On a corner of Chris Bennett’s desk is a framed 8×10 illustration. It’s Bennett himself, in this very office and standing in front of this very desk, re-imagined as a character from The Simpsons. The cartoon Bennett – holding a coffee mug with his company’s logo – is yellow-skinned, bug-eyed and smiling a big, toothy, Simpsons-style grin.
The picture – a recent birthday gift, Bennett explains – is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the one little nod to levity in a place where the work that’s done is about as serious as it gets.
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In their own words, the team at the Open Partnership Education Network (OPEN) gives the elevator pitch to a complex subject: Their mission. “Simply stated, OPEN wants to help create a smarter, better connected city, learning and growing together.”
Building an institutional structure around an idea so broad and so open was a monstrous task. The founding director of OPEN, Walter Fernando Balser, Ed.D. came into the organization to create order out of that chaos. To bring philanthropist Jim Aresty’s vision into reality, Balser oversaw the building of the OPEN Wiki, its collaborative open-source platform used to increase transparency and share information between users.
A little over a year ago, a high-performing specialist at one of the largest technologies companies — we’ll call him Santiago — was given an opportunity no high performer could turn down: an opportunity to play a manager role on a project he really cared about. The director told him, “You care about this; you lead it.” So he did, and all seemed to be going well — even though he was planning a significant company-wide event at the same time, a role he had volunteered for.