? And what does it take to achieve equitable third grade reading outcomes that don’t vary based on where young people live, or how they’re racialized. Being able to get into those issues in a way that was really practical was one of the most still, I think, impactful impacts on my professional self.
“The StriveTogether Leadership Program has a storied history of bringing folks together and really enabling people to grapple with those complex challenges.” — Bridget Jancarz, Chief of Staff at StriveTogether
The StriveTogether Leadership Program has a storied history of bringing folks together and really enabling people to grapple with those complex challenges. So Danya, one thing I’m wondering, you know, you worked in a community in the United States, you then transition to working in kind of a more national way, with Tamarack and Canada. So I feel like given the last few years, those of us in the United States really feel like we’re facing some heavy and specific challenges, the pandemic on Earth, a number of challenges that I think those of us who are really in this kind of civic infrastructure building, outcomes driven work knew, but they laid bare racial, ethnic, economic disparities.
And I’m wondering, because it’s easy, you know, to feel like this is, these are unique challenges to us based on our own context or peculiarities of how we were developed or founded. I’m wondering, as you, you know, think about your work at in Salt Lake City, and then transcending international borders into Canada. What are some of the things that are, that people may be surprised to hear are similar or transcend those borders as well? And I think my, my shadow questions to that are also what are some of the things that are different? And what might some of the domestic US listeners be able to take from what you all have been doing in Canada?
Thank you for this question. I talk to many people in the US who have the same curiosity as you’re expressing. And many of them have the sense that things are really amazing in Canada, and so much better than they are in the US. And in some cases they are, and in some cases, they aren’t. And, as I’ve been learning more about the history of colonization, specifically here in Canada, and as I’ve been thinking about the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action, and the calls to action in the report on missing and murdered indigenous women, and UNDRIP Report.
These are three foundational documents in Canada that really need to drive the activities of settlers and of all of us in terms of how we decolonize and how we achieve reconciliation. As I learned these documents better and I think about what I can do to affect change on the calls to action. I’m reminded that the border is artificial. It was drawn by colonial powers over the course of several dozens of years. But they were drawn right through the traditional lands of many First Nations. They were drawn in a way that didn’t have a particular meaning in terms of which which cultures and traditions lived on on different sides of that borders and I say that to say that, I think that there’s more that we imagine about what divides us than what actually brings us together.
In terms of things that are different, you know, there, there are some policy decisions that have been made differently. Here in Canada, for example, we are moving toward $10 a day, universal childcare, we have been in a place for many, many years where across the country, we have junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten as a way of supporting full day high quality early learning from when young people are three and four, we have more universal health care, which certainly is more true in more urban areas than it is in rural and remote areas where there may be a right to health care, but there’s not actually the health care options present. So there are some things like that on a policy level that are different. In the US, this amazing work has just happened through the US Surgeon General’s office and his collaborators to put together a national framework for how to end loneliness and social disconnection, tons that we can be learning here in Canada from that President Biden’s announcement last month around environments and approach to a whole of government commitment to just climate transitions, again, something that we can be learning from.
So mostly, I think the differences are fewer than we think. And there’s a tremendous opportunity to be learning across borders, in ways that might help people like me who are sometimes more practical in their wiring, in ways that can help particularly people like us to think about what really could we imagine if we were if we were thinking with the broadest, imaginative spirit, and if possible,
And that’s really what civic infrastructure is, so Danya, I want to, I want to honor and model your desire to not use jargon, civic infrastructure is the root of what we do at StriveTogether within the Cradle to Career Network, and I know what Tamarack is working to do across Canada. So I’m going to ask folks to forgive me that one piece of jargon, because we actually believe this is so critical to the work if we think about all of the different pieces of our shared humanity as the different pieces of thread or yarn that are woven into this social tapestry.
That is really what civic infrastructures meant to do, it’s meant to hold us and kind of encapsulate us to be able to truly do better for one another. But I think in the spirit of kind of demystifying jargon, can you talk a little bit about what the term civic infrastructure means to you? How do you all embrace that? And I keep asking you all these multi layered questions, but what does it like infrastructure look like to you? What does it look like to you now with your years of experience? And maybe what did it look like earlier on, perhaps in the early days in Salt Lake?
“Civic infrastructure… is so often unseen, and kind of like our electrical grids. It’s something that we take for granted until it’s not there.” — Danya Pastuszek, Co-CEO of Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement
I remember interviewing someone, I don’t remember who it was. I just remember, as I so often do, the feeling I was left with, but I asked this question, what does civic infrastructure mean to you? And I didn’t ask the question well, because the response that came back was very passionate and very thoughtful, but it was around the idea that infrastructure and communities begins as roads and bridges, and the electricity bridge, and the Internet cables, all the things that kind of get us from place to place and that contribute to a piece, but just a piece of her quality of life.
And this experience has really stuck with me because it reminded me that while there’s some pieces of jargon, when when you’re in the spaces, Bridget that you or I are in, that are so part of the way we think everyday that they no longer feel like jargon to us. They really are inaccessible to many people. And so I spend a lot of time like you trying to think about how to describe what civic infrastructure is. So I think that it is, like you said, it’s so often unseen, and kind of like our electrical grids. It’s something that we take for granted until it’s not there. I never think about the fact that my lights are working, I rarely stopped to be grateful for that. And then when they don’t work, I panic because I’m reliant at night on the system of lights, and I never know where the flashlights and the candles are. So it’s like that. It’s something that that is sort of easy to take for granted until it’s not there anymore.
We see it at Tamarack as much like you, Bridget, I think trusting relationships between people, committees, and collaboratives where we can voice possibilities and work collectively, using data and using lived experience to improve outcomes that a community knows matter. I see it as the messages and stories that a lot of people know that speak to the assets of our people and of our communities. All of these things are civic infrastructure. I was on Treaty One Territory, which is the traditional territory of the Ojibwe, Dakota and Cree people, and also the homeland of the Métis Nation last September, the city I was in is known colonially as Portage La Prairie. And I saw civic infrastructure when I was in that community. The city’s elected officials, its youth, its teachers and school administrators, its businesses, its direct service providers, its health unit, they all met over a meal. And they collectively told this story of the work that they’ve been doing for the past three years to identify a goal that matters to them and to the young people in their community. And the goal is around high school graduation, it’s around plans for wellbeing, or employment or post-secondary enrollment. And one of those three things that’s most appropriate for the people for the particular young people in their community. They talked about learning together around a partnership table about what it takes to get to that goal and what gets in the way of that goal. They talked about each partner committing to do the work that they were uniquely positioned to do to get to the goal. They talked about the partnership being facilitated by young people. They talked about seeding this strategy called Rolling C, which is a non-classroom based approach to learning. And its approach to learning that really is grounded in young people, deeply understanding the learning objectives, and having a hand in determining what they need to do to achieve them. They talked about investing resources into that partnership into the roving campus in ways that have made it really sustainable in the community. And that also has led to it spreading to other parts of Canada as well.
And I share the story to say that in that room, I can really see and feel the civic infrastructure. And for me, as someone who started this work in a continuous improvement in a role that was trying to think about how we share administrative data across different partners to achieve big goals. The fact that civic infrastructure I think, is so often a feeling is really important to me. And I think you can feel when groups have shared vision for what’s possible. And then you can feel when there’s a practice of using data and use input to make decisions, when there’s a practice and a muscle for having truthful conversations, when there’s a practice and a muscle for contributing fully and consistently to the group’s goal. When there’s a practice of studying and learning together and unlearning together about what it means to change systems and about the specific policy and storytelling decisions that have made for the inequitable outcomes that we’re trying to dismantle. I think you can feel when there’s a practice of shifting power to young people, and when there’s a practice of reciprocity.
So when I think about civic infrastructure, and how we understand it now, it’s something that I really understand through data and things that can be observed directly, but also do things that have to be observed more indirectly, through conversations that we have with other and through the feelings that are engendered when you’re in a room where it’s present.
“Quantitative data tells us how we’re doing. Qualitative data tells us what to do.” — Bridget Jancarz, Chief of Staff at StriveTogether
So one of who I would imagined to be one of our favorite leaders, and champions of the Cradle to Career Network is Susan Dawson, the CEO of the E3 Alliance partnership that’s in Central Texas. And I’m going to mess up a quote from a recent video she did what she was talking about data. And she was talking about the importance of quantitative and qualitative data, another concept that sometimes viewed as a polarity one better than the other, one more useful than the other. What I took away, so we won’t attribute this directly to Susan, but what I took away from what she said, is that quantitative data tells us how we’re doing. Qualitative data tells us what to do. There’s so much that sits beneath quantitative data. And just because you were talking about the role of data, how that’s evolved in your own experience in this work, I’m curious, how do you hold? How does Tamarack hold both of those and how should we hold the qualitative and quantitative data?
Like so many things my thinking on this has been an evolution and something that I really appreciate about Sue and so many other people that are in this movement for equitable outcomes is the recognition, the acceptance, the love of the fact that the work is learning work, and our thoughts on questions like this really do evolve. So how I hold now that and how I believe that that many of my colleagues in the Tamarack network and on the team hold it is that to hold a population level results, like high school graduation or economic mobility or an anti-poverty in Canada really requires the holding of many, many results. There is of course, the overall result that we want for the population, that we’re working in services and that we’re working hopefully in great solidarity and partnership with. There are results related to specific groups within that population that have been really small serving systems. And it’s really important to understand who has been most negatively impacted by the way things currently are, so that as we get to work, we’re not just focused on overall goals and strategies, but ones that really get to the systemic inequities that particular groups within the larger population have served. But next to that there’s a whole set of process goals.
I was recently introduced to a book called Emergent Learning by my friends and board member Mary Pickering. And she opened up a page of this book that was looking to evaluate collaboratives, and meetings that are held by collaborative, and she read me one indicator, one question that will produce data to inform an indicator. And the question was, did you experience joy in this collaborative? Did you experience joy in this meeting? And that question has really stayed with me, because it reminds me that to really get to the big outcomes, it is what Sue said. It’s a combination of qualitative and quantitative data, or said differently, it’s a combination of different types of data. There’s data about the overall goal, there’s data about the process, that the people who are going through the work to get to that goal, or experiencing that question around joy in the space is one of them, you know, questions around how authentically our young people, and racialized people and people impacted by poverty engaged and centered in the work that’s being done. And in all aspects of the work around designing, implementing, evaluating and redesigning the strategies that are getting implemented. And there’s questions around each individual actors contributions.
So at Tamarack, we play a very specific role in ending poverty and all of its forms and communities. We are a field catalysts. So we amplify communities work, we understand the broader ecosystems that communities are during their work in and try to understand the gifts and assets that different actors in that ecosystem can bring. We try to understand where the gaps are as well. We try to network communities together, these are a very specific set of contributions. And it’s important when we think about data to think about measurement of each individual actors contributions. So to get to the big goal, I think there’s lots of cascading and interconnected results that are important to keep eyes on, and to keep in a conversation with the group.
So I know our time together is winding down. And I think I want to conclude with what’s going to seem like maybe either an obvious or perhaps a nebulous question. But you’ve talked a bit about this notion of a shared result of folks aligning, I think one of the realities we’ve both seen in communities in states nationally is that it can feel like we’re relatively connected around a desired end state. But we do always have a shared vision. What are we trying to achieve? And how will we get there? And you know, you mentioned individual actors having their own commitments, as we close out, and we sort of think about this unification around a shared vision. How can people get there, when folks are coming at this work at this approach, with different priorities and different standpoints?
I think the place that we need to start when we think about shared vision is around narratives. What are people understanding? Is the truth around why things are the way they are? What is it that people are understanding about their role in how things currently are and how things could be? So I really think it starts with understanding what are the narratives that people are holding that are, as I mentioned before, than impacting the beliefs and the actions that they’re willing to take into a group setting a collective setting focused on results. I think the next thing is really getting into relationship with people and more and more I think a way of getting into meaningful relationships with people is to do some study work together is to become a student of history, trying to understand in the context that the work is happening, what has been the pathway to creating the structures that exist in the policies that exist, who has lived the lands, who doesn’t live the lands anymore, who’s coming to the lands for the first time, but really building relationship by co-studying together, co-learning and unlearning together.
I’m find it to be a very impactful way to both ground work and a sense of the real root causes of why things are the way they are, and have a way to get into relationship with people, I think asking people what they’d like to see happen in community. And what gifts they’d like to contribute to that is something that I’m only now fully realizing the potential of Tamarack has always been an organization. And a network that I’ve looked to, to try to help me understand how to start from assets, how to start from communities and people’s gifts. And I’m finding more and more that getting to shared vision and keeping hold of shared vision is strengthened when we start by really deeply trying to understand what gets people in the work, what to bring to the work. I think there’s a very important skill of facilitators and conveners. That is related to synthesis. So in some ways, it almost it doesn’t matter what my perspective as an individual human is on what the shared vision should be.
My role, if I’m in a facilitator, or convener role, is to ensure that I’m able to hear from a variety of voices center the voices of those who have been most negatively impacted, and then synthesized back to a group again, and again and again, what we heard and what we’re hearing, remembering that people who are doing this cross sector work, are often not thinking about that work every moment of every day. And so the art and the science of synthesis again and again, I think is really critical to shared vision. I think making decisions together and being clear on how decisions will get made is critical. Someone mentioned to me a bit of feedback a few weeks ago that I really appreciated, which is that I went through, I’m facilitating a process with a group of people across Canada. And we had started at point A, and in my own mind, I had made it to point Z, but only I had done that work, no one else had gone from B to Y with me. And so it reminded me again, that making decisions together, being clear in how decisions will get made. And making sure to walk people through the pieces of the decision-making process that they weren’t in the room for is really, really critical.
The last thing I’ll say I always make a StriveTogether when I think about this, but I remember back probably in 2016, at a meeting in San Francisco, where we were shown what I’ve always referred to as an arc of learning and work we were shown where we had started as a group of individuals working on one of the early years of strategic planning process where you involve the full network, we were showing where we had started where we were and where we were going. And I’ve always held that example. And that visual in my mind, because it was a way for me to continue even though I was only thinking about this work every once in a while to think about the shared vision and to recall that shared vision. And I think really constantly holding the vision of the arc of learning and the arc of work can do a lot to ground people in just how far they’ve come together and just where they’re headed, if they’re able to stay on the path of the collective work that they’re there to do.
“At the end of the day, civic infrastructure is human work” — Bridget Jancarz, Chief of Staff at StriveTogether
So Danya, this was a phenomenal reminder that systems are truly comprised of human beings that are both acting and earnest and acting in a way that can both catalyze change, or perpetuate stasis based on where we are, but at the end of the day, civic infrastructure is human work. And it is about making those shifts to center youth and families to put them on a pathway to achieve their dreams. So what I want to leave people with, there are a number of nuggets in this 30 or so minutes together, but one of the things you said, Danya, that I think I’ll be thinking about for a while is we think more about what divides us than what brings us together. And my take away is that civic infrastructure is truly about thinking more about what brings us together than what divides us and how just a mere flip of a mental model can be absolutely transformative. So Danya, thank you so much for being in conversation and virtual community with me and thank you all for listening and joining us. Stay connected with us by visiting strivetogether.org where you can get the latest information through our monthly newsletter. You’ll also find transcripts of our Together for Change podcast series, case studies, and more. Together, we can truly create lasting change.