Flinn-Brown Network News

October 2021

Welcome Fall! My most favorite time of year! The weather cools down, the days get shorter, and everything ever produced by human invention gets hijacked by the scent of pumpkin spice. 

On a bittersweet note, Friday will be the last day of Academy for the 2020 Flinn-Brown cohort. Since August, our group of 31 amazing Fellows have gathered—in-person, then virtual, then in-person, all within the distractions of the new normal of this pandemic world. While this situation has not been ideal—and certainly challenging to operationalize—I can say that these truly extraordinary individuals found their own ways to connect and bond as closely as previous Flinn-Brown cohorts. (Fun Fact: This cohort was also responsible for five beautiful babies brought into this world since June 2020.) [Read More]

September 2021

Recently, during a Flinn Foundation team building exercise, our facilitator challenged us to note a single point of certainty… and uncertainty in our lives. My brutally cathartic response – “I’m certain all 13-year-old girls are a*&h*%$s, and I’m uncertain how long I could hybrid work at home with my husband before I lose my mind.” Got a few laughs, a few nods of agreement—and a few concerned looks that conveyed “Are you alright?”

The truth is, I do not really think all 13-year-old girls are—well, a better word is difficult—and it really has not been all that bad working at home with the husband. But it had been a tough day (and year-and-a-half) on both fronts, and I was feeling the weight of it all. We all have moments where we say things we do not mean, act in a manner that is not our typical way, and let our feelings and emotions get the best of us. I am comforted by the fact that the great American philosopher, Mister Fred Rogers coined the word “mentionable” for these feelings and emotions. However, for some, what is not as easy to discern is how mentionable feelings can be “manageable.” [Read More]

August 2021

One of the most awe-inspiring moments of every Olympic Games is the Athletes Parade. Watching each athlete march into Olympic Stadium under the cover of their country’s flag—I’m always struck by the joy and exhilaration on their faces and how powerfully their emotions exude from the screen. The remarkable history of the Athletes’ Parade is worth reading, especially how the opening and the closing ceremonies have evolved over the last century.

I’ll also admit that in my household, the parade provides an opportunity for a much-needed world geography lesson. Beyond the experience of learning about the lesser-known countries (many thanks to Google), we also saw athletes participating through a special team construct, the Refugee Olympic Team. Consisting of 29 athletes, from 11 countries, competing in 12 sports, the Refugee Team marched into the arena under the banner of the Olympic flag in the second position, immediately after Greece. Throughout the Olympics, I was incredibly moved to hear the personal stories of these incredible athletes, displaced by their home country’s political turbulence or those who fled from authoritative regimes seeking shelter and safety. [Read More]

July 2021

In a recent meeting with members of the Civic Health Steering Committee, we posed the question, “Why is this work important to you?” We were seeking responses from the members whose work spans across the civic engagement spectrum.  While this question was directed to the Steering Committee members, it gave me an opportunity to reflect upon our work at the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and my own path more broadly.

A few years ago, I transitioned my career into the philanthropic space, leaving behind years in state government and public policy work. However, I often think about what initially led me to public service—a combination of opportunity, interest, and mentors. The opportunity was in college; I was a student clerk for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah. I worked at the Department of Justice in Salt Lake City under two U.S. presidents, before and after 9/11, during the 2002 winter Olympics, and through the search for a missing girl from Utah, Elizabeth Smart. There are many stories from my time at DOJ but what left the biggest impression were the career public professionals. I met individuals whose entire careers were devoted to government service which enlightened me to the opportunities that existed within the public sector. This opportunity, paired with my interest in government and policy and a few great mentors with distinguished public service careers, put me on my path. [Read More]

June 2021

Recently, my almost teenager and I took our first solo road trip. Charged with curating our travel playlist, she produced an eclectic discography that featured her favorite modern artists and her version of the “classics” she thought I might enjoy. Included were iconic songs from the Stones, Beatles, Springsteen and, interestingly enough, Don McLean’s “American Pie.” As we engaged in some car karaoke, we became curious about McLean’s lyrics, and decided to unpack the many historical references (“the day the music died”) that ultimately led us to the 1960’s political and cultural revolution in the U.S.

During our discussion, my daughter revealed that many of the themes from this song resonated with her and her generation (racial injustice, political divisiveness, class struggle). To her surprise, I offered her the soundtrack of my ’80s youth – U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, and Neil Young’s “Rocking in the Free World.” What happened next, through this unexpected musical journey, was a rare moment where the divide of a generational gap—and the complexity of the parent-child experience—evolved organically from the individual lens of perception to a mutual understanding and shared language about the values that were important to both of us. [Read More]

May 2021

In the early 20th century, a Bell Company executive first coined the term “network effect” as a strategy to expand regional telephone services. This principle refers to any situation in which the value of a product, service, or platform depends on the number of buyers, sellers, or users who leverage it.

More recently, this economic theory has been applied to the technology marketplace. In fact, it is commonly referred to as “Metcalfe’s Law,” named after Robert Metcalfe, co-inventor of the Ethernet, the system for connecting a number of computer systems to form a local area network. Essentially, Metcalfe believed that the value of the network was proportional to the square of the number of users. Or, in other words, the value was due to the connectivity between users, enabling them to work together and achieve more than they could alone. Sound familiar? [Read More]

April 2021

In a recent staff meeting, my coworkers and I were challenged to share our favorite sports hero. While I live with two sports fanatics—one I married, the other I birthed—I don’t know many current players in professional sports. Of course, I know the big names like Jordan, Ali, Billie Jean King—but only from the documentaries and Hollywood biopics.

Desperate for a name to contribute to the conversation, I remembered that several years ago, my former boss gifted me a book by Coach John Wooden, A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court. As head coach of the UCLA Bruins, Coach Wooden won 10 NCAA national championships and is undeniably one of the most successful college basketball coaches, beloved by his players and well-known for his motivational sermons built on his own grounded philosophy of life. [Read More]

March 2021

In 2011, the original vision of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership imagined that building leadership capacity in Arizona should be paired equally with robust civic learning and community outreach to build a groundswell of support for civic life, and with resources for statewide collaborations to link statewide or local leadership initiatives.

In 2021, we are compelled to ask ourselves if we have realized this vision, and beyond the Foundation’s own self-reflection, an integral part of our evaluation has been outwardly focused on policy and political leaders, community partners, and the Fellows themselves. [Read More]

February 2021

While most of 2020 was epic in its challenges, the holiday season glimmered to me like an elixir for the darkness of our collective mood. The simplicity felt restorative in a year filled with chaos. For me and mine, the beauty of the moment and the promise of a new day felt like a soft light at the end of a long, gloomy tunnel. I had great expectations as we approached the new year.

Then six days into the new year, an unimaginable tragedy emerged filling us with renewed fear and despair. Before our eyes, the sanctuary of our democracy was violently breached by insurrectionists birthed out of the gutter of demagoguery. The world watched as we struggled with our own fragility and the overwhelming sense that something so precious as the American experiment could be slipping way and lost forever. I was equally heartsick, afraid, and powerless—something I’ve not felt since I lost my 5-year-old in a large crowd. But I don’t believe that these moments define us—certainly, not when we have messengers of hope who compel us to rise above the somber ashes of disillusionment and uncertainty and to resurrect ourselves. [Read More]

December 2020

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” 

It once would have been hard to imagine that the opening lines of a Dickens novel from 1859 would be prophetic for the year we have all collectively experienced. But the contradictions in those words from “A Tale of Two Cities” perfectly describe 2020—a year marked by tragedy and paired with delicate moments of compassion. A year in which scientists became superheroes to the masses while valiantly fighting against the villains of ignorance. A year in which an unspeakable act ignited a movement for justice that will reverberate for generations to come. A year in which the human spirit was tested beyond its limits, and still showed its resilience by materially transforming how we work, how we educate our children – and how we live each day. [Read More]

November 2020

There is nothing more lovely than November in Arizona. For locals, it is a long-awaited respite from the scorching heat of never-ending Arizona summer days. For our friends who escape here from the frigid winters of the Midwest, Arizona is the closest to paradise you can get to in a car. And while we get a little curmudgeonly about increased traffic and other little inconveniences, I celebrate our winter visitors, as they remind me to look with fresh eyes on the amazing beauty of the Grand Canyon State.

Each November is also poignant to me for more personal reasons, as it is filled with special events and moments that trigger self-reflection on my life and purpose—birthdays, anniversary, Thanksgiving, the dreaded arrival of Elf on the Shelf. And that phrase we so often hear in November, “Elections have consequences,” specifically resonates with me because at various points in my life, outcomes of elections have deeply impacted my professional trajectory. I know that is true for many of you, too. [Read More]

October 2020

Last month, our country mourned the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was known to many as an impassioned advocate of women’s rights. However, not as widely known, was her legacy to broader gender equality. Many of her early cases as a litigator addressed discriminatory practices against men, particularly in their roles as caregivers to the family.

Everything I have read leads me to believe that she was amused by her status as pop-culture icon—a.k.a. the Notorious R.B.G. For her great sense of humor, I am eternally grateful because it introduced her—and her story of self-determination and empowerment—to my 12-year-old daughter and her friends. Her fame and popularity among the younger generation created the opportunity for me to discuss the road to equality for women in a different way—through the powerful lens of an individual, who, otherwise gifted with all measures of success, sought to fight for the constitutional rights of all citizens. [Read More]

September 2020

As we approach the beginning of autumn, I can truly say I’m happy to look back at the summer of 2020 in the rearview mirror. While I cherish the LONG summer days my family and I spent together, it is re-energizing to look forward to the months ahead and the promise of a return to some sense of normalcy. I’m cautiously optimistic that improving health benchmarks may be a predictor of a positive trend for the state. However, the advice from experts remains that we should continue to be diligent with the health and safety protocols, including masks and social distancing. #MASKUPAZ.

To that end, while we are committed to doing our part in mitigating the spread, we are looking forward to returning to our programming for the 2020 Fellows cohort, albeit partly virtually. Additionally, we are planning for future Arizona Center for Civic Leadership activities, including Flinn-Brown Network engagement and monthly CivEx webinars. We hope the broad reach of virtual events will provide an opportunity for Fellows outside of Maricopa County to participate and engage in activities that previously were less accessible to them. [Read More]

Special Edition Network News: Call to Action: Help AZ complete the census

The 2020 U.S. Census is happening right now, and we need your help!

We know that as Flinn-Brown Fellows, you appreciate the impact the census has on our state. Every ten years, it serves as our guiding tool for equal political representation and distribution of more than $675 billion in funding to support essential services and infrastructure provided to our local communities. [Read More]

August 2020

The month of August typically heralds the hustle and bustle of “back to school,” which inevitably touches the lives of most Arizonans–certainly if you have kids, but even if you do not. The longer commutes and traffic remind us that summer is officially over.

In a typical year, the week before school would be a flurry of shopping, happy school-friend reunions, and the silent joy felt by many parents that school is back in session. That is not our collective experience this year—instead, we are all reimagining schooling at home, in some cases reminiscent of the one-room schoolhouse where children of multiple grades are learning together. [Read More]

July 2020

In May, the whole country watched with agonized incredulity as George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. In the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s death and so many tragedies like it before, we witnessed our fellow Americans take to the streets to protest and we heard them cry out in generational pain and frustration. We also saw the linking of arms, the holding of hands, and declarations of both black and white voices in unity for change, that gave rise to hope that our beloved country can someday be a place where every person is guaranteed an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In my education policy work, I often tried to push to the forefront strategies to mitigate the “achievement gap” and the impact of socio-economic status as a determinate of student success. As I have had time to reflect, I have become intensely aware of the superficiality of my assumption that the social determinates of education inequity are merely economic. To that end, I intend to engage Fellows and other civic leaders committed to furthering the success of our children of color and bring their work to the forefront during the 2020 seminar series. [Read More]

June 2020

Our team has been extremely busy over the last month reviewing applications for the 2020 Flinn-Brown Fellowship. For me, it has been a great discovery of the wealth of talent and creativity among Arizonans. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the amazing public-policy work that is happening in our state by truly impactful leaders. I am also really proud to say that more than ever, our applicants represent Arizona’s geography from all over the state—from Kingman to St. David to Yuma to Prescott Valley, and many cities and towns in between.

We recruited 22 Flinn-Brown Fellows to assist with the screening of applications. In teams of two, these Fellows helped us carefully consider the range of occupations, perspectives, knowledge, and experience within the cohort. As importantly, how the applicants described their desire to improve the state and their communities weighed heavily in our decision-making. The final selection task will be no easy feat. As the program has gained prestige, there has been increased competition for limited interview and seminar slots. However, in an effort to accommodate this demand, we are increasing our typical cohort from 25 to 30. [Read More]

May 2020

Last week, we closed the application period for the 2020 Flinn-Brown Fellowship. We had a tremendous response this year, with 129 completed applications from truly remarkable individuals representing communities from all over the state.

When we put out the call to service in early April for help in recruiting members, we could not have anticipated to what degree each of you would respond and offer to contribute. This is the true power of the Flinn-Brown Network—the ability to combine talents and expertise with determination and get things done. [Read More]

April 2020

I am truly excited to be joining the Flinn Foundation Arizona Center for Civic Leadership team. Over the last two decades, I have been privileged to serve in a variety of roles in state government and have witnessed first-hand through my work with elected officials, policy and political staff, and community influencers, the impact of effective leadership on public policy and good government practices that ultimately benefits the quality of life of all Arizona residents. [Read More]