North Stars and Stretching the Visioning Rubber Band

Wanted to share a few thoughts about visioning, offer some resources, and make some suggestions.

@idelisse and I talked a few weeks ago about “terminology trauma.” We all have it. Someone uses a word, we have bad experiences with how that word is practiced, and so we flag it and sometimes are even triggered by it. In this case, the word I’m referring to is “visioning.” As always, if Miles River is experiencing terminology trauma about something, it’s a good test case for us, because Wye River will likely have it even worse.

Just to repeat what I said on our November 3 call, I don’t think we should do a visioning exercise at our November meeting. But I want us to build on the exercise we did last March. And if folks approve the POP, then we’ll be doing even more visioning next year. So we need to get very clear about what we’re talking about when we talk about “visioning.”

First and foremost, I’d highly encourage all of you to read (or re-read) my blog post about rubber bands and visioning. We may want to consider sending it as part of our pre-reads.

It’s relevant, because it speaks to why designing our November meeting has been so hard. It’s not simply a matter of tackling topics one-by-one. It’s doing it in a way that folks are experiencing the effect of the rubber band.

(As a sidenote, we may also want to consider bringing rubber bands this year to reinforce the metaphor.)

This morning, Susannah Fox shared a really great example of what a clear vision + North Star looks like.


It reminded me of something Susannah posted a few years ago that also was a great example of a clear vision. Check out the cartoon in this post.


When you have an artifact that represents a clear vision and north star that the group itself arrived at together and own, then it is tremendously powerful and catalyzing. That, ultimately, is where we want to get to with this group next year. As a path to that, I want to take their work from March and start offering possible artifacts that might help them get there.

One way possibly to do this (and Ide, I would love it if you played with this idea) would be to create a physical visioning space in our room in November. What would it look like to physically transform a corner of that space to represent some of the vision that folks put out last March? How might we do it? Would love to hear people’s ideas!


Headlines: Wye Design Meetings, Comms, & Miles River Meeting, 9/27

Headlines: Wye Design Meetings, Comms, & Miles River Meeting, 9/27

Wye Design

Communication with Wye List Serv – This week

  • EEK re: Design Team meeting & Synthesis & Convos
  • JT  to Wye Design Team with List of LIO Alums to spur thinking re: Who to invite and involve


Before Oct 7

  • Sharing Draft POP, Sept 22 (ish)
  • Following up on asks?
    • Inviting Andrea and Amy to Design team
    • One on One with lists of Who Else to engage with. – who is doing what and by when? Miles River to pick up the slack here.


Oct 7 Wye Design Call (eden out)

  • Agenda
    • Feedback on 2017 POP
    • Who Else
  • Follow Up
    • Sharing integrated version of POP with Wye River List serv- EEK
    • Additional guests one on one conversations and confirmations


Oct 28 Wye Design Call

  • Agenda
    • Who – have list of “who else” will be attending Wye River
    • Success Spectrum for Nov 2017 meeting
  • Follow Up


Nov 17 Wye Design Call

  • Close loops and help get Design Team aligned together as a team headed into the meeting

Miles River Debrief

  • Miles River Processes as Experiments
  • Working Agreements Review re: how are we working together and individually?
  • Mindsets and Assessments of our progress: how do we want to grow our individual and collective approaches/mindsets to the work, our becoming our next iteration of Miles River culture
  • Your input is welcome
  • Meeting all day on 9/27 at 101 Broadway with happy hour at Plank afterwards.

Headlines from 9/14/16 | Communications with Wye


Overview: Today we had our first Wye Design Team call since before the March 2016 Meeting. We’re heading into a very busy period and I hope these headlines can help clarify at an appropriate altitude what is currently happening with our Miles River Design. Stay tuned as items may change, shift or pivot quickly 🙂

Communication with Wye River

  • Re: Design Team and Synthesis Team high level update,  ( EEK to write and send on Monday, 9/19).
  • In one month share more concrete straw dog of POP for 2017 plan to entire Wye list post vetting and feedback from Wye Design Call on 10/6


Synthesis Next Steps

  • Context
    • Difficulting in scheduling any more synthesis calls, due to Amy’s schedule
    • Expecting minimal new data for synthesis team to look at, the juciest conversations may now be on the Wye River Design calls.
  • Options/Opportunity
    • Invite Amy and Andrea to join the Wye River Design Team and be on calls moving forward.(Timeline: once vetted with Wye Design Team)

POP for 2017

  • EEK will do the heavy lift of synthesizing the input from the Wye Design Team and the reflecting back a POP for 2017 that the Wye Design Team can give feedback on during Oct 6th call.
  • Questions, ideas, and feedback are welcome. Opening for this during Miles River meetings and also via slack, etc.

Who Else?

Scenario’s re: who is MilesRiver reaching out to in terms of who else to involve in Wye River with priority to those who Wye River leaders would consider inviting to Nov Meeting.

  • Scenario A: Move forward with list of people we have and involve the Wye design team
  • Scenario B: Put out another ask to the entire Wye list. Remind them about the STP directory. Point them to identify people folks who might fill some of the gaps identified, e.g more state based people. Possibly give them a spreadsheet to look through.
  • Scenario A and B are not mutually exclusive.


Scenario A & B both result in list of people to engage before the November Meeting.


  • Context


    • For Design Team (Scenario A) or All of Wye River (Scenario B). We have asked Wye leader repeatedly for input on who else they want to involve and we have a list of people (See list below). Now is the time to schedule calls with these people. (Timeline: email to design team in the next week)
    • for Stakeholders:
      • Here is a skeleton high level of what we’re talking about, the conversation at hand.  
      • We have a meeting coming up at end of November in Maryland, still working out who we can and cannot invite and are you available these dates just in case?
    • Purpose: We want to have a conversation and get important stakeholders insights, we may formally invite them to Wye River Meeting in November.
    • Process:
      • EEK send out email to Design Team (Scenario A) or Wye List (Scenario B) within the week.  
      • Divvy up who is talking to who , giving Wye Design team first dibs and Miles River to fill in the gap.
      • Synthesis team invited to join Wye Design calls and Nov meeting (vetted, EEK to think about how it works with weirdness re: Andrea and Amy  are on design team list).
    • Outcome: Notes from these conversations.  People have the dates saved. We gauge their interest in participation. Continue involvement of XMY and non-principals in meaningful way in Design Process.


  • Current List of names


  • Rashad Robinson, Color of Change
  • Edith Sargon, Wellstone
  • Working Families Party
  • Movement for Black Lives
  • Democracy Initiative
  • Marisa Franco, Mijente/Lanzate
  • Jacqui Patterson, NAACP
  • Vien Truong, Green For All (note GFA was previously in Wye)
  • Nikki Bas, The Partnership for Working Families
  • Michael Leon Guerrero
  • PUSH Buffalo


Miles River Debrief Day

On 9/27 Miles River has an in person all day debrief. Alison will be leading the design and facilitation of this process. The purpose of this meeting is to pause and reflect on how we’re working together and make meaning together, cull out learnings thus far, and identify cultural and/or tactical shifts or improvements.   We’ll take time to reassess our working agreements with each other, reflecting back on our work since June and look ahead to our work through December.  In addition, we’ll look at the Miles River Design process so far as an overall experiment and within that frame pull out what lessons we’ve learned in order to integrate them into our future work.  Please send suggestions to Alison or bring them to a Miles River Meeting.

Thanks to @Alison, I connected…

Thanks to @Alison, I connected Jon and Edwin and they seemed interested in meeting face-to-face (Jon was in NY). Supporting relationships between the assistants

#mediatedmirrors. Posting for mediated mirrors…

#mediatedmirrors. Posting for mediated mirrors has been difficult in terms of finding press pieces that represent a variety of Wye Leaders. Eden and I discussed posting a clip of Heather on MSNBC talking to Gary from North Carolina that was going viral on facebook. We didn’t, but it was sent to the Wye River list serv by another leader with the subject line, “Heather, you are rocking it”. That same day there were four responses about how impactful this media segment was.

#EBNAR2 I continue to be…

#EBNAR2 I continue to be reminded of the importance of the “Robin’s” in the work we do and in our relationships with them! May had to pull out of 2/3 Wye planning calls. Edwin was able to jump in immediately and make sure we had an alternative call scheduled w/her. #EBNAR2

Headlines: Adjustments, Processes, & Conversations


  • Prepping our design team to be the ambassadors going into November meeting
    -One on one conversations with design team members
    -First design call meeting is two weeks away, 9/14
  • Keeping in mind the big picture!


  • We’re moving from a period of encouraging and supporting Wye Leaders to have conversations that answer our questions which are
    1. What exactly does a “long-term, intersectional, values-based agenda” mean to you?
    2.  And If we spent 2017 doing this, what would minimum success at the end of 2017 look like? Target success? Epic success?
    3.  Who else needs to be engaged in this conversation?)
  • Now we’re prioritizing people that Miles River will reach out to for their input about questions 1 and 2.
    For Question 3, we can ask the Wye River list serv and Eugene already posed this to the Wye Design Team. We want to prioritize people who leaders would want to invite to the November Meeting. The ideal process would be to introduce them to where Wye is and get their input before attending Wye River in November, through a conversation.
  • More responses to these questions will give our synthesis team more data to work with and give us direction as we draft a plan for 2017 and design the Nov Wye Meeting.


    Continuing with current set. Eden connected Jon and Edwin via email. She is also working to help get George on WhatsApp.

    Synthesis: Call confirmed with Andrea, Amy, Ide, and Eugene for Tuesday, 9/7. Eden is working to schedule a second call which is rough.


  • Eugene has scheduled one on one’s with Sarita (9/12), Ev (9/9), Heather (9/12), and is working to schedule with Miya and May before the 1st design team meeting.


  • Alison is facilitating Miles River weekly check in
  • Eden is requesting repeatedly that assistants answer me re:confirming principals attendance at Wye River.

    On the Horizon (for more see roadmap):

  • 9/19: We Won’t Wait Summit, National Harbor, MD
  • 9/27 all day in person debrief meeting with Miles River Team, followed by happy hour with additional folks
  • 10/6: Wye design call
  • 10/28: Wye design call#headlines


I saw and thanked Jon…

I saw and thanked Jon at Forward Together for his help with Wye River. I showed him the video of Eden and Edwin’s meeting in NYC and previewed that Eden is going to connect them since they do similar work. He was excited and is going to be in NYC soon. He referenced how having a connection with Edwin could help foster more organizational connection between Forward Together and, especially between EDs.


Where Are We Going (This Year)? Why? How?

The organizations we’re working with are in it to win it. While they have gotten stronger in their leadership, while their organizations have gotten stronger, and while we’re seeing more collaboration, they’re currently not winning.

Business as usual will not get us there. We need to be thinking and working together smarter, not just more. If we do that, we think we can start to win… and keep on winning.

If business as usual will not get us there, then how we try to create that time to think and work together smarter cannot look like business as usual. In particular, we know that — for most of us — operating in the Important, But Not Urgent of the Stephen Covey quadrant is very challenging. (In many ways, we can frame the How of what we’re trying to do as finding ways to spend more time in this quadrant.)

So how do we create that time and space? Start small. This is why we’re starting with one-on-ones. It’s the easiest thing to make time for, and it’s high-value. Because of who are leaders are, it’s highly unlikely that they will make time to talk to each other and not get value out of it.

How are we supporting this process?

First, by creating a feedback mechanism. Remember the angsty email we got from one of our leaders about not holding up her weight? That’s a very common feeling among all of us. Part of what the engagement tracker + visualization does is show us how much time we’re actually spending, so that we’re not beating ourselves up based on perception.

Second, by synthesizing and reflecting back what is heard, so that we’re constantly building, not repeating, and so that the conversation becomes collective, not just one-on-one. (Synthesis + reflection is the essence of good facilitation.)

Third, we’re trying to co-create a container with the leaders. We can push them on what a good container looks like, but they have to do the work in the end, or this process fails.

One of our main challenges is reminding folks how what we’re doing now is connected to the big picture. A visualization might help, but it won’t solve the problem for us.

In Built To Last (the classic book by Jim Collins and Jerry Pollas), one of the leadership practices they cite from extraordinary organizations is constantly communicating the big picture. CEOs from these positively deviant companies spend up to 50% of their time doing this.

We need to be doing this with the design team, and the design team needs to be doing this with their peers. This isn’t happening right now, at least not at the level it needs to be.

So how do we address this? Time. We need to be spending more time on this with our design team leaders, and we need to be on message when we’re talking to them. The prerequisite for this is for us to have that message deeply engraved inside all of us, so that we are all regurgitating it with ease.

What’s made this extremely challenging is circumstances. Trying to do this in July and August of an election year is the worst possible time to do it, because people are on vacation and they’re also ramping up for the elections. On top of that, over half of our design team either spent a significant portion of the summer on leave or are missing key members of their senior staff.

This is not an excuse, it’s the reality. And, we have still done remarkable work together. The rich content on the Wye website as well as the data and infrastructure on this one don’t lie. Think back to where both we and Wye were one year ago. Think about what’s different now. Think about all the work we’ve done that’s made things different.

Our minimum goal for July-August is 10 leaders engaged. We’re at 7 with less than two weeks to go. We may not hit that goal, but we’re already close. We need to acknowledge what we’ve accomplished, but also make the adjustments we need to have success.


Headlines: Bringing the Big Picture into View

Priorities: Keeping the big picture in our sight and connecting the dots for Wye Leaders, including the design team, is a priority. This includes explaining the “What For” of one on one conversations, a values based agenda, and more broadly the existence of Wye River. Each member of Miles River can articulate this story in unique ways and we’ll be posting our articulations on this blog.

Experiments: Next iteration of Every Batman Needs a Robin is up and includes Eden meeting with assistants while on the East Coast. We have 5 active experiments, that are trying out different ways to track this process and encourage engagement!

Synthesis: Andrea from NWDA is joining this team while Jodeen has had to step off. Initial synthesis will happen before the first synthesis call on 9/8.

Conversations: We’re at 7 convos for August and we don’t know of any others scheduled. Our goal is 10 conversations. We may shift to additionally reach out to individuals whom we need input from over the next month.

No Miles River Meeting this week.