Community Development Society

News and Information

President's Update - Paddling Along

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As summer winds down, I find myself reflecting on the adventures I’ve shared with my family this year — visiting Detroit, camping in Northern Michigan, and all the memories we made together. Spending time with my children and parents also brought back summer memories from years past. One summer, when I was a teenager, my parents took us whitewater rafting. It sounded so exciting and I was certain that we were going to have the adventure of a lifetime, and I suppose we did, except, not the way I anticipated. Rather than facing the rapid together and triumphantly making it through the course as I envisioned, we crumbled. I accidentally knocked my dad out of the boat, we argued, my brother became disengaged, and at one point we weren’t going anywhere because each of us were paddling in opposite directions. We did eventually make it to the end, together and in one piece, but it took us putting aside our squabbles to communicate and collaborate.

As your pilot, I’ve worked with our staff and leadership to land the CDS plane to get us through an enriching and engaging Detroit conference. Now, I’m feeling like we are in a boat on a river, all paddling in different directions. Through this coming year, a year of celebration of our 50 years as an organization, I pledge to continue to work together with our leadership and staff to ensure that we are all paddling in the same direction.

Currently, your board is working to improve policies and procedures through exploring policy based governance. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) The board will also be working to engage members through the committees to keep energy flowing to our organization. Here is an outline of our committees. Please let me know if you want to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. one!

As your President, I will focus on communications and engagement to continue to enrich our organization and to look for places to engage for sustainability through our 50th and beyond. We have been through a lot of changes over the past few years, leaving many of our members looking for more information. I’m hoping to provide that information through a series of short, videos and blogs. Additionally, we will be hosting some townhall-style dialogues for members to answer questions and provide a place for your input on happenings in our organization. Stay tuned for more info!

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President's Update - Flying the plane together

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I read recently that flight instructors tell student pilots to “just fly the plane” when problems arise in the sky. They do this to remind the pilot to not become so distracted by problems that they crash the plane. I’m writing this President’s Update as your new pilot working to ensure our CDS plane does not crash. Although we have been through some turbulence, we are back to flying this plane together – our conference is on track, our leadership is strengthening, and our management is streamlining. Your Directors and Officers have re-committed themselves to working for the members, actively designing more and better processes for engagement. Here we go together!


We have launched the registration for our 49th annual international conference in Detroit (#CommDev18) with the help and support of our Conference Planning Committee, Local Host Committee, and dedicated staff and vendors. The conference includes an engaging line up of keynote speakers highlighting community development in Detroit, mobile learning workshops that will take us to see activities around the city, and an array of interactive and informative presentations. Details are being finalized, so keep an eye out for updates!

Recent leadership resignations left some temporary gaps. Following our current guiding documents, the bylaws enacted in 2004, and confirmed by our committees and board, I assumed to the presidency and will continue through my elected term ending July 2019. It is my honor to continue to serve CDS. I promise to bring to my presidency the same effort and commitment to our organization that has guided me thus far. I will work to improve our governance, organization development, and meaningful member engagement. I strive to listen to our members and work in the interest of our organization. Please feel free to reach out to me directly (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (239) 4654-6976) if you have any thoughts or concerns or see a role you can play to help us achieve these goals.


The Conference Planning Committee, with the support of the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, and the past presidents, is taking on the responsibility of stewarding our 2018 conference to success in lieu of appointing a Vice President of Programs. I will also continue to serve as conference chair to coordinate these collaborative efforts.


The Board has appointed Jane Leonard to serve as Vice President of Operations. She has accepted the appointment and is currently working with the Executive Committee and Board to ensure we have a conference location for 2020. She brings not only her professional experience as a “prac-ademic” to the role, but the experience of having been part of the CDS leadership in the past. She will no doubt add a bridging dimension to discussions on the advancement of our organization. I really appreciate Jane’s willingness to step up for our organization in a time of need.

Elections for new CDS leadership are coming up shortly. Please be on the lookout for the email containing your ballot information and vote for the candidates that you know can help lead our organization though our 50th year and beyond!

The Board has also been exploring ways to update our guiding documents, including our bylaws and our Policies and Operations Guidelines (POG). Although some work has been done in this respect, the Board wanted to ensure that proper member engagement was part of this updating process, so a committee has been formed to design a process around updating our organizing documents. This will include interactive sessions to gather member input during the 2018 conference, a clear transition plan for any structural changes, and transparency and communication in relation to proposed changes. We look forward to including you in the process of updating and improving the functioning of our organization.

I am appreciative of the work of our new Managing Director, Justin Fallon-Dollard. He jumped right in supporting the conference proposal submissions, registration, and logistics, as well as processing memberships, working with our finances, and looking for ways to streamline and improve our administrative processes. Management transitions are not a simple undertaking and I want to acknowledge the commitment Justin has made to support CDS through all our recent transitions. The Executive Committee and the Board will continue to work with Justin to ensure that all the operations of our organization are running smoothly and improving moving forward.

This has been a challenging time for CDS and for me personally. I look at what has happened recently, and I can hardly believe what we have been through. I do know we learn from mistakes and we become stronger through challenge. The committed remain to drive us forward together. I am proud to be a part of CDS, where we have been and where we are going. It is an honor to serve our members and our field. Although I can’t promise to never make mistakes, I can promise to always work for the best interest of our organization and its members. This is as true today as it’s always been. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve. Let me know how I can better serve – I’m listening.

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CDS to the Voter’s Box!

By Whitney McIntyre-Miller

CDS is proud to announce that we have secured a slate of very talented and dedicated board and Vice President candidates for election this year.  These candidates are in the process of preparing their platform statements for your consideration which address each candidate’s 1) experience in community development, 2) special, unique talents they will bring to CDS, 3) current and past experiences with CDS or other professional organizations, and 4) vision and ideas for CDS.  We will be preparing the ballots, and voting for the three board members and one Vice President will commence in March.  If you have any questions about the voting process, the candidates, or nominations in general, please contact either Craig Talmage at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Whitney McIntyre Miller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  The following individuals will be standing for the following elected positions:

 VP-           Cindy Banyai
Board-        Leanna Avery
                Jim Cavaye
                Michael Fortunato
                Kurt Mantonya
                Wilson Majee

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Call for Nominations—Community Development Society Board of Directors

The Community Development Society wants you!  The following positions are up for election:

  • Vice President of Operations
    • A 3-year term that moves into Vice President of Program and President
  • Three seats on the Board of Directors
    • A 3-year term

Nominees for these positions can expect to meet (remotely) on a monthly basis to direct the operations of the Society.  Committee leadership roles are typically assigned to each Board member.  The Board typically meets in person twice each year—late November/early December at the site of the upcoming annual conference; and at the annual conference (generally held in July).  There is no compensation provided and the cost of traveling for the two in person meetings is borne by the member (some exceptions have been made for traveling to the mid-year meeting, but attendance at the annual conference is expected).

The operations of the Society are supported by a professional management firm.  A current roster of the Board of Directors and Officers can be found at http://www.comm-dev.org/about-us/board-of-directors.  Please contact any of them to discuss in more detail what the responsibilities and rewards of being involved with CDS are.

To submit a nomination for any of the positions listed above, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or the CDS Business Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or any current Board member.  To be eligible for the ballot, nominees must be current members in good standing.  Please only nominate a peer that has agreed in advance to serve if elected.  Self-nominations are encouraged.

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Emerging Leadership Theories for Community Leadership

Emerging Leadership Theories for Community Leadership

 

 

 

 

By: Whitney McIntyre Miller

As a leadership studies scholar, I often get to explore the many ways that people utilize and think about leadership.  My passion for community development often influences that way I think about leadership.  While giving a recent lecture on emerging leadership theories, I began thinking about how they would translate to communities and leaders of community organizations.  Below I share my thoughts on these emerging leadership theories and how they may impact communities and community leaders.

Increasingly, emerging leadership theories focus on collectivism, connectedness, and seeing our world as a living system.  Gone are the days of the solo “hero” leader that sweeps into our communities and community organizations and creates great change and growth.  We realize that our world is complex and interconnected, and our communities are becoming equally as diverse and multifaceted.  Therefore these new emerging leadership theories will help community leaders think about the future of their communities and help to move their whole communities toward this future.

In order for us to really utilize some of this new thinking it is important for us to let go of past ideas of community leadership and instead embrace new ways of thinking and leading as they emerge (Scharmer, 2009).  Scharmer (2009) told us in his work Theory U that we are at the precipice of an age of individual and collective transformational change.  What we need to do is tap into our highest potential and actually learn from for the future- a process he calls emergent learning.  This requires “presencing,” or having presence in a situation and sensing what is coming.  For communities, we must turn our senses to the future of our communities by not just looking at current detriments, but thinking about how to make our communities safe and inclusive for everyone.  What will our communities look like in five, ten years?  How do we solve those problems today?  By paying attention to what is happening and leading for the future, not the past, or even the community of today.

Wheatley (2006) worked to connect organizations to the quantum physics notion of chaos theory in order to understand how we are really connected to, with, and operate like the living systems that surround us.  The truth is that despite wanting to be in control, we live in a time of chaos.  While many of us fear chaos, we should really learn to embrace chaos, because not only is it inevitable, it is also valuable to our communities and organizations.  This value comes from the scientific evidence that there is actually order in chaos.  It is this order that, when allowed to foster, shows us patterns and emerging ideas that would not only be beneficial in reducing our levels of self-imposed stress, but could also allow for our communities and organizations to flow in a free and organic manner. 

Chaos theory in organizations provides several lessons for community leaders.  First, we must learn to be flexible and lead within chaos- we must see the big picture while also keeping our feet on the ground.   Heifetz (1994) referred to this as being both on the balcony and the dance floor.  Another lesson from Heifetz (1994) is also valuable for community leaders looking to lead through chaos.  This is the lesson of the safe holding environment.  Leaders need to provide a space that keeps things calm enough for people to maintain composure, while simultaneously allows for enough chaos to stimulate creativity and emerging thought.  If we can provide this space for our communities, then we can provide place for people to self-organize and thrive.

Western (2008) is another emerging leadership theorist that takes lessons from nature.  Western’s (2008) model of Eco-Leadership is one of distributed leadership.  He saw our collective entry into the post-heroic leadership era and understood that we must think about our environment, as well as our interdependent parts and systems in order to be successful.  Building off of Senge’s (2006) now famous systems thinking work, Western (2008) challenged us to see that any leadership task, including community leadership, should be seen through the lens of holism- we are all made up of the sum of our parts and therefore leadership can emerge from anywhere inside an organization or community.  As our communities are becoming more diverse, global, and complex, it is important for us as community leaders to understand that we need to embrace our whole community, see the interactions of the various pieces of our communities, and understand how we interact with other communities and systems in order to build a strong culture that encourages leadership from throughout the community to meet our growing future needs.

Finally, we look at the impact of Wilber’s (2001) integral model on community leadership.  Wilber (2001) designed a four quadrant model (shaped as a square with two boxes on top and two on the bottom), which includes the notions of thinking on multiple levels and contexts simultaneously.  The purpose of his model is to demonstrate that there are many facets of leadership occurring at the same time, of which we need to be conscious.  The top left quadrant is that of internal reflections of our leadership practices.  The top right quadrant focuses on our leadership interactions with others.  The bottom left quadrant is where we tend to find our communities- the space where we operate leadership within groups.  Finally, the bottom left quadrant is seen as the global environment within which our leadership occurs. 

Wilber (2001) challenged us to develop each quadrant of our leadership in order to be the best leaders possible.  For community leaders, this means that we must develop our own leadership skills through reflection and self-understanding, practice those skills with each individual with whom we interact, build communities that have strong leadership capacities and reflect the best image of community-self, and nestle that leadership work within the broader context of other communities, cities, regions, states, etc.  This, of course, is no easy task, but perhaps a noble challenge for us to consider as community leaders.  What might our communities looked like if we took the time to reflect on our leadership and embrace of leadership work in terms of self, other, community, and environment?

While each of these leadership theories may seem like a long way from the comfort of how we have been leading communities for years, if not generations, if we step back we can see that, at least in the United States, there has been a growing movement away from the hero leader and toward a need for connectivity.  Perhaps we have decided that we do not enjoy bowling alone (Putnam, 2000) after all.  It is in these cases, where we crave a sense of connectedness and collectivism that we may visit some of these emerging leadership theories and think about how they may help us, as leaders, to be more responsive to community needs and vision now and in the future.

References:

Heifetz, R. (1994). Leadership without easy answers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

 

Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

 

Scharmer, O. (2009).  Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges.  San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

 

Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization (Revised edition). New York, NY: Double-Day.

 

Western, S. (2008). Leadership: A Critical Text. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

 

Wilber, K. (2000). A theory of everything: An integral vision for business, politics, science, and spirituality. San Francisco, CA: Shambhala Publishing.

Wheatley, M. (2006). Leadership and the New Science, 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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