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 Response Page - Ted Kolderie Interview - Leadership & Community Foundations   

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Ted Kolderie Interview of 07/25/08,

The questions:

_8.0 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, has the disappearance of "can't run" businesses led to a void in
leadership on thinking intelligently about questions of first order importance
to the Twin Cities metropolitan area?

_5.8 average___ On a scale of (0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, are community foundations the best-situated institutions to take the
lead in filling the void?

Donald H. Anderson (8) (6)

Richard McGuire (8) (5)

The void is obvious, the solution is not. Leadership needs to come from some sector but I am not sure where that will be. His point about lack of leadership form "cant' run" businesses is good.....maybe it is an opportunity for leadership to emerge from areas totally devoid of narrow focused interests.

Bob White (9)(6)

Wayne Jennings (7) (7)
Kolderie identifies a troubling trend--the loss of civic leadership for the area. I'm dubious about foundation leadership filling the gap but it would be helpful if they used their independence to propose community initiatives and to involve citizens in solutions.

Donna Schmitt (10) (8)
I believe this is true at all levels of government. It starts with local government. As a city we have few business owners or their representatives on our council or commissions. We are losing their input into local government. Because of that, cities are creating laws that tend to hurt businesses rather than benefit local businesses. By the time any new laws or ordinances are passed it is too late. On the larger scale of Metro area cities and State government that is hurting us even more. Those large companies are hiring lobbyists to influence decisions but if their corporation is run by someone in Texas-what do they really know about Minnesota, other than it is cold here?

I loved the statement at the end: "Kolderie said he is struck by how largely the discussion about public affairs consists simply of (a) restating the needs and problems and (b) restating the goals and objectives. Neither produces action, he said. Nothing happens until someone provides a method; a way to get from where we are to where we want to be. That takes thinking, discussion, good analysis, imagination in developing proposals." From reading that I see that we really have lost our ability to think, discuss and use our imaginations to come up with good solutions. Too many times we look at other cities, other states and take what has worked there and try to apply it here. What works in other states probably won't work that way here. We aren't discussing these solutions and adapting them to our situations. There may be discussions but not with those who live in the community, the discussions are just over what has been fed to our representatives as something that "works" and it stops there. We've lost our ability to analyze what was presented and our officials are just accepting it as true.

Foundations and non-profits are a good influence in our communities. Why shouldn't they have a say in government? Many times those same foundations and non-profits are helping or working with government programs in dealing with social problems and this has worked very well. Some good examples are youth programs such as 4H, Boy and Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Club. These programs have been around for years and because of their ability to adapt to modern times, wherever they are introduced into communities crime among youth have gone down. (Proof- Contact Anoka Extension Office and ask about their summer program that they introduced a several years ago to a trailer park in Blaine.)

The key to filling this void in leadership is to prove to these foundations that we really want their input and that they can make a difference in discussions. As to those large corporations that are left in Minnesota, encourage them to be a part of the solution. If there is a gap in any area, maybe we need to start looking at those "medium" sized businesses that are here and getting their input in discussions. Those "medium" sized businesses may be our next corporation.

Janet M. Hively (6) (4)
I don't think that there is any lack of intelligent thinking. What is lacking is the stable source of prestige/power/revenues sponsoring and feeding leadership for change that the local/regional business community once provided.

What life is all about is figuring out what the right question is to ask. Ted Kolderie's summary is valuable. I don't think that the two questions asked above are the right questions. They appear to focus on how we can do things the way we used to do them. That's a useless enterprise. You need to start here and now, with vastly more complex vectors of energy and intelligence, and figure out how to play with them. Our current institutions are not set up to do that. Why don't you interview Arthur Harkins at the U and ask him about "leapfrogging."

Bill Frenzel (7) (4)
1. Clearly, the Twin Cities has suffered, and sorely misses, community-involved business leadership from its largest firms. I am not on the scene, but I suspect that there are other, perhaps smaller, firms, with sizeable resources and competent leadership which may not be waiting for the call, but which might respond to a summons to don the mantle of leadership in community affairs.

For lots of good reasons, people don't like business organizations or leaders much anymore, but, at least their interests and motivations are clearly understood. Whatever is around may well be able to run away, but given the choice, they have preferred not to do so.

2. I don't know the community foundations very well, but I am suspicious of their accountability and their incentives. To me, they blow hot and cold, have little staying power, and tend to follow the whimsies of the moment. They can help, of course, and may furnish leadership on specific topics, but I doubt they can sustain leadership on a broad spectrum of community opportunities.

I would take one Charlie Bell, or one Dayton brother, and even a slightly-deteriorated Citizens League, over a whole slew of Community Foundations - although I would love to be proved wrong in this highly subjective opinion.

Chuck Slocum (6)(4)
Ted is always worth listening to and I certainly agree that we need " thinking, discussion, good analysis and imagination in developing proposals." I have seen the public-private approach, focused on a single challenge, work well in stimulating action in the new environment. Remember, too, that individuals account for over 80% of the $300B in annual philanthropy--that is where the money is.

Mark Ritchie
Wow, great discussion and excellent notes - this is more to the point from my perspective.

Clarence Shallbetter (9) (7)
Community foundations might be the best situated but the challenge remains of how to change public institutions or to create private ones that will creatively address public needs. Somehow this requires both the front end funding of the foundations and the institutional building power of public bodies. Special interests, the focus of this age, sap up much of the energy that could go into more generalist attempts to do what Ted correctly sees as important. One example: Instead of releasing the time and creative energies of young attorneys for public affairs, law firms today appear focused largely on the bottom line and opportunities for amassing fortunes. One consequence: proposals that deal with the complexities of the tax code that influence many incentives in the marketplace draw on the talents of many attorneys. Lacking a place to collect this knowledge, a talented pool of generalist inspired volunteers insulated from the advocacy of special interests we see few substantive proposals for small and large changes to address these issues. Proposals such as fiscal disparities or tax base sharing are rarely seen in public discourse today. Maybe community foundations can stimulate this activity.

Robert P. Mairs (10) (5)

Charles Lutz (8) (8)

Robert J. Brown (10) (5)

While the community foundations certainly have a role to play they too can be directed by boards that are made of the same people who are short term thinkers in the own businesses or institutions. We need multiple options for involving people of all backgrounds and interests in new ways of developing and promoting ideas for civic betterment. I have a lot of ideas in this area, but unfortunately I don't have the time to explain them now.

Fred Senn (10) (5)
Excellent discussion. Thank you. I believe there still enough "won't run" leaders in the community to help raise the level of public policy thinking. And as baby boomers head for the side lines in business, we should have some latent problem solving capacity. How do we tap into that?

David Broden (10) (2)

The disappearance of "can't run" businesses has definitely led to a void. While it would seem natural that the void would be filled by other business with "roots" or commitment to the region it seems that this has not occurred. Some companies show limited interest but the in-depth interest and attention is not shown. Further it seems that neither the businesses in the area today, the elected officials, nor foundations or other so called public policy or NGO type organizations seem to understand how the business community had been the shaper of the metro and Minnesota quality of life. So not only do we not have the businesses leading and participating we do not have the network of people who understand what it takes to shape and lead policy--thus it seems to have shifted the policy leadership (or lack of leadership) to elected officials who have no specific focus and thus people believe that policy must be government driven rather than private section initiated and driven. There is a clear need to find and engage those in the business community who recognize that quality of life is a driver for employee effectiveness, a strong and educated workforce, and the desire for companies to be in this area and growing. We hear a lot about the tax level in Minnesota but if the leadership does nothing to promote improvements in public policy for education and other public issues, the tax issue is meaningless. Thus filling the void left by the "can't run" should be viewed as a priority among business groups. The other groups need to direct their focus to delivering services etc. in their areas of expertise.

Community based foundation must focus on their area of expertise and execute that well. Only by raising issues and making suggestions that groups like "can't run" can pickup on and run with can the community based organization have an effect. Most of not all of the community based groups are money seekers vs. money allocaters and they often and frequently have a parochial view rather than the needed big picture view. Each type of organization has its role--evolving clarity of role of each type of organization etc. would perhaps help to readjust how the groups in a complementary way may help to restart the leadership lost with the evolution of the can't run businesses.

Joe Lampe (10) (10)
Foundations may not want this responsibility, and may not be up to the task, but I see no one else with the interest and means to do what's needed. If foundations do pick up the slack, they should take extreme measures to NOT involve only the existing power players. Radically new ideas are required in every field, and this means involving a much wider range of people -- builders, risk-takers, entrepreneurs, NOT existing managers.

Malcolm McLean (7) (6)
Ted's comments were a bit melancholy. He acknowledges that we can't just will old patterns into being now. We live in different times. The quarterly financial reports of big businesses are so powerful that it strangles many other possibilities. Might the rise of privately held, non-public businesses (Cargill, for example) help more in supplying the business clout needed to rally the community. And just maybe, the community has become so much more diverse than it was in the 1960's that comparisons are hard to make. Anyway, I hope I am not foolishly optimistic but I see lots of people of good will and strong intelligence trying hard to analyze problems and move our community forward. e.g, Graba's report on schools was dramatic and right on the mark. And some important new voices are being heard - maybe Etenza with the 2020 group; Jeff Heegaard with a Thousand Friends of MN, a rejuvenated Citizens League with Sean Kershaw, etc. Any, maybe this is just noodling around but let us not write off the "could move"organizations. I presume it is being done now but the importance of this metropolitan area should be brought regularly and systematically to the attention of the Travelers, Quest, NWA, Wells-Fargo, Honeywell, etc. Maybe people like Win Wallin and Bill George, who led a company that could have moved, but didn't, could be helpful. Also, maybe General Mills, which brought Pillsbury back, could be useful, too.

Ellen T. Brown
Two people you might consider inviting as follow up to this are Peter Heegaard, who is working to get middle managers in the financial sector informed and engaged on public policy, as I'm sure you know. And Peter Hutchinson who is refocusing the Bush Fndtn, which, while not a community foundation per se, has a big stake in MN.

Dennis Johnson (1) (0)
Don't do something, just stand there. It will do less harm in the end. The business of business is business. The business of Community Foundations is to keep liberals occupied with "doing good". What are our elected leaders for, if not leadership?

Lyall Schwarzkopf (10) (7)
The problem with community foundations is that they do not have the guts to do something different. They have become the captivates of social service agencies and non-profit groups. Because we are so well organized with all the special interest groups, whether it be the Heart Association, the needy-children groups, groups working with dysfunctional families, groups working with alcohol/drug abusers, etc., these groups will not support Foundations doing some thinking, planning, and implementing with their money because the special interest group will lose their funding.

Chris Brazelton (3) (6)
While I agree that there is some void with the movement of companies to other states, interests and leadership have expanded beyond what is good for a handful of large, influential businesses. Community foundations have taken on a larger role, but so have other groups interested in policy and planning for the future, including Growth and Justice, the Humphrey Institute, etc.

As a member of the League of Women Voters, I have come to appreciate the process of studying an issue from several perspectives, gathering information and discussing the complex issues before arriving at a policy statement. The work of groups like Growth and Justice, bringing in leaders and stakeholders around an issue and examining it over a
period of time is one model that I would like to see explored on a larger scale.

I also appreciate this forum because it opens the discussion and gives people with limited time access to policy experts. Unfortunately, to accommodate time limitations the depth of information and discussion is also limited.

Tim McDonald (10) (10)
The void is there, caused by the uprooting of the 'can't moves.' But this was coupled with a much broader shift in social focus as well. People are more 'metropolitan,' now---in a global sense. Ted is spot on in pointing out that civic decisions are no longer made behind the doors of private clubs.

Foundations are most conveniently situated to move ideas--but they must, as Ted points out, open up to bringing ideas to the table, not just funding non-profit operations. These are two very different ventures.

As far as who is BEST suited, I think there is no doubt that individual philanthropists bring the best flexibility. Ted pulled the curtain back a bit on this; he knows that there is great potential here. There is more money than there are good ideas. This money won't find a home behind an idea unless there is an agent to carry it.

On foundations, I am reminded of a story shared by Paul Grogan of the Boston Foundation in a meeting with myself and Ted this past winter. Boston's Pilot Schools program is its own public district response to chartering. It met great initial resistance from the usual interests, but the Boston Foundation (money) in cooperation with the Boston Globe (constant critical coverage of the situation) were directly responsible to getting them pushed through and started--any artificial limits on the growth of the Pilot Schools sector was confronted. This is the role foundations need to play.

It is helpful to get the historical context from someone like Ted who has been around for so long. He's right--the way we go about civic work will be different, because of technology, but in the end the same dynamics are still at work: someone's got to bring an idea, and people have to help carry it.

Robert A. Freeman (7) (4)
I take particular umbrage at the intimation that the Itasca Project is a bunch of corporations trying to serve their best interests or those of their shareholders. The participants in the Itasca Project are a mix of business, civic, non-profit and government leaders. I also find this anti-corporation rhetoric to be very unhelpful when thinking about solutions to public policy. While the world may not be as small as it once was, the Twin Cities are still a shining example of the contributions businesses make to their community and we should recognize that. I'd encourage people to visit their website to learn more about the work they have done.

William McGaughey
Too much emphasis on the big-money institutions with ties to the political structure and not enough emphasis on small businesses that are often persecuted by city governments through the inspections process or police action.

Tracy Leahy (6) (5)

Carolyn Ring (9) (4)
30 years ago, the Twin Cities was really a model for corporate philanthropy. We have lost so much and stand to lose more as leaders of such corporations as Honeywell and Dayton's continue to change. Somehow, we need to raise up young leaders who again will make corporate philanthropy a corporate goal that is ongoing, no matter who is in leadership.

Al Quie (10) (8)

Art Rolnick
I have much respect for Ted Kolderie, but there are notable exceptions to his concerns about business involvement in our community. Twin Cities United Way is one, and the article below highlights another. "The Minnesota Early Learning Foundation (MELF), backed by state businesses, has gained traction two years into its five-year quest to raise $30 million. The money will fund early learning initiatives, pilot-program scholarships and the critical parent-involvement efforts that will lead to recommendations to the Legislature about the best ways to boost the number of kids ready for kindergarten. Today only half of kids are ready to learn when they start school..."



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
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Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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