About the Author
A passionate community builder, Brenda Herchmer has a diverse background gained in a variety of government, education, business, and community sector settings. A writer, educator, consultant, coach and project manager, she has focused on enhancing the ability of seasoned and aspiring leaders to work collectively to address complex community issues with transformative change. She has specialized in community leadership, adaptive planning, community development, and organizational capacity building. She is the owner of Grassroots Enterprises and the Campus for Communities of the Future (a social enterprise/micro college) where…
Posted on 06-13-19
The Elephant in a Dark Room
I was recently reminded of the story of the elephant in the dark room found in Buddhist and Hindu culture. What hadn’t occurred to me until now is how the parable also applies to communities.
In the Hindu version of the parable, an elephant is exhibited in a dark room. A number of men touch and feel the elephant in the dark and then learn and imagine what the elephant is like. Each man feels a different part of the elephant’s body - but it is only one part - such as the trunk,…
Posted on 06-04-22
Want Transformative Change? Positive Deviants Can Help
Truth be told, I have been known to irritate those in charge, albeit not intentionally.
It took me many years working within various bureaucratic settings to realize it was largely the result of my assuming others understood the nuances as well as the values brought by those described as social innovators or social entrepreneurs.
Along the way it was sometimes discouraging to find how challenging it was for many of those in charge to embrace new ideas or concepts when they didn’t have a box to place them within their existing organizational structure.
Remember when we used to do five and even ten year master and/or strategic plans? Hard to believe but at one point in their history, the Niagara Parks Commission even had a 100 year masterplan. Personally, I struggle to plan meals more than one day out so even five years sounds daunting.
Regardless, it does seem some of the best recent planning results are those that reflect a clear sense of values. In large part, it appears those values can keep us from spinning as we try to determine priorities, as well as become important filters for ensuring impactful decision…
Posted on 05-03-22
If a Three Year Old Can Understand Collaboration…
Our youngest son wasn’t quite three years old at the time when his older brother unexpectedly gave him one of his coveted GI Joes so they could play together.
As the result of being the recipient of such unexpected generosity, he turned to me, grinned, and said, “Mommy, that’s collaboration.”
While I was sure a child with that kind of a vocabulary was a genius, upon questioning, I soon realized that he had simply absorbed collaboration as the word of the day from Sesame Street.
Like many others, I’ve learned about both personal and work-related partnerships by being part of some that were good and some I’d rather not think about.
As with a good marriage, a good partnership has the potential to enrich who you are, what you do, and how you do it.
I’ve often thought partnerships could be compared to fabric. Even though one’s existing fabric might be fine, it can be enriched and strengthened by the right partner who weaves in, mixes and mingles their own unique strands of thread and fiber. The resulting…
Posted on 08-19-21
Love Your Pink Shorts!
My mother has a sense of style that hasn’t let up even as she’s moved into her 90’s.
She loves quality clothing and has a clear understanding of what styles and colours look best on her.
When I talked to her recently, she shared that when she had been out for her daily walk, a young woman she estimated to be in her early 20’s was walking her dog on the opposite side of the street. To her surprise, the woman crossed the street to speak to her.
In my younger years as a grassroots activist I proudly wore a t-shirt that said, “Think Globally. Act Locally”.
While I knew the slogan was suggesting we all needed to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in our communities, I’m not sure until now I really understood how I could make the world a priority when local on its own was often so daunting.
As a result, my work instead focused first on community-led development, which ultimately evolved to include systems-thinking, strategic foresight, and digital adoption…
Posted on 06-28-21
Why Red Tape Stifles Innovation and What We Can Do About It
I think I was born practical. As a result I really hate wasting time, money, or energy.
No surprise then that I have very little tolerance for red tape – meaning complex and time-consuming forms and procedures.
While I no longer work for government or a bureaucracy, a number of recent encounters were a reminder of just how darn good they can be in terms of generating it. And the thing is, every centimeter of that red tape was generated by government with the very best of intentions. What makes it…
Posted on 06-22-21
Can the Big Picture Make Things Easier?
Like many others these days, the complexity of the world we live in is wearing me down and I find myself craving simplicity. But, what if instead, the big picture actually made things clearer?
When seeing the Earth from afar for the first time, many astronauts described a cognitive shift in their awareness. Now called the Overview Effect, their experience of seeing the reality of Earth suspended in space with national borders no longer visible, immediately resulted in them understanding the Earth as being tiny and fragile. Along with that came an awareness of…
Posted on 04-22-21
What? There’s a Fourth Sector?
Last week I got a call from a friend who I haven’t heard from in many, many years. As we caught up, it became clear he’s done a fabulous job of developing a business that grew steadily and become very successful. Like me, he’s worked really hard and has taken risks. Whereas his path was relatively straightforward, mine was somewhat different. My track record with employers together with a sometimes painful and lonely climb, was reflected in a sketchy and eclectic employment history in corporations, social profits, education, government, and as the owner of several…
Posted on 03-09-21
What Bill Gates Didn’t Say
Okay, I get that Bill Gates is a smart guy and can provide some pretty astute advice.
For example, in a recent Fast Company article in an excerpt from his new book entitled How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, he presented his case that many of the lessons from the pandemic—and the values and principles that guide our approach to it—apply just as well to climate change.
He summarized these lessons as (1) international cooperation and the need for everyone to work together, (2) letting science guide our efforts, and, (3) solutions that meet the…
Posted on 03-08-21
Finding the Joy
While I like to consider myself one who loves change and embraces trends and early signals, this has been a challenging year to say the least. And yet, could it be there might just be a silver lining?
Last week I made a quick visit to a local mall where shoppers were pretty sparse. As a result, it was a bit of a surprise to hear a hauntingly beautiful version of ‘White Christmas’ being played on what could only be a grand piano.
As Dr. Phil puts it, “You have to name it to claim it.” My own mother has also shared similar advice over the years. advising that sometimes, “You just need to know what you want and put it out to the universe”. After all, she ended up with her soul mate after describing him on her vision board in what turned out to be pretty accurate detail. While I didn’t go that far - I am a very happily married woman after all - I did do a vision board and… More Posted on 10-27-20
Three Paths to Help Conquer the Chaos of Change
I’m having a tough time finding many straightforward workplaces these days. My future-focused leadership work often results in me landing in organizations where solutions are complicated and messy. Not only that, the need for change is sometimes driven by a belief (usually that of the funders, directors, or elected officials involved) that there is a one-size-fits-all, secret sauce solution that can be implemented within several months.
Needless to say these days it often takes much longer to check anything off my to-do list. Sigh.