Cities are meant to feel uneasy


We don’t plan our cities, we organize them.  And we organize them at every scale (self, family, neighbourhood, organization, city, nation, planet, universe).  This is how we do it: we figure out a destination, on our journey to get there we learn about how to get there, and where we actually end up emerges.  We don’t ever quite get ‘there’.  In this dynamic, it is more about moving in a direction, rather than getting somewhere where our work is ‘done’.

This relationship takes place in the context of our economic, social and physical (environmental) habitats.  It is driven by unknown possibility, and it looks like this:

Consider these two common definitions of ‘journey’:

  1. an occasion when you travel from one place to another, especially when there is a long distance between the places.  Synonyms: circuit, commute, crossing, excursion, expedition, exploration, peregrination, pilgrimage.  (MacMillan Dictionary Thesaurus)
  2. a process of changing and developing over a period of time.  Synonyms: transition, conversion, transformation, revision, change, adaptation, modification, flux. (MacMillan Dictionary Thesaurus)
‘Journey’ is both the act of travelling and an act of learning.  We sense where we are going (destination) even though we are unsure of exactly where we will end up (emergence).  We must necessarily embark on a journey to ‘get there’ that involves learning along the way.
When it comes to cities, ‘there’ is two things: cities that serve citizens well and citizens that serve cities well.  It is time for us to learn about being together in our cities in a way that serves ourselves well.  Our cities are made by us; they are not by anyone or anything else.  Cities are what we make of them.  Cities are what we make of us.
Here’s the deal.  Our cities are the engines of human innovation.  Cities are where we gather to spark each our own and others potential, generating deepened, ongoing innovation.  We are compelled, at an unprecedented rate, to gather in cities because we find work and opportunity to find what we each feel we have to offer the world.  (Yes, if you find your life is best suited to life outside of cities, your contributions are valuable.  What I say here is not at the exclusion of you, for the vast majority of folks outside of cities life in relationship with cities.)
We make cities and our cities make us in return, which means that the more explicit our relationship with cities is, the better our cities will be for us.  How we organize our cities is not up to city hall and planners.  It is up to the full range of perspectives in our cities.  We are entering a new era of planning our cities, where we organize ourselves in response to our changing life conditions.  ‘City planning’ is no longer a linear affair with a critical path laid out to a destination.  It is now about having a sense of where we are going, figuring out how to maintain that direction along the way (even course correction when warranted) and trusting that where we end up is where we ought to be.  Even if unimagined.
This means living with uncertainty.  As with any journey, there are aspects of our city journey that is uneasy.  This means finding ways to support self, others, and whole cities with uneasy journey we are on in our cities.  It seems that cities are the vehicle in which we are travelling on the human journey.  A planet powered by cities.
We must remember that what we power is determined by us.  It is time to build the nest we need.  It is time to live into an uneasy journey and use it to our full advantage.  It is time to exercise the power of we.


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This post forms part of Chapter 4 – An Uneasy Journey, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities.

Nest City is organized into three parts, each with a collection of chapters.  Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.  Click here for an overview of Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence, chapters 4-7.



Two poems to sum up


The two poems below emerged as I participated in last week’s Canadian Institute of Planners / Alberta Professional Planners Institute conference held in Banff, Canada.


Perpetually unfinished cities

We do not take

this place for granted

as stewards

we threw away

our cities

we now reclaim

the future


changing climate

where more is better

spirally upward

to walkable urban neighbourhood

places making


perpetually unfinished

serially created

with no fixed destination

the city’s conduits

are webs of learning

recovering, adapting


Learning cities

learning cities

are naturally


connecting everything

we do


simultaneous success and failure

catalyzing complexity



Planning as we have may be a dinosaur move

Planning the way we have always planned is a Dinosaur move.  Refusing to see, or keeping others from seeing, that context is changing is hazardous to our health.  (For more on cities, see this post – Uneasy journey of cities and dinosaurs.)

When I first started working in Brandon, Manitoba in 1995 I had to learn the ropes. I was fresh out of school so I didn’t know how development came about, how approvals took place, how the community’s planning documents worked, let alone how all the people involved in these processes fit.  So I asked questions about things with the intention to understand how the system I was working in worked.  For one colleague, Dave, the answer was always, “Because that is the way we have always done it.”

I see now that in saying this, he really didn’t understand why things happened they way they did.  The connection to purpose of our rules and protocols was lost.  Or, if he had the purpose in mind, it was a purpose that was no longer desirable.  The result was that Dave was unable to see the value of a different way to do something, even if it meant responding better to the community’s needs.  He was a dinosaur.

Now in saying that Dave was a dinosaur, I don’t mean this pejoratively.  I simply mean he had a hard time noticing that when the context changed, the purpose for our rules changed as well. That meant that our rules needed to shift and adjust along with what those rules were supposed to accomplish.

And herein lies the planning trap – planning with what happened.

We so often research to see what has worked before, or we research what has worked in other places.  We look for trends and then plan for that to continue, assuming that what has worked for years will continue to work, or what has worked elsewhere will work in our place.

At the heart of this trap is standardization.

There is a time and place for standardization, when the life conditions are appropriate for it.  It’s companion is diversity, necessary to spark our imagination.  Moreover, we learn little when applying anything blindly, with no regard to setting.  We do learn if we explore, notice patterns, reflect on what is happing in our mileu, then find the way forward that meets the life conditions of our mileu, not those of another.

The way through the trap is patterns.

There is a distinction between standardization and patterns.  Standardization is a predetermined course of action, where a pattern emerges from what we notice about how things happen.  Standardization is a recipe.  Pattern is about discernment. Standardization is about having more of what has happened.  Patterns is about being sensitive to what has happened, but holding this lightly, ensuring that our ability to notice when the pattern changes.

So, is planning a dinosaur move?  I propose that rampant standardization is a dinosaur move.  Finding peace with the discomfort of not knowing is the opposite.  It is an uneasy journey, and the more uneasy it is, the less likely it is a dinosaur move.

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This post forms part of Chapter 4 – An Uneasy Journey, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities.

Nest City is organized into three parts, each with a collection of chapters.  Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.  Click here for an overview of Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence, chapters 4-7.


The plot for Part 2

Here are the highlights of how Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence is organized.  Chapters 4-6 each focus on one of the circles in this diagram: journey, destination, emergence.  Chapter 7 explores their relationship with the city’s habitats from Part 1, our economic life, social habitat and physical habitat.

Chapter 4 – An Uneasy Journey recognizes that change and adjustment within ourselves to co-create cities that serve us well is a very personal journey.  Both as individuals and as a collective.  This is a journey that is not meant to end.  It is a journey full of uncertainty.  By naming and exploring this reality of organizing cities we can find ways to allow this uncertainty serve us, rather than hinder us.

Chapter 5 – Destination Alive or Adrift teases out the role of destination as we organize our selves and cities.  Knowing where we are going does not mean we know exactly how we will get there and this compels a different way of being and thinking. It will take practice.

Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds explores the role of bravery and risk as well stand at the threshold of organizing ourselves for possibility to emerge.

Chapter 7 – (Un)known Possibility wraps up Part Two of Nest City, reconnecting Chapters 4-6 to our social and physical habitat.  The quality of this relationship has an impact on our abilities to release our fullest potential.


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Nest City is organized into three parts, each with a collection of chapters.  Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.


Uneasy journey of cities with dinosaurs


Cities are not all that straightforward.  They are hard to figure out and make sense of.  They are tricky and messy.  They can make us quite uneasy, yet they are clearly where most of us choose to live.  Living in cities is a choice.  It is a journey we have chosen, even though it makes us uneasy from time to time.  It is an uneasy journey

The next series of posts focus on the left circle of the Nest Works, shown above.  We will take a look at the things that make us itchy and uneasy and discern some practical principles and practices that will support us in our city life.  These principles and practices will support us in our efforts to create cities that serve citizens well.  Perhaps most importantly, we can learn how to be citizens that serve cities well.

To begin, I revisit a 2009 post called The runaway train, the dinosaur and the house of cards, that emerged from reading Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress.  Here are two passages to note from Wright:

The myth of progress has sometimes served us well – those of us seated at the best tables, anyway – and may continue to do so.  But I shall argue … that it has also become dangerous.  Progress has an internal logic that can lead beyond reason to catastrophe.  A seductive trail of successes may end up in a trap (p. 5).
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Civilization is an experiment, a very recent way of life in the human career, and it has a habit of walking into what I am calling progress traps.  A small village on good land beside a river is a good idea; but when the village grows into a city and paves over the good land, it becomes a bad idea.  While prevention might have been easy, a cure may be impossible; a city isn’t easily moved.  This human inability to foresee – or to watch out for – long-range consequence may be inherent to our kind, shaped by the millions of years when we lived from hand to mouth by hunting and gathering.  It may also be little more than a mix of inertia, greed and foolishness encour-(p 108)aged by the shape of the social pyramid.  The concentration of power at the top of large-scale societies gives the elite a vested interest in the status quo; they continue to prosper in the darkening times long after the environment and general populace begin to suffer.Yet despite the wreckage of past civilizations littering the earth, the overall experiment of civilization has continued to spread and grow.  The numbers (insofar as they can be estimated) break down as follows: a world population of about 200 million at Rome’s height, in the second century A.D.; about 400 million by 1500, when Europe reached the Americas; one billion people by 1825, at the start of the Coal Age; 2 billion by 1925, when the Oil Age gets underway; and 6 billion by the year 2000.  Even more startling than the growth is the acceleration. Adding 200 million people after Rome took thirteen centuries.  Adding the last 200 million took only three years (p. 108-109).

Wright highlights Joseph Tainter‘s nicknames for three kinds of trouble that lead to the collapse of a civilization:  the Runaway Train, the Dinosaur, and the House of Cards.  An illustration of these phenomena are in Dickens’ Little Dorrit, a wonderful story of city life.  You’ll see direct connection to today’s world.

Dickens illustrates the Runaway Train in Merdle’s Bank, where debt pays debt, and that debt pays more debt.   Merdle alone, as the conductor of the train, sees the inevitable crash.  He despises the Dinosaurs that seek his favour to “invest” with him, yet takes them on as passengers.  The Dinosaurs continue to believe in his wisdom and prowess.  ‘Society’ has complete faith in Society, hence Merdle.  For Society, the financial returns will continue.  This is what is owed to position, prestige and privilege.  Status is taken for granted.  There is nothing that can go wrong.  But it does.

The House of Cards is found in the degradation and literal collapse of the Clenham household, and the rise and fall (and rise and fall again) of the Dorrit family.  The Merdles themselves who have enjoyed privilege find it gone.  The newfound wealth of the Dorrit family is gone.   “I might go back to dancing,” says Fanny Dorrit.  Her brother, Tip: “But what about me?”  All in which they found meaning is gone.

Enter Arthur Clennam, in debtors’ prison as a result of inability to pay his creditors after having lost his fortune on Merdle’s Runaway Train. His despair is not from having lost his fortune, but from having let others down.  His happiness in the end is as it always was – enjoying, and in relationship with, people regardless of their status and position in Society.  Through Arthur Clennam and Amy Dorrit and the cast of characters that support them on their journey, we see that relationships are what endure in the world.   If you count only on riches and material goods, then you can’t have much to count on.  The House will eventually crumble.

In today’s world, Merdle’s Runaway Train is the fall of Wall Street.  Dinosaurs refused to see – or let others see – that the economic train was heading fast down a path of disaster.  The harm for many is substantial.  The House of Cards is revealed.  What we have can disappear in an instant.

In the news these last few weeks is the story of E. coli and 1500 meat products recalled across Canada and 30 states in the US.  The highest ranked comment on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s website declares this event a result of allowing corporations to self-regulate, similar to the US allowing Wall Street to self regulate. This looks like a Runaway Train.

It appears, if we stop and think about it, that our very existence is a House of Cards.  Our privilege in the West is a House of Cards, and perhaps a Runaway Train. Whether it is the economic conditions of our time, or the environmental and health stresses at this time, let us be wary of the Dinosaur.  It is what keeps us from noticing the Runaway Train and the House of Cards.

Then what is the opposite of Dinosaur?  Awake, conscious, in tune with the world.  In relationship with the world.  In relationship with others in the world to seek understanding and solutions.  A sense of happiness.  In Little Dorrit, the happy folk have relationships that cross (yet keep) many boundaries – jailed and jailor, poor and rich, female and male, servant and master, harassed and harrassor, young and old, unloved and loved. Perhaps this is the antidote to the Dinosaur. A way of being that gets the best out of people for the challenges ahead.

It can’t really be named, this anti-Dinosaur, but it seems this is what will cultivate our needed collective ingenuity, for it is the Dinosaur that allows time to gather its moments secretly.


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This post forms part of Chapter 4 – An Uneasy Journey, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities.

Nest City is organized into three parts, each with a collection of chapters.  Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.  Click here for an overview of Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence, chapters 4-7.




Circle Tale – Habitat for Humanity in St. Albert

Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea,wonderful leading spirits in Circle work, asked my mom, Margaret Sanders, to share our story of our work with the City of St. Albert.  A wonderful tale of how Circle can bring community together around much more than what the conflict is about.  As I think about it, it was a wonderful experience that deepened a design charrette experience for participants.

Here it is:  PeerSpirit Circle Tale

My gatekeeper tension

The tension is growing within me.  I am in the inner circle.  Five of us decide who gets to play in our community of practice playground.

Our purpose as a community is to create space and place to practice being (and being in) learning living systems as social innovators.  As I imagine the playground down the street and the various collections of small people during recess, they choose who they spend their time with.  Sometimes the choices are clear and easy, other times agonizing.  And the choice is ultimately about resonance and attraction.

I struggle with being in a position where I am expected to accept or reject the people interested in playing in our playground because it interferes with resonance and attraction.  A couple of months ago, I glibly referred to the inner circle as the gatekeepers.  Today, my curiosity about the word ‘gatekeeper’ compels further exploration: what it means, how it shows up, and whether the purpose of the gatekeeper is aligned with the purpose of our community of practice, and emerging operating principles.

What it means

The Collins dictionary on my shelf, a gatekeeper comes with a gate and a wall, defined thus:

  • Gatekeeper – ‘a person who has charge of a gate and controls who may pass through it’.
  • Gate – ‘a movable barrier for closing an opening in a wall, fence, etc.  It is an opening to allow for access’ (and egress).
  • Wall – ‘a construction used to enclose, divide or support, often to protect and surround a position or place for defensive purposes’.

How it shows up

The gatekeeper, the gate and the wall show up in how we organize our community of practice.  Simply:

  • The ways we enclose, support and protect ourselves are the wall.
  • The people (inner circle) who determine who may pass through the wall are the gatekeepers.
  • The criteria for passage are the gate.

The quality of the relationship between these three elements is crucial for them to work well together.  The purpose of the wall must be clear to articlate the criteria for passage.  The criteria or passage must be clear to determine who may pass through.  If not, both the gate and the gatekeeper are not able to ensure the intention of the wall is realized.

Alignment of purpose

How well a wall functions is connected to the clarity of the wall’s purpose.  The purpose will dictate how permeable the wall needs to be – what, who and how much the gate and gatekeeper will allow to pass through.  To understand the purpose of the wall though, the purpose of the community of practice must also be clear.

Our emerging purpose:  To create space and place to practice being (and being in) learning living systems

Our emerging superordinate goal, to which our purpose serves, is to:  Be a meshwork of social innovators who create conditions for the continued evolution and growth of life

So what role does a wall in a community of practice play in light of these two statements?  To what degree does a wall separate us from others? Contain us?  Restrict us?  Support us?  Protect us?   Each of these can roles naturally occur in living systems.  They each can restrict us from, or release us to, our growth and evolution.

At this juncture, our gatekeeper practice does not align with these statements.  We judge interested play mates for fit, without criteria.  We are not clear what we are looing for – or not looking for.  We trust on our intuition, but likely also our insidious bias and limiting beliefs.  We decide if they fit before really letting them in and limit our opportunities to be surprised.  We may at some point also be distracted by another gate, ‘the number of people admitted to a sporting or entertainment event, and/or the total amount of money received from them’.

What I value in our community of practice is our trust in self organizing systems.  I value our keen attention to creating minimal structure to allow what needs to happen just happen.  I value our interest in creating dissonance for our selves and each other since we recognize that that is what we need to learn and grow in our life and work.  These qualities are welcoming and expansive in nature.  Our behaviour at the gate does not exemplify our ‘inside’ behaviour.

Emerging operating principles

My emerging operating principles for how I wish to operate as a gatekeeper at the gate in the wall around in a community of practice with the above purpose:

1.     Trust We trust that the people who are attracted to this playground bring something that our community needs.  We may not know or understand what that is as they pass through the gate, but we trust that if what we do resonates with them, there is a relationship worthy of exploration.

2.     Resonant permeability – The gate is open to those that feel called to play in our community of practice playground, whether they have been explicitly invited or not.  The gate is also open to those that feel called to step away.

3.     Evolution is expansive – Being welcoming to all who express interest in what we do is expansive.  Putting our attention to qualities of expansiveness will increase our expansiveness.

4.     Our space and place thrives when we are who we really are – There is no threat in trusting resonance and attraction.  Only those for whom our community of practice resonates will linger.

5.     The wall is a source of intelligence – A wall serves as the transition from one space to another.  The gate is simply where this transition takes place.  What, precisely is the transition, and the nature of it?  In the living system of a human body, a cell membrane serves as a wall.  Bruce Lipton (The Biology of Belief) even notes that the membrane may be the real source of intelligence in a cell, not the nucleus.  The wall may be the brain, as we have come to know it.  What if the real intelligence in our community of practice is in the people who choose to transition in and out of our community?

The gatekeeper in me welcomes all who pass through – the gate ‘as a mountain pass, especially one proving entry into another country’…

The gatekeeper in me is brave enough to share what is behind the wall.

Inviting onlookers

Last week, in a room full of people milling around, I was in conversation with a handful of leaders.  A couple had leadership by virtue of position/status – senior people in an organization.   A couple of others (including myself) also by position/status in that we were the “experts” brought in to teach.  A couple of others were leaders by virtue of their ability to step up and do/say what needs to be done/said.   Just outside our circle was Onlooker.  Listening in.  Hanging on every word.  Clearly interested, but removed from the conversation.  Clearly keen to be a part of what was happening, but clearly separate.

At first, I wondered why Onlooker didn’t just take the initiative to jump in and join.  None of us in conversation would mind.  Clearly, we weren’t speaking of anything top secret to be having such a conversation within earshot of others.  I felt frustrated that this onlooker didn’t just step in – it seemed even sinister that Onlooker would just listen in like that.

So I made an invitation.  “Onlooker, why don’t you step into the circle?  You are welcome to join us.”  “Thank you – I was waiting for the invitation.”

Onlooker was waiting for the invitation. I was floored.

I have been sitting with this question for a few days: whose job is it to make someone feel welcome?  As I reflect, my first reaction was to question why Onlooker didn’t just take the initiative to step in.  I see now that there is a vital relationship between the circle and onlookers:

  • The circle could have something important for the onlooker
  • The onlooker could have something important for the circle
  • One must take initiative to make the connection
  • The other must reciprocate to make the connection
  • If the connection is not made, the possibility is lost or destroyed
  • If the onlooker wants to play, s/he must risk jumping in
  • If the circle wishes to grow and learn, it needs to seek out and invite onlookers

At the heart of this are the possibilities that come with risk.  An onlooker risks indifference or rejection in seeking to play. The circle risks having to shape and adjust to make room for someone new.  The bottom line, though, is that we all know what it feels like to be an outsider.  It is a lonely place to be – even powerless.  Not everyone is always brave and courageous in this place against the power and camaraderie of the circle, so it is necessary for the outer edge of the circle to be permeable and welcoming.

A permeable, expansive circle will:

  • Recognize the power/status of being in/out of the circle
  • Freely invite onlookers
  • Trust the onlooker brings value
  • Expect and welcome the onlooker’s turbulence
  • Adapt and adjust to turbulence
  • Notice what is understood differently

As you read this, onlooker, I invite you to my circle.

Inviting the elephant

I am part of the design team leading the 2010 Alberta Professional Planners Institute conference October 17-20, 2010 in Lake Louise.  We have chosen questions to guide a big conversation, rather than in speakers.  We have done this with the express purpose of surfacing the elephants in community planning.  It is easy to hide when we sit and listen to experts.  A new possibility we are designing for: explore the untapped expertise and wisdom we already have amongst us.  The metaphor we are using to guide our design: the elephant.

Either the metaphor of the elephant is resonating with people, or it is an elephant itself.  We get comments about the questions that will be guiding our inquiry about planning and where it fits in the scheme of things.  The questions are too big.  What do you mean by the questions?  Of course I am planning to survive, aren’t you?  The questions are too big!  The questions lead to so many other questions? Boy, do those questions ever stop to make me think…

In a way, one of the elephants in the room are questions themselves.  How often do we think we have it right, without even asking questions.  John Godfrey Saxe’s poem is in our consciousness as we design, and we are curious about how this relates to community/town/city/country/northern/rural planning:

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me!-but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried: “Ho!-what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me’t is mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

Stirring Titles

I am cleaning my office and noticing the magazines sitting here before I put them away.  The titles, from Plan Canada and AACIP Planning Journals in the last several months, cause a stir in me…

  • Planners’ perspectives on art and culture
  • Rethinking infrastructure: going green
  • Planning for the homeless
  • Aging in place
  • Planning for changing demographics
  • Okotoks: staying within its limits
  • Welcoming communities: planning for diverse populations
  • Making it work: making it last; making it home
  • Food security: a growing concern
  • Planning without a net: the international experience
  • Looking to our past to plan our future

The stir?

Planners’ work covers a range of questions and matters that are deliberated widely in our communities – art, infrastructure, homeless, aging, sustainability, cultural diversity, food – and all of this on the home and international fronts.  And then there is the conversation about how to accomplish what we are aiming for.

But who is the “we”?  The perspectives offered are about how planners contribute to these questions, and these perspectives are offered to planners.  It is tempting to drift toward an assumption that it is the planners who are going to make the difference and that others get in the way.  What, however, if the “we” is planners along with the various stakeholders in our communities.  What if our technical expertise is not where our power of influence lies?

This spring I had an opportunity to run APPI’s Professional Practitioners Course with Gary Buchanan, an alternative written examination format for prospective professional planners where candidates demonstrate their mastery through conversation and writing.  The surprise at this particular gathering was the responses of planners in response to a question about the scope of planning today.  The candidates did not reveal technical aspects, but rather interpersonal.  To be able to do our jobs well these days, we need to be good communicators, negotiators, conflict resolvers, facilitators, coaches, and synthesizers.  All this with a bold courage to take leadership roles in unconventional ways.

Reflecting then on the titles above, I recognize the value of planners.  We offer technical skills to make contributions to our communities’ dreams.  Our value is no longer just  conventional technical skills.  Our value is in cultivating the conditions for all the players and stakeholders involved in these complex issues to clearly articulate where they are going, why and how they will get there.

From time to time we’ll employ our technical know-how, but these are not front-seat skills by default any longer.  Not if we want to make a difference.