Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has instituted two major initiatives which include the National Guard and a Ferguson Commission with the intent to remedy civil unrest and racial inequality respectively. The National Guard has been relocated to protect businesses and local government agencies. The Ferguson Commission has the task of collecting information and making recommendations to reduce if not eliminate racial inequalities.
Nixon believes that in order for the Ferguson Commission to operate effectively they must listen to all voices from all sides. The members of the Ferguson Commission have not been named but the process is flawed from the inception. An information collection only mechanism will not suffice to get the community to work together to reduce the racial inequalities.
The Ferguson and St. Louis governments have eradicated past practices the continued to fuel racial inequality. Those practices include increasing the number of minority police officers and the reduction of issuing a disproportionate amount of citations which eventually landed Blacks into the prison system. It is evident that there is plenteous work necessary to overcome the many racial challenges that continue to suffocate the Ferguson community.
Governor Nixon is providing the Ferguson Commission to call on experts to address topics which include governance, poverty, education, and law enforcement. Local St. Louis politician Antonio French stated “Panels for the sake of panels and commissions for the sake of commissions doesn’t accomplish anything”. This has been the case for many commissions that focus on human rights.
There are scores of human rights commissions across the United States that are ineffective. For example, Ferguson has a Human Rights Commission. The mayor appoints seven members for three years which must be approved by the council. The Ferguson Human Rights Commission members served to receive and hear complaints related to human rights violations and advise the City Council on possible legislative or policy changes to prevent discrimination as prohibited in Chapter 21 of the Municipal Code.
As outlined earlier in this article, the Human Rights Commission was ineffective because of the post Michael Brown Shooting strategies that were implemented to reduce racial profiling. While it is important to collect the information, in order for Governor Nixon to transform the Ferguson community, he must use a different model with a primary focus of improving relationships.
In order to successfully improve relationships between factions that have unproductive relationships, I use a modified model that was originally developed by Margaret Wheatley. The process includes a pre-audit, shared vision development, and then the development of a strategic plan.
Step One: Pre-Audit
The pre-audit includes collecting both quantitative and qualitative information. I conduct interviews and use a statistical analysis to evaluate trends within the data. The only data that is usable is information that results in triangulation. Triangulation is finding the same results from three different resources or perspectives. For example, if I interview a police officer, a parent, and a student and they say or imply the same thing, then I have valuable data to use because of triangulation.
Step Two: Shared Vision Development
You must first select the correct people to participate in the remaining parts of the process. For the Ferguson Commission, I would include the police chief, the mayor, several parents, several students, several business owners, and several local civic leaders. I would limit the number of people to twenty-five.
I developed a written response tool that helps each member of the group to develop a personal vision. In this case, it would be a personal vision for Ferguson.
Once each person finishes their personal vision statement, I ask each person to read their statement and then I ask for at least three key words. I write those words and after listening to 25 people I should have 75 words.
The next task is to reduce the 75 words into about 5 or 6 words. We do this comparing and contrasting the words. Words that are similar are combined. Words that are different we look to see if they can be eliminated. Whatever the case may be, we have to get down to five or six words. Then we take those five or six words and turn them into a shared vision. I write the following words on easel paper: Our Vision is … Next, I take suggestions for how we should write the shared vision. Next, I assign 4 or 5 people the task of presenting in our next meeting variations for the Shared Vision.
Step 3: Strategic Planning
During this phase, the Ferguson Commission will develop goals, objectives, timelines and budget for each goal. The goals are developed from the Shared Vision and I would recommend that each person develop two goals. After sharing with the group their goals, they would work together in assigned groups to complete the process. This will ensure the enhancement of relationships. As a final step, the Ferguson Commission would present their strategic plan to Governor Nixon for approval and financing.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
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~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President