Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Where did the "Public" go in our Public School System?

Here’s a blurb about school fundraising that just came into my email. I would extend the argument made in the article below about equitable funding within a district to equity across the state. Tax dollars, allocated equally on a per student basis across the state, should fund an equitable public education for all. Local bonds, parcel taxes, and foundations create a 2 tiered system that provides higher income areas with more resources to backfilled decreased government funding while at the same time continues to let the public off the hook (i.e. more tax cuts) for funding public schools – which then hurts low income areas even more. It’s a negative reinforcing cycle that allows for more and more tax cut driven decreased public school funding. The people with the time and money to focus on education should be focused on education for all children, not on bake sale fundraisers for just their kids in their schools or even just their district. Every check we write to our local foundation takes tax money away from a school somewhere else in the state because it lets the public off the hook for funding all our schools. Isn’t there an innate and obvious hypocrisy in allowing “Private” foundations to fund “Public” schools? Should they even be allowed? Doesn’t funding your child’s school through a foundation go against the private inurement limitations on Public Benefit Nonprofits?

Tax-based school funding is like funding highways and police; it creates a system of common wealth to fund common services. Education lays the foundation for an informed citizenry; civic engagement & volunteerism; caring thoughtful neighbors that support and help one another; healthy life choices that decrease the cost of public services; and economic strength. The Return on Investment (ROI) is huge! Underinvesting is short sighted and will have disastrous consequences such as further expanding the wealth divide, between the 1% and the 99%, and increasing the demand for other kinds of expensive last resort, “safety net” public services (like jails and emergency rooms).

From the Nonprofit Newswire . . .

November 29, 2011; Santa Monica Daily Press | School districts find themselves less and less able to cover their budgets just with tax dollars but if parents fundraise for individual schools, kids in schools with higher income parents will get more resources. In Santa Monica/Malibu the school district has put its foot down and all fundraising for staff will go into a central pool.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Create Maps with Google Earth & Maps Tutorials

I was invited to participate in a two day Google Maps training last year as part of their outreach to nonprofits. It was a fantastic training and I have used the Mapping tools to create maps on the MarinSpace website. However, I always forget where the tutorial page is so I've decided to add it as blog post so I can always find it on my blog (I'm also using this as an excuse to experiment with iFrames as a way of embedding website content into a blog post - pretty cool if it works!)

Click here for link to the MarinSpace Google Map page
Click here for a link to the Google Outreach blog article about MarinSpace's use of the tool.

Amazing Nonprofit Data Visualization Map

Just found out about this very cool information visualization map called the Texas Connector. Here's the info page and check out the tool at http://onestar.dfwmaps.com/.

Imagine if every community had this kind of information to be able to create self-generated (rather than foundation forced) service provider connections.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reframing Taxes

Do not debate from within the frame you are arguing against -- offer a new frame!

For example, when asked "Are you for or against Tax Relief?" you could answer "What we really need is Tax Reform that creates more Tax Equality"

This reframes the conversation from equating Democrats with higher taxes and Republicans with lower taxes into a conversation about change and equality.

Embeded Twitter Feed - George Lakoff Resources

I'm testing an idea I have for using Twitter to aggregate resources on a particular topic into a single Blog Post. The feed below was set to aggregate stuff related to George Lakoff. So now if I come across web resources that I want to aggregate on this topic I just use the #lakoffsh tag and they will automatically aggregate on this Post.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Meeting Synthesis Process Tool

Here are the graphic slides I used to facilitate the last session at an Association of Philanthropic Counsel workshop. The goal of this session was to help the group synthesize all of the topics that had previously been presented into a personally relevant and professionally actionable "take away" game plan.

During the workshop one of the tools a participant presented to the group was The Art of Focused Conversation.
The Focused Conversation Method developed by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) as part of its Technology of Participation (ToP™) has helped people reflect on everything from poetry and movies, to the latest office blow-up, to how to build better widgets, tractors and hamburgers, and even how to give better health care. It is a relatively simple process that enables a conversation to flow from surface to depth. A facilitator leads the conversation through a series of questions at four levels: Objective (Begin with data, facts external reality - “What did you actually see, hear or read?”), Reflective (Evoke immediate personal reactions, internal responses, sometimes emotions or feelings, hidden images, and associations with the facts - “What was your gut level reaction?”), Interpretive (Draw out meaning, values, significance, implications - “What new insight did you get from this?”) and Decisional (Bring the conversation to a close, eliciting resolution and enabling the group to make a decision about the future -“What do you think we should do?”)
It was very well received by the group and I personally resonated very strongly with the methodology so I decided to experiment with it by using it as a process framework for my whole session. It seemed to work well and I look forward to continuing to experiment with integrating The Grove’s Facilitation Model™, built on a framework called “The Four Flows,” as inspired by Arthur M. Young’s Theory of Process with this methodology

Monday, November 7, 2011

Don't think of an elephant! or our American democracy as built upon mutual care, shared responsibility and trust.

Yesterday I randomly picked up a copy of George Lakoff's book "don't think of an elephant! - know your values and frame the debate, the essential guide for progressives" at the used book sale during my daughter's school faire. I haven't been able to put it down since. What a stroke of ironic luck! (the event at which I happened to pick up the book was a fundraiser for our local public school - more on the Privatization of our "Public" school system in another post.)

Not only did I devour the book, but over the past 24 hours, I've also read, or at least scanned through, a whole bunch of his other writings and blog posts. If you want to get a good taste of his political perspective click here to read his July 2011 article "Why Democracy Is Public: The American Dream Beats the Nightmare" or read his April 2007 article "Progressive Taxation: Some Hidden Truths" or click on the picture of the book or here to read about the book.

The basic idea, from this UC Berkeley Cognitive Science Linguist turned political thought leader, is that progressives are, and will continue to, loose the hearts and minds of the American public if we don't start strategically re-framing the political debate back on our own terms. We must stop defensively arguing against conservative republican frames, since using their language only serves to reinforce their frame, and start creating language to activate political support for core progressive values - mutual care, shared responsibility, and trust.

From his research on metaphor and language he, points out that both parties use the "Family" as metaphor for our nation. Conservative republicans believe in a "Strict Father" model while progressives believe in a "Nurturing Parent" model. All our differences in values, language and public policy derive from these differing world views.

This reading has triggered many ideas and connections to other topics I've been thinking and reading about lately. So stay tuned for more to come on Progressive Taxation, Tragedy of the Commons and Misguided Progressive Philanthropy, In Defense of Personhood, The Privatization of our Public Schools and much much more....