Literature can Change Lives

Written by Ray Gordezky Wednesday, 19 January 2011 01:54

Twenty years ago, UMass Dartmouth English professor Robert Waxler and Judge Robert Kane came up with a revolutionary idea while playing tennis on UMD's campus courts.

“We were disenchanted with turnstile justice,” Waxler said, “and we saw an opportunity.”

The two men, along with New Bedford District Court Probation Officer Wayne St. Pierre began the program known as “Changing Lives Through Literature.”

In Changing Lives, criminals are sentenced to probation instead of incarceration, and as part of that probation they must complete a Modern American Literature seminar taught by Waxler.

The first class of “students” began the program in the fall of 1991. That class was comprised of eight men with significant criminal histories and 148 convictions among them. Just like the now-38 classes that have followed them, these men met and discussed books for 12 weeks in a seminar-style classroom on the UMD campus, along with Judge Kane and their parole officers.

The results have been impressive. In a 1998 followup study, the first 32 men to complete the CLTL program were evaluated and interviewed. Findings showed their recidivism rate — that is, committing new crimes — to be less than 20 percent, compared to the average recidivism rate of 45 percent.

via SouthCoastToday


What could happen if we introduce poetry and literature into organzations and communities without apology, but with full anticipation that it will help engage the heart and spirit?


Complexity and Poverty

Written by Ingrid Richter Thursday, 13 January 2011 15:54

Found this blog, aidontheedge, and if you haven't seen it, I thought you might enjoy the ideas that link complexity with how we tend to approach poverty alleviation initiatives. A quote: expand »

"...Because of our urgency to end poverty, we act as if development is a construction, a matter of planning and engineering, rather the complex and often opaque set of interactions that we know it to be..."


Developmental Evaluation

Written by Ray Gordezky Thursday, 13 January 2011 01:15

Developmental Evaluation is a fairly recent approach to evaluation that combines the rigour and critical thinking of traditional evaluation with initiatives that are high in uncertainty and complexity. Initiatives with multiple stakeholders, face-paced decision making and a great deal of uncertainty require approaches to evaluation that are more flexible and learning-in-real-time focussed. The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation has recently published a practitioner's guide to developmental evaluation. You can download the publication here.


The Founder’s Trap – Getting In and Getting Out

Written by Ray Gordezky

Some recent experiences with two highly effective executive directors and the challenges they are facing with their organizations has led me back to Dr. Ichak Adizes’ book of, Corporate Lifecycles. In this book, Dr. Adizes writes of the predictable patterns of development organizations go through. In particular, I was drawn back to Dr. Adizes comments about what he terms the Founder’s Trap.



Shadows and Light: The “Art” of Working at the Edges

Written by Ingrid Richter

As I face the Threshold of 2008 I am in a reflective mood. Here is a short essay I originally wrote to include in a scrapbook of reflections we are exchanging with our colleagues in the Canadian Organization Development Institute. I hope it will inspire you to reflect on your “art” too.

For me, “art” is about shadow and light. Whether it is painting, sculpting, writing, or performing music, its all about how we see, say, hear, taste and touch shadow and light. When I think about my “art-work” in complex change, I see that a lot of my focus is on discovering what is hiding between the shadows, carefully lifting the leaves and allowing a little brightness in. I try to show others where to find the beauty and strength that is dormant, buried, or shaded-out; where unvarnished truth is under-exposed, and taken for granted.

This art-work is also about seeing myself in new ways. Each time I show up in a system, I need to look hard within as well as without.

Renowned photographer Freeman Patterson says it this way:

“A camera always looks both ways. Like all serious photographers, I have to accept and deal with this fact – the reality that my images are as much a documentation and interpretation of myself as of the subject matter I choose.

Although on first viewing, an individual image, in and of itself, rarely acts as a signpost or marker of the stages of my personal development or growth, a collection of pictures provides an overview that tells the human story, and enables both myself and viewers to identify images that are representative of important changes or stages. When I am discarding old slides or negatives, I have to be careful not to throw out my life history.”