Written by Alison Duff, Baraboo, WI
Day 1: Learning a method for how we can be effective in public life, led by Tom Mosgaller
In civic life, we’re sloppy, and the results are sloppy
How can we become more effective citizens, and more effective leaders?
Our work begins when we elect people to public service, and we must remain engaged in conversations with our elected representatives to advocate for the issues that are important in our communities. In order to be heard by these representatives, we must create power – in the best sense of the word, the ability to act – organizing people effectively and building strong foundations for addressing community needs.
Assessing our personal mission
How can we be intentional in prioritizing actions to be effective leaders?
Every 6 months, update your personal mission – what it is that you want to achieve, with regard to the issue(s) that is(are) most important to you. List the actions or involvements that you have completed, and assess whether they are contributing to that mission.
Building strategic linkages
One-on-one conversations are important for building networks and developing community leadership capacity. Ask powerful questions that are: 1) short, 2) open-ended, 3) broad, and at a higher level, and 4) hit at the gut. These are not interviews – let your conversation partner share their perspectives about the challenges, opportunities, and needs of the community. We are looking for leaders, and common goals that are bigger than individuals’ own ideologies. At the end of the conversation, ask who your contact recommends you speak to next, and build your network with each conversation.
Important leadership traits
There are many types of effective leader, but many share a few common traits: 1) humor, 2) imagination, 3) connections within their community (and beyond) and 4) cold anger – what motivates individuals to want to change the world.
Day 2: How do we create an educational system that works for all Wisconsin children?
We visited two schools that provide important insight about approaches for providing students with educational opportunities in challenging circumstances. How do we ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to an education that will provide them with the skills, support and experience they need to succeed as adults? How has partisan politics shaped education in Wisconsin, and how can we overcome barriers to create an effective educational model that meets the needs of all of our students?
Day 3: Our role in developing and supporting a strong, effective educational system
“For the state of Wisconsin to be successful, Milwaukee needs to be successful.”
How do we address educational goals within the larger context of civic issues – and better mobilize our educational system as a central part of community building?
“I refuse to believe that poverty and mobility prevent a school system from performing.”
How do we take responsibility, as citizens and community leaders, for challenges within our educational system? How can we empower students, teachers, parents, and other community members to be advocates for quality education as a civil right?
Schools must be warm, welcoming places for students and their families, and create the opportunities children need to succeed. How do we create this environment in all communities, in circumstances where resources are limited, and ensure that all students are motivated and challenged with high expectations for their performance?
As leaders, we must have the courage to speak up when something is wrong, and do something about it.