Learning, Experiments, Tips, Tools, & Resources
Short answer: a Strategy Sandbox is. . .
Long answer: In my work with groups over 20+ years, I've had a chance to learn and practice with a lot of tools and approaches used in group decision-making and strategy formation. I've seen groups move powerful strategies forward and create incredible change. I've seen groups adapt their strategies to overcome unforeseen barriers, mitigate unintended consequences, and respond to changing realities. And I've seen strategies flounder and fail, or fall short of the shared vision of the group, often triggering waves of burnout and collective frustration.
At this point, I start with some baseline assumptions about strategy and change:
1. Participatory process with shared power is key to creating good strategy.
2. Start as far up the ladder of participation as possible, and keep moving up as far as you can go toward community control.
3. People who are most impacted by decisions hold the expertise to create solutions, and community-led strategies are the most adaptable and effective.
On a practical level, what does it look like to design strategic work grounded in these truths? What are the practices, approaches, and tools we can use to share decision-making power and build community-led strategy?
I've been in ongoing conversation with organizations, movements, and leaders over the past couple of decades about this, and have been fortunate to have some amazing opportunities to collaborate, co-conspire, create, and design with brilliant facilitators and leaders and with groups doing really innovative, breakthrough work in communities. I have learned the value of practicing and playing with strategy together, reshaping our tools, and building skills together.
That's why this year I'm launching Strategy Sandboxes as an experiment, with the intention of creating an opportunity for learning and practice in community. I hope they will be a place where we can try out some of the tools and methods I'm currently exploring, and maybe you will be able to utilize them in your own work with groups.
I like the metaphor of the sandbox because it evokes a sense of play. It's a place where we can play with ideas and tools together. A place where we can engage our imaginations. A place where we can get our hands dirty, digging in and exploring. A place where we can try things out without any sense of pressure. As we play together, we can create, but not get too attached to the things we create - castles can always be knocked down.
Here are some of the questions I'm thinking about now as I plan upcoming Sandbox sessions:
These days, the groups I'm working with as a consultant are working on big, thorny issues in a really challenging context. Family violence. Climate change. Racial inequity. The childcare crisis. All the while, culture wars, backlash, and attacks on frontline communities are escalating daily. I don't pretend to have a cure for these ills, but what I do have is a lot of years of practice with doing strategic work with groups, and some really useful new tools that I'm experimenting with to make this work more powerful and effective.
Good strategy built in community is essential as we work together to create systems of care and dismantle systems of harm. Come practice with me and let's see what change we can spark!
Gratitude to my co-conspirator Lauren Rayburn for pointing me to Rooted Strategy's facilitation sandboxes, which inspired me to create something similar in my own community.