Grant Writing Tips

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Applying Design Thinking to Community Negotiations

This week I was in Koyukuk, Alaska helping the tribe and city agree on how to best share the responsibilities of maintaining their road system. We also worked on rebooting plans for a new community hall. To facilitate these discussions, I borrowed exercises from IBM’s Design Thinking. The process was 10x richer than a traditional public meeting and gave clear direction on where to focus.  


We were going to kick off the transportation planning meeting with a Hopes and Fears exercise, but delicious snacks and socializing took a bit longer than planned. It’s still my all-time favorite way to start a meeting with a new group of people, however, and here’s why:

  • Helps the facilitator tailor the rest of the session to address the hopes and fears raised.
  • If fears are persisting as the project evolves, then I know what to focus on to address those underlying issues.
  • It helps everyone get comfortable being transparent and open with each other, and...
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Koyukuk Next Week! Community Hall & Transportation Agreements

Next week I go to Koyukuk, Alaska to help city and tribal staff advance their priority community projects. I’m really looking forward to it and hopeful that I’ll get to see the northern lights!

Koyukuk (pronounce KOY-yuh-kuck), is a community of around 100 people on the Yukon River about 300 air miles west of Fairbanks. I’ll be taking a small plane from Fairbanks to get there and it should take about three hours. It’s also November, so I’ll be packing plenty of warm layers!

Like many rural Alaska Native communities (and frankly all communities!), Koyukuk has limited resources to provide basic services. One of the main challenges they face is upkeep of the existing road system. They have about three miles of road in the community with many more trails during the winter connecting Koyukuk to nearby villages.

As you can imagine, keeping roads in good condition is a significant challenge in a place that experiences severe flooding and drastic temperature...

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