I remember learning the difference between potential versus kinetic energy in high school. How a book on the table has more potential energy than one on the floor–because it can fall off the table and release kinetic energy, the energy of action and movement.


Two startlingly interesting recent books are “Community: The Structure of Belonging” by Peter Block and “Deterrence and Crime Prevention: Reconsidering the Prospect of Sanction” by David Kennedy. Though one deals with trying to create the ideal and the other how to avoid the ninth circle, both share common themes and thoughts on how people connect to each other and the power of communities to effect change.


What is one to make of slumburbias? (Or should they be slumberbias?)

Well just to be intemperate, it’s obscene! Much of this got built with public subsidy of some sort–money that could easily have done something useful..

Don’t be afraid! The Times has a fascinating look at what people are reading on their website–long, thoughtful, complex pieces. Just what you (well I) would hope for. It runs counter to what many of us (well at least me) have been thinking, repeating, practicing.

So feel free, write long, be complex, use four dollar word, adjectives and more adjectives. And next time someone whines in a meeting, “It’s too long! No one will read that!” tell them they’re wrong. Respectfully of course.


Having a plan is important. Paying attention to the plan is more important. Being able to accept that there were flaws in the plan might be even more important. I probably could go on…
But we’ve all been in meetings where exciting ideas are thrown out, everyone is excited — and then nothing happens. Often that’s because you forgot to pick a driver for the bus, other times it may be that you need a more collaborative culture to get the kind of cross-departmental buy-in to make something that may not fit easily into one category.

At one point I was starting a street homeless client group — not a clinical or therapeutic group, but a “customer” group. Because I was tired of working alone, I sent out an all staff email describing the project. Everyone who wrote back got put on the advisory committee–lucky them! But it ended up being actually fun for everyone, as well as incredibly helpful for the project. Having people with different perspectives and experiences with different populations let them come to the table and ask unexpected questions. (And then I wrote them all down…).

Where should you start writing? Some people start at the beginning. Me? Often in the middle, though sometimes what I think of as the middle ends up as the beginning.

At one point I was writing some TV scripts and while talking about them to one of my mentors, mentioned that it seemed like it really got going in episode four. Her response was, “Well why don’t you start there?”

She was right. Not to say that those first three episodes weren’t important–they were where I discovered and built the characters–but it infinitely improved it to dive in at the high point.


In one of the New Yorker’s reminiscences of J.D. Salinger this week, they point out what an extraordinary listener he was. My mom is the same way–she can recount a conversation she had a week, a month, a year, a decade ago with astounding detail. I didn’t inherit this skill unfortunately. For me, I have to consciously stop, focus, and ideally make notes.

Difficult though it is, it’s worth it. In every phase of the development process, it is so important to stop talking and start listening. For instance, what happens in the morning when the mail is being opened? Each check that arrives often is a great window on the collective knowledge of the staff. If you listen carefully you can often find out a complete giving history for that donor, when the last check arrived, who should write the thank you.

Questions don’t count as talking. Ask tons of questions and find out what is important to the people you serve, your donors, your boss, your staff, your colleagues. The answers you get will make every next step easier.