Remote workers want community too

I've been spending more time with people who do most their work remotely. Since writing about the advantages of distributed/remote teams versus working in person, I've been paying attention to all of the time remote workers spend figuring out how to be around other people in just the right doses. They're looking to be in the same place with some fellow humans who have a common sense of purpose, or who at least share an understanding of the remote work lifestyle, even if just for a little while.

This leads me to wonder if the future of remote work isn't just a bunch of people on their own, working from home offices or coffeeshops, but instead an arrangement of remote workers coming together in person for a sense of shared experience. Ironically, it might even end up looking a lot like traditional notions of where and how people work, but probably with a lot more freedom, flexibility and fun along the way.

Here are some of the signs I see:

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Shutting down Richmond Brainstorm

20140322-screenshotFive years ago this month I launched the community improvement website RichmondBrainstorm.com. The site allowed users to submit ideas for ways to make Richmond, Indiana a better place, allowed other users to discuss and vote on those ideas, and shared success stories of ideas that had been implemented. I created the site because I think it's important for a given community to shape its own course for the future instead of waiting for solutions from state and national governments, and because I was tired of hearing good, creative ideas from others that never seemed to get the attention or visibility they deserved.

In the time since, some 86 community improvement ideas were submitted and discussed, and a number of the ideas became real projects that were implemented. The site got over 140,000 visits from around 45,000 unique visitors. I've also received contact from people other communities around the country asking for help to create a similar resource in their city, and so the idea of an online community improvement idea inventory seems to itself have become an idea worth spreading.

But, after an initial period of significant activity, the Richmond Brainstorm site had become largely dormant, with no new ideas submitted to it in close to a year. Over the years I've regularly talked to local community development organizations who have said the concept of the site is an exciting one and could even be integrated into their own efforts at prompting further conversations and action, but as yet Richmond does not seem to be a place where most of those kinds of conversations want to happen online, for better or worse. That combined with the time that it takes to keep the site's software current, deal with spammers and perform other administrative tasks has begun to outweigh the value that I think RichmondBrainstorm.com is currently bringing to the community.

So, as of today I'm shutting the site down.

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Disruptors among us

Security Theater KnifeIt seems that every healthy and thriving community, city, social group or ecosystem remains healthy and thriving because they can handle having a disruptive element with an important role to play.

The disruptors are the people or events that shake up the status quo, question why things are done a certain way, or introduce an element of chaos or discontent into the system and forces it to evolve, change or adapt.  They are the people whose survival or well-being is not dependent on the stability of the system; revolutionary new ideas and significant change rarely come from those whose livelihoods and sense of security depend on things going along as they are.

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A city in distress

edvard munch - the scream  1893If you live in or near Richmond, Indiana, it looks like you picked the wrong year to stop sniffing glue. (Does anyone get Airplane! references anymore?)

Have you ever scored yourself on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, which measures your personal stress based on which of 43 major life events (death, divorce, job change, etc) have happened to you in the past year? It's an interesting scale because it recognizes that significant life change - positive or negative - brings with it an increased potential for illness and possibly other problems.

I think if we were to do a similar scoring of events in the life of a midwestern city, Richmond, Indiana would be somewhere in the "freaking out" to "going ape-shit" range. I dare say, we're a city in distress.

Even beyond what's happening at the state, national and global level - economic turmoil, war and other violence, toxic political races, Charlie Sheen's career, etc. - I suggest that the last year in the life of our community has been an unusually tumultuous one here.

Just a partial list of some major events I've observed in the recent life of Richmond in no particular order:

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An anonymous letter about the state of Richmond

Last month I received an anonymous and wide-ranging letter in the mail about the state of affairs in Richmond, Indiana, addressed to "Positive Place Committee, Madame Mayor, Richmond and Wayne County Government Officials, Palladium Item Advisory Board, and Leadership pundits."

I take it that I received it because I'm on the Palladium-Item's community editorial advisory board (though I would much rather reside in the 'leadership pundit' category because it sounds cooler).  The letter was mailed on May 15th, and was sent via USPS to an incorrect version of my office address, but made it to me anyway.

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7 Ways to Help Young Professionals Engage in Richmond

IMG_2224.JPGThere's a new group in town - H.Y.P.E. Richmond - that is working to "connect and mobilize young professionals to make the Richmond area an even greater place to live, work, and play."  If you're interested in those efforts, you might consider joining in on the brainstorming session they're having tonight at the Firehouse BBQ restaurant, 5:30 to 7 PM.

I won't be able to attend, but as an employer of some younger professionals who gets to hear some of their concerns and struggles "engaging" in life in Richmond, and as someone who has spent my own young professional life in Richmond, I want to offer a few initial ideas about how to help connect and mobilize that demographic.  (This is in addition to the ideas already being submitted and discussed at RichmondBrainstorm.com.)  My hope is that others will add to the list over time:

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5 ways to be a leader without running for office

Pilot BoatWhen I ran for office earlier this year, I noticed that a lot of people I talked to thought of themselves as existing firmly on one side of a certain line, and elected officials existing on the other side.  It was the "who can be a leader and get things done in our community?" line.  For some folks, the implication was that progress and transformation happen only when those elected officials take action, and that everyone else just kind of does their own thing and waits for progress to happen.

Of course officials who are elected and empowered by government to take action are often central to many kinds of community progress.  But it certainly doesn't mean that getting elected is the only way to be a leader in your community.

So, I offer this list of Five Ways to be a Leader in Your Community Without Running for Office:

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