Friday, September 25, 2009

New Talk

I was invited to participate in a newfangled, highbrow, online discussion of social innovation yesterday. Sponsored by Common Good, the "New Talk" forum included a number of folks I admire, including Geoff Mulgan of the Young Foundation and Frank Hartmann of the Kennedy School. This discussion can be found here. You have to scroll down a bit to find my contributions, which focus on our study of failure.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Obama's Pick for OJP

A short profile of Laurie Robinson, President Obama's choice to lead the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) at the US Department of Justice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Feelies vs. Arctic Monkeys

Over the past couple of weeks, I've seen two of my favorite bands in concert: the Feelies and Arctic Monkeys. Both confounded my expectations. I had hoped to be blown away by Arctic Monkeys, but they were a slight disappointment. Their newer material, which was featured prominently at the show, is a significant departure from what they do best. By contrast, the Feelies know what they do well and choose not to depart from that formula. I had worried that they would feel like a limp nostalgia act, but nothing could be further from the truth: somehow they seemed to me more vital than in their 1980s heyday. Of course, the Feelies have never been as ambitious (or successful) as Arctic Monkeys. For me, Arctic Monkeys represent attempting grand new things (and perhaps failing) while the Feelies represent staying in your lane (and thus limiting your chances of grand success).

I've been thinking about this stuff a fair amount of late. Last week, I celebrated my 15th anniversary at the Center for Court Innovation. As I look back on these years of change and growth, it occurs to me that a big part of running an agency is having good judgment about when to push the envelope and when to stick to what you know best. Hopefully, we've gotten those decisions right more often than not at the Center.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Star in Harlem

Last night I had the good fortune of attending the latest reentry court graduation in Harlem. It was, as always, a moving event. Finding a job, getting sober, repairing damaged family relationships -- these are difficult tasks even in the best of circumstances. When you throw a criminal record (and the pressures of parole supervision) into the mix, the degree of difficulty becomes almost unimaginable.

Amazingly, the graduates of the Harlem Reentry Court have managed to navigate all of these obstacles and more. Last night's graduating class included managers at Applebee's, small businessmen, and students at local colleges. To my ears, the most remarkable part of the event was the passion and pride of the parole officers, each of whom spoke with real affection about the parolees and their accomplishments.

Speaking of passion, the keynote address was delivered by none other than Harry Belafonte, who talked about his career not as a performer but as an advocate of social change. As anyone in the audience can attest, age seems to have diminished none of Belafonte's eloquence or charisma.

A small footnote for avid readers of this blog (and who isn't an avid reader of this blog?): you might recall that my very first posting was about Chris meeting Harry Belafonte back in March 2008. It took more than a year, but Chris succeeded in bringing Belafonte to the Justice Center. The result was an evening that will not be soon forgotten by anyone who was there. Congrats to Chris, John, Nigel and the rest of the team in Harlem.