Monday, December 5, 2011

A Crisis of Face?

Who is the "Face of CA" to you? Is it visionary James Rouse, or current President Phil Nelson? Is it the CA Board, your own Village Board, or Village Manager? Is it the staff you see at your local CA facilities? Is it the folks who make The Festival of the Arts happen, or the childcare staff at school? The People Tree is a powerful icon, but it is merely a symbol. Who, in your mind, is the living, breathing Face of CA?

The Columbia Association is going through a process of rebranding itself. Choosing from a collection of twelve well-known archetypes, CA sees itself as Caregiver, Jester, Sage, EveryPerson. What do you think? I am neither an expert in archetypes or rebranding, so I invite you to stay engaged with the process and learn more for yourself. I raise this issue now because the "Ignite" event last week made me realize that I am experiencing a loss of faith, or "Face", if you will, as regards the Columbia Association.

Don't misunderstand me. I believe in Columbia and what it stands for. I believe in the Villages, where you will find community engagement and vibrancy happening all the time. But I'm not sure I believe in "CA."

Panel member Candace Dodson Reed offered the following, "If all people had to go on was what they read in the newspaper and saw online, they would think that Columbia was a dysfunctional place where no one got along and people constantly argued about things."

There you have it: that's my "Face of CA."

People like me, who didn't come here at the beginning, don't necessarily know how to become a part of it all, or even if it is worth it. The steady voice of CA available in the news is resistance, micromanagement, argument, suspicion. I love Columbia, but I do not want to be a part of That Club.

Tom Coale recently made this comment on his blog, HocoRising. "To the extent CA has problems, it is my personal opinion that those problems can be sourced back to the Board. If we were getting paid, I might see the upside of cutting compensation."

His comment jumped off the screen for me. How many of us see this as the "Face of CA?" How many, then, are missing CA's relevance to living, working, and thriving in Columbia?

If CA wants to communicate more clearly what it is about, then it will need to confront what holds it back from being the best it can be. Encouraging new ideas and new faces is a good place to start.

I wonder if the rebranding people are listening.



  1. I thought Tom's comment was interesting and true for me. I'd love to see a slate of candidates with a new perspective, like Tom's. Know anybody that's interested--hint, hint.

  2. Interestingly, I have heard the CA Board positions described as "dead end" and the "kiss of death" for those who want to move on in local politics. Thoughts?

  3. I attended the event and found it to be a total waste of my personal time. My purpose for attending was to participate in a discussion about the diversity on the CA Board and senior management. The discussion that took place was focused on encouraging the involvement of younger people!

    The panel included three African Americans women and one white male. The person who facilitated the process was also a white male. When are we going to understand that diversity is not just about race and when are we going to stop think of racial diversity as simply the inclusion of African Americans?

    I was very embarrassed for the Asian Americans in the room and for CA's short sightedness.

  4. Ms. DeLacy, I double-checked the invitation to see how it was billed.

    "This event will provide you with an opportunity to hear from a panel of younger and diverse leaders in our community about why they serve, what motivates (and deters) them and how CA and the Community Associations can change to make our organizations more attractive to younger leaders.

    You may have noticed some of CA's new ads recently. Redhead Companies has been working with CA on internal and external branding. During this event, Redhead Companies will give a presentation on inside-out branding and how it affects an organization."

    I think they more or less achieved these goals. I'm not sure there was anything particularly "Igniting" about it, however.

  5. Ann, as one who works at CA and was involved in the Ignite Columbia, I'm sorry to hear you felt the event was a waste of your time. From a "race" perspective, we did have an Asian-American and Latino man lined up to be on the panel, but as push came to shove and we had to finalize the panel participants, neither of them were able to attend.

    We also didn't want to discuss diversity through the lens of race but -- and more specifically -- to speak of the diversity that comes from the perspective of a younger generation of leaders. You wrote, "My purpose for attending was to participate in a discussion about the diversity on the CA Board and senior management. The discussion that took place was focused on encouraging the involvement of younger people!"

    However, the panel's focus was clearly articulated both in the invitation you received and on the program available at the event: *What Motivates You to Serve: A panel conversation with Columbia’s young leaders.*

    When we invite all the village staff, boards and key volunteers; all the CA board; and key members of CA staff, it is our responsibility to design the event, manage expectations and set the tone for the meeting. While it's near impossible to please all the people all the time, I do believe we delivered on what we promised ... even if it wasn't what you wanted.

    Jessie Newburn, at CA

  6. Thanks, Jessie. I agree. Musings above rooted prmarily in concerm over what stands in our way as a community.

  7. I'm late to the party...I just saw this.
    I was impressed with this event and hope that CA uses some of the suggestions that came from panel members.
    Thoughtful way to involve folks who's voice is sometimes ignored or dismissed because of how old we are.

    Candace Dodson Reed


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