About the Author
Brenda Herchmer is the owner of Grassroots Enterprises, a community development consulting company and an emerging tech start up called Campus for Communities. Brenda Herchmer has a diverse background gained in a variety of government, business, and voluntary sector settings. Her primary work has involved community building and comprehensive community transformation and the change process and leadership it requires. Technology has always played a significant role in her endeavours. She specializes in community development,strategic planning, and community leadership, recently serving as the Director of Alberta Recreation and Parks Association’s…
Posted on 01-01-13
Maybe the Question is the Answer?
I recently received an email from an associate saying how thrilled she was to be part of a group that supports difficult conversations. It was significant to me because it was an acknowledgement of an organizational culture that embraces questions.
Unlike some organizations where questions are seen as complaints or as being disruptive or disrespectful, I like to think we have created a culture that reflects an understanding that asking the right question is often the answer.
Without a culture that encourages questions, it’s virtually impossible to achieve results of any significance because being inquisitive and challenging the status quo…
Posted on 08-29-14
Is Real Innovation More Social Than Technical?
I am a community builder. And, if there is a gene that contributes to being a practical community builder, I definitely received a double dose.
While community building clearly needs both wings and landing gear to fly, I am without a doubt a landing gear kind of woman. So, while I’m always intrigued by new concepts, ideas, and solutions for building communities, my real test for innovation is whether or not something really makes a difference for people.
As a result, for me innovation needs to be about challenging the status quo as well as believing that we…
Posted on 08-25-14
What is Disruptive Technology and Why Should I Care?
It seems everyone these days is talking about innovation or the lack thereof. Although I was never exactly sure what it meant, the latest buzz phrase seems to be “disruptive innovation”.
This past week, amidst the chatter surrounding the pending launch of the new iPhone 6 (anticipated to be a smaller version of the iPad mini), I heard a pundit suggest that while the phone may bring new features, it wasn’t likely to be considered disruptive.
Instead, he explained, it was the first iPhone launched in 2007 that would be considered disruptive technology—not because of its attributes as a…
Posted on 08-21-14
Skunkworks? A Solution for Community Building?
Community building involves working with a variety of government departments, non-profit organizations, and businesses. Over the years I’ve learned all three typically have a lot in common.
For example, by most standards they are successful and have leaders who are smart and pretty good at doing what they do. They also acknowledge we’re living in a world undergoing fundamental, rapid, and long term change driven by unprecedented growth in technology.
Unlike me, my husband reads and understands instruction manuals.
As a result, he is a bit of a geek when it comes to technology. Over the years, albeit with some cursing along the way, he has taught himself how to assemble computers, operate complicated software programs, and build his own websites. However, something quite extraordinary happened about a month ago after he had wrestled with the increasing complexity of the website for his online kite store.
Practice makes perfect…or at least better.
Recently I have been delivering a lot of training sessions focused on the how-to of community building. As a result, I’m gaining traction in terms of becoming more comfortable and confident with both the content and delivery. However, I wobbled a bit recently when I started to prepare for a session for economic developers.
After all, up until now I have been talking about community building to people who already understand it is as a priority. That is not quite the same as talking to those in a sector like economic development who…
Posted on 07-28-14
3 Paths to Help Conquer the Chaos of Change
I’m having a tough time finding any straightforward workplaces these days. My consulting work is landing me in organizations where everything seems to be complicated and messy. Not only that, the change is often driven by a belief (usually that of the funders or elected officials involved) that there is a one-size-fits-all secret sauce solution that can be implemented within six months.
Needless to say these days it often takes much longer to check anything off my to-do list. Sigh.
When my brother and his wife split up some years ago, my sister-in-law moved her family to Florida where she was able to obtain a great job as a nurse. While it was a sound choice it also meant I lost the opportunity to develop anything but a casual relationship with my two nieces. That’s changed just recently when Jillian moved back to Canada.
Imagine my surprise and delight after all these years to find we have a lot in common, particularly when it comes to our shared entrepreneurial drive and wanting to make a difference in our communities.…
Posted on 07-11-14
There is Joy in Risk
Two years ago, having been unceremoniously cut loose from the all-consuming community development work I had passionately embraced on behalf of a non profit organization for over five years, I found myself at a crossroads. It was, as Dr. Phil would say, a defining moment.
Ultimately, my way forward would be determined by the answer to a single question, “Do I choose to finally complete the MBA that I had pushed aside for many years, or do I choose to try and make a difference with what I had learned. Clearly I couldn’t afford the time and money to do…
Posted on 06-25-14
What the World Needs Now is Phronesis?!?
Sometimes multi-tasking is a good thing. It has in fact, strengthened the Campus for Communities where I work with a number of other associates as its Founder and Principal Collaborator.
The grassroots consulting, coaching, and facilitating being done by our associates feeds and shapes the training, tools, and resources we are able to offer via the Campus. In a reciprocal fashion, the training, tools, and resources feed and shape the calibre of what we are able to bring to our respective consulting work.
I felt her angst.
In a recent conversation, a colleague and friend for whom I have the deepest respect, sighed deeply, and spoke about how overwhelmed she is feeling these days what with the competing demands of a young family, a demanding job, and a never-ending tsunami of data and information coming at her.
Despite being a woman who is clearly creative, resourceful, and innovative, she went on to speak enviously about those she knew who were good at routines and practices that allowed them to put things - meaning tasks and “to-dos” - in boxes.
It was a first for me.
While we referred to it as a biz-cation, in reality it was five fun filled days spent with three amazing women interspersed with discussions regarding our related work. Business associates who have become great friends, we now affectionately refer to ourselves as the “sistas” (although we may need to rethink that because as reported by one offspring of our group after she texted her mom, her phone had autocorrected “sistas” so it became “disasters”....hmmm).
You can’t always do it yourself. Go ahead and sing it now. Channel your inner Mick Jagger because sometimes you can get what you want if you don’t always try to do it yourself.
Maybe it’s because we’re all so busy these days or, maybe there are simply a lot of people who like to control, but it does seem there are a growing number who think it is just quicker and easier to do it themselves. I keep being reminded that while it may be a tempting quick fix to do it ourselves, it is a rather myopic view…
Posted on 04-02-14
I Have a Thing for Quirky People
I have a thing for quirky people.
You know the ones I mean — the artist who is always late, those who are like magpies and are continually distracted by the next shiny thing, and the ones who are brilliant yet struggle within the confines of traditional education.
In large part I find them to be the most interesting people who stretch my thinking and my learning the most.
While I would describe most of my quirky friends and colleagues as creative, interesting, eccentric, and oddly appealing, there are others who may not share my opinion.