Issue Clustering {Phase I: EPIK Alliance Meeting Report}

September 30, 2014

We had another productive meeting on September 30, 2014. Twenty-one people participated in the meeting. Many thanks to Celina Milner and Salt Lake County who hosted the meeting in a conference room in the county offices.

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This report contains the following:

– A summary of the meeting agenda/process

– Photos of the outputs of the work activity

– Insights and Impressions from the group

– Some notes about the collective impact process being used with the EPIK Alliance

– The “Parking Lot” from the meeting

Meeting Agenda/Process

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The purpose of this meeting was to do some initial organizing of the issue map that was begun at last month’s meeting (and continued into the mini-meeting in Utah County and the meeting with a youth council). To start the meeting, a brief recap of collective impact was given (see the collective impact images from the August meeting’s report).The group broke into three smaller working groups, each focusing on “clustering” different parts of the map — arranging the sticky notes by common themes and then labeling each “cluster.”

EPIK clustering activity 9.30     EPIK meeting clustering 9.30 EPIK clustering meeting 9.30    EPIK meeting 9.30

One group focused on clustering the positives/opportunities of technology that were on the map, another focused on the negatives/concerns, and the third group was charged with clustering the youth council’s input. Each sub-group assigned a person to report what they had done.

The papers were placed on windows, so the photos are a little hard to see, but here are the results of the clustering activity.

Positives/Opportunities

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Negatives/Concerns — The pictures don’t easily reflect how the group organized their clusters to show some interrelationships of the clusters they created. They designed their output to be like a tree, reflecting that the concerns about technology have their roots in social and emotional problems. The group felt that parents and educators have the most potential influence. The fruits of the problems that can emerge related to children and technology include things like addiction, impacts on health and life productivity, etc. (see second “Negatives” image below).

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Youth Council — Positives

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Youth Council Input — Negatives

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Insights and Impressions

Part of the standard EPIK Alliance meeting process is to do a group debrief where partners can share insights and impressions. (See image below.)

Here are some “clustered” summaries of the group’s thoughts:

– As with the last meeting, people noted the fact that with many of the issues, it is a two-sided coin kind of thing — positive elements of technology (such as connection) can also have their downsides (such as being distracted by online connection when real-life relationships are happening in the moment). There is also the question of the chicken and the egg (e.g., are children more disconnected because of technology, or does technology only exacerbate a disconnectedness that already exists). What is the cause and what is the effect?

– Another point that has been brought up in both meetings is that the group needs to define what technology is. (For example, one of the members of the youth council took a very broad approach to assessing impacts of technology by defining technology to include medical devices and home appliances. On the flip side, last month someone noted that social media or the internet do not equal the whole of what technology includes.) Group members also are feeling the need to define what “youth” means — such as what age group is included in that definition.

– One person noted (rightly so) that it is one thing to map an issue based on people’s opinions; it is quite another to rely on research to guide the process. (See notes below about the collective impact process).

– Emotional health and the emotional elements that are tied to technology for youth were brought up (e.g., the example of a young woman wanting to get together with other tech-savvy youth who are gathering in the area because “they understand me, Mom.”)

– Participants noted that having youth input was valuable (it gave hope that they do see some of the negatives), and there was the realization that their perspectives could be limited to some degree simply because they lack some life experience.

– On the flip side, there was also the note that sometimes adults may soft-peddle some of the issues, e.g., in some ways the youth were more direct in their language than the adults seemed to be in the issue mapping activity. As adults work together for the sake of youth, there can also be generational differences in perspective (e.g., youth don’t use Facebook as much as adults – they tend toward tools like Instagram). [Editor’s note: This reiterates the important need of “Not about them without them” even as the adult perspective is also vital given adult’s life experience.]

– Lastly, someone noted the importance of not demonizing technology itself. It is simply a tool that can be used for good or for ill.

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Notes about the Collective Impact Process

Following are some points about collective impact that relate to some of the insights and impressions that were shared. In each meeting and along the way in these reports, we plan to include some information about collective impact that might help give some clarity and context for what happens in these meetings, and why and how collective impact is different from typical meeting and business processes.

– Re: Data/research: Data is essential to the collective impact process. The EPIK Alliance is in its early stages of the collective impact, in Phase 1, where we are holding initial conversations about the issues, context/landscape, and available resources. This is both to help frame the issue in a high-level way and also to help the collaborative partners to start to build relationships by working together. The group will also be assessing if there is enough urgency and need around the issue to merit continued collaboration.

If such a determination is made, then the process will move into Phase 2, which is where more significant time and energy is put into assessing and gathering data.

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– The group raised important questions about how to define “technology,” how to define “youth.” These are the kinds of questions that the group can continue to address in Phase 1, and will also move into Phase 2 as the collaborative partners start to form a common agenda.

– Defining “youth”: At the moment, because the EPIK Alliance is still in its early stages and is not at a point where defining the age range has been done, meetings will continue with youth of various ages.

As a side note, in the meeting planning and design process for this particular meeting, Kathy and Michelle (facilitator and co-facilitator) debated whether or not to bring in the youth inputs from the one student council meeting held on September 17, or wait for more youth meetings to be held. We also debated as to whether or not to assimilate the youth input right off the bat, or have it clustered separately. We opted to include clustering of the youth input in this meeting (but to organize it separate from the bigger map) so as to reinforce the “Not about them without them” principle and to allow for comparing and contrasting between the perspectives of the adults and the youth (which did take place organically in the meeting).

Parking Lot

At every meeting, Kathy provides a “Parking Lot” space where people can share thoughts and ideas, questions and concerns. Sometimes she also includes some pre-determined prompts (e.g., in this meeting where participants were asked to help brainstorm potential youth groups who could be involved). Here is the Parking Lot for the September 30 meeting.

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