Over a dozen years ago in assessing where we were as a community it appeared that despite a lot of well-meaning effort the problems that had plagued Fresno for decades were not getting better, if anything they were getting worse. There was agreement that lots of efforts were underway but they operated too often in silos. This often led to a mindset of competition where various groups seeking to tackle the same problems did not see each other as comrades in arms but rather the enemy in competition for scarce resources and just as important, control. There was not only dysfunction within organizations but clearly between organizations. The business, non-profit, educational, and political communities did not seem to be able to truly collaborate on any important project. Again the internal problems they each faced made working across sectors nearly impossible.
This presented a fundamental question, how do we tackle huge community issues in a way that leads to actual progress when the current structure did not support those goals? We had resources but no coordination between various stakeholders to dedicate those resources in a cooperative way through synergy to maximize their effectiveness. The more the situation was looked at it became clear of the absolute necessity of cooperation leading to collaboration between all segments of our community. So then the question became how to begin that process? How to change environment from one of competition to collaboration with aligned goals leading to aligned decision making? What became clear was the starting point in a process leading to different results was to beginning with a different way of thinking and communicating in dealing with our problems. It was not that people did not see the problems and want to solve them; it was that we did not know how to work together cooperatively towards shared goals.
Out of this came the Community Values of the Fresno Region. Whenever to undertake to accomplish something important a necessary starting point is to establish the ground rules under which you collectively agree to operate. This creates group expectations and facilitates communication within and between organizations. All the talking in the world is not communication until someone else understands what you are saying. Out of these values we hoped and continue to hope to build all the bridges necessary between the stakeholders in our locale to have a solid foundation upon which to build a better Fresno Region.
Each of these values is central to what we are trying to accomplish and they exist as a whole. There is no reason to try to rank them because depending on a particular situation any one of them at that moment might become the most vital. Also this is not a choose 6 out of 10 and you are doing well. They are 10 co-dependent standards by which we must measure our own conduct and by which others should be invited to evaluate us. They are not intended to be adopted and then shelved never to be seen or heard from again. They need to be at the forefront of everything we do as a community. This also means they need to be enforced. When folks wander from these standards of conduct it needs to be dealt with, fairly, respectfully but also firmly. People need to understand that these are the expectations. If you cannot abide by these Community Values it is quite likely you eventually will become the problem.
It is a call to civility in public discourse. None of this tells a person what they should think. This is not about one’s ideology. It is about how we approach our problems. We welcome different ways of thinking about problems. Diversity is a great asset in Fresno especially if we see each of our diverse background through the lens of the Community Values. The goal is to build bridges of trust across what at times has been wide and hostile divides. While our community has many challenges, maybe of equal importance to solving them is how we solve them. The Community Values place importance on the process and by doing that create the environment what process leads to successful outcomes.
(insights provided by Mike Wilhelm/Walter & Wilhelm Law Group)