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December 31, 2009

Feeding Our Fire

One of my favorite poetry finds this year comes from Judy Sorum Brown, whose piece “Fire” ties in nicely with a theme that has been developing for me over the past twelve months.  In addition to Judy’s work, I am grateful for the writings of Larry Dressler, which have helped me to embrace the metaphor of “fire tending” (not firefighting) as part of the work we do as leaders, facilitators, consultants, teachers, and perhaps as parents.

Larry’s book Standing in the Fire points out that when we work with groups of people we are to some extent always playing with fire.  Fire can burn, of course, but it can also purify and renew, it can serve as fuel, it can warm us, and it can make us uncomfortable enough to get moving.  The key is first not to be afraid of the heat.  From there it all comes down to the choices we make about how to build and feed the flames in light of what it is we are trying to collectively accomplish.

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December 23, 2009

Moving Toward the New Year

Greetings and best wishes for the rest of this holiday season.? In the Northern Hemisphere, we’re now turning toward longer days and celebrating the return of the sun. Boston, like most of the eastern US, was blanketed in snow this past weekend.? And IISC will be on break the rest of this week and all of next week, holding to its commitment of balance, well-being and sustainability.

I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on all the things I’ve learned over the past year, the ways IISC has grown and shifted, and feel honored to be part of such a dynamic organization and group of people.

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December 22, 2009

Love and Collaboration

Part 4 of  Three Lenses for Collaboration

The work of social change takes place in history, we are not the first ones doing this work, nor will we be the last.  We are part of that noble arch bending itself towards justice.  In the United States the history of social change is punctuated by the prophetic voice of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King called us to beloved community and at the Interaction Institute we look at collaboration as a way to meet his call.  I like to call this the lens of love.

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December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays!

The holidays are here and the year is coming to an end. It is at this time that we wish to give you a IISC-heart-filled THANK YOU!! Thank you for connecting with IISC, for reading our blog and for passing it along. A hope of ours is to connect which you here on the blog and we are always eager to hear your feedback. So let us know what you’d like to see by commenting or utilizing the “Share” function on the right sidebar.

As for the Institute, we are taking a little break for the holidays and won’t be updating the blog from the 24th till the New Year. When we return, we’ll be incorporating some of  your upgrades and even adding videos that we’ve made in the office.

If the snow finds you, stay warm, and if you are with the sun, feel free to push it north whenever you’d like. Happy holidays everyone!!

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December 18, 2009

Lessons from a Facilitation Evangelist

I attended a powerful, short workshop led by Adrienne Maree Brown (abbreviated from longer trainings she offers) and Invincible on how to facilitate high tension and/or high conflict conversations at the Making Money Make Change conference. Weeks later, ideas and exercises from that workshop are still sticking with me.

Adrienne calls herself a “facilitation evangelist,” because she believes that the world would be transformed if we all practiced facilitation intentionally and were prepared with the tools to do so. I agree with her. And this reminded me of something so basic – facilitation isn’t just for meetings! I hadn’t thought about practicing facilitation in tense conversations with family members, for example, but Adrienne pointed out that facilitation in these and other everyday situations, whether the role is explicit or practiced silently within oneself, can have a profound impact on peoples’ experiences – turning what could be explosive into something more productive.

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December 17, 2009

Claiming Nonindependence

ice storm

|Photo by Digital Agent|http://www.flickr.com/photos/specialagent/2241064739|

It was at this time a year ago that I made the trip to Keene, New Hampshire to teach my final weekend Change Models class of the semester at Antioch New England.  Just a few days prior, the entire region had been rocked by an ice storm for the ages.  When the storm hit I was in Maine.  Driving home the next day I heard reports about the worst damage being concentrated in western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.  All that had slipped my mind when I got up early on Sunday morning to drive to Keene.  It came rushing back when I got off of Route 2 heading north and the world turned dark and quiet.  Everything in sight was cocooned in ice.  Trees sagged.  Homes along the roadside for miles were without lights.  Businesses were shuttered.  The awesome force of nature really began to sink in.

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December 16, 2009

What's the Word?

In the wee hours of the morning, I came across an amazing new project Seth Godin‘s been working on.? He pulled together 60 thinkers from around the world to answer the question “What Matters Now?” and created an e-book with their responses. Each person took a single word (sleep, re-capitalism, enrichment, nobody, meaning, ease, etc.) and used it to frame a short piece describing what they’re thinking about and working on for the coming year. And he’s hoping it will spread far and wide.

I thought I’d pass along a few short excerpts from this amazing piece.

One thing Elizabeth Gilbert describes in writing on the topic of ease:

“My radical suggestion? Cease participation, if only for one day this year – if only to make sure that we don’t lose forever the rare and vanishing human talent of appreciating ease.”

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December 16, 2009

What’s the Word?

In the wee hours of the morning, I came across an amazing new project Seth Godin‘s been working on.? He pulled together 60 thinkers from around the world to answer the question “What Matters Now?” and created an e-book with their responses. Each person took a single word (sleep, re-capitalism, enrichment, nobody, meaning, ease, etc.) and used it to frame a short piece describing what they’re thinking about and working on for the coming year. And he’s hoping it will spread far and wide.

I thought I’d pass along a few short excerpts from this amazing piece.

One thing Elizabeth Gilbert describes in writing on the topic of ease:

“My radical suggestion? Cease participation, if only for one day this year – if only to make sure that we don’t lose forever the rare and vanishing human talent of appreciating ease.”

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December 15, 2009

Networks and Collaboration

Part 3 of Three Lenses for Collaboration

The second lens through which the Interaction Institute for Social Change looks at collaboration is the lens of networks.  I think about this as one of the most important interventions on the sector, the shift from an organization centric paradigm to a network paradigm.  The good news is that this shift is already happening; the even better news is that this shift calls for stronger and deeper forms of collaboration.

In the recent Convergence report, LaPiana consulting identifies the fact that “networks enable work to be organized in new ways” as one of five converging trends that will redefine the social sector.  It is important to understand that while there is a close relationship between new social technology and our capacity to work  in networks, the shift to a network paradigm is not just a technological shift – it is a different way of organizing how we work together, a different paradigm for collaboration.

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December 11, 2009

Women and Facilitative Leadership

Yesterday,  I was honored to lead a workshop on Facilitative Leadership for 500 women at the 5th Annual Massachusetts Conference for Women.  Hosted by the MA Commission on the Status of Women, this mega-gathering attracted over 5,000 diverse women from corporate, government,  non-profit, and social change  sectors. The vibe was electric and eclectic – with a mix of  executives, teachers,  job-seekers, entrepreneurs, students, philanthropists, stay-at-home moms and many others.   It was a day of focus on issues “that matter most to women, including personal finance, business, entrepreneurship, health and work/life balance”.

My 60 minute session, “The Practice of Facilitative Leadership”, was what we at IISC would call an “experience” of our flagship, 3-day, course.  Up front, we acknowledged that, in this shifting socio-historical global context — anyone who claims to lead is merely improvising her way through unprecedented waters along with the rest of us.

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December 10, 2009

To Love Is To See

In the abyss I saw how love held bound

Into one volume all the lives whose flight

Is scattered through the universe around.

Dante Alighieri, from The Divine Comedy

“What’s love got to do with it?”  This is a question that gets raised with increasing frequency in our work at IISC.  Recently, while training a group of health care reformers from around the state of Maine, I presented what we call our “Profile of a Collaborative Change Agent,” which outlines the core attributes of those who, in our experience, are able to maintain a win-win outlook even in the most trying of circumstances.  Sitting conspicuously at the heart of the Profile (see below) is “the L word.”  Nodding heads and knowing smiles, in Maine and elsewhere, are an indication of the growing willingness to seriously consider the role of love in social change work. Profile Read More

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December 9, 2009

Thinking of Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton, a charismatic African American activist and leader in the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, was killed in his sleep 40 years ago December 4th by the combined forces of the FBI, Chicago Police Department and Cook County, IL State’s Attorney’s Office. There have been some great articles written about him over the past week in Racewire and the Huffington Post.

In the days before he was killed, my dad met with Hampton and others from the Party to talk about the Free Breakfast Program the Black Panther Party had started to feed children going to school with empty stomachs. My dad was hoping to connect the food company he worked for with the Chicago program to get donations of breakfast cereal for the program. I was with my dad on the anniversary of Hampton’s death this year – and asked him to retell the story, hoping Alzheimer’s hadn’t taken this memory, though I’ve heard the story many times. Read More

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