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Thursday Complexity PostFebruary 28, 2013


Trust, Community and Laundered Money


After Hurricane Katrina ruined Hancock Bank's corporate headquarters in Gulfport, Mississippi and destroyed or damaged 90 of its 103 branches, a few of the bank's executives huddled outside and wondered how to get through uncharted chaos without electricity, computers, records, or normal police and fire protection.


They examined the values and mission stated in the bank's 1899 charter-to serve people and take care of communities. The bank had back up files in Chicago, but access would take time. Many Gulf Coast storm victims had lost everything-wallets, check books, and identification. Credit cards, even for those who still had them, wouldn't work to buy food, gas or other necessities. People needed cash, right then.


So the executives took bold steps to trust and help their neighbors. They decided to give $200 cash to anyone who provided a paper IOU with an address and social security number. Three days after the storm, they opened 30 branches without lights or phones, and in some cases without roofs. In some places they set up card tables under tarps. They salvaged cash from flooded casinos, bank vaults and ATMs, washed it, ironed it, and handed it out to people in need, whether they were Hancock customers or not.


Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy reported this story in their book Resilience, Why things Bounce Back. Click here to hear Zolli tell it. "Leadership and Mission in Resilient Organizations: Hancock Bank as a Case Study," by James Pat Smith, notes the bank's 80 year-old chairman Leo Seal Jr. had emphasized for years that banking wouldn't be possible unless 99 percent of the people were honest. That sentiment guided Hancock COO John Hairston and CEO George Schloegel as they decided to distribute money and trust in community. They put $42 million into the devastated local economy.


Zolli and Healy write that social resilience often flourishes where people have faced devastating challenges. Joe Nocera makes similar observations in his New York Times column "Rebuilding on Their Own." He tells of visiting New Orleans with Roberta Gratz, author of The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. Gratz, who was mentored by Jacobs, owns a home in New Orleans' Ninth Ward and is writing a book on the city's post-Katrina recovery. Gratz describes people trickling back into the Ninth, where volunteer groups are still helping to rebuild homes and neighbors are helping neighbors. Nocera quotes Gratz's observation that "cities change from the bottom up, block by block." In New York's Rockaways, still suffering from destruction of Superstorm Sandy, a similar ground-up rebuilding is underway. Habitat for Humanity, nonprofits, and neighbors are at work. Government aid has helped both places. But Nocera suggests the Rockaways will recover through the same ad hoc-volunteer-dependent activities that are pulling New Orleans back from ruin.


After three years, 99.5 percent of unsecured cash distributed to Katrina victims was paid back to Hancock Bank. Smith notes in the five months after the storm 15,000 new accounts were opened, and over time Hancock's deposits grew by $1.5 billion. The bank flourished, and its CEO George Schoegel became mayor of Gulfport.


In 2005, a group of 600 New York firefighters went to New Orleans to help. Now, Nocera writes, a group of New Orleans firefighters have come to help in the Rockaways to return the favor.



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Plexus ACTION 2013: Tales, Tools, and Tactics
April 18-20, 2013, Silver Spring, MD
Plexus ACTION 2013 is a conference for people who want to take ideas off the white board and into the world. Hear first hand TALES from the field about innovative approaches to solving big problems. Experience TOOLS fellow practitioners are using now. Design TACTICS for your own work you can take home and apply immediately. Plexus ACTION 2013 is for anyone working to promote action and bring about change in organizations or communities, large or small. Also this year, choose from two great pre-conference workshops. Plexus ACTION 2013: Tales, Tools, and Tactics takes place April 18-20, 2013 in Silver Spring, MD (just outside DC). 
"From beginning to end, the Plexus conference was a mind bender. And fun too! I loved how it reminded me never to overlook how many different perspectives there are, and it helped me figure out how to better put them all to work on "wicked" challenges. In philanthropy, folks can spend a lot of time in their heads. It was great to learn new ways to use all our senses for creative solution-making. Plus, the crazy mix of people who attend are just flat out cool." - Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation 


Remember PlexusCalls!  

PlexusCall Phone Fractal   

Guests: Plexus staff and you!  

No one to connect with in your area? Join the new Plexus Phone Fractal, a time to chat with friends and Plexus staff about topics that interest you! All are welcome!


Nursing Network PlexusCall

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - 1-2 PM ET


Friday, March 8, 2013 - 1-2 PM ET

Guests: Scott Chapin, Peter Block and Ron Smith


Space and the ways it is designed impact the way we gather, work, play and interact. This is one of several calls that will explore how the built environment in our home, community and professional environments exert a profound and complex influence on our lives.

Scott Chapin is an architect who is the leader in defining and designing pocket neighborhoods. His work and his 2011 book Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World have inspired news stories in dozens of major U.S. newspapers, magazines and TV stations, and his projects have won numerous design awards, including the American Institute of Architects Housing Awards for 2005, 2007 and 2009. Chapin leads an architectural and planning firm near Seattle, WA, and has been a development partner on six pocket neighborhood projects. He believes scale and design impact the quality of our conversations, relationships, and our sense of community.

Peter Block is a pioneer of organizational development who founded a consulting firm with Tony Petrella, which was later joined by Marvin Weisbord. In 1980, Block started Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops designed to help staff people in organizations to have more influence and impact. In 1995, Block got involved with city government and city managers through conferences held by the Innovations Group based in Florida. This led to his interest in building community which has been his obsession ever since. The community work is now centered in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Block has been a citizen since 1998. He is engaged in developing a civic engagement network called A Small Group, plus a series of other projects working on building the capacity of this urban community to value its gifts and see its own possibility. Block is the author of eight books, including


Ron Smith, AIA, ACHA, EDAC is a Board Certified Healthcare Architect and past president of the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, his work has received AIA Design Awards and been published inHealthcare Design Magazine. Ron is the author/editor of an on-line Therapeutic Environments resource page and he's been a co-investigator in research on the relationship between hospital design elements, and Patient/Staff perceptions of Quality of Care, Anxiety, Communication and Stress. He founded Design At The Intersection, LLC in 2011 to be a catalyst for more effective, value-based health care design. His interdisciplinary team works with health care organizations to explore innovation across 'silos', in response to a changing business environment. Read Ron's blog "at the intersection."



Visit the Plexus Institute Calendar for a detailed schedule of PlexusCalls, Healthcare PlexusCalls, Nursing Network PlexusCalls and other upcoming events from Plexus Institute and others.  


Audio from all PlexusCall series are available by searching the iTunes store for plexuscalls. Or, visit under Resources/Call Series. 


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