• Palma Joy Strand

How Does Civity Grow?

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

In Civity’s work with communities, work that we call “seeding civity,” we start with the soil. We find communities, organizations, and institutions where a handful of local leaders already see the value of relationships and the importance of bridges over differences.

Government and community leaders recognize that connectivity across social dividing lines reinforces their collective resilience and ability to address the big challenges they face. Business leaders see how workplaces that are authentically inclusive generate productivity and creativity. Non-profit leaders understand that working relationally leverages their resources to magnify their organizations’ effectiveness.

In this rich and fertile soil, we sow civity.

Early in the Seeding Civity in Communities process, we engage leaders in a Civity workshop. At the workshop, leaders highlight the civity already present in their spheres of influence. They gain strategies and skills for being intentional about engaging in relationships across difference. And they brainstorm and plan how to create spaces in their own work and organizations that invite others to recognize the importance of relationships in workplaces and communities and to practice civity.

From these workshop seeds emerge tendrils that are poised to unfold. One leader is eager to build a “civity moment” into her monthly staff meeting. Another wants to change the dynamic of his next community meeting away from “us versus them.” Still another envisions integrating civity conversation opportunities into a community festival.

Civity’s work then shifts to supporting these tender shoots. We develop a script to introduce and lead a 10-minute opportunity for staff members to build genuine relationships in their workplace. We talk through ideas for how to provide civity opportunities to a crowd.

We coach facilitators in how to create the space and environment in which people can connect with others they do not know or do not trust.

The leaders we work with are intrapreneurs – people working on the inside who develop an innovative idea or project to enhance the future of an organization or a community.

These intrapreneurial leaders see how civity can help them do their work better, and they take the initiative to integrate civity into that work. These civity leaders nurture the civity seed and enable it to flourish.

We think of this coaching and cultivation as gardening.

In the book Team of Teams, Retired General Stanley McChrystal describes a fundamental shift in thinking about leadership of a complex network of military and agency liaisons: “I stopped playing chess, and I became a gardener.”

Gardeners are active, but they recognize that their role is not to direct but to support and enable.

“Gardeners plant and harvest, but more than anything, they tend. Plants are watered, beds are fertilized, and weeks are removed. Long days are spent walking humid pathways or on sore knees examining fragile stalks. Regular visits by good gardeners are not pro forma gestures of concern; they leave the crop stronger.”

Seeding Civity in Communities plants a kernel of civity. Intrapreneurial leaders, with Civity’s support, help the growing plant find its way along stake and trellis within their organizations and communities.

Civity, and the local leaders we work with, are civity-growers. We intentionally sow and tend civity.

And what we see, as gardeners do, is our crop flourishing. We see civity, growing.

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