Author Archives for Gibrán Rivera

October 13, 2009

Investment Shift

I had dinner with one of my closest friends the other night, he has become extremely successful in the world of finance, but he is not your traditional investment banker.  He works for a relatively small boutique shop that specializes in buying (not selling!) other investment groups.  Now, I’m not one of those nonprofit consultants that think our sector should behave more like the business world – by now we all know where that gets us!  But I do think there are many lessons to be learned, especially from those who are successful in business by carving out their own rules.

When my friend is about to buy a firm their main focus is on the culture of that firm:

  • Is it a culture that successfully unlocks the talent and self-motivation of its people?
  • What is the leadership like and what do they really want?

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October 6, 2009

Developing Network Weavers

The gap between theory and practice is always larger than we tend to see.  I love my job because it consistently invites me to help groups bridge this gap.  I just had a beautiful time working with a group of network weavers who are part of the Young People’s Project.  The task is to help them understand how networks work and how to behave as weavers for their own national network.

The challenge of this work has been to take all the amazing things we are learning about the role of weavers in a network and figure out how to apply these to the day to day work of these weavers.  Instead of spending too much of our time in the fuzzy world of network theory, I grabbed directly from Jack Ricchiuto’s piece on The Power of Network Weaving and went on to adapt it to very practical exercises for the weavers. Read More

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September 29, 2009

Web of Change

I have so much more to say than I can possibly write in one post, plus I’m just getting back so there is still so much to integrate, so much that is yet to unfold – Web of Change was AMAZING! It certainly was that retreat experience that so many of us are familiar with, the lovely high that comes up when we drop our guard together – yes, it was that, but it was also more than that. Web of Change was also a brief experiment in taking some of the best principles of life online and applying them to the offline world.

Change is of course the gathering call, the convening is meant to foster the intersection of social media and social change. We were surrounded by people who care, and who are also smart, and bold in their thinking. The fact that the convening is oriented to people using social media to make change means that they are inherently familiar with what the emergent paradigm feels like – it is decentralized, self-organized, open source, generous. I’m not saying that every single one of us can now live within this emergent paradigm, but there is an awareness of this transitional moment and an intuitive understanding of it. Read More

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September 22, 2009

Emergence and Strategic Intent

Let’s start with an oversimplification of what a “traditional” client intervention might look like.  Let’s understand the client to be an organization or a group of organizations wanting to do something together.  Such an intervention is likely to focus on the group defining “who we are,” and very quickly following that up with “what to do.”  The “what to do” is then followed by the articulation of a plan or strategy towards a mutually agreed upon goal.  Ok – so let’s remember that we are oversimplifying the case!

How does this change when we start to do more work from an “emergence paradigm?”  What happens when we start to work from a paradigm that defies the predictability of planning?  The question of “who we are,” remains centrally important, the identity of the group holds it together and provides a frame for its shared intention.  However, in an emergence paradigm the energy of attention is then focused on the articulation of a strategic intent.  What is this group’s purpose and what is the most strategic path towards that purpose, but most important – what is this group’s intention and how will it manifest?

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September 15, 2009

Bringing Honesty Back

One of the issues with the current funding system is that it tends to invite dishonesty from organizations seeking grants.  And perhaps we should not say dishonesty, but the system certainly makes it easy to fall into the temptation of overstating the case, of presenting an aspirational goal as an established reality.  This pattern is detrimental to everyone involved.  It hurts the funders who will not be able to meet their goals even if they believe they are funding with purpose.  It hurts those being served, organized or mobilized, and it certainly hurts the organizations who get caught in the game.

Part of the problem with the normalization of this often subtle dishonesty is that it actually keeps organizations from staring their own reality in the face.  As a consultant to all kinds of organizations, from foundations to the grassroots, I experience this insidious state of non-truth as a serious obstacle to my own work.  We can’t help an organization move if the organization can not be honest about where it is.  The situation forces us to spend a lot energy surfacing the truth, but if we were starting from truth then we would be able to use that energy to hit the ground running. Read More

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September 8, 2009

Creative Change

Last weekend I was honored to facilitate “Creative Change 2009“, a retreat convening for the Opportunity Agenda in Telluride Colorado.  I was awe struck by the beauty of the Rockies as well as by the way retreat participants demonstrated a willingness to grapple with questions at the intersection of arts, media and social change.  The Opportunity Agenda team did a phenomenal job of bringing the right people into the space while also planning an agenda that lent itself to generative thought, rejuvenation and relationship building.

I was particularly appreciative of the resistance and reaction to any wording that forced a separation between artist and activist.  Now let me be clear, some of the conversations that we had would not have made as much progress if we had made no effort to sift through the differences – while most artists present also considered themselves activists, not every activist is ready to consider herself an artist.  However, even when the distinction was practical, many participants reacted negatively to having to make that choice.  It is my opinion that this bodes well for movement. Read More

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August 24, 2009

The Gathering for Justice

I just had the unbelievable privilege of facilitating the leadership convening of the Gathering for Justice at the Stone House in North Carolina.  The experience left me with a powerful sense of being “on purpose” of doing precisely what I’m supposed to be doing in the world.  I can only wish that more of us have that experience as we go about our work and our lives.  There is more to say than I could possibly capture with a single blog post, but I’m not speaking in hyperbole when I tell you that this is the closest I have come to the potentiality of real movement.

The Gathering looks at juvenile incarceration not just as an issue, but as moral calling (this article just out today in the New York Times and if you are outraged, be sure to check out CJNY).  Incarcerating our children is a counter-evolutionary move, it is indicative of a systems break down at the heart of our society.  So the Gathering is not just about a compelling issue, it is about a daring to rethink how we go about movement. Read More

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August 19, 2009

Health, Social Change and the Food Movement

Yesterday I started writing about health and social change and I alluded to the promises of the food movement and its implications for social transformation. Let me be completely clear – I am not currently affiliated with any formally organized aspect of the food movement. However, as I think about the type of social change that will truly make a difference, the change that keeps people like my father physically healthy while also augmenting our collective experience of freedom, it seems to me that the food movement has a lot to offer.

Industrialized food and the commercialization of edible goods that have no benefit for our bodies is one of the key reasons why Americans are falling ill, poor communities and people of color bear the burden of this problem.  Building movement around food allows us to do a number of things: Read More

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August 18, 2009

Our Health and Social Change I

Where does social change begin? I’ve been asking myself this question for a long time but it hit me especially hard this weekend. I was sitting with my father, who is in his early fifties, we were waiting for my uncle and chatting with a friend who is also about their age, all of them have diabetes. At that point I had to wonder why it has almost become a rite of passage for Puerto Rican men of a certain age to sit around and discuss the onset of diabetes.

The Health Care debate has been sad and frustrating. Even with the best president in a generation there seems to be so little we can do. And it feels so far away from the day to day lives of those who are getting sick by virtue of simply living and eating in our society. So where does social change begin? Is it by slowly bringing progressive voices into state power? Is it by organizing people to feed themselves better? Is it all about personal responsibility? Read More

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August 11, 2009

Network and Community

As I prepare for my work with the Young People’s Project, I’ve been re-reading Building Community in Place. It is one of my favorite pieces by Bill Traynor of Lawrence Community Works. YPP has engaged Root Cause in a a rigorous Business Planning Process that is meant to take the organization to the next level. And IISC has been asked to partner with Root Cause and assist with the network-builiding aspects of the process.

As I prepare for what I’m sure will be a challenging and exciting process, I look back on Bill’s insights on network building (thankfully, LCW is an organizational partner in this process!) and his following quote really stands out:

“A network is best understood as an environment of connectivity rather than an organization in the traditional sense. At its best, it is an environment that is value driven and self-generating, where control and decision-making is dispersed and where being ‘well connected’ is the optimal state for any participant. Networks are established in order to create efficiency and optimum value for its participants – with only as much infrastructure as is needed to create effective connectivity. Read More

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August 4, 2009

What About You?

I was blown away by one of Adrienne Maree Brown’s blog posts last week.  In writing “consider it…” she manages to lift a veil and give us a glimpse into a way of being that is significantly more free.  I was blown away in so many ways, but I was particularly moved by the very fact that such words were coming from within our movement.  There is now a corner of movement work where you can find razor sharp analysis powerfully combined with an understanding of Self that is nothing short of illuminated, it is no longer an either/or, and this is good news for all of us.

As I spend more of my time calling out this zeitgeist, I am breathing myself into that part of the work where hope is vibrant, potentiality brews and generative forces insist on creating something new.  This is the part of paradigm shift that takes the idea of networks to another level by forcing us to contend with the unplannable and to devote more of our time to creating the conditions for emergence.  This is the part of paradigm shift that makes the highest demand of us as people – and how we think about this “us.”

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July 28, 2009

Lust for Life

I recently finished reading “Lust for Life” by Irving Stone, and it really stirred my soul!  The historical novel about the life of Vincent Van Gogh is one of those big books that invite you deep into the artistic psyche.  I became overwhelmed by Vincent’s struggle, his compulsive drive, personal sacrifice and willingness to let go of so many conventions.  But it’s not until we are three quarters into the book and six years into Vincent’s quest that we come to what is one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever read.

Vincent finally makes it to Paris and he sees the impressionists for the first time.  The scene is one of total awe, the beauty is like nothing he had ever seen before, like nothing he imagined, these were paintings that broke every rule, 300 hundred years of tradition suddenly gone bright with light and color, it was something absolutely beautiful and new.  Vincent had worked day and night on his art, he had gone hungry for his art, he had been rejected by artists and non-artists alike, and suddenly here he was, for the first time seeing his burning desires manifest before him, he was awed, he was emboldened and he was inspired. Read More

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