I am passionate about the power of groups to unlock the answers to the many complex and interrelated challenges and opportunities we face today. For the past quarter decade I have been refining my tools and myself to be better at helping groups collaborate, innovate, and ultimately act effectively. It has been a long road...
My primary focus has been applying advanced collaboration tools the problems of agriculture and natural resource management. I have had the chance to practice all around the world with groups as varied as farmworkers to philanthropic funders.
Today I focus on projects with strong leadership teams and big aspirations where we can dig in and make a difference.
How Did I Get Here?
Since the early 2000’s I had been deeply enmeshed in the work of Ag Innovations, a California-based non-profit that has played a major role in the evolution of food movement and collaborative approaches to change. My work there included design and facilitation of everything from local food policy councils to the development of a strategic plan for agriculture in the State. Ultimately I became the executive director, a role I held for over a decade.
While at Ag Innovations I deepened my interest in systems thinking that began as an undergraduate at Raymond College, University of the Pacific. The problems we were working on had systems failure written all over them and systems thinking was helping our groups uncover solutions that traditional problem-solving approaches could not touch.
In 2011 I was approached by my good friend Hal Hamilton of the Sustainable Food Lab to join a group of systems change practitioners for a retreat in Mexico to consider how to advance the field. It was at this retreat that the Academy for Systems Change was conceived. Soon I was a co-founder of the Academy and helped bring into the world an amazing program that focused on advancing the field of awareness-based systemic change. I still serve on the advisory board for the organization.
In 2015 Peter Senge, Hal, and John Kania published The Dawn of Systems Leadership in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. In it they described an emerging understanding of leadership that combined systems thinking, facilitation, and a shift of focus from problem-solving to creating a desired future that wove together many of the threads that had defined my own work. I was hooked.
In 2018 I stepped down as the executive director at Ag Innovations to focus exclusively on supporting leadership teams with big aspirations for change. I had the good fortune to begin working with Susan Lightfoot Schempf and the Food Systems Leadership Network (a project of the Wallace Center at Winrock International) around bringing systems leadership tools to the grassroots. Many of the fruits of that collaboration you will find on this site.
A few projects for perspective
Over the years I have been fortunate to work on a number of projects that have made a big impact on the ground and with participants. To give you a feel, here are just a few highlights:
- The creation and development of the Food System Alliance network, which has brought together leaders interested in a more resilient and equitable food system in counties across the west. The San Diego Food System Alliance and the Maricopa County Food System Coalition (Phoenix, AZ) are two examples of this work that are now completely locally managed.
- Facilitation of the California Roundtables on Agriculture and the Environment and Water and Food Supply, which bridged partisan perspectives on issues agriculture and environmental impacts and water needs.
- The process design and facilitation of California Ag Vision 2030, the state’s strategic plan for agriculture.
- The Santa Clara County Climate and Agricultural Preservation Plan, an effort to shift land use planning and development patterns in a way that maximizes in-fill and preserves climate-friendly agriculture.
The standard bona fides
My training includes an undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies, advanced degrees in both economics and organization development, seven years of leadership of an organization that trained professional in listening and counseling skills, and a broad professional career that includes stops as an economics professor, a corporate middle manager, a preschool teacher and owner, a tribal administrator, and over 20 years as a non-profit executive director.
I live with my wife, Charlotte, in Graton, CA where we enjoy our dog, Luna, gardening, birding, spending time in the mountains, and the company of our amazing family.