Citizens should lead

A link to my reviews of 3 new books that may inspire some to get thee to city hall or at least remind us of the possibilities of better design of urban places.

I think every food system organizer (really, every organizer) needs to know Jane Jacobs, and one other new book that I am still working my way through may help those of you not interested in reading about her life story or diving into her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Vital Little Plans is a collection of many of her shorter pieces and her talks, including some of what she wrote on her way to publishing Death and Life. One of the editors (Storring) works at Projects For Public Spaces (PPS),  a consulting firm well known for its market technical assistance, Placemaking tools, and workshops. (Exciting news: They should be announcing their 2018 Public Market Conference location very soon too.)

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Readers will find classics here, including Jacobs’s breakout article “Downtown Is for People,” as well as lesser-known gems like her speech at the inaugural Earth Day and a host of other rare or previously unavailable essays, articles, speeches, interviews, and lectures. Some pieces shed light on the development of her most famous insights, while others explore topics rarely dissected in her major works, from globalization to feminism to universal health care.

Buy it near you at an independent bookstore.

 The Art of Noticing, and Then Creating 

A wonderful interview for anyone interested in community and creativity. So anyone working in markets, food and farming.

 

MS. TIPPETT: And I want to — I want to bring in the word tribes that you used, because that’s another way, you’re using a word that we associate with something primitive. Right? That we think, that we thought modernity was about outgrowing.

MR. GODIN: Right.

MS. TIPPETT: You are actually really affirming that… We choose who and what we belong to. It’s not just about survival. It’s about connection and flourishing.

MR. GODIN: So, you know, in the desert or the jungle, the tribe was defined by geography alone. That you were in the tribe based on where you were born. And then if we fast-forward to, I don’t know, Mark Twain. Mark Twain would show up in a city and a thousand people would come to hear him speak. And everyone who came was in his tribe. They were in the tribe of, you know, slightly satirical, slightly jaundiced people who were also intellectuals who could engage with him. And he had never met them before, but within minutes, they were part of a congruent group who understood each other. And so if we fast-forward to today — you can take someone who hangs out in the East Village or Manhattan who has 27 tattoos — they go to Amsterdam, they can find someone in Amsterdam who talks their language and acts like them, because they’ve chosen the same set of things that excite them, and that they believe in. And we divide tribes as small a group as we want. But what the Internet has done is meant that we don’t have to get on a plane anymore to meet strangers who like us.

That — the Linux operating system, which is on a billion computers around the world, was written by a group of strangers who have never met, who are part of the same tribe. And so the challenge of our future is to say, are we going to connect and amplify positive tribes that want to make things better for all of us? Or are we going to degrade to warring tribes that are willing to bring other groups down just so they can get ahead?

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So, you know, on the way into the studio today, I passed a 1934 Rolls Royce. And in those days, if you were really rich, you bought a fancy expensive car like that. So we went through this era where you would value something that was physical. But now the things we pay extra for are connection. Right? The things we pay extra for are what are other people using — what networks can we be part of — what conference can we go to — who can we be with? And the people we choose to be with, the products and services we choose to talk about are all interesting and unique and human and real, as opposed to industrial and cheap and polished and normal.

Seth Godin — The Art of Noticing, and Then Creating – | On Being

The four stages of market management

Spoiler alert: The stages correspond exactly to the  four stages of competence learning model:

  • 1. Unconscious incompetence
    The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
  • 2. Conscious incompetence
    Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
  • 3.Conscious competence
    The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
  • 4. Unconscious competence
    The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

I have been thinking about how we can organize the role of market manager to reduce the learning curve and to encourage managers to have a team around them, rather than to feel they must do everything on their own. If we do those two things, we may very well lessen the numbers who burn out and leave the job just as they reach unconscious competence phase.

My experience (from my corporate training in human resources, my own management of markets, supervising market managers and observing them for the last 15 years) is that the market job takes about 14 months to 30 months to move through these 4 stages. The length of time it takes has something to do with “the strength of the stimulus to learn” but since that is usually strong with new market managers, it usually has more to do with the organization’s structure for training and for providing feedback. Of course, the way managers learn is changing as Millennials move into those jobs which are matters that I’ll tackle in another post.

Unlike other entry-level jobs, market managers are asked to master the most difficult work right away: to confidently manage dynamic logistics for a group of small businesses working side-by-side with their direct competition. In far too many cases, there are no manuals, no detailed history recorded, or clear written process when dealing with risks or crisis.  Few managers are offered performance reviews or even clear, written deliverables or goals so they can correct as they learn. (I feel compelled to point out that I find it startling how few nonprofits understand that their success is based almost entirely on the skill and labor of its people and how rare it is to find supervisors spending any time becoming more adept at that part of their job. )

So those months can be quite stressful and without a clear training plan, a negative feedback loop can be created, especially among watchful vendors who are rightfully expecting high productivity.

Often, the most difficult phase is #2 when the community doesn’t view the manager as new any longer and becomes impatient with every mistake- and yet as you can see from this timeline, mistakes are to be expected in the “conscious incompetence” phase. Mistakes are often caused by someone bravely trying something new or testing a varied way to do a task that needs updating. It is a process of learning but one that does need positive correction from the supervisor to okay the adjustment and to acknowledge the validity of it as a learning process.

So markets can do a better job preparing the community for a new manager by allowing the manager to ease into some of the more difficult tasks, “permission” to make little mistakes and even better, time and space to formalize a system for dealing with risks so there won’t be guesswork:
A copy of every market map should be kept, filed and noted with weather, no-shows or risk issues written so new managers can review past years. These are also helpful in cases of slip and falls or property damage suits, as legal proceedings may come much later and the data from that day may very well help your team defend your market and at least remind you what happened and why. Sets of laminated pictures of the market set up, the storage area, the table layout for new managers to know what is desired during set up can also make it easy to have volunteers to take over those duties so the manager can then move on to new tasks.

On the subject of conflicts, is usually a good idea for markets to have an off-site process for any hot button issue, new manager or not:  Disagreement between vendors or about a rule should not be hashed out on market day. Instead,  a temporary solution for that day is all that should be offered.  Have the manager quietly ask those involved if the discussion can happen that next week by phone, in person or via a video conference call if possible. Not only does this allow everyone to simmer down (including the manager) but it also allows some time for the manager to get some input from senior vendors or board members. Most importantly, it sets a tone for future issues.

Other suggestions:

• The new manager should have an hour of weekly reading from the files and by scanning some of the most important articles and magazines on community food while on the clock.

• They should be introduced in ever widening circles to the members of the community – even if they are local – as the manager by board members, anchor vendors and volunteers.

• If a market hires a new seasonal manager annually, it might be helpful to have a market business card with a line for the manager to write in their name, and also allows board members to do the same.

• Asking new managers to keep a journal of the day also helps get them through these early stages. I used to ask my new managers to write me an email on their smart phone even if I had been onsite with them all day. Some of them drafted it all day when they had a minute, and then sent it to me as they got in their vehicle to go home or from their laptop first thing on the next work day from their scribbled notes. That email was broken down into logistics, vendors, shoppers, other and helped them analyze their day.

If systems are put in place and care is taken to help the new manager move through these stages, one can easily gain a market manager loyal to the organization and ready to move to the stage of unconscious competence soon enough.

 

Another idea for the evolution of the market organization to make it more sustainable is outlined in this post from Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC):

Worker self-directed nonprofits enable staff to organize their labor and compensation in a way that is sufficient and sustainable for them. At SELC, for example, our collective decision to each work only 30 hours per week and only be required to spend 15 of those hours at the office has opened up tremendous possibilities. By choosing when and where we work, we regain a tremendous amount of autonomy over our lives. This flexibility lets us attend community events or be responsive to the needs of our loved ones in ways that a rigid eight-hour day does not.

The reduced workweek shifts our financial calculus as well. Many of us who could use a bit more money accept consulting jobs or engage in entrepreneurship to supplement our incomes. Some staff can use their time to cut down on other expenditures that they would have been forced to incur otherwise, like childcare. And beyond the numbers of it all, many of us feel like the opportunities our flexibility provides are priceless.

This exact arrangement may not be best for all organizations. The essential point to notice is that we (with board oversight) get together as a staff and make decisions about how organize and compensate ourselves in order to make the best use of our organizational resources and provide ourselves with the lives we crave. Ultimately, this care for ourselves feeds back into the organization in the form of low turnover and high commitment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Things Paul Ryan Doesn’t Understand About Poverty (But I Didn’t, Either) 

Karen Weese is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Salon, Dow Jones Investment Advisor, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Everyday Family, and other publications.

There are many prescriptions for combating poverty, but we can’t even get started unless we first examine our assumptions, and take the time to envision what the world feels like for families living in poverty every day.

Alternet

Designing Better Shopping Experiences

Using a variety  of research methods, students with disabilities and conventional students at San Francisco State University studied “how the principles of Inclusive Universal Design practice can promote equity with respect to access and use of the physical environment.” Their findings can certainly assist market organizers and their methods should influence how we gather data.

The Symposium & Workshop sought to orient and prepare students with disabilities to educational and professional career opportunities in the design disciplines. There were three primary goals and collaborative interfaces.

(1) To introduce inclusive human-centered design applications in the design curriculum at SFSU that will orientate students, both the students with disabilities and conventional university design students to the holistic benefits of design education and practice that go beyond the exclusive and limited convention of mainstream design applications.

(2) Exposing students to inclusive participatory design empathy methodology.

(3) Identifying and creating design concepts for the product environment and interior space that facilitates one’s ability to access and manipulate the active learning and recreational environment at home, or at school.

This approach to data collection and design is available to busy and to “under-resourced” food organizers through resources and trainings available for purchase, and in online and in-person individual and group trainings.  The two companies that I usually send people to are Luma Institute for their wonderful resources on how to use this process (I also took their in-person course, thanks to FMC and the Knight Foundation) and Ideo, which has influenced some food system funders, like Ford Foundation. Both offer online individual and group courses.

I would suggest that this sort of professional development is exactly what can be included in grants or even sponsored by neighboring businesses of a market to undertake as a team. This approach is similar to the methods that are either included (or will be) in the Farmers Market Metrics program,  in tools such as the Marketshare section of Market Umbrella’s site and in the Farmers Market Toolkit instruments on the British Columbia Farmers Market site.

The final newsletter  includes  findings from these two projects:

Students Design Shopping Cart for Elderly Community

Supermarket carts are solid enough to lean on, but collapsible “granny carts” often used at urban farmer’s markets do not provide appropriate support for people with mobility issues, Fisher explained. “The idea of a cart is not exotic, but (it’s) important to my life,” Fisher said.

After conducting multiple interviews in the aging community, Lopez and Renard realized the need for a supportive personal cart is widespread. Renard said existing carts are generally constructed with weak materials with little attention to aesthetic.

“People put a little bit of thought and design into (portable carts), but they just paint (them) that nasty old-person beige,” Renard said. “Just because people are aging, they don’t want ugly products. They want something that fits their needs but is also stylish – (a product) they aren’t embarrassed to use.”

They credit their inspiration to Dr. June Fisher, an 82-year-old occupational health physician and Bay Area product design lecturer who worked closely with the duo throughout production.

She said she looks forward to having a CityCart of her own, something supportive enough to navigate a farmers market and pick up a few heirloom veggies without relying on someone else.

“The design came from a particular person’s need – my need,” Fisher said.

Designing a Better Shopping Experience with a Holistic Approach to Aging in Place

Several methods were employed such as group and individual in-depth interviews, immersive observations, shadowing and experience mapping session. By means of these methods it was conceived that elderly face several physical challenges while shopping.

These challenges are mostly due to their physical decline, are mainly coherent with the existing literature most of which have not been responded for many years. The main areas of concern were the large size of food packages, standing in long checkout lines, reading the labels, using the carts and baskets, size and layout of stores, shelves and location of products.

The study showed a very social aspect to shopping experience. Participants found shopping to be an experience than can be fun and social. The nostalgia from old ages and existing cultures around the world were two main sources of comparison for the elders. Elders showed to be very perceptive of personal social interactions of them as customers with the seller or store staff. They desired to personally know the staff and be known by them. They liked the staff to remember them and their preferences. They looked for a personal relationship with the staff; one that helps building trust in both parties. They also liked to make conversations and take advice from them on which food to buy or how to cook a special dish with the food and more. Talking of advice was always hand in hand with ‘trust’.

Findings showed that the seniors associated the personal familiarity with the seller and making regular conversations with him to sense of trust towards the seller. The general view of shopping environment was an environment for shopping, having fun and social interactions. They were specifically enthusiastic about communicating with the younger generation and truly appreciated the young people’s patience when they needed more time to learn.

The participants liked to be specially treated, not in a manner  that suggests they are not capable of doing it themselves or that they are old, but a special care based on friendly relationships,

One of the prominent findings of the research was elders’ discomfort when standing in long lines. Some had to physically strain while standing, finding leaning on the carts to be the only option to alleviate the hardship. Also, over the course of study a few times people brought up the idea of a resting area where they could sit for a while and take a breath. The combination of these findings led the researcher to design a service to address the mentioned issues. The service is called, “Valet Checkout”.

These methods can reduce the learning curve for markets and increase the likelihood of success in the final design.