Describe your leadership journey thus far; experiences, learning
Over the course of my career, I have developed a breadth of experience in strategy, project management, marketing, market research and communications for corporations, not-for-profits and governments. As an OD professional, I have built a reputation for building sustainable (learning) communities, networks and alliances. I am currently a senior consultant with the Intersol Group in Ottawa.
I have an MA in Organization Development, specializing in stakeholder/community engagement, online collaboration, community-building and e-learning. I have integrated a whole systems perspective to my work and community activities, utilizing action learning and social media (blogs, fora, wikis, webinars, e-courses and workshops) to improve collaboration and communication, alignment, and to mobilize others to increase their performance.
At the Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver, Canada (an intergovernmental organization set up by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1987), I supported the Higher Education specialist, by coordinating the Commonwealth Executive MBA / MPA Programs in 10 developing countries, as well as the Education Specialist for International Organizations as an English writing tutor, for learners from the World Health Organization and the United Nations. I have also provided strategic advice and operational support to facilitate online communities for three education specialists: E-Learning & ICT Policy; Media for Learning; and Governance and Civil Society.
I am on the governing council for WikiEducator.org -- a global, open source Web 2.0 community and knowledge repository for a free and open version of the world’s education curriculum by 2015, in line with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. (Think Wikipedia for education.) My role on this project - both paid and volunteer - was to engage and facilitate diverse stakeholders to create, maintain and sustain a vibrant community, and develop open education resources (OERs). The project has been a major success with 15,000 users in 120 countries and a top 100K website.
Through the independent nonprofit Open Education Resources Foundation in New Zealand, I continue to identify appropriate tools, technologies, partners and community development interventions for WikiEducator and related Open Education and Open Philanthropy projects, to engage and support stakeholders and their communities of interest.
I researched, wrote and published my Masters thesis in Organization Management and Development (Fielding Graduate University, 2009) on, and in WikiEducator -- a first. MA Thesis: Primal Needs Gone Digital: Educators' Motivations in an Open Wiki Environment, 2009. (Many of my findings have been referred to as supporting evidence in grant applications to international foundations). The MA experience enabled me to research and understand the dynamics of open wiki collaboration, and helped establish my global leadership and credibility in designing effective online collaboration and engagement strategies for virtual and bricks-and-mortar organizations.
My success with WikiEducator.org has led to assignments to design, launch and implement other thematically-focused Communities of Practice (CoPs) with a focus on strengthening connections and demonstrating cultural sensitivity between Community Media/Community Radio professionals in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the South Pacific, to develop, share and re-use high quality learning materials and organization development practices, for local and regional use.
As a direct result of my efforts to facilitate discussions, a new community emerged from the Community Media / Community Radio community: a humanitarian project which brought together experts in HIV AIDS treatment literacy with community radio practitioners. LearnShare HIV AIDS Africa, was a project of the Commonwealth of Learning, International AIDS Society and an African NGO and developed effective learning programs delivered via community radio in Tanzania, Malawi, South Africa and Ghana.
I have designed and facilitated other communities of practice, including WikiGovernance, and African Youth4Peace, as well as community/engagement and mobilization strategies around relaunched websites (OER Africa (South Africa), Monterey Institute of Technology and Education (USA) and OneChange (Canada). http://wikieducator.org/User:Randyfisher/TORs/Case_Studies
By integrating OD/change management into the launch and implementation of communities of practice, I’ve been able to facilitate productive discussions and scalable and sustainable communities. A key step has been to identify stakeholder needs, resistance to change and culture. I’ve used action research to test and implement research findings within interactive Web 2.0 learning communities; and adapted best practices from software development to rapidly and iteratively prototype new curricula and facilitate learning and culture change, engagement and use.
I have learned that sustainability and performance occur when people actually use what they set out to create; when they involve others in the process and develop individual / organizational capacity; when they use a systems approach to change/transition; and when they use their organizational and relationship capital to create trust and rapport, movement and momentum.
How have you demonstrated leadership in your community / employment / volunteer activities?
As my career has evolved from communications and marketing, to career development, adult education and project management, I have shared a whole systems perspective with others, in a way that integrates organizational dynamics, business processes and linkages which support or inhibit success, growth and transformation. I have demonstrated leadership by helping stakeholders navigate difficult challenges, and building capacity to strengthen their leadership skills and interdependence. This has included coaching for success, and ensuring strategic alignment and appropriate governance structures to facilitate client-centered ownership and achievement of desired results.
In the process, I have developed a strong understanding of, and commitment to, the importance of sharing information and collaborating with others, and an awareness of the benefits of establishing common ground with diverse stakeholders. I also incorporate social architecture, collaborative technologies and action research to support dialogue / feedback, information-sharing and the development of trusted relationships and cultural sensitivity — between and among people, teams, departments and organizations.
I am committed to developing my own self-awareness and interpersonal skills and have sought many professional and personal opportunities to do so. I am sensitive towards different learning styles and am comfortable receiving and giving feedback. I value respectful and inclusive learning experiences that allow people to share their experiences, opinions and perspectives.
I am an elected member of the WikiEducator.org Community Council, the governing body of the largest formal education wiki in the world (15,000+ users in 120 countries). I am also an advisor to Amarok Society, which educates poor mothers and children in Bangladesh. At the grassroots level, I tutor new Canadians in English-language skills.
As mentioned in Question 1, I have been instrumental in facilitating the growth and development of WikiEducator.org and its 15,000 user community; supporting individual skills development and organizational capacity-building. I have also learned about Complex Adaptive Systems in the context of open, online and self-organizing ecosystems, and how to achieve tangible results leveraging complexity, technology and human behaviour. Several projects have helped achieve this level of learning and leadership: a community-building needs analysis; my MA Thesis work; development of wiki skills training courses and communities of practice; and appropriate, targeted interventions to improve performance. While in Vancouver, I was a founding member of the Vancouver Downtown Jewish Community (2005-2006). As a steering committee member, I launched and produced Simcha Live: an innovative monthly music and cultural showcase. I supervised a 7-person team and engaged 25+ musicians to perform for the community and raise funds for charity.
I also launched Vancouver's Executives on Auction, an online auction to raise funds for charity by auctioning off quality time with executives and VIPs. I recruited 50+ business execs to raise money their favourite charities; and 20+ business associations and media which agreed to promote the auction to members. To recognize the community's contribution and participation, I planned and coordinated a successful ‘Benefit Lunch’ for 40+ execs, sponsors, charities, media personalities and VIPs. I also negotiated numerous sponsorships; managed a relationship with a PR agency; wrote and and test-marketed all supporting marketing / communications collateral (online, print, electronic).
Other community leadership roles have included: Mentor, Leaders of Tomorrow Program (Vancouver Board of Trade, 2004-2005); Lead Interviewer, Cracking the New E-conomy: Business Tools for Entrepreneurs (Washington Software Alliance, 2000); and Acting Director, Ottawa Distance Learning Group (1997).
I continue to pursue leadership opportunities to serve the community - the latest being a Community Engagement wiki space (hosted on WikiEducator), for nonprofits and social entrepreneurs to develop and share resources, in line with their goals and objectives. http://www.communityengagementwiki.org
What do you consider to be the 3 most significant challenges facing either your organization or the Ottawa Community.
The three (3) most significant challenges are:
- lack of strategic alignment among organizational programs and activities
- difficulty using / integrating technology (including social media) to support stakeholder / community engagement and efficient service delivery
- lack of well understood processes / systems - leading to duplication of effort (i.e., reinventing the wheel) and lost opportunities.
What do you plan to contribute to your organization and/or the Ottawa community with an eye to these challenges?
- organization development and change management
- process facilitation and business process reengineering
- expertise in marketing and communications
- expertise in community-building, stakeholder engagement and partnerships
- expertise in using social media and online collaborative technologies
- expertise in organizational learning, e-learning, adult education and coaching
- expertise in website and community engagement
- wiki skills training and facilitation via the Community Engagement wiki - http://www.communityengagementwiki.org
What do you hope to gain from the experience?
I am an enthusiastic lifelong learner and highly-motivated to take this next step in my professional and personal development. I consider Leadership Ottawa as an 'applied school', where I can learn and lead within a strengths-based community of peers, and a locally-based network of community organizations. This builds on my Masters degree in Organization Management and Development (2007), in which I sought to increase my understanding of theoretical frameworks and models from the multiple disciplines that are the foundation of human systems and organizational dynamics.
I look forward to gaining a solid grounding in addressing important community issues and challenges, which are often masked by a push for more fundraising and/or volunteers. (i.e., if we only had more money, or volunteers....).
I also look forward to building valuable connections and relationships, in building coalitions for community service, and providing a meaningful contribution to my peers, as well as expanding my own professional network in alignment with my goals and interests.
I also see this as an important opportunity to strengthen my process facilitation skills, and utilize a systematic, Organization Development/Change Management approach for facilitating client and partner engagement, 'buy-in', ownership and action. As both practitioner and observer-self, I'll be sensitive to critical human factors and organizational change issues such as: individual leadership styles; group dynamics (i.e., in person and online); peer feedback; power and resistance to change; and context and sub-contexts, language, meaning and culture.