Adrienne B. Haynes
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Adrienne B. Haynes

Read the full transcript: Adrienne B. Haynes’ TEDxUMKC Talk entitled ‘How Collective Vision Can Transform Communities’

In September 2020, Adrienne B. Haynes shared her first TED Talk entitled ‘How Collective Vision Can Transform Communities’. This talk was based on her Kauffman Innovator in Residence Fellowship and the resulting Community Innovation Program that was developed. You can watch the full video of the speech, as well as read a transcript below. To stay connected and learn more about the Community Innovation Program, visit the SEED Collective website here.

Remarks of Adrienne B. Haynes

TEDxUMKC 2020: How Collective Vision Can Transform Communities

September 19, 2020

My name is Adrienne B. Haynes and I am a community advocate, entrepreneur, and attorney.

2020 isn’t turning out like any of us envisioned it would. We’re facing complex issues at scale, and we have an opportunity to grow together, or continue to grow apart. For us to rebuild and begin recovery, it’s going to take much more than one election or one regional policy shift.

Today I’d like to share a model I’ve found that when implemented, can help us work together to create systemic strategies and solutions at a neighborhood level through relationship, collective vision, and actionable innovation.

Before I became an attorney, my original career goals were to be a camp director and community center owner. In college, I was fortunate to work at Camp Kupugani, a residential camp that was both entrepreneurial and focused on the development of skills and values such as respect and appreciation for diversity, communication and conflict resolution, and economic literacy for young women.

The most memorable moments from camp came from the first and last days. On opening night, after everyone moved in, I had the privilege of helping welcome campers into our community and begin to share our vision for how we wanted the next few weeks to go. Standing in a circle on the top field, we joined hands with girls from all over the world and shared with them:

· We’re here so that girls of varied backgrounds and ethnicities can spend time together and learn from each other

· The best ways to develop friendship and trust are to live, play, and work together in a safe environment where there was space and grace to learn the skills that you need to be successful

· The experience was going to be full of lessons and sometimes challenges, but that camp would help provide tools and relationships needed to help maximize our individual and communal potential

· And ultimately, that our opportunity at camp was to make ourselves better & create & participate in a version of the world that we wanted to see.

Of course, there’s just something about the fresh air, grass under your feet, and a few days unplugged that brings out the best in you… You’d see the stress start to leave everyone’s faces, their shoulders relax, and their laughs get a little louder.

But over those weeks, this vision for how we wanted to operate gave us all something to orient towards. It helped us to set an operating standard and contribute to the whole. Our girls were taking leadership opportunities, trying new camptivities, and beginning life-long friendships.

By the time we reached our closing circle, you could almost feel a palpable change. What was a circle of strangers just a few days ago was now a circle of camp family. By uniting in common vision, and fully owning our role that environment, we deepened our relationships, learned and led together, and left changed.

Since my time at camp, the focus of my work is to help aid in the creation of sustainable business and transferable wealth solutions for historically underestimated communities. I do this through SEED Law, a business law firm, and SEED Collective, a consultancy. I’ve continued to witness this transformative power of a clear & guiding vision in working with entrepreneurs and ecosystems, and most recently, neighborhoods and place-based communities.

The definition of vision is “the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom”.

A clear vision and plan can help a company grow from a small business into a major employer. It can help a nonprofit organization effectively stand in the gap and provide consistent services to those most in need. A clear vision can help a whole city unite in a quest to take care of those who are most vulnerable, redefine policing, or become one of the most entrepreneurial and inclusive cities in the country.

When developed at a neighborhood level, a collective vision has the power to transform entire regions. Over the last three years, I’ve been working with organizers and leaders to co-create a model that can help:

· Develop and organize around local voice & culture

· Better identify a region’s strengths, capitals, and opportunities

· Host and creatively engage with internal and external parties

· Outline an actionable plan for development and reinvestment

Through an Innovator in Residence fellowship at the Kauffman Foundation, my colleagues and I were invited to explore, develop, and test uncommon solutions that could reduce barriers to entrepreneurship so that every person — regardless of background — could more easily take risks, achieve success and give back to their communities.

With this charge, I knew that whatever I might propose would not be as effective as what a community or region could identify and propose for themselves. As Author and Investor Brad Feld writes in start up communities, for an ecosystem to be successful long term, the vision and leadership must come from the community being served, and designed specifically for the community being served. Most importantly, he emphasizes the necessary commitment — a 20 year commitment every day to seeing the work through to fruition.

This same wisdom applies to redevelopment strategies. In traditional models, sometimes we miss or fail to really incorporate the very critical element of local voice and leadership. Even in actual innovation districts.

An innovation district is a specific geographic area where anchor institutions such as universities, banks, and medical institutions intentionally locate in close proximity with startups, business incubators, and corporate partners. The benefits of these regions include economic activity, procurement and contracting opportunities, job creation, entrepreneurial support, and revenue generation.”

According to research published by the Brookings Institute, almost 50% of these districts are located in or near distressed neighborhoods but research and hindsight reports show that local residents remain largely disconnected from the employment and other opportunities available in these districts.

What might happen in our communities if we entrusted the most invested stakeholders- those who are already there- to lead a collective vision about where we want to be 5, 10, or 20 years from now?

How much more effective and impactful might a regional innovation strategy be?

In pursuit of this curiosity, I’ve been able to co-develop a community forward innovation model in partnership with three communities:

1. Washington Wheatley, a neighborhood located on the East Side of Kansas City

2. Along the Independence Avenue Corridor, which is one of the most diverse business districts in our region with more than 50 languages spoken and business owners from around the world and

3. In partnership with the Groundwork Northeast Revitalization Group, a Neighborhood Business Revitalization Organization in Wyandotte County, Kansas that works with a collective of 13 neighborhood associations

All three of these communities could be labeled “distressed” by external parties. BUT, when we work with existing owners to lead and participate in the vision, programming, funding decisions, etc., we can mitigate the barriers that traditional districts face around inclusion and equity and ensure that the necessary 20 year commitment is made.

In these communities, we hosted regular dinner & strategy sessions and we now have a community of practice and shareable tool kits that other regions can use to articulate their unique vision and develop a structure and framework.

If we can measure innovation by the strength and depth of our relationships, the flow of capital, knowledge and ideas, mobility of talent and the movement of goods and services, the activation of this model has resulted in several key advances:

Residents and owners becoming neighbors and leaders

In each district, we curated leadership teams comprised of those that work, live, own, play, or worship in that region. By working together, we were able to bring all of our perspectives and experience into the work and minimize the natural silos that happen in all communities. What started as a circle of strangers quickly became a neighborhood family. For over a year, we went through life together and developed trust and respect.

As we outlined indicators of a healthy, thriving community, council member and now-neighborhood association president Chris, talked about the importance of this meaningful connectedness — to be so connected to your neighbors that if you had a bad day, and were out on your front porch, someone might notice, and care enough to check on you. These values of genuine connection, social capital, and neighborly compassion became integral in the model.

With that at our foundation, it was easier to embody the principles outlined in Kauffman’s Declaration of Interdependence and apply the lastly livelihoods test. This asks: How can this economic development strategy be altered so that, all- including those on the margins can not only participate in its design, but also benefit from it?

Just like camp, with a collective vision, we make space for individuals and families to contribute, deepen relationships, learn and lead together, and effectively model the change we want to see in the world.

It looks like… Communities owning and developing their own story and data

Renowned TED Speaker Brené Brown, says. “stories are just data with a soul.’ Something powerful happens when communities are able to tell their own stories and author their own data, instead of being given this information- or labels- from external parties.

Inspired by the Aspen Institutes 8 capitals of wealth analysis, we outlined 10 different types of capitals that could be leveraged and asked: what do we have and what do we want? Together, we identified over 2,000 capitals across our regions using our unique data & capital mapping process. This data was gathered through institutional and cultural knowledge of our participating leaders, our research, and observations from our block by block walking and driving tours

We mapped this data using geography information systems. We mapped everything from murals and art, secret peach orchards and green space, to all of the vacant lots and active businesses in each district.

With this kind of knowledge and intentionality, local voice and priorities can be restored and opportunities elevated. A participating urban planner who had worked in the region for 20 years, upon reviewing the data we co-developed, said… “they’ll never be able to tell us we don’t have anything or there’s nothing to do here ever again”.

It looks like…Active and inclusive leadership in the regional planning

With relationship and research, neighbors and leaders are better equipped engage with and become key decision makers in regional planning. In Washington Wheatley, we gathered each month around a family’s dining room table — kids and elders alike- to host owners, experts and policy makers in each capital category.

We met with business owners and librarians, bankers and investors, educators and spiritual leaders.

We worked with real estate development professionals to discuss strategies to heal, restore, and rebuild blight, preserve wealth using estate planning tools, and leverage tax abatements and incentives like opportunity zones.

We hosted elected officials and staff from the city, state, and federal governments to understand how policy could reinforce the neighborhood’s long-term vision. Our elected officials on both sides of the aisle all participated in working side by side with constituents and sharing education and resources.

These relationships have the ability to redistribute neighborhood revenue, increase ownership, and create economic opportunity.

Over time, this model in action looks like communities transformed

We know that when residents & owners are equipped with the right mix of tools, relationships, and resources, we can better generate sustainable solutions to our most complex issues.

By incorporating this model, we can support both formal and informal leaders in developing the three core competencies to be a systems leader:

1. The ability to see the larger system

2. The capacity to foster reflection and more generative conversations and

3. The ability shift to focus from reactive problem solving to co-creation of the future.

This is going to be crucial for us going forward:

When our world slowed at the news of coronavirus, neighborhoods that had already been working together quickly activated- creating food banks and bartering programs, planting persistence gardens and supporting Buy Bodega campaigns to help affected businesses. They made sure people knew where to vote, organized learning pods, and made sure the students and seniors were taken care of and making the switch to grocery delivery ok 😊

I’m happy to report that with our three initial communities, unique solutions proposed are still helping to connect leaders and advance innovation. We are now working with five additional communities to outline their customized plan for community forward development.

As a global village, this time in our world gives us another chance to imagine, plan for, and participate in a more equitable way forward- together.

It takes a village to raise a child, this time has elevated the complexity and the true effort it requires. If we employ strategic models to help us begin to heal and restore our communities- we can change the tide for generations. As one of our participating leaders reminds us- we may not be walking the streets of communities 20 years from now, it will be our children.

It is going to take TIME, much more than one solution or passionate group to lead our recovery. For us to rebuild our communities, it’s going to take all of us in a focused, concerted effort.

Be encouraged:

· The best ways to develop friendship and trust are to live, play, and work where there was space and grace to learn

· The entire journey is going to be full of lessons and sometimes challenges, but together, we can maximize our individual and communal potential.

· We are world changers. We have an opportunity as a global village to work towards a version of the world that we wanted to see.

“where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Where there is a vision, the village will thrive.

Thank you.

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Adrienne B. Haynes

Adrienne B. Haynes

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My name is Adrienne B. Haynes and I focus my time, talents, and treasures on the intersection of law, entrepreneurship, and community designed innovation.