Interview: Lawrence Barriner II exploring the CSS Netwerk
Who are you? What kind of work do you do?
I’m a Black, queer communications strategist, facilitator, systems thinker, and teacher/coach. I hate it but the term “Renaissance [person]” seems to fit well. Who I am and what you know me to do totally depends on when we met 😅. I currently spend most of my time as the Community Media Program Director at the MIT Community Innovators Lab where I’m responsible for supporting community-based (defined geographically or conceptually) media and storytelling work that supports self-determination and economic democracy. I’m also the Executive Editor of CoLab Radio, which is, funnily enough, our blog I have two city planning degrees from MIT and I’m an alum of the 2015 CSS Advanced Training.
What are you working on with CSS?
Over the next four months I’ll be CSS’s Network Coordinator! I have a pretty deep interest in systems and networks as systems. A friend and inspiration of mine, Curtis Ogden, is currently running a series on networks over at EdWeek and, similarly, I’ll be exploring how network-thinking can help CSS continue to move on its mission to support and create a Just Transition!
“You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it.” — Toni Morrison
Ok, but what does that look like? My work will primarily be on two fronts: one looking backward and the other forward. The rear-facing work will be understanding the needs of CSS’s network (which includes alums of CSS trainings, CSS trainers, former and current CSS staff, and maybe even clients of CSS). After getting clear on what’s happened and some needs and opportunities, the forward-facing work will be talking with people in the network (and maybe outside of it, too) and running experiments to step into those opportunities and needs.
How can folks get involved?
“Network theory suggests that what a system becomes emerges from the complex, responsive relationships of its members, continuously developing in communication.” — Esko Kilpi
Between now and the end of summer, I’ll be trying to get a good sense of what you (yes, you, specifically) want from CSS. As I start reaching out in the next two months, I’ll be looking for people with dreams who want to play! What do you wish CSS did? What do you wish YOU could do with CSS? How do you want to be connected with other story-based strategists? No promises just yet, but if the network is speaking, it’ll be my work to help bring those dreams to life!
You can also pay close attention to emails and the CSS Facebook group! Get yourself ready for some surveys, some virtual meetings, and a few experiments. There will be lots of prizes and potentially even some funding opportunities for projects that use story-based strategy. If you have projects you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t known where or how to get them moving, put a little more thinking into them and be ready to share!
“The most robust and resilient networks are those that create additional value for each participant while strengthening a community or ecosystem as a whole.” — Adam Pattantyus