Jim Kent:

"Human change initiatives must work at social, economic, and ecological levels if they are to succeed."

Posts Tagged ‘Deep Democracy’

The Difference between Citizen Issue Groups and Citizen Committees

Posted by Jim on October 28, 2011

Date: July 14, 2008
To: Interested Parties
From: Jim Kent
RE: Email Communication
This is a response to a citizen caretaker who had a question about the difference
between Citizen Groups, that are so useful and successful in generating social capital
in a community, and what was going on in his town with his Towns formal control of
citizen participation through having to serve on formal Committees. The caretaker’s
comment: “ it looks like citizen involvement but the structure being used is not
empowering citizens in their governing process. So what is going on?”
Here was my response:
The best distinction is in the language in your email inquiry. Your reference to“a Citizen
Group”. A Citizen “Group” is formed for a short term task, highly focused,
accomplishment oriented, is solutions based and made up of citizens who have the skills
and talent for resolving a specific issue. It is a Group not a Committee. What your
Manager and Town Board are using are Committees. Committees are generally used to
support the formal policies of the Town Board and are not designed to empower or solve
specific issues of citizens, and are very long term. Most citizens do not want to serve on
such committees but are anxious in participating in action issue groups.
A Committee structure is like what happened at Charley’s first meeting with the new
Open Space and Trails “Committee”. The staff led by your Manager came in with the
program to hire a $50,000 consultant to work on designing an Open Space and Trails
program. Charley raised objection, stating that the Citizens are totally capable of
designing their own process and program. “After all the consultant will talk to the
citizens anyways and we are the citizens, so we do not need to hire a consultant.”
Charley’s model is Citizen Issue Group or Citizen Action Group where citizens are
empowered to address an issue in a “beginning and ending” time frame. So through
Charley’s effort they ended up with a Citizen Issue Group without the consultant and not
a long standing committee that often burns citizens out.
What was happening is that the Manager was trying to use his Town’s Committee
structure which in this case was a disenfranchisement of the citizens by essentially
announcing that “we” the staff are going to control this. “We just need this new
committee to rubber stamp our (the staff and council) decisions”. What generally
happens in a case like this is that the consultant meets with the Committee, does his
deliverables, reports to the Manager and the Manager to the Board. The rubber stamping
process was picked off by Charley because, as I mentioned earlier, he is from the Citizen
“Group” School of participation. The Citizen Group School is where the citizens are in
charge, they do the research and make the decisions with support (not management) from
the staff and the council facilitates the process (not regulates).
Committees are generally burn out for the participants because they work off of a generic
topic (not a specific accomplishable end product), staff controls and there is no letting the
citizens handle the problem in a holistic manner. Committees often function as an
extension of formal power.
Citizen Groups have tremendous energy throughout their issue resolution process. And at
the end are still energized. The Levinson Group for instance had complete responsibility
to negotiate the issues on the Levinson parcel now owned by the Town. The 3 person
group finished in 3 months and turned the results over to the Town Manager who had the
authority to write an ordinance for the Town Board that structured and funded the
solution. We now have a great town park and the Roaring Fork Nature Conservancy on
the site and the old mobile homes were bought out.
In a Committee structure you could not get such a focus because it is not constructed
around accomplishment and responsibility. It is generally structured around an
assumption of passivity and control by the powers that be, even though their intent seems
The Town Manager formed the Comcast Citizen Group the same way as the Levinson
Citizens Group. Citizens who knew technology and the Comcast politics were appointed
to take on the Comcast issue. As citizens who knew land use and finances were on the
Levinson Group, financial and Internet Technology talent were on the Comcast Group.
This group took 6 months to do its work. One result of the negotiation is Basalt’s
Community Access station funded by Comcast. We are the only community in the valley
to have such a facility. This facility is a direct negation between citizens and Comcast.
The Town Council or staff would never have been able to accomplish this outcome as has
been shown in Aspen and Carbondale where the policy bodies did the negotiation.
Both were short term and needed specific, non-political, talent to resolve the complicated
issues. That is why Citizen Groups are so affective in building social capital and
Committees are generally not. Usually in appointing a Committee you are trying to
balance the politics, ethnicity, diverse interests and people with formal pro and con
This is not so with Citizen Issue Groups—this structure goes for talent and solutions
oriented process people on a specific actionable issue.
The River Master Plan (RMP) was a classic example of a Citizen Issues Group approach
even though it was longer termed. There were many well coordinated smaller citizen
groups and each worked on a real issue that aggregated to the whole body. These Groups
had specific names, like Kayak Location Group. The RMP Citizen Group was facilitated
by the staff and supported by the Council, and Council members participated as citizens
when in the Groups. JKA handled the community participation and policy develop part
of the process. It gave them tremendous insight from a citizen, social capital perspective
when it came time to implement the RMP.
To this day no citizen that worked on this (3 years) has talked of burn out.
This is very similar to the very successful Kona Community Development Plan process
just completed on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Steering Committee which was a
facilitative body for citizen participation, not a decision making body, is now out of
business. Their recommendations for an ordinance were approved by County Council on
a 9-0 vote in a very short time frame. Everyone knew what was in the findings and had
ownership of them. There were no surprises.
Having clear beginnings and endings is essential for citizens being able to maintain their
interest in further issue management work. The citizens even worked out an
implementation process that fit the culture and based their solutions on an incremental
time and sequence approach to very complex issues. The talent developed among the
Steering Committee (Group) is very valuable for future action. In addition the citizens
will be ready and have energy for their next challenges when they come. But clearly in
both examples above having a clear ending preserves the citizen energy and enthusiasm
to have new beginnings when the time arrives.
This short term, end state focus of the action enhances citizen spirit and the social capital
that that spirit generates.
Jim kent

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Wes and Jim dialogue on Steinbeck and the Occupy Wall Street phenomena

Posted by Jim on October 26, 2011

The following is an exchange between Wes Stillwagon and Jim Kent which is a continuation of my post yesterday under Deep Democracy.


Here’s a virtual toast to Garry Trudeau!

Relative to Tortilla Flat, I believe the first actual forming of a phalanx among the paisanos was inspired, clarified, and verbalized by Pilon. The group’s feeling that Danny, the apparent caretaker (my opinion) was spending too much energy and time at “Sweets” (with the Sweeping Machine) and did not have time or energy to be with them. “At first his friends ignored his absence, for it is the right of every man to have these little affairs. But as the weeks went on, and as a rather violent domestic life began to make Danny listless and pale, his friends became convinced that Sweets’ gratitude for the sweeping-machine was not to Danny’s best physical interests” From Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat. Their verbalized concern for Danny’s physical health was their logical rationalization for their call to action. Their actual value driven inspiration was that they were jealous of a situation that was holding Danny’s attention so long.* In judging group or team behavior, the logical rationalization and the value judgment are significant in analyzing group or team actions as they would require different responses.

The phalanx appeared at the group perception (value driven) of a problem that needed eliminating, “Wherefore the friends, in despair, organized a group, formed for and dedicated to her destruction.” (The objective).

Specifically, I believe the group was reacting to a vacuum created by the missing and beloved Caretaker Danny and the leader in this action was Pilon. I believe a similar reaction would have been witnessed on Cannery Row if Doc’s time and presence were dominated by Suzy. I suspect the leading role on Cannery Row in such a situation would have been filled by Fauna or Mac.

The phalanx (with the objective) was a complex of unique and to them, tacitly understood, individuals drawn together by forces in the collective unconscious (like opposite poles of magnets). It would be a big mistake to attempt to influence the illusionary mass or community. “Their campaign had called into play and taxed to the limit the pitiless logic of Pilon, the artistic ingenuousness of Pablo, and the gentleness and humanity of Jesus Maria Corcoran. Big Joe (the Portagee) had contributed nothing.” (Steinbeck) Does this not remind one of Jung’s functional types?

The OSW apparently has yet to realize this necessary quality of a successful phalanx or team effort and as a result we’ve see no tangible accomplishment beyond a show or theatrics.

The phalanx, if made up of individuals of higher adult maturity, has strength far beyond that of its apparent resources. Our society suffers tremendously by failing to realize the structure and dynamics of Steinbeck’s phalanx and Jung’s collective unconscious.

*This is, in my opinion, not unlike the feelings of the apostles, especially Peter, toward Mary Magdalene’s domination of the attention of Jesus”


Good insights and theory application Wes. So using the Danny analysis in the OWS movement to a Phalanx here is where I think we (they) are:

“But as the weeks went on, and as a rather violent domestic life began (the 99% of neglected citizens by the system) to make Danny listless and pale (our society before OWS–remember “where’s the anger”) , his friends (the occupiers with social networking at their finger tips) became convinced that Sweets’ gratitude for the sweeping-machine (Wall Street) was not to Danny’s best physical interests (our society and the 99%ers)” From Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat.

“……at the group perception (value driven) of a problem (OWS) that needed eliminating (the inequities of our system) , “Wherefore the friends, in despair, (occupiers of Wall Street and international movement) organized a group (not done yet–still in the self organizing stage–but coming), formed for and dedicated to her destruction (not decided yet-still time for reasonable equitable outcomes) (The objective).

Danny, Pilon and the boys would have never agreed to allow a “Super Committee of 12 to decide the fate of our society” not now, not ever. They were participating in, predicting and controlling their environment and would not tollerate giving their power away as this congress has done.

So among the phalanx of Steinbeck, Jungs functional types, Kent’s informal network archetypes, and Wes’s concept of the individual–we are in pretty good shape to understand this OWS phenomena in a manner that pundits cannot comprehend because they are trapped in the tapestry of the formal system of leaders, control, imposed goals, self-serving actions, and no sense of humor.

Of course from Steinbeck’s writings is where I first extracted the basic concepts of the Discovery Process—from the Moon is Down, Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday and Grapes of Wrath.

Well said Wes, how was my interpretation?? And a hardy toast to Jon Stewart who has the only real news on TV!!



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The Occupy Wall Street and Social Ecology

Posted by Jim on October 25, 2011

To all Steinbeck and Social Ecology scholars and practitioners.

The attached article, miss labeled by the headline writer, is a must read for all of us. Putting politics and pundits aside this is an important happening for our social ecology and public policy program. The story it turns out is a description of “self organizing principles” being created for governance of a newly emerging phenomena of diverse community (not the threatening headline that was chosen). The description in the story shows how the “occupiers” in NYC are creating their own governance system. What is fascinating is that this is coming from many who have, I am almost certain, not participated in community creation, but have been pretty isolated in their computer worlds (taken from some of the interviews). You remember Ex President Havel”s famous speech on the Velvet Revolution: “how did our young people, raised totally all of their lives under the oppression of the Soviet Union, know about the democratic principles they so wonderfully represented to bring down 40 some years of oppression.” (see Kent’s blog for complete story under Obama and Havel).

This story is an almost pure description of how the self organizing unfolds, step by step (discovery, reflection, form creation, correction, discovery, reflection). You will note the different informal network archetypes. Also some of the guidance rules they have developed that I have never heard of before: a Paramount Objection is a show stopper and is only to be used when the community harmony is threatened. There is a Stack Keeper, a new word or function to me, that insures that the different points of view are equally heard and that one segment does not dominate. (the formal hearings on development projects from government agencies could use a Stack Keeper, to prevent one segment from un reasonably dominating a meeting).

Talk about collaboration in its pure sense, and facilitation as an emergent governance process. In our social capital writings and practices we see government as being a facilitative and reflective body for forming the policies that enhance citizen empowerment. Aristotle and Socrates would be proud of this self organizing phenomena and the Forest Service and Interior Department as well as Defense, who mouth collaboration should be encouraged to study this pure form of collaboration.

Steinbeck, the inspiration of much of our social ecology work, along with Ed Ricketts would also be proud of what is happening here. Because of the self organizing principles that have emerged, the individuals have transcended the mob phenomena and have introduced a form of governance that we call heart and soul or governance by social capital. Watch out for what Steinbeck wrote about in the Grapes of Wrath. Remember the law enforcement that sent in disruptor’s to cause a commotion at the dance so that they could rush in and destroy the government run facility that treated the migrants as human. This could happen here by threatened groups, not necessarily the police, who have already tried thier harrassment tactics and furthered the occupiers mission and numbers. Her discussion, the interviewee, of how they, the individuals in the group, know who the undercover agents are is priceless. They know by the “language” they use. An undercover agents, for instance,first question is “who are your leaders”. (real meaning so we can pick them off) her answer is really a Steinbeck type of response.

I think this whole phenomena of the Occupy Wall Street needs our analytical and writing attention. No matter what happens this is a profound moment in our emerging democracy and game changer of power shifting from formal to informal systems, while the society is redefined that will create a more human, just and eqitable alignment. It had to happen as did the Arab Spring and the Velvet Revolution. When formal systems no longer connect to the people, the masses so to speak, the people eventually figure out that this is not what a democracy (or a dictatorship, or olegarchy) is about and self organize to correct on a massive scale. The non-violent commitment is key and reminds me of the six years of work that we did with President Corizon Aquino when she was elected president of the Philippines. As Havel said: “How did they know”.

P.S. Erik,Kevin, Trish let’s consider posting this to the web site on social ecology ths Erik put up if it is appropriate

Here is an excerp form my op.ed. piece written in 2009 using V’aclav Havel’s Velvet Revolution as he makes a profound point in how communism was driven out of Czechloslavakia. Note the informal word of mouth communication recognition imbedded in his speech.


KENT: In 1989, Presidential candidate V’aclav Havel spoke to the people of Czechoslovakia about principles and core values. Havel started talking about these principles and that precedent spread across Czechoslovakia and became known as the “Velvet Revolution.” This revolution saw the relinquishment of political power by the communists and it set the stage for the first free elections since 1946.

As a social ecologist concerned with how public policy is formed, I followed the Velvet Revolution very closely. Literally overnight Czechoslovakia moved from a oppressive centralized society to a vibrant, free, enterprise-centered culture seemingly overnight. By l992 the individual vendors in Prague lined the Charles Bridge, and churches were well on their way to complete historic restoration. Private business ventures flourished throughout the city and countryside. By all indications from an outside observer, one would have expected the conversion from totalitarianism to freedom to take many years. It did not. This shift to democracy that energized the civic order occurred in three short years. I believe there are two main causal factors for this rapid return to democracy.

The first factor is the observation that whatever culture is in place when oppression sets in is by-in-large the culture that will emerge when the oppression is overcome. Czechoslovakia before oppression had a high degree of civic culture and order.

The second factor recognizes the cultural mechanisms that function when oppression is in place. These are the informal communication and caretaker networks that become invisible to the oppressors, but also become stronger in order for the people to survive. These networks operate within natural gathering places and are concerned with preserving the heart and soul of their civic order. Gathering places—coffee shops, barbershops, beauty parlors, bars, restaurants, public areas, and the like—provide the opportunity to see the everyday real faces of society. Personal relationships are the key outcome made possible through gathering places. Informal caretaker and communication networks are tied to gathering places and provide the element of trust in communities. It is in these informal networks that the beliefs, traditions, stories, values are preserved out of sight of formal systems. The power of these societal elements occurring within the gathering places and informal networks held together the Czech culture pre-1989 and thus offered a foundation for survival during those many years of occupation.

To give context and insight to what happened in Czechoslovakia during this period the following is quoted directly from President V’aclav Havel’s speech made on January 1, 1990, as a New Years Address to the Nation in Prague. HAVEL said:

“Let us not be mistaken: the best government in the world, the best parliament and the best president, cannot achieve much on their own. And it would be wrong to expect a general remedy from them alone. Freedom and democracy include participation and therefore responsibility from us all. If we realize this, then all the horrors that the new Czechoslovak democracy inherited will cease to appear so terrible. If we realize this, hope will return to our hearts..

“In an effort to rectify matters of common concern, we have something to lean on. The recent period—and in particular the last six weeks of our peaceful revolution—has shown the enormous human, moral and spiritual potential, and the civic culture that slumbered in our society under the enforced mask of apathy. Whenever someone categorically claimed that we were this or that, I always objected that society is a very mysterious creature and that it is unwise to trust only the face it presents to you…………………Everywhere in the world people wonder where those meek, humiliated, skeptical and seemingly cynical citizens of Czechoslovakia found the marvelous strength to shake the totalitarian yoke from their shoulders in several weeks, and in a decent and peaceful way. And let us ask:

· Where did the young people who never knew another system get their desire for truth, their love of free
thought, their political ideas, their civic courage and civic prudence?
· How did it happen that their parents—the very generation that had been lost—joined them?

· How is it that so many people immediately knew what to do and none needed any advice or instruction?

“I think there are two main reasons……….

· First of all, people are never just a product of the external world; they are also able to relate themselves to something superior, however systematically the external world tries to kill that ability in them.

· Secondly, the humanistic and democratic traditions, about which there had been so much idle talk, did after all slumber in the unconsciousness of our nations and ethnic minorities, and were inconspicuously passed from one generation to another, so that each of us could discover them at the right time and transform them into deeds.”


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The Chile Mine Disaster: Self-organizing through informal networks

Posted by Jim on October 13, 2010

October 18,2010

The self-organizing of the miners in Chile continues.  They have all agreed to share any money or resources earned from stories and appearance will be shared equally among the 33.  This is a clear action of cultural solidarity, where they, through small group dynamics in charge of their present and future to the benefit of the whole.

Jim Kent

I have been captivated by the whole episode of the 33 miners trapped for the last 67 days 2000+ feet down in the mine they were working. I am watching the rescue capsule bring up the miners. They are on the second one at 10:13 pm Colorado time. That experience in and of itself is incredible to see.

The reason for my interest is that this is an absolute classic case of “self-organizing” that takes place in informal networks for survival, caretaking and cultural maintainance whether in this situation or in our communityh work. In other words JKA theory accounts for the action of these miners. Self-organizing had its origins in the theoritical area of “small group dynamics”. The way these miners organized once they were trapped was to build a conscious community of 33 where they used what we call community archetypes that serve a community survival function, not unlike the informal networks in JKA community empowerment work.

Remember the miners were out of touch with the surface for 17 days so they had to ration what food they had, and it was not much, and organize their geographic space so that it served their survival, livability, health and sanity. No “Lord of the Flies” for this small group. By the time the surface rescuers got a bore hole to the enclosure where they were trapped they already had the space organized into sleeping, exercise, eating, private, spiritual, day and night routines, and work schedules from their end in anticipation of the surface rescue “breaking through” as Ed Ricketts would have said.

I think we should give this event a lot of our attention from our Discovery framework. It is so powerful and listening to the commentators and even the NASA psychologists, they are missing the point from a social ecological perspective. Whether it is a “collaboration” process or the exercise of our definition of power: the individuals ability to predict, participate in and control their environment in a manner that does not oppress others–it has our theory written all over it. From my own reflections our theoretical foundation gives a unique insight into what these 33 miners did to survive. I think that is important to document for the larger social order. We also know pretty much what will happen to them if they do not stay grounded in the “real life” they created–as they are swamped with offers for a different life. I am reminded of the group of Marines that raised the flag over Iowa Jima. Ira Hayes from the Pima Indian Tribe and 3 of the other survivors, who raised the American flag, were toured around the country speaking and raising savings bond money for the World War II effort. Eventually Ira committed suicide because of the pressures of being separated from his family and culture. He had no absorption mechanisms to find a home in the social order that he was a stranger to. Lots to consider here.

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Posted by Jim on May 6, 2010

This reflection on the transformation of our society is inspired by JKA Associate Harley Parks in Honolulu, Hawaii. Collaboration, participation, citizen-based stewardship, sustainability, livability, individual and ecosystem health are all part of the emerging Age of Ecology. The Age of Ecology, which is my term, had its origins with Ed Ricketts, a Marine Biologist, who owned the Pacific Biological Laboratory on Cannery Row. He wrote an amazing book called Between Pacific Tides after his and Steinbeck’s excursion to the Sea of Cortez. This was one of the earliest books on ecology. It was published in 1939 and republished several times since because it is still used in college courses on marine biology. Ed predicted the demise of the sardine industry, tracking his indicators to the very year that the sardines did not come back. Of course the commercial sardine industry would not pay heed to this strange prediction.
This publication was followed by Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath which documented the physical-ecological destruction of America’s grasslands known as the Dust Bowl. What a surprise that the “rain did not follow the plow” a deep held myth propagated for many years in the agriculture communities of the Great Plains. When the rain stopped the soil turned to dust due to lack of care. In California the Oklahoma migrants trying to find work ran into a social- ecological disaster when there was no protection for them from predatory farmers and orchard growers who exploited their powerless condition. It was a government camp where the Jode’s finally found control and predictability over their environment. A “U.S. government run camp” that provided a safe island in a sea of inhumanity.
The next major event was the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in the early 1960s. This book and its aftermath set the stage for the passing of the first federal laws to protect our environment from continued exploitation by the industrial complex. NEPA, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Council on Environmental Quality, new regulations for all federal agencies, especially Interior and the US Forest Service. At the same time the social inequities were being addressed by the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voters Rights Act, War on Poverty including Head Start, Legal Aid, Neighborhood Health Centers. Environmental protection and social justice arrived in our society at about the same time—a major confluence of incredible proportions that was a once in a lifetime happening.
Thus began our move as a nation from the Industrial Age to the Age of Ecology. It was the strong environmental movement that grew and carried the burden forcing compliance while other profound shifts were taking place in our society. Citizen awareness to their external environments and the fact that they could impact those environments that oppressed them began to fall into place. People in their everyday informal networks began to empower themselves. Surviving, taking care of each other and maintaining ones culture began to gain strength. It became clearer and clearer that oppressive systems in the formal order that fed our politicians were coming under siege. The current turmoil is the turmoil that takes place when a society moves from one Age to another. Chaos is the adjustment of our citizens to an ecological age.
The Age of Ecology requires collaboration, participation, partnerships, deep democracy– all concepts that are currently being driven by a major trend called citizen-based ecological stewardship. The election of Barack Obama was the institutionalization of the shift from industrial age exploitation to the ecological age of caring for our physical, biological, social, cultural and economic environment. It was the long awaited “tipping point”. The major crisis in finance and banking that almost brought our society down, climate change, exploding oil rigs and refineries are all indicators of an end of the industrial era where citizen’s lives are exploited for narrow vested interests to accumulate wealth at the expense of the environment and society. What we are seeing is the emergence of formal government, systems that must get their strength and legitimization from the citizens in their informal networks, from citizen-based ecological stewardship, and not from formal vested/ special interest groups.
The future is based on a new phoenix rising of people, in their human geographical areas, taking control of their immediate environments. The new order is based on participating and gaining predictability and control of our physical and social environments in a manner where others do not have to be oppressed or sacrificed for individual or corporate gain.
Indeed there is a new era arising and it is profound.
Jim Kent

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Stories of Heart and Soul in Community

Posted by Jim on September 17, 2009


The Use of Informal Networks and Gathering Places, Essential Elements of Heart and Soul, Allows Denver International Airport to be Built

The newspaper Denver Post read: “The Colorado General Assembly brokered a deal in 1985 to annex a 40 + acre plot of land in Adams County into the city of Denver, and use that land to build a new airport. Adams County voters approved the plan in a referendum in 1989.”

 The back story of this announcement, the hidden action that produced the vote by the citizens of Adams County to approve this annexation, is one of risk taking by Roy  Romer, then Governor of Colorado and James Kent Associates (JKA) leaders in the understanding of gathering places as communication centers and informal network decision making. 


In Colorado there is a state law that does not allow annexation by one jurisdiction from another with out the approval of the voters of the jurisdiction from which the land is to be annexed i.e. Denver needed 40 + acres of Adam’s County land in order to have the right land base to build its then new Denver International Airport.  The Governor took charge of the campaign to persuade Adams County citizens and businesses to support the annexation effort.  The campaign to make this happen had spent approximately $1.2 million in media ads, slick brochures “selling” the benefits of a new airport and the usual newspaper interviews and ads extolling the virtues of  this new airport for citizens of Adams County.


Five weeks before the vote in November of 1989 Jim Kent’s phone rang and on the line was Judy Harrington from Governor Romers office.  Shee explained that the formal campaign was not going well, that if the vote were “taken today” Denver would lose by 5 points and the airport would not be built.  The Governor wanted to know what could be done to turn this election around i.e. “can JKA’s  informal networking abilities turn this election”.  No small order when there was only 5 weeks left to get into the field.  The Governor was asked for two days so a quick check on what was going on with Adams County people who would vote on this referendum could be done.  Dropping into several gathering places the JKA team found what turned out to be the fatal flaw that was bringing the campaign for annexation approval down to defeat. 


The people of Adams County from the brief gathering place descriptions had what is termed an imbedded issue.  In the gathering place talk was the belief that “there would be no jobs or business opportunities at DIA for Adams County people.”  This was not true but it had the characteristics of an imbedded issue–one that is re-enforced daily through trusted word-of-mouth communication.  What was known was that the formal campaign could not penetrate to persuade the people that this “no jobs, no business opportunities” was “just not true”. With the information in hand the Governor was called with the following message:


“In order to turn this election around in 5 weeks, here’s what we have to do and how we are going to do it.”  The Governor was told  that in the next 5 weeks he would be needed every morning from 6:30am to 8:00am to visit every coffee shop in Adams County.  He was to bring no paper to write on or handouts and was not allowed to use “sell” talk.  He had to “listen” to the people and if he needed to draw something “draw on a napkin”.  The team needed to find the issues that the people had and respond to those issues to get underneath the “theme of non-access to jobs and businesses at DIA”.  In addition every Saturday he would work the “flea markets” to visit the booths to talk to the vendors about their issues and observations.  Finally the Governor’s Mansion with Governor Romer present will be available every Sunday between 2 pm and 4 pm for all of the Barbers, Beauticians and Bartenders (The 3 Bs) to come in and talk over their concerns and issues.  From the gathering places to the Mansion all of the people i.e. waitresses, vendors, and the 3 Bs were natural communicators in their respective networks and they moved information informally throughout Adams County.


As the issue got clarified in these word-of-mouth networks the new knowledge enhanced by the Governor about the fact that indeed there were “jobs and business opportunities” replaced the “myths and rumors” that the formal (and expensive) campaign could not penetrate.  In five short weeks this informal network and gathering place campaign contributed to turning the election from a sure 5 point defeat into a 4 point win.


To this day the process is  known as the “Oat Meal” circuit.  The Oat Meal circuit is designed to assist local citizens to empower themselves through participating in finding the truth and facts and not be disempowered by rumors and half-truths. The finding of truth and facts is a part of a community finding its heart and soul.  The community found on their own, through information and knowledge development, that there were opportunities that they were being deprived from taking advantage of them.  Outsiders who had a corporate agenda that needed to produce a vote against the annexation for their own gain were the ones who planted the “rumors and half truths”.  Had they prevailed in their narrow interests they would have deprived the citizens of Adams County from this great social and economic opportunity.




A side story of how the Governor worked to win the heart and soul of people at the gathering places takes place at a Café in northern Adams County where planes from one of the runways at DIA would come close to overflying some of the land in northern Adams County.  The Governor was in a booth with several people in the booth and several standing around.   Kent was standing with a waitress by the counter.  The Governor had been listening intently to Mildred a chicken and egg farmer in the area who was concerned about the planes flying overhead head and making noises.  Here’s the dialogue:


Mildred:  “Governor I don’t want that airport because the planes using the new runway will make so much noise that my chickens will stop laying eggs.” 


Governor without pausing and in the blink of an eye said:  “Tell you what Mildred, if you will consider the benefits of a new airport I will talk to our College of Agriculture to see if they can breed some chickens that are deaf.”  Every one relaxed and had a good laugh and the Governor had several more supporters.


Kent to Waitress:  “I didn’t know noise affected the ability of hens to lay eggs?”


Waitress to Kent:  “I don’t know about that, but I do know that Mildred’s chicken never did lay eggs very well, noise or no noise!”

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Welcome To Jim Kent’s Blog: Initialization

Posted by Harley Powers Parks on June 15, 2009

Welcome. This post provides a baseline entry with the appropriate categories, tags, pages, links, comments, media, layout, logging in, and anything else that can help to help start and administrate the blog.  Thank you for your time, contribution, and understanding.

Posted in Crisis Intervention, Culture/Social – Marketing, Deep Democracy, Educational Programs, Human Geographic Mapping, Innovations in Management, Issue Resolution, Market Segments, Public Policy Inititatives, Public Service Projects, Social-Economic Analysis, Sustainable Development, Trend Projections | Tagged: | 3 Comments »