Where 2018 went…

When I think about the work Kairos Collaborative is called to do, I always wind up back at the passage where Jesus is teaching in the Nazareth synagogue. He read from the prophet Isaiah, where it says:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because

He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.

He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set free those who are oppressed,

To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

When he finished reading, Jesus told the congregation “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” As I’ve tried to follow Jesus, I find myself drawn to live into his mission of proclaiming “the Kingdom of God is at hand”: releasing those held captive, healing those who are sick, lifting up the oppressed, and celebrating the jubilee of generosity that epitomizes the reign of God.

For all who have supported Kairos Collaborative, your gift has been part of that jubilee of generosity and I’d like to share with you some of the ways we’ve used it to join Jesus in this work:

  • HBCU TROHP (Kairos mission alignment: the race project): The HBCU Truth & Reconciliation Oral History Project is the early stage of a 50 year plan for healing racism in the United States. This plan, developed by Rev. Steve Miller, is the result of a decade of civil rights advocacy, combined with theological education. The United States Christian Leadership Organization (US-CLO) is the lead sponsor for the oral history project and will be a hub for additional initiatives going forward. 

    In 2017, the Oral History Project brought teams from HBCUs all over Texas to Houston to interview members of the community about their experiences of racism. You can see one example in this video, where Steve Miller interviews Alicia Summers, one of the students involved in the project. Alicia’s story is powerful, but you have to wade through some audio and video production issues to actually get to the story. 

    I joined the project for the 2018 iteration and took responsibility for the technical dimension of the project. To help the students get ready, Steve and I made the rounds to offer three regional training events to prepare the students to understand the significance of the work we’re doing, learn empathetic listening skills, and get some practice interviewing and operating the cameras and audio recorders. Kairos Collaborative purchased tripods and audio recorders to make sure that the narrator’s voice was the most prominent thing in the recordings (as opposed to, say, the air conditioners that featured prominently in the 2017 recordings). I think you can see and hear the difference in this interview with Kimberly Holiday. 

    Last weekend, we went to San Antonio, again following three regional training events, one for each of the previous three weekends. We purchased additional tripods and audio recorders to operate 15 simultaneous interview rooms. This year we captured 56 stories to add to the 36 we recorded last year. Each story is different, but they all share the common theme of children of God being mistreated for ridiculous reasons. Our part in putting an end to that includes building a repository of these recordings, with accompanying transcripts, that will then be available for academic study. US-CLO has an agreement with Baylor Press to publish a text book based on this work. The transcription, editing, and publication of the interviews themselves is an ongoing project for which we are in search of a suitable process. 

  • Narrative 4 (Kairos mission alignment: the listening project):   I first encountered Narrative 4 in a New York Magazine article title “The Great Gun Exchange.” The article mentions a 20-minute documentary called Guns and Empathy, which captures a Story Exchange in which gun rights advocates and victims of gun violence meet for a radical experiment in empathy. It’s incredible, beautiful, tragic, and compelling. As soon as I saw it, I said, “How can I be part of that?!?”  They’ve also done some very fine work with public schools in Connecticut, North Carolina, New York, and Kentucky.   

    I’d been in conversation with them for nearly two years about coming to Texas and in 2018 it finally happened. We hosted Michael McRay of Narrative 4 and Charles Miles of Chicago Public Schools at The Mix Coworking Space in Dallas, made available to us at no cost by The Missional Wisdom Foundation. Charles and Michael led a demonstration workshop on Narrative 4’s Story Exchange process on November 17. We had 12 participants from a variety of community organizations, 6 of whom were interested in additional training to become Story Exchange Facilitators. We provided the coordination and recruiting, as well as lunch for everyone. Narrative 4 paid for the facilitators time and travel expenses.

    In January, we hosted a Story Exchange Facilitator training at Texas Leadership Charter Academy in Arlington (Kevin Roe is an assistant principle there and participant in the initial Story Exchange and the Facilitator Training). This is another example of the collaborative nature of our approach where one of the participants provided the event venue at no cost to us. In this instance, we are funding the facilitator time and travel expense. 

  • Impact Mission Church (Kairos mission alignment: the race project & the equity project): Impact Mission Church is a congregation of refugees from Rwanda that meets in Hurst Christian Church. As often happens, Hurst Christian Church has been in decline as the congregation ages and their children move away. Impact Mission Church is in the process of raising funds for a down payment to purchase the building from Hurst Christian Church for $215,000, well below the market value of the property. Kairos Collaborative came alongside Impact Mission Church to develop and deploy their web site (they did not have one before). The web site serves to provide info to potential donors, and even more so, creates a point of contact for potential visitors. We also purchased and installed Honeywell WiFi programmable thermostats to reduce the operating cost of the facility for both congregations (I make a living saving energy in commercial buildings). Supporting Impact Mission Church in these ways helps enable these refugees from Rwanda to gain ground in establish and grow a new community of faith here in the US.
  • Compassionate DFW (Kairos mission alignment: the listening project & the race project): Compassionate DFW is the local organization established to support the international Charter for Compassion, which grew out of the 2008 TED prize awarded to Dr. Karen Armstrong. Kairos Collaborative is a partner with both the local and international organizations as a means of connecting with broader community engagement with compassion.  For 2018, we provided video production support for the Compassion Games event in Richardson, which was a combined effort with Feeding Children Everywhere, Compassionate DFW, and The City of Richardson. The main production deliverable was a 60-second video montage that was shared with the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto. Our video was combined with many others to share a wide ranging view of work for compassion. We also shot a short interview at the Compassion Games event with Compassionate DFW President Dr. Charles Barker. Dr. Barker, and his colleague Jack Youngkin, are the ones who introduced me to Steve Miller and the HBCU Oral History Project. They have also been instrumental in connecting me with the Communities Foundation of Texas and their Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation project with the Kellog Foundation, which I believe may have some applications for Compassionate Communication and Narrative 4 workshops.

So that was 2018! Your gift was part of making all that possible and I am grateful for your partnership. Here’s what we have on deck for 2019:

  • HBCU Oral History Project For 2020, the Oral History Project will be equipping student teams at each campus to conduct their own events on their campus. Also in 2020, US-CLO is building a coalition to host a statewide prayer gathering in The Cotton Bowl to ask God to lead, inspire, and empower us to heal racism. This is planned to be the first of many such events across the country and to take place in April of 2020. The management of The Cotton Bowl is already on board for the event and we met for initial planning last month. I have also joined the board of US-CLO to provide technical and operations expertise, as well as strategic planning support. 

    In addition to these efforts, I am working with students from the 2019 Oral History Project event in San Antonio to establish an editing process where students will produce 5-10 minute story extracts from interview footage. These extracts would contain a single narrative thread and be suitable for social media sharing. 

  • Narrative 4
    Narrative 4 has invited me to join their 2019 Master Practitioner cohort, which will involve receiving around 40 hours of training and conducting an additional 40 hours of supervised training of others. The time and travel expenses for me to participate in all this training is fully funded by Narrative 4. 

    We expect to conduct a Story Exchange this summer as part of the “Art as Conversation” event at White’s Chapel UMC in Southlake, This event brings US-born and refugee high schools students together for a day to create art together and connect. Ann Davis, the leader for White’s Chapel’s refugee initiative, is sold on the role of compassion in bridging differences and eager to have this and other compassion initiatives incorporated in this program. 

    I’m also working with Evey McKellar, a UMC pastor with the Missional Wisdom Foundation, on using Story Exchange and improv comedy with UMC congregations as they make their “way forward” following the current General Conference, which is fraught with contention and likely to leave every church in the denomination looking for ways to practice compassion with one another. We’ve also proposed workshops for the 2019 Wild Goose Festival this summer, but have not heard back from them yet.

  • Compassionate DFW
    I have secured two workshop spots in this fall’s Compassion Conference 2019. I’m planning to use one to provide an overview of Narrative 4 Story Exchange and the other to provide an overview of the compassionate communication framework based on Marshall Rosenberg‘s book, Noviolent Communication: a language of life. These workshops will be previews of both “empathy technologies” and will include invitations to follow up with more in-depth training in NVC and a full-blown Story Exchange to take place in the following week. We will also be shooting video of this year’s Compassion Week events, as well as the conference. I’ll also be joining the Board of Advisers for Compassionate DFW.

  • Faith in Texas
    An additional connection through the Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation initiative is Rev. Robin Murray of Faith in Texas. Robin participated in a compassionate communication workshop I offered at Ideal Impact, Inc. (where I am a Research & Development Fellow) in order to preview the workshop for possible use among her client organizations, as well as her leadership team at Faith in Texas. We discussed both Narrative 4 Story Exchange and compassionate communication as “empathy technologies” that might be useful to the organizations she serves.

In addition to all these plans, I’m confident that the new year (which, somehow, is already four months old!) will bring additional opportunities to spread compassion in the world. Thank you for helping Kairos Collaborative do that in 2018. If you’d like to keep helping in 2019, I’d be grateful for ongoing help as well. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss that further.

Yours for the spread of healing through compassion,
Todd Porter
catalyst + founder

the geography of inequity

At the conclusion of her article, “How Cities Are Divided by Income in Three Maps,” Tanvi Misra writes:

Put simply: As the rich cluster together, the poor get poorer, because the effects of living in poor neighborhoods are passed down from one generation to the next. That’s why dismantling economic silos within a city can boost its total well-being and economic health.

The Equity Project  seeks to do exactly this in North Texas by starting worker-owned collaborative business in areas where people most need the opportunity build wealth for themselves and their neighbors. Where are these areas in North Texas? ESRI’s Mapping Incomes StoryMap provides a useful tool for answering that question. By selecting the “Nationwide” option and then zooming in to North Texas, we can view the distribution of annual income among households in North Texas. Each dot in the diagram represents a census tract. The dots are color coded in four tiers.

Looking more closely at the upper and lower end of the economic spectrum, this StoryMap highlights the degree to which census tract varies from the national average.

As both visualizations demonstrate, the southeast quadrant of Fort Worth and the south central area of Dallas provide high concentrations of households living at or below $25,000 per year. These are the target areas for Equity Project worker-owned cooperative businesses.

Three things I keep reminding myself

I had the chance to share an afternoon with some kindred spirits last week. That kind of conversation is always refreshing and, sometimes, discouraging as we idealists often face similar challenges. Those challenges often arise in the course of doing work that is good and necessary, but now well funded in our current economic system. Thinking about that reality led me back to three things I believe, but often forget about.

  1. There is more than enough money in the world to do all the good I can imagine (and more!). It’s just all occupied doing other things at the moment.
  2. We (in the US) live in an economic system that is exceptionally effective at redistributing money.
  3. We can use this property of our financial system to redistribute money toward equity and generosity instead of just leaving it to run its natural, extractive operation.

Easy as 1,2,3, right? Of course not, that’s why I have to keep reminding myself about it! Think you might like to join in figuring out ways to make this kind of thing happen, log into Facebook and join the Capitalism for Good discussion group.

Recommended reading: the race project

This is intended to be a periodically updated post for people interested in the race project. It lists books, articles, speeches, and other resources that inform the work we are doing to create a world in which everyone has a place of value.

Blackmon, Douglas H. (2008). Slavery by Another Name. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

“Only by acknowledging the full extent of slavery’s grip on U.S. society, it’s ultimate connections to present-day wealth and power, the depth of its injury to millions of black Americans, the shocking nearness in time of its true end — can we reconcile the paradoxes of current American life.”

Gutierrez, Gustavo (1996). Essential Writings. James B. Nicloloff, ed. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

 

Wytsma, Ken (2017) The Myth of Equality: uncovering the roots of injustice and privilege.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

time to try something different

This blog post was originally published by my friends at The Missional Wisdom Foundation in the 6/16/2017 issue of their weekly e-newsletter, Wisdom for the Way.

Paul Batalden said, “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” That being the case, it seems that our economic is perfectly designed to multiply wealth for those who have it, while holding the promise of wealth just beyond the reach of those without. I find this reality troubling and find myself under increasing compulsion to do something about it. I call that something “The Equity Project.”

Redesigning the economic system so that it brings life to everyone in it is a tall order, though.  Instead, the goal of The Equity Project is to use the systems currently available (free-market economics, philanthropic investment, and community development) to break cycles of poverty and replace them with sustainable cycles of life. The centerpiece of this approach is the cooperative business structure, where employees themselves provide governance and ownership, aligning business decisions with the long-term interest of those within the business.

Cooperatives are common structures in certain niches in the US economy such as rural electric service providers, small-scale farming, and credit unions. Internationally, The Mondragon Corporation is one of the best examples available of taking cooperatives to a large scale.  Started in 1956, Mondragon currently generates annual revenues approaching 12 Billion € and employs a workforce in excess of 74,000 people, making it the 10th largest business group in Spain.

On a smaller scale, and closer to home, the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio provide another remarkable example.  “The Cleveland model” relies on a partnership between philanthropy, local government, and “anchor institutions” to establish and grow businesses designed to provide employment and build wealth in underinvested neighborhoods.  So far, Evergreen has launched the following ventures:

  • Evergreen Cooperative Laundry – high-capacity, commercial laundry services in the Cleveland area
  • Evergreen Energy Solutions – turn-key energy efficiency improvements for residential and commercial buildings
  • Green City Growers – leafy-green produce for area food services, with the capacity to serve all food service providers in a 150 mile radius of Cleveland

Evergreen came to life when the City of Cleveland, and the city-focused Cleveland Foundation, assessed their efforts to address poverty and homelessness. They were not satisfied with the results and wanted to try something different.  They partnered with Ted Howard of Democracy Collaborative, to develop agrass-roots approach to economic development.[i]

In a recent conversation with Ted Howard, I learned that the inclusion of anchor institutions in the development process was one of the central innovations in the Cleveland model. University Hospitals, The Cleveland Clinic, and Case Western Reserve University formed the core group of institutional stakeholders for Evergreen and represent combined annual procurements of $392.8 Million.[ii] The idea was to provide a product or service that could effectively serve the need represented by some portion of that budget and, in the process, improve the lives of the people involved.

Seems like a fantastic plan if you’re in Cleveland. What about everywhere else? While I’ve shared a story from Cleveland, I’m willing to bet that somewhere near where you live we could find:

  • Neighborhoods left behind by economic and commercial development
  • Place-based institutions with a long-term interest in the success of their surrounding community
  • People who want to work but struggle to find jobs near their homes
  • People born into poverty but desperate to break free of it

I’m willing to bet you might even have names and faces to go with those descriptions because, to my shame and dismay, those situations are everywhere.  I’d like to do something about that. Let’s work on it together!

[i] (The Evergreen Cooperative Corporation, 2016) The Evergreen Cooperative Corporation. (2016). About Us. Retrieved from Evergreen Cooperatives: http://www.evgoh.com/about-us/

[ii] (Wright, Hexter, & Downer, 2016, p. 9) Wright, W., Hexter, K. W., & Downer, N. (2016). Cleveland’s Greater University Circle Initiative: An Anchor-Based Strategy for Change. Cleveland, OH: The Democracy Collaborative. Retrieved 05 10, 2017, from http://democracycollaborative.org/greater-university-circle-initiative