complexity-embracing, economy-bending

The 2-5pm workshop stirred up some interesting conversations. One interesting question that I believe Michelle asked rooted a few conversations I had over the next few days. She raised to the group the issue of priority, of which relationships and networks to build first. If the goal is connecting MBEs to anchor institutions or networks of nonprofits, for example, should we first build the networks of nonprofits and anchors or the networks of MBEs? The ensuing back-and-forth and an exchange I had the next day with Felipe led to what I’m holding as takeaways from the weekend, ideas that are essential to the upcoming work of drafting a business plan for CPA Boston. Here’s where I’m at:

My first inclination when I’m faced with an either/or question like is to see what happens when I say “neither!” or “both!” or otherwise reframe the question. In this case, to the question of what to prioritize, I say “both!” We need to be building these networks in unison, allowing them to iteratively recreate, inform, and inspire each other.

To the additional question of how to message that, I say (hellooo personal edge) be honest. It’s complicated to message a complicated process, to share honestly that building power in a network means focusing some of the earlier wins and processes on saving money and building trust, and that the economy-bending, wealth-building work of channeling collective purchases towards black/woman-owned/minority-run businesses, may not bear fruit until later. Honest strategy. Collaborative, authentic, complexity-embracing, willingness-to-listen-and-be-changed, humble. Leadership. I don’t know exactly what this will look like in Boston. As I see it, it’s not up to me. It’s up to this network we’re building. It’s up to all of us. 


Author: carrieswatkins

Carrie is pursuing her Master's degree in City Planning at MIT

2 thoughts on “complexity-embracing, economy-bending”

  1. Thank for sharing, Carrie. I was great to meet you in DC!

    I very much agree with you on the tradeoffs I suspect it will take to launch a regional CPA. Early wins in purchasing together, in building that economic power and collective identity, seems like an essential first step. That does not preclude simultaneously building networks among MBE vendors, constructing a history of performance to demonstrate to member institutions the value they offer.

    I’m guessing there’s also value in seeding the idea of purchasing with your values as we’re recruiting member institutions. That’s part of how I talk about building CPA Cleveland. I’m wondering how to create some structure around that idea in a way that does more than just put it out there, but actually greases the groove for member institutions to spend with MBE.

    CPA DC’s preferred vendor network might be the key; 14 or 29 of preferred vendors are black-owned. What sort of intention do we need to have as we set up regional CPAs to deliberately lift up MBEs in way that invites member institutions to spend with them? I’ve heard anchors in Cleveland, for example, complain loudly about the lack of supply of MBEs. I’m often cynical when people from the demand side blames people from the supply side, especially when that divide is so racialized and unequal in wealth as it is in Cleveland. That said, finding good vendors is hard, and finding good vendors that are black-owned, I’m guessing, is even harder. I hope a network of local institutions in CPA Cleveland will have relationships that bridge that gap. I’m also thinking about what the team here in Cleveland can do that would get us ready for this challenge.


  2. Carrie- I’m grateful for your reflection here. I think this does get to the heart of it. It’s a tension I’ve been living with for a good bit of the past couple years and still feel like my feelings continue to evolve. I’m guessing I’ll say something different 6 months from now. What’s also evolving for me is who I’m most deeply in relationship with around these questions.

    Who do you most want to be in relationship with as you wrestle with these questions?
    Who are two people you can have this conversation with that will embrace the complexity you describe, help you frame and reframe, and yet also distill in a way that helps you prioritize your day to day?
    thanks for showing up and digging deep this past week.


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