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October 19, 2012

Dear Friends of IISC

The following is a message from Ceasar McDowell, the new president of the Interaction Institute for Social Change.

Dear Friends of IISC,

Ten years ago when I was going through a critical stage in my life, a friend asked me what I would consider to be my dream job.  My answer was pretty simple.  I wanted to lead an organization whose primary work was to design processes for complex collaborative efforts aiming at advancing social justice, equity and democracy.  I wanted to do this in an organization where issues of power, privilege and race were central, not only to the work we did in the world but in how we engaged with each other to do that work.

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October 17, 2012

The Butterfly Story

butterfly story

|Image from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center|http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/3903384725|

At the closing of last week’s Vermont Farm to Plate Network Gathering, my colleague and friend, Beth Tener of New Directions Collaborative, shared the following beautiful story and metaphor from the evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris.  In it is the invitation that we both feel net work offers – to not simply engage in new superficial ways of working, but to let it take hold of us in shaping a new “genome” for human awareness of and interaction with living systems . . .

A caterpillar can eat up to three hundred times its own weight in a day, devastating many plants in the process, continuing to eat until it’s so bloated that it hangs itself up and goes to sleep, its skin hardening into a chrysalis. Then, within the chrysalis, within the body of the dormant caterpillar, a new and very different kind of creature, the butterfly, starts to form. This confused biologists for a long time. How could a different genome plan exist within the caterpillar to form a different creature? Read More

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October 16, 2012

More Resonance than Persuasion

I came up as an organizer.  I approached that work by working hard to persuade others that change was possible.  I then proceeded to illustrate the type of change that we could work on.  It is important and dignified work.

But as I came to understand networks I found myself doing a lot less persuading.  I’m not just seeking to build a critical mass.  I’m seeking to make critical connections.  Emergence bursts forth from these connections.

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October 15, 2012

What is Good Work?

“No good work is ever done while the heart is hot and anxious and fretted.” Olive Schreiner

I couldn’t agree more! We’re fond of a related quote that “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.” Bill O’Brien

I know that it’s hard for me to do good work when I’m fretful, exhausted or feeling insecure.

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October 12, 2012

Do the (extra) work

The following post is reblogged from Seth’s Blog. Short and simple , yet full of wisdom.  We hope that it will enrich your life and much as it has ours.

Do the extra work not because you have to but because it’s a privilege.

Get in early.

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October 11, 2012

Networks Simplified

Having spent significant time on this blog and in the field focusing on the complexity of network building, I thought I might bring it back to something much more basic and intuitive.  Fundamentally, building networks is about building relationships.  I am reminded of Nicholas Christakis’ research on the spread of physical and mental health in social networks.  Here is something he found – if we are happy, those one step removed tend to be 15% happier.  Those two steps removed are likely to be 10% happier.  And those three steps removed are about 6% happier.  Beyond that, there is much less impact.  But the point is clear, how we are matters, not just for ourselves, but for others.  To whom and how we are connected also matters.

Be the change you want to see.  Connect for that change to go beyond “me.”

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October 10, 2012

Network Tipping Points

Image from |Isaac Mao||http://www.flickr.com/photos/isaacmao/78734579|

A couple of weeks ago I put the following question out into the Twittersphere – “What leads to tipping points in networks for social change?” While I did not get any direct responses, I had a number of people say they were curious to hear what answers came back, and then my own brain was activated to look for movement towards greater impact in the networks with which I am involved in various ways.  I also have been in touch with other network capacity builders about their observations.  Clearly there is no silver bullet for rendering networks more effective, but there are some key ingredients and rites of passage that seem to come up in most.  Here is what I’ve seen and heard:

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October 8, 2012

We are in the Process

If you are a regular reader of our blog you have been part of our ongoing conversations on evolution.  I like to remind my clients that the big bang is not a one time event, that the bang is still happening, and that we are actually in it!

Yes, we are in the process of becoming.  Aligning ourselves with this idea can ground our efforts in a process that began 14 billion years ago.  Talk about a change in perspective!  Our own becoming conscious is integral to this evolutionary process.  So what will we do with this consciousness?  It’s a powerful way to think of movement, of progress, of development.  I loved this video, because it literally helps us to SEE it… with our own eyes, and on any given night.

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October 8, 2012

How to Design Culture

The following blog post was reblogged from Emergent By Design.  We hope that you enjoy it as much as we did!  

*Our source was initially and inadvertently omitted. We apologize for the mistake.  

I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of organizations over the years that want to shift their culture to become more diverse, inclusive and equitable. The article we are posting below is about changing culture in general. What specific applications do you see for shifting organizational culture toward greater diversity, inclusiveness and equity?

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October 4, 2012

What is Your Thread?

thread

|Image by Joey Lin| http://www.flickr.com/photos/limjoeypics/4307737993|

I’ve found myself gravitating more and more to this poem, sharing it with others often in the context of system change work.  In these times of flux on so many fronts, the good news from my perspective, is that we are being asked to loosen our grasp on the myths of fixity and solidity that no longer serve us.  On the other hand, letting go can be very disorienting.  With so much changing, what can we count on?  What guides us through?  What is the thread that you follow? Read More

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October 3, 2012

Network "Doing"

“It’s about redefining ‘doing.'”

Carole Martin

A question that has come up across a lot of the network building and advancement work with which I’ve been involved lately is one form of “What constitutes ‘doing’?”  I would say that it is a fairly predictable pattern that people come together to launch the network, eager to take action to increase local food production and/or food access, to restructure the education system for more equitable outcomes, etc., and they pretty quickly discover that there is some foundation building they need to do first.  This work includes building trust and relationships and establishing some common expectations, goals, processes, and indicators for their collaborative efforts.  After a while, another pretty predictable dynamic occurs when people who often identify themselves as “activists” and “doers” start to ask, “When are we actually going to DO something?!”  And then we see the classic tension emerge between what often gets labelled as “talking vs. doing” or process vs. action.

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October 3, 2012

Network “Doing”

“It’s about redefining ‘doing.'”

Carole Martin

A question that has come up across a lot of the network building and advancement work with which I’ve been involved lately is one form of “What constitutes ‘doing’?”  I would say that it is a fairly predictable pattern that people come together to launch the network, eager to take action to increase local food production and/or food access, to restructure the education system for more equitable outcomes, etc., and they pretty quickly discover that there is some foundation building they need to do first.  This work includes building trust and relationships and establishing some common expectations, goals, processes, and indicators for their collaborative efforts.  After a while, another pretty predictable dynamic occurs when people who often identify themselves as “activists” and “doers” start to ask, “When are we actually going to DO something?!”  And then we see the classic tension emerge between what often gets labelled as “talking vs. doing” or process vs. action.

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