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November 14, 2012

Be Aware of Boundaries

Seeing the words “Critical Systems Heuristics” may tempt you to run screaming from this post, but please hang in there while I distill what this important framework and addition to the systems thinking body of work has to offer our social change efforts!  CSH is attributed to Swiss social scientist Werner Ulrich and his efforts to bring critical analysis to the boundaries that we construct around and within systems.  Far from being primordial, these boundaries and divisions are an expression of what people see and value from their particular perspectives.  As Ulrich writes, ” The methodological core idea [of CSH] is that all problem definitions, proposals for improvement, and evaluations of outcomes depend on prior judgments about the relevant whole system to be looked at.”  His effort is to help make these boundary judgments explicit so that both those affected by and those implementing such judgements might see alternatives that better serve the whole. Read More

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November 13, 2012

Extraordinary

Today we often use the word extraordinary to refer to something amazing, something great.  The overwhelming re-election of the nation’s first Black President through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is a truly extraordinary event.

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November 7, 2012

Embracing Restraint

A couple of days ago my colleague Cynthia Parker blogged about the challenge and importance of staying connected across political divides.  The conversation that has ensued seems especially relevant to where we stand right now, the day after the elections, faced with what some fear will be an increasingly polarized country.  No matter where we may fall along political lines, there are strong feelings on all sides about what is the “right” direction for our country and how to get there.  In this increasingly mediatized world, it is very tempting and easy to stand behind our computers and cast aspersions at one another.  And all this does is continue to fray the already worn social fabric.  How do we continue to recognize that we are all in this together, like it or not, and that respecting our collective humanity is a baseline for progress? Read More

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November 5, 2012

Human connections, political divides

I don’t usually find listening to public radio overly stressful, but this weekend’s edition of This American Life had me churning. The episode Red State Blue State featured a series of stories of relationships among friends, family members, neighbors and more that were damaged or severed over political affiliations and whom they intended to vote for. In a country where most people live in communities that are largely blue or red, people with minority political views in their community need increasing courage to speak their convictions, or even, sometimes just to live their lives. I found the story of a pair of sisters especially heartbreaking.

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November 1, 2012

Undoing racism-By Design

On virtually every indicator of individual and community health and well-being, people of color in the U.S. experience worse outcomes and more barriers to success than their white counterparts. Intervening to reverse these trends requires intention and attention: intentionality about understanding the historic and present-day manifestations of racism and attention to effective ways to intervene.

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October 31, 2012

Practicing Wholeness

alchemy of wholeness

|The Alchemy of Wholeness by Armanda Moncton|http://www.flickr.com/photos/armandamoncton/1705798622|

On Sunday, Gibran Rivera and I facilitated a workshop at Connecting for Change/Bioneers by the Bay about change practices for a networked world.  Another way of thinking about what we were exploring was to put it in terms of “practices for wholeness.”  Part of our premise was and is that we are suffering from a worldview that leads with and to fragmentation and fixity.  This is part of our inheritance from the industrial age that strives to understand through division and an associated mindset that believes we can make a separation between observer and observed with no associated impact.  For certain tasks, of course, it makes sense and is possible to divide, diagnose and put back together.  But this does not make sense, nor is it possible, in the case of complex living systems.  Furthermore, we have gotten ourselves in a bind because our habits of thought have led us to thinking that the divisions and categories we have created are in some sense primordial.  And so we are hard pressed to believe, or remember, that what we do to our “environment” or “others” we do to ourselves! Read More

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October 30, 2012

Stay Open

Our paradigm is our lens on everything.  It is how we make sense of reality.  For example, a deterministic paradigm is a lens that makes you see everything in terms of cause and effect.  It gives you a mechanistic lens with which to make sense of the world.  Determinism can be a really useful perspective – one way of looking at things – but it becomes a problem if it is your paradigm – THE way in which you look at things.

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October 23, 2012

What is School For?

“If it’s work we try to figure out how to do less, if it’s art we try to figure out how to do more.”  Regular readers of our blog know that we are big fans of Seth Godin here at IISC.  And if you’ve been to anything I’ve trained or facilitated you have probably heard me rail against the dominance of an obsolete industrial paradigm.

In this video, Godin asks “What is school for?” and he clearly points to all the industrial trappings that are badly limiting how we educate our young – even in “high performing” contexts.  We are in the middle of a significant paradigm shift, and this is one of our most important questions.

 

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October 22, 2012

Gross Organizational Happiness

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors.

Over the past several years, there has been a great deal of international focus on the notion of happiness. While there are many definitions of happiness, here is a composite of my favorites: “emotions experienced when in a state of well-being that range from contentment to intense joy.”

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