Apr/16/14//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Learning Edge, Networks

Network Development Through Convening

8562448300_2a5c7b1e59_z (1) Photo by Kevin Doyle. Some rights reserved.

 

Conferences and other large in-person convenings provide a great opportunity to launch and further develop networks for social change.  As has been mentioned previously on this blog, and borrowing from the good work of Plastrik and Taylor, at IISC we see networks for change as developing in various inter-related dimensions, including connectivity, alignment, and action. Paying attention to these dimensions of success can inform a variety of approaches to support a more robust, trust-bound, commonly-oriented, self-organizing and (as needed) formally coordinated collective.

Here are some methods to consider for convenings to help feed and grow networks for change: continue reading

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Apr/15/14//Gibrán Rivera//Cities, Liberation

The City: Time to Turn to One Another

At IISC we are orienting our selves towards the City.  These are the places where most human beings will live.  They are the theater of human struggle, and thus for liberation.  And as Jen points out, they just might be the key to sustainability.

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Inequality is tearing our society apart.  Oligarchy’s global claw back has been relentless, and potentially self-destructive.  We are governed by moneyed interests and the precariat have been abandoned.
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Apr/14/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Cities, Collaboration, Love

Love is a Process


 
Picking up where Gibrán’s post about our interior condition left us last week and my recent viewing of César Chávez, I wanted to lift up a description of love offered by staff of LUPE on a visit I took there last fall. “Love is a process, not a destination. Love is a set of actions that arise from an emotional state or a cognitive commitment.” Recently, I wrote about the power of strong emotions to create the space for breakthroughs. Today, I want to focus on the processes and commitments rather than the emotional states related to love.

When I read and listen to the reflections of people who are deeply committed to social justice, I am struck by their commitment to engaging with people and engaging the struggle in ways that proceeds from a powerful internal compass, even in the face of strong resistance. Think of the standard bearers of nonviolence during the Civil Rights Movement, who practiced non-retaliation in the face of attacks. Think of the painstaking and beautiful reconciliation process in the wake of Sierre Leon’s civil war, where the restoring right relationship between perpetrators and victims began with a public expression of remorse and a request for forgiveness.

In these cases and many others, there was as much attention to the interior condition of the people involved as there was to designing the processes by which they would catalyze change.

How are you attending to your own interior condition as you work for justice? How are you encouraging others to attend to theirs? How does that translate into processes that embody your commitments to love?

 



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Apr/11/14//Gibrán Rivera//Liberation, Structural Transformation

Our Interior Condition

The structural vs. transformational debate is alive and well.  I’m glad that Curtis and Cynthia have been dipping back into it over the last few weeks.  It is good to start at the end: the answer is a both/and, it’s not a good idea to get stuck in binaries.

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The print pictured above captures it for me.  It is Nelson Mandela’s drawing of the view from his cell at Robben Island, where he was imprisoned for 30 years.

Take that in for a second.

Thirty years in jail for daring to stand up for freedom.

The print’s beauty is undeniable.

How is this perspective possible?

There was something in Mandela’s mind, something in his soul, that could not be subjugated.  Oppression doesn’t get more structural than four walls and a padlock.  But they could not take away his freedom.  This is the freedom that breaks chains.  It is the freedom that inspires the world and liberates a whole people.

Nelson Mandela is the icon that destroys the binary.  Structural and transformational integrate in his lifetime.

I agree with Curtis and Glanzberg that “The pattern most in need of shifting is not out there in the world, but in our minds.” And I agree with Cynthia that our mind changes when we become aware that others share in our condition and that our condition is the product of a very specific structure.

But there is something else happening here.

We have an interior condition.  This interior condition is significantly affected by our thinking, but it is more than our thinking.  This interior condition is significantly affected by our objective conditions, but it is more than our objective conditions.  This interior condition is profoundly individual, but it is greater than the individual – our interior is “inter-subjective.” We have a collective interior.

Bringing our care and attention to what is inside.  Nurturing, cultivating, developing, evolving what is inside.  Connecting to one another there.  Actively engaging a mutual awakening – that is the key to changing our thinking and to transforming our structures.  It is the next step to liberation.

 

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Apr/10/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration, Networks

Making Space for Kindness

‘The effect of positive emotions on helping others is stronger and longer-lasting than self-interest.”

- Wayne Baker and Nathaniel Bulkley

At times thinking about social change can get rather complex, and rightfully so.  And it can be helpful to ground ourselves in some of the simpler (though not necessarily easy) and timeless principles and practices of gratitude, kindness, and generosity.  This video, from a rather surprising source, speaks truth about the power of giving, recently validated by a study conducted by Wayne Baker and Nathaniel Bulkley, who are also creators of The Reciprocity Ring.  Both the study and this video remind me of an ongoing line of inquiry I have with respect to networks for social change - How can we cultivate skill, will, and structure so that the natural impulse to give (and receive) can thrive?  

How are you making space for kindness?  What does this look like?  Feel like?  Sound like?  What is the impact?

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Apr/09/14//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge, Sustainability

Re-Thinking Progress: Getting Cyclical

What if the goods of today became the resources of tomorrow?

Regular readers of this blog know that I am particularly interested in living systems and networks and how they can inform how we approach our change work so that it is more in synch with how life works. This video is very much in alignment with my interests and ongoing inquiry, and while focused primarily on the economy and production, IMHO it has implications for all areas of focus for social change.  Some of the provocative questions it raises include the following: continue reading

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Apr/07/14//Danielle Coates-Connor//Uncategorized

Simple Deeds for Justice — ¡Si se puede!

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I saw the new biopic about  César Chávez this weekend. Criticisms notwithstanding, I think there is a lot to celebrate and a lot to learn from this film. Here are a few things that struck me.

While details apparently were missing, this was the first I had heard of the solidarity between Filipino and Chicano farm workers. It was a clear example of how race has been used to keep the class system in place in this country.

While the role of women in the movement was not fully explored, I think Helen Fabela Chávez made one of the most important statements in the film as she and César discussed moving from LA to Delano to organize workers from within their ranks. “We can’t ask the people to do anything we are not willing to do.” There is no power like the power of personal experience and personal sacrifice to make change happen.

Personal sacrifice for la causa was a consistent theme. We get glimpses of the impact of the move from LA to Delano on the entire Chávez family, illustrated mostly through the experience of oldest son Fernando. When a former classmate shows up, César offers him a job as the “legal department,” with the salary of five dollars per week, making him both the highest and lowest paid staffer. At just under 4% of median income in 1968, that would be the equivalent of about $40 per week in 2012. And, of course, there was Chávez’ 25 day fast. He said of the fast (an actual quote here, not the movie!) “A fast is first and foremost personal. It is a fast for the purification of my own body, mind, and soul. The fast is also a heartfelt prayer for purification and strengthening for all those who work beside me in the farm worker movement. The fast is also an act of penance for those in positions of moral authority and for all men and women activists who know what is right and just, who know that they could and should do more. The fast is finally a declaration of non-cooperation with supermarkets who promote and sell and profit from California table grapes. During the past few years I have been studying the plague of pesticides on our land and our food,” Cesar continued “The evil is far greater than even I had thought it to be, it threatens to choke out the life of our people and also the life system that supports us all. This solution to this deadly crisis will not be found in the arrogance of the powerful, but in solidarity with the weak and helpless. I pray to God that this fast will be a preparation for a multitude of simple deeds for justice. Carried out by men and women whose hearts are focused on the suffering of the poor and who yearn, with us, for a better world. Together, all things are possible.”

The film also gave glimpses into the integrity, fearlessness, and creativity of the UFW’s strategy to secure rights for farm workers. Chief among these was the transition from strike to boycott—the transition from something that farm workers were doing to something that everyone was doing.

While a motion picture typically isn’t the way to learn about the history of social movements, this one sparked some useful thinking for me. What level of sacrifice am I willing to make for the causes I stand for? How am I working across racial lines to build solidarity? How can I support the kind of boldness and creativity needed to move justice forward in my lifetime? What about you?

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Apr/03/14//Curtis Ogden//IISC:Outside, Learning Edge

Unintended Consequences

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Another story about what can happen when we fail to hold a broader systemic view in our social change work . . .   I was working with a food system-focused network the other day and the good news was reported that great strides have been made in reducing food waste, in large part because distributors and retailers are doing a much better job of tracking inventory and fitting it better to consumer demand.

On the other hand, it was also reported that this spells a real challenge for the “emergency food” world and food banks, which have been largely dependent upon excess food to provide for the growing number of people who are food insecure.   continue reading

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Apr/01/14//Jen Willsea//Cities, Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion, Sustainability, What We Are Reading

Re-Imagining Cities

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At IISC we often talk about three hugely important pieces of context for social change work these days:

  1. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift, from the Industrial Age into an age that doesn’t have a name yet
  2. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas
  3. In 2042 the U.S. will become a majority people of color nation

In this context, as a nation and a globe we are choosing to face or ignore urgent questions about climate change, racism, wealth distribution, violence (the types we condone, penalize, and ignore), and the quality of life that we are willing or unwilling to insist upon for every human being on this planet. It’s quite overwhelming…

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Apr/01/14//Gibrán Rivera//Collaboration, Social Innovation, Uncategorized

Brainswarm Instead of Brainstorm

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The recent barrage against the effectiveness of brainstorming has been a bit hard for those of us who are grounded in the Interaction Method. But evidence matters, doesn’t it? I know that Curtis has talked about the limits of brainstorming a couple of times in this blog. continue reading

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Mar/31/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

What needs changing in here?

Sail Away

This post continues a conversation that Curtis Ogden started last week. (Process is Where Change Happens) It’s a conversation we’ve been having for years at IISC. On one hand, we recognize the importance of understand how thinking shapes the systems we produce and reproduce. And it’s important to understand that inequities and oppression are not just a matter of thinking that can be changed simply by changing our minds. I’ve often been impatient with the “change your thinking, change the world” discourse because I’ve seen it used as an excuse for avoiding discussing the systems dynamics and the resulting inequities they produce. Still, I think there are a few ways in which focusing on the change “in here” can provide power for changing conditions “out there.”

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Mar/27/14//Curtis Ogden//Uncategorized

Process IS Where Change Happens

5439281902_380e6bfee0_z Photo by Crunchy Footsteps

 

Process can sometimes get a bum rap in our work, as in: “I’m not a process person.  I’m action-oriented.” This attitude can become a source of considerable frustration, and yet, I get it.  Some people are tired of what seems like endless talk that gets them no where.  And yet to translate this kind of seemingly circular conversation (what Chris Thompson has referred to as co-blaboration) as “process,” as opposed to action, does a disservice to what is essential to the work of social change.  No, I’m not talking (only) about talking.  I’m talking about how it is precisely at the level of process that we can make truly profound change. continue reading

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Mar/26/14//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Feed Your Network

Over the last few weeks I have fielded a number of calls from people who are interested in figuring out how to develop different kinds of networks.  I’m always eager to have these conversations, precisely because there is no single right answer, and it really comes down to a process of discovery and experimentation based on the unique nature of the network and system in question.  That said, I do like to ask people the question, “What are you doing to feed your network?” continue reading

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Mar/25/14//Gibrán Rivera//Power, Equity, Inclusion

I get angry

I get Angry

This post is a response to yesterday’s post by Cynthia Silva Parker.

I was truly moved by Cynthia’s heartfelt exploration of anger and its role in our quest for justice.  I get angry.  I get angry in some healthy ways, and in many unhealthy ways.

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Mar/24/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Got anger? Get action

Anger is Energy

We talk a lot at IISC about the power of love as a force for social change. But what about anger? I’ve seen a couple of recent examples where anger—cleanly and clearly expressed—created space for breakthroughs that I don’t think would have happened otherwise. Anger helped people in power to “get it” about something that they had not otherwise “gotten” when the volume and heat were lower.

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Mar/20/14//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge, Your Experiences

Unique, Not Special

faces in the crowd Photo by Big Mind Zen Center

One of the roles that I’ve found to be particularly helpful in coaching collaborative initiatives and groups over the long-term is to help people understand that as a collective, they are unique.  That is, like every living being, each group has its own distinct qualities and personality and for groups who have not worked together before, part of the early work is getting a better sense of who we are together and how we want to be together.  We cannot simply assume that what worked with one collaborative will work with another.  We have to honor history and other contextual factors as well as work to find was is real and essential about this living system. continue reading

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Mar/19/14//Curtis Ogden//Networks, Your Experiences

Storytelling as Action

storytelling here

A few different experiences last week reinforced my conviction that storytelling can constitute significant “action” and advancement, including work done in networks for (and as) change.  The first was during a session that I co-delivered on behalf of IISC with the Graustein Memorial Fund and The Color of Words, about our work with an early childhood system change effort in Connecticut called Right From the Start. During the conference session we emphasized that one of the biggest leverage points for system change is at the level of narrative and belief systems.

Surfacing the dominant implicit and explicit stories about what is and should be, analyzing the degree to which they align with our values and intentions, and countering/reframing them if and as necessary has been part of the work of Right From the Start (RFTS).   continue reading

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Mar/18/14//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

Mindfulness and Freedom

Mindfulness and Freedom

I am just returning from my very first visit to India. I had the unbelievable privilege of participating in the first “Four Noble Truths Event” hosted by the Sarnath International Nyingma Institute.  It was in Sarnath, at the “stupa” pictured here, that the Buddha offered his first sermon – 2500 years ago!

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Mar/18/14//Mistinguette Smith//Facilitative Leadership, Inspiration

Engaging Hearts and Heads

I’ve spent the last two days with twenty-three people who do the concrete, sometimes humble work of convening meetings, directing resources and evaluating programs.  They came from far flung places, from Ohio and Illinois to Hawai’i, to explore how the tools of Facilitative Leadership can remake our work so that it awakens and nourishes our communities’ deepest desires.  Working with them was like a peek into the future of what leadership can be.

There are lots of workshops that help leaders to learn about decision making; there are few that require a decision-making process to be informed by our hearts as well as our minds. This group seized the opportunity to engage both their hearts and heads to wrestle with tough practical questions: How can you do brainstorming that includes people who value reflection and introspection more than quickly generated speech?

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They made space to speak tender truths that usually cannot be said out loud: How can we help our communities hold each other more accountable for achieving results without damaging the richness of our relationships, or abandoning our traditional cultural processes?

And they practiced creating the conditions for the people they serve–the people they supervise, their clients, their coalition members–to take responsibility for learning and working through these questions together.

It was an honor to witness how they showed up for each other in the workshop, as well as what they did and what they learned. Twenty-three new and seasoned facilitative leaders reminded me that the purpose of leadership is to show up as an agent of dignity and hope.

If another world truly is possible, I think I spent the last two days with the leaders who will guide us there.

Please register today for the Facilitative Leadership for Social Change  workshop Mistinguette Smith will co-facilitate April 22-23 in New York City.

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Mar/17/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

First Food Fiesta

Into the Lense

What do IISC’s lenses of networks, power and love have to do with breastfeeding? Turns out, a lot! I had the privilege of facilitating the second annual First Food Forum: Every Child, Every Mother, Every One of Us, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for its first food grantees. Participants connected the dots between networks, power and love in powerful ways. Love is probably the easiest connection to make.

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Mar/14/14//CMcDowell//Featured, Structural Transformation

Liberation Planning

Liberation

Last week Darren Walker opened the Resilient Cities lunch reminding us that not only do we need to work to make cities resilient and sustainable, we must also work to make them just. As I listened to Xav Briggs, Joan Clos, Toni Griffin and others speak, I thought about my work at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and what working to make just cities means for planning and planners. How does one attend to the myriad issues facing cities: poverty, crumbling infrastructure, environmental sustainability and economic collapse? continue reading

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Mar/13/14//Curtis Ogden//Liberation, Networks

Networks and Articulating Needs

yourneedsAt last week’s gathering of the Tillotson Fund Community Practitioners Network, Carole Martin and I facilitated a session on network/multi-stakeholder engagement techniques.  This built upon some work we’ve been doing with the cohort around “positivity” practice, and the question of how, beyond individual practice, we can spread the increased capacity that positive emotions bring to groups, organizations, and networks.  To this end we explored some of the methods from Art of Hosting, and also engaged in some of the practices of Liberating Structures.  Our leading question was, What about the way in which we engage with one another can facilitate the best of what we have to offer to a shared endeavor? continue reading

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Mar/10/14//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

System Change: Can We Get It Right From the Start?

Once upon a time there was a funder.  This funder had been working for almost a decade to strengthen local community efforts to improve early childhood development opportunities and outcomes around the state.  The communities appreciated and were grateful for this support, and the number of community collaboratives grew.

At the same time, in the face of persistent and racialized inequities, recognition was growing that something more was needed to hold these local efforts together, to harness and connect them, and to align state-level efforts with community needs and aspirations.  So a call went out from the various communities to the funder to help do something about this.  The funder responded, cautiously, and engaged in “listening” sessions with communities and advocates.  And it reached out to some potential resources, including IISC, to explore what might be done. continue reading

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Mar/06/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration, Learning Edge

The Take and Give of Living Systems

This video makes it clear how wonderfully complex and interconnected life is. ‘Trophic cascades’ invite us to consider how changes in one part of a living system can change other elements of the system and the system as a whole. How did wolves change the behavior of rivers in Yellowstone Park?  Check it out.

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Mar/05/14//Curtis Ogden//Networks

The Network is the Leader

I just finished reading Mila Baker’s Peer-to-Peer Leadership: Why the Network is the Leader, which adds to the growing case for more widespread network thinking, foregrounding of human relationships, and shifting traditional conceptions (and myths) of leadership in business and beyond. Much of what Baker writes about has been expressed in the writings of others, including Clay Shirky, Carol Sanford, Nilofer Merchant, Kevin Kelly, and Harold Jarche, and I appreciate how she couches much of her writing in the evolving leadership and organizational development literature and thinking. continue reading

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Mar/04/14//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Liberation

Slow Down

Enjoy the Moment

I’m just getting back from a four-week sabbatical, a special gift from IISC after seven years of service.  I grew in leaps and bounds.  A lot of what been brewing inside of me for the last year or two started to come together in a powerful way.  My time off was anchored by a week-long, life changing, couples’ retreat in Mexico.

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Mar/03/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Getting in Shape as a Change Agent

Reflecting on Leadership

Four compelling questions came to me via the monthly newsletter of Conditioning Leaders, led by our colleague Madeline McNeely. She’s reflecting on 20 years of work and asking herself some great questions that we should all be asking ourselves as our year gets into full swing:

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Feb/28/14//Curtis Ogden//Love, Networks

Networks-as-Change: Expanding Empathy

“In principle, empathy can override every rule about how to treat others.”

-Frans de Waal

empathy Photo by Vamsi Krishna

 

Yesterday’s post considered the importance and power of the empathic turn in networks-as-change, to ground people in deep connection with living realities, for the sake of greater imagination, justice, resilience and responsibility. Taking cues from experience and the work and studies of others, here are some thoughts for how to cultivate radical “affection” (to quote Wendell Berry) in networks:

  • Go beyond abstraction to interaction – go to and meet in real places, explore them, consider how life happens there (see for example Story of Place and Heart and Soul)

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Feb/27/14//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Love, Networks

Networks-as-Change: The Empathic Turn

In “networks-as-change,” effectiveness is grounded in affectiveness.

In an essay that I continue to revisit, the poet/essayist/novelist/farmer/ conservationist and champion of overall sanity, Wendell Berry, talks about what he calls “the turn towards affection.”  Having spent many years reflecting on and pushing back against the unfortunate demonstrated human tendency to despoil landscapes and “the other,” he takes a strong stand for both deep rooted connection and . . . imagination: continue reading

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Feb/26/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Remembering Chokwe Lumumba

Chokwe LumumbaWe are deeply saddened by the news that Mayor Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, Mississippi, was found dead yesterday.

Lumumba, a founding member of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and a widely respected human rights attorney, was in the initial stages of launching a sweeping set of economic reform initiatives, built on a foundation of broad-based civic participation in Jackson.

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Feb/24/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Social Innovation

Why Movement Is the Killer App for Nonprofits

Movement

Enjoy these simple and powerful guidelines from Beth Kanter about how movement makes meetings and workshops more productive. This is great advice for getting beyond designing for “brains on sticks” as my colleague Curtis Ogden likes to say.

As a trainer and facilitator who works with nonprofit organizations and staffers, you have to be obsessed with learning theory to design and deliver effective instruction, have productive meetings, or embark on your own self-directed learning path. Learning theory is an attempt to describe how people learn. There are many learning theories and can be categorized in different ways:

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Feb/21/14//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration

Building Will Around Collaboration

Tulip in Snow greenblueglobe blogspot

This post is the third in a three part series exploring the question, “Can collaboration be learned?” Part 1 and Part 2 appeared the last couple of days.  This is an edited email exchange between Alison Gold of Living Cities, Chris Thompson of The Fund for our Economic Future, and myself.  When we last left off, Alison had posed a series of questions about identifying and cultivating the will to collaborate.

On January 27, 2014 12:33 PM, Curtis Ogden wrote:

Alison, I really like your questions and feel like they would be great to take to a wider audience.  I will say that I am profoundly influenced by Carol Sanford’s  mentoring in all of this, and the belief that personal development is key to evolving our will, moving from a more self-centered perspective to “other” perspective, to understanding the symbiotic nature of different levels of systems.  continue reading


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Feb/20/14//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration

Collaboration and Cultivating Collective Will

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This post is a continuation of yesterday’s entry.  It is an edited email exchange between Alison Gold of Living Cities, Chris Thompson of The Fund for our Economic Future, and myself.  The point of departure was a question about what it takes to teach people to collaborate, and took us to a thinking about what it takes to cultivate the will to collaborate, beyond skill and having the right attitude . . . 

On January 23, 2014 9:17 AM, Alison Gold wrote:

All of this begs the question, how do you know when the will is there?  Or isn’t?  We seem to keep getting back to this point …

On Jan 23, 2014 at 9:27 AM, Curtis Ogden wrote:

I think that will can come down to two basic factors – having a strong “internal locus of control,” guided by and balanced with “external considering.” continue reading


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Feb/19/14//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration

What Does It Take to Learn to Collaborate?

The following is the first installment of an email exchange among Chris Thompson of the Fund for our Economic Future, Alison Gold of Living Cities, and me that was initiated given our shared interest in and practice around supporting cross-sectoral multi-stakeholder collaboration.  I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with Alison at the Community Foundations Conference in San Diego last fall, and of meeting Chris through Alison, though initially through the Next City story on network building for economic development in Northeast Ohio.  To date, this has gotten us to core questions around what it takes to cultivate collective will for collaboration. We invite you to join the conversation.­ 

On Jan 5, 2014, at 1:39 PM, Chris Thompson wrote:

Based on my Twitter feed I suspect more people than ever have this as their New Year’s Resolution: “I will collaborate more.”  The oracle himself, Thomas Friedman, sang its praises in this morning’s Times. continue reading

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Feb/18/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

#BlackLivesMatter

All Lives Matter

I find the fact that we need a conversation called #BlackLivesMatter disturbing. But it’s a badly needed conversation and one that needs to catalyze effective action. It’s urgent that we create a context where it’s no longer “understandable” that someone could be afraid enough of an unarmed black person to justify killing him or her.

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Feb/13/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Silly Stuff Matters

Thanks to my colleague Ashley Welch for sending along the link to this video while I’ve been feeling a little under the weather.  It was a great quick boost and reminded me of how silliness matters in what can otherwise become very serious work.  And laughter is a legitimate and effective practice for resilience and development.

Please share with us your favorite silly and/or laughter inducing media!

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Feb/12/14//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Networks for Change: Growing Gratitude

“Grateful living brings in place of greed: sharing; in place of oppression: respect; in place of violence: peace. Who does not long for a world of sharing, mutual respect, and peace?”

-Brother David Steindl Rast

The research on the role of gratitude in supporting social resilience and thriving is quite compelling. According to the Greater Good Science Center, those who have a higher gratitude quotient or a regular practice of listing and thinking about gratitudes have been shown to experience the most significant boosts in happiness and fewer bouts of illness, have stronger social bonds in one-on-one relationships and with communities, and tend to be more generous. Connected to a host of other related positive emotions, gratitude is also shown to boost people’s willingness to reach out and connect with others, including across lines of difference, to see possibility more expansively, and to maintain a general spirit of openness. What’s not to like about gratitude?

Now imagine gratitude for one multiplied many times over in an ecosystem of social interactions and connections – that is, in a network. continue reading

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Feb/11/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Debunking Myths, Revealing Truths

Debunking Myths

Bill Gates’ 2014 annual letter debunks three myths about poverty and foreign aid. It reminds me about the power of narrative to drive decision making and action, even when the narrative is not backed up by facts. Here are the debunked myths in short form. Read the full letter for the longer version.

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Feb/06/14//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration, Featured, Networks

Networks for Change: Collaboration & Cooperation

Collaboration is “a mutually beneficial relationship between two or more parties to achieve common goals by sharing responsibility, authority and accountability for achieving results. It is more than simply sharing knowledge and information (communication) and more than a relationship that helps each party achieve its own goals (cooperation and coordination). The purpose of collaboration is to create a shared vision and joint strategies to address concerns that go beyond the purview of any particular party.”

-David Chrislip and Chip Larson, 1994, p. 5

success

For a while now at IISC, we’ve referred to the above definition from Chrislip and Larson’s work, Collaborative Leadership, to describe the goal of our collaborative capacity building work.  And it has informed our approach around supporting social change networks. continue reading

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Feb/05/14//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration, Networks

Networks for Change: Conditions for Success

The other day I was interviewed by Eugene Eric Kim for a project we are working on together, and he asked – “What are some of the keys to creating the conditions for successful networks for change?” I really like the question because it spurred some interesting reflection that yielded a few off-the-cuff insights that I wanted to share, extend, and test out here.

The phrase “Bring it!” came to mind as I was thinking about what is key to creating conditions for collaborative network success, with a number of iterative qualifiers: continue reading

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Feb/03/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Three Big Questions to Change the World

Save

The following post has been written by Royve Holladay at The Adaptive Action. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

Can three questions really change the world? Well, maybe. Let’s think about it for a minute. One thing we know about schools is that nothing stays the same for long.  Each year brings the latest “best practice.” Each week brings a new procedure and its paperwork. Each day, our students pose new challenges. Each hour, the media bombards us with news about the latest crisis. What might possibly help us keep our balance as the world shifts beneath us?

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Jan/31/14//IISC//Inspiration

Pete Seeger, 1919-2014

“My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.”

- Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger, singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who championed folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 94.  More about his extraordinary life here and in the above video from Democracy Now!

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Jan/30/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

The Human Scale

“Life comes when you give people a chance to contribute something.”

- Coralie Winn

IISC board member Jamil Simon brought staff attention to the film The Human Scale a few weeks ago during a discussion about building the capacity of cities to collaborate amidst growing demographic complexity and other social as well as environmental challenges. The film is screening this very evening in Somerville, Massachusetts.

From the film’s website: “50 % of the world’s population lives in urban areas. continue reading

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Jan/29/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

The Longest Journey

The Longest Journey

In our collaborative capacity and network development work at IISC, there is considerable complexity to hold.  This can create quite a mental exercise for everyone involved – What is the system we are trying to develop/problem we are trying to solve? What are the contributing factors?  What is our desired future state? Who should be at the table? What are the systemic leverage points and associated strategies?  Etc.

This is necessary work, and it can become incomplete or rather one dimensional when it only taps some of our collective faculties.   continue reading

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Jan/26/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Structural Transformation

Leadership and Personal Development

The following post has been reblogged from our friend August Turak.  Check out more of August’s amazing work!

The industrial age led to the compartmentalization of life.  We turned everything into a silo.  We even siloed ourselves.  Here I am spiritual, here I am fun, here I work…  We have been looking at personal development through that limited lens.  But August Turak points us in a different direction.  He invites us to make “personal development” the central purpose of our lives.   When we make our own evolution a central purpose in our lives we become active contributors to the evolution of consciousness and culture as well as the material changes we want to see in the world.  I hope you enjoy this post from August Turak as much as we did. 

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Jan/24/14//Mistinguette Smith//Featured, Love

Time, Love and Secret Sauce

Lens of Love

When we at IISC look at problem or an opportunity, we look at it through the lens of love.  This doesn’t mean we approach the world with rose-colored glasses: it means that we focus on the transcendent possibilities that are apparent when we hold every person in unconditional high regard.

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Jan/23/14//IISC//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Moving the Race Conversation Forward

“Moving the Race Conversation Forward” is a report released yesterday by Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation that aims to reshape the way we talk about race and racism in our country.

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Jan/22/14//Curtis Ogden//Featured, What We Are Reading

Networks and the “Quiet” Revolution

“Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.”

-Susan Cain

How Not to Manage an Introvert“How Not to Manage an Introvert” (by Nguyen Hung Vu)

 

For several months I’ve been meaning to read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking.  Having completed it this past weekend, I have both a sense of validation (being one of ever-more introverted tendencies as the years pass) and being able to see with new eyes. IMHO, it is well worth the read, and if the thought of tackling the 300 pages is daunting, you might enjoy a taste via Cain’s TED Talk.

Here I wanted to reflect on some of the insights Cain’s work has to offer collaboration and “net work” for change.   continue reading

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Jan/21/14//Gibrán Rivera//Collaboration

Make Magic

Make Magic

Seth’s blog this morning reminded me of an ongoing joke that I have with Linda Guinee, my colleague here at IISC.

Seth’s main question is: “Who is in charge of the magic?”

During my early days at IISC, Linda brought me into design and facilitation of an “Innovation Lab” for one of our biggest clients at the time.  It was big break, and I took it seriously.  Linda, who is quite magical herself, kept reminding me of practical things that I still tend to overlook.  At one point she had to remind me that it was important to give the participants a bathroom break!

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Jan/19/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Love

Changed People Changing the World

Check out this relaxed conversation between Dr. King and Merv Griffin. Dr. King reflects on the political context in Atlanta, which he called the most progressive city in the South—and the opportunities it afforded for progress for civil rights. Toward the end, Dr. King reflects on the progress to date in civil rights.

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Jan/17/14//Jen Willsea//Featured, Structural Transformation

Lessons in Emergent Alignment

Lessons in Alignment“We have to rid ourselves of the notion that innovation relies on the genius of an individual. We produce and innovate together only in networks.”

- Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire

 This is our second post about the Social Justice Funders Network. Read the previous post here

  • How might women of color working in philanthropy support each other in nurturing our radical selves?
  • How might funders advance racial justice and racial equity conversations in our philanthropic institutions in order to inform our practice?
  • What is the appropriate role for foundations in support of movements and movement building?
  • How might we be stronger allies to and supporters of youth organizing?

continue reading

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Jan/16/14//Curtis Ogden//Your Experiences

EmBODYing the Work

“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”

- James Joyce, The Dubliners

vision bodies

The above quote caught my attention in light of much thinking about and work around the importance of being more fully embodied in social change efforts. This year I have personally made some commitments to more intentionally acknowledge and care for my own body, including investing in a rather basic standing desk, and recommitting to a morning workout (this post on the lasting benefits of just a 20 minute exercise routine served as an extra-added push).  And I’ve been carrying this commitment directly into my work with clients, not just in terms of focusing on the importance of caring for themselves, but also grounding aspirations they have for their work. continue reading

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Jan/15/14//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Networks for Change: Values Before Vision?

vision |Photo by Christian|www.flickr.com/photos/91048408@N00/322951661/lightbox/?q=vision|

 

For the past year, Carole Martin and I have been co-facilitating a “network leadership program” supported by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund called the Community Practitioners Network (CPN). The overall goal of CPN is to further develop a group of proven and promising leaders as individuals, as a cohort, and as “critical yeast and connectors” (my language, not the Fund’s) in support of community and economic development in a region that encompasses northern New Hampshire, northeastern Vermont, northwestern Maine, and southern Quebec.  Throughout, we have been actively exploring a variety of leadership and network development practices for growing personal and interpersonal awareness, connectivity, alignment, resolve, resilience, and skillfulness.  

In our most recent session, a two-day retreat in Pittsburg, NH, we engaged in discussion about and embodied practice of “vision.” Over the course of the two days, a robust conversation evolved about what makes vision powerful (in light of many uninspiring experiences) and its relevance in a networked world, in combination and contrasted with values. continue reading

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Jan/14/14//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Learning Edge

The Thrive Workshop

Thrive Logo

When I told Ceasar about the Thrive Workshop he was excited about it.  I remembered that when we interviewed him to become President of the Interaction Institute for Social Change he talked about his ongoing work at MIT.  He described the university as a place that is focused on making things work in the real world.  That certainly is IISC’s orientation.  And it definitely is what the Thrive Workshop is all about.

 

Thrive is not for everyone.  Thrive is for you if you are bursting with an idea and you just can’t get yourself to make it happen.  Thrive is meant to get you started.  Thrive is about getting you out of your head and into the real world. continue reading

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Jan/13/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, IISC:Inside

Making Meaning Together

Leadership

At IISC, we began the year with some heavy-duty thinking. We’ll be writing about those ideas in future posts. Today, I want to tip my hat to my colleagues and to IISC’s Board of Directors. After spending a day on Board business, our Board members spent a day with the staff thinking about emerging new directions for IISC.

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Jan/10/14//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Amiri Baraka

Here is to the prophets and truth tellers of our day.  Rest in Power Amiri Baraka, we are honored to have you join our ancestors.

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Jan/08/14//Curtis Ogden//Facilitative Leadership

Holding the Center

centripetal Photo by John Goode

 

Sometimes the “breakthrough” is not breaking down.

Sometimes “innovation” is having things not go the way they usually do.

Sometimes “success” is when people are willing to meet again.  

 

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Jan/06/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, What We Are Reading

Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

Across That Bridge

The most inspiring book I read in 2013 was Across that Bridge: Life Lessons and A Vision for Change, by Congressman and Civil Rights legend, John Lewis. He built the book around several practices that are essential for social justice work: faith, patience, study, truth, peace, love and reconciliation. continue reading

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Jan/03/14//Jen Willsea//Power, Equity, Inclusion

All-In-Nation: Vision for 2050

Sometime around 2040 the U.S. will become a majority people of color nation, according to census projections. Already the majority of our children under the age of one are of color. These demographic shifts are underway and yet racial disparities persist in areas including educational achievement, health, and financial wealth. PolicyLink and the Center for American Progress have teamed up on a project called All-In Nation: An America that Works for All, to make the case that “strong communities of color are critical to America’s economic future.”

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Jan/02/14//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Seeing and Being Through Networks

For those who read this blog on a somewhat regular basis, you know that we at IISC find and experience great promise in embracing network approaches to (and as) social change. So what happens when we truly see ourselves as and in networks; that is, appreciating how we are inextricably embodied through and embedded in interconnected flows of energy, material goods, ideas, intentions, etc.?

Ten thoughts, in no particular order, nor meant to be exhaustive: continue reading

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Dec/30/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Sustainability

Long-Term Trend in Nonprofit Funding

The following post has been reblogged from our friend Kim Klien. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

“I would love to give to the Film Festival, but I really have to devote all my giving to my children’s public school.” This sentence, said by a long-time donor in response to a request for funding renewal from a board member at a local Film Festival, helped to start a project called “Nonprofits Talking Taxes.” Starting about 10 years ago, many of us started to hear things like this from our donors.  continue reading

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Dec/26/13//Maanav Thakore//Structural Transformation

Creating Space for Collective Healing

How do we make space for collective grief and healing in a time of great loss? By transforming public space and disrupting business-as-usual! Watch this amazing flash mob in Johannesburg to see a moving tribute to Nelson Mandela.

The Soweto Gospel Choir is performing a song written during Mandela’s imprisonment.  The song is entitled Asimbonanga or “We have not seen him”.

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Dec/24/13//IISC//IISC:Inside, IISC:Outside

9 Practice-Guiding Questions for 2014

“Transformation comes more from pursuing profound questions than seeking practical answers.”

- Peter Block

Three of our IISC blogger-practitioners have been in conversation about 3 questions they are each carrying with them into 2014 to guide and develop their practice to support social change.  We invite your reflections on and additions to these: continue reading

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Dec/23/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Inspiring Movement Moments of 2013

The following blog post was written by our friend Julie Quiroz  at The Movement Strategy Center.  We hope you enjoy it at as much as we did! 

Remember this spring, when the Associated Press finally dropped the I-word, and youth of color defeated prison-to-pipeline policies in Los Angeles public schools?

Or remember back in February when 50,000 people rallied in DC against the XL Pipeline?  And then in October when the protests of 5,000 young people linked the pipeline, fracking, and the whole mess of fossil fuel development?

continue reading

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Dec/19/13//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Empathy and the Dramatic Arc

“Stories bring brains together.”

- Paul J. Zak

This past week we have featured a couple of posts on empathy (see “Empathy + Equity –> Justice” and “Empathy Connect, Sympathy Disconnects”).  In light of these and also on the heels of recent powerful experiences in a couple networks for change around the use of storytelling to deepen connectivity and commitment, I found the video above to be instructive.  It is featured in a blog post entitled “How Stories Change the Brain” through the Greater Good Science Center.

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Dec/18/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks, What We Are Reading

Networks and Cultures of Giving

Adam Grant is a professor at the Wharton School of Business whose research focuses on “motivation, prosocial giving and helping behaviors, initiative and proactivity.”  His work and writing, including his book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, seem to have something to offer those interested in and engaged in developing networks for social change, as much of it points to data showing that organizations of all kinds benefit from fostering cultures of giving. continue reading

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Dec/17/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Structural Transformation

A Third Way of Work

Stowe Boyd has posted a provocative and largely resonant manifesto on the future of work.  Our ways of doing business are thoroughly obsolete,  “only 29% [of workers] are actively engaged with work.”  If this obsolescence is true for the private sector, it is even more true for those of us who work for justice.

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Dec/16/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Empathy + Equity → Justice

Last Friday, Curtis posted a clip by Brene Brown. She argues that “empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection.” I want to take her thinking one step further. Empathy fuels connection. Lack of empathy fuels injustice.

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Dec/13/13//IISC//Love

Empathy Connects, Sympathy Disconnects

“Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”

- Brene Brown

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Dec/12/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Thinking Like a Network

Over the past five years or so of supporting self-declared “networks” for change, I have evolved in my understanding of what is new when we call something a network, versus a coalition or collaborative or alliance.  On the surface, much can look the same, and one might also say that coalitions, collaboratives and alliances are simply different forms of networks.  Yes, and . . . I believe that what can make a big difference is when participants in a network (or an organization, for that matter) embrace new ways of seeing, thinking, and doing.  So let me propose that network approaches at their best call on us to lead with some of the following: continue reading

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Dec/11/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks, What We Are Reading

Networks That Work

I’ve spent time the past week reading through Networks that Work, a handy and concise resource for developing organizational networks, written by Paul Vandeventer, President and CEO of Community Partners, and Myrna Mandell, Ph.D.  The book lays out some very helpful pointers for more formally constructed networks.  I have highlighted 10 points below that resonate with our experiences at IISC around supporting organizational networks for social change.  My comments and extensions are in italics: continue reading

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Dec/10/13//Gibrán Rivera//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Temporary Autonomous Zones

“A Temporary Autonomous Zone is a liberated area of land, time or imagination where one can be for something, not just against, and where new ways of being human together can be explored and experimented with. Locating itself in the cracks and fault lines in the global grid of control and alienation, a T.A.Z. is an eruption of free culture where life is experienced at maximum intensity. It should feel like an exceptional party where for a brief moment our desires are made manifest and we all become the creators of the art of everyday life.”

via beautifultrouble.org

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Dec/09/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Structural Transformation

Got trust?

Even before I read in the Boston Globe that trust is at an all-time low in the U.S., I was planning to write about trust. Our colleagues at Interaction Associates have been tracking the connection between leadership, trust and business performance for years. Their 2013 Trust Report reinforces earlier findings that higher levels of collaboration, trust within a company are correlated with higher performance.

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Dec/06/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Liberation

Honoring Madiba: Love comes more naturally

VIDEO LINK: South Africans speak to the Meaning of Mandela

We join the world in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela; a giant of a man; the very embodiment of the intimate link between power, networks and love. His grace and humility was unrivaled, his insistence on reconciliation was an inspiration to millions. continue reading

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Dec/05/13//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Practices for Resilience and Development

When I take time to slow down, as I was able to do over the holiday break last week, my interest is refueled in practices that support our ability to maintain perspective and a sense of effective agency in the world.  My line of inquiry is not simply around what can keep us energized, pull us back from the edge, or deal with burn-out, but focused on how we can align our internal state with external aspirations in an integrated way and grow ourselves so we can help evolve larger systems.  My thinking and reading often takes me back to the work of Barbara Fredrickson, the emotions scientist based at the University of North Carolina, as well as to a host of others in the fields of positive and social psychology.  Having revisited some of these writings over the break, here are 10 recommended practices for personal and social resilience and development: continue reading

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Dec/04/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Networks and Structural Change

“Ultimately if we are to avoid failure in the most critical work of this century, the deepest reaches of our beings must be brought to bear in honestly reevaluating and shifting the most basic structures of our society.” 

- john a. powell

The following is a textual recapturing of a Pecha Kucha-like presentation that I gave at an ARNOVA Pre-Conference Session in Hartford, CT two weeks ago.  This was part of a 3-hour interactive conversation, co-designed and facilitated with Dr. Angela Frusciante of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, focusing on the power of networks for learning and social change, primarily with academic researchers and philanthropists.

At the Interaction Institute for Social Change, we are in agreement with Professor john a. powell when he points to the need to consider and make fundamental structural changes in our country and communities for the causes of greater social justice and sustainability. continue reading

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Dec/03/13//IISC//Sustainability

Culture and selfishness

The following post has been reblogged from Seth’s Blog. He is a genius and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

One person selfishly drops a piece of litter on the ground, the other selfishly picks it up.

Everything we do is done because it’s better than not doing it. “Better” is the complicated term. Better might mean, “gives me physical pleasure right now,” for some people, while better might mean, “the story I tell myself about the contribution I just made gives me joy and satisfaction.”

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Dec/02/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

Ask Not . . .

Much has been written and said in the past month about President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. I think the one important gift President Kennedy gave the country was a certain hopefulness about what people could do at their best and what government could do at its best. Listen (starting at 36:30) to an excerpt from President Kennedy’s inaugural address, read by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. He enjoins the listeners to “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” In these days of Washington gridlock and partisan gamesmanship, it’s a message we can stand to hear afresh!

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Nov/28/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Reframing Thanksgiving

Like Indigenous People’s Day (aka Columbus Day), Thanksgiving is fraught with historically inaccurate mythology. Check out these children’s books that tell a different story, from the point of view of Native Americans. And, if you’re in New England, consider joining United American Indians of New England for the 44th National Day of Mourning. continue reading

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Nov/27/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

At This Table

In the regional food system network development that IISC has been supporting, we have been making a habit of building certain rituals into our meetings.  One is to invite offerings of various kinds to open and close meetings, an opportunity for people to share what matters most to them and bring more of what moves them to the conversation. The following poem has been making the rounds, and has become a favorite for some of the universals it seems to invoke.  Wishing you all a deeply nourishing Thanksgiving. continue reading

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Nov/26/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Abolition!

Ok.  That’s a bit of an over statement.  But I was truly intrigued by a German town’s experiment in abolishing traffic lights and codes.  Sounds like anarchy?  Amazingly enough accidents are almost nonexistent.

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Nov/22/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

…and sometimes it’s just hard

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did and don’t forget to join the conversation! 

Recently, four friends of mine lost parents and siblings. Rockwood has had a few unanticipated challenges this year. The ripples of the 2008 recession are still affecting the nonprofit sector, and many organizations are struggling. The instability of our national government in recent months has made things very difficult for many folks.

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Nov/20/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Networks and Living Systems Patterns

“The major problems of the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way people think.”

— Gregory Bateson

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Joel Glanzberg.  I had been hearing about Joel and his work from numerous trusted colleagues, including Bill Reed of Regenesis Group and Ginny McGinn of Center for Whole Communities.  Joel describes himself as a builder, farmer, teacher, writer, storyteller, naturalist, and permaculturalist.  And I would add to that, living systems thinker.  Joel has cultivated a practice of seeing and working with patterns of life’s processes, and helps others to do this, for the sake of creating healthier and more whole communities of different kinds.

I was especially interested to hear more from Joel about some of the living systems principles that guide his work, and to think about how these apply to what we at IISC do around network development for social change and focusing on networks as human environments.  What appears in quotes and italics below is pulled directly from Joel’s website; the comments in regular text are my own:

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Nov/18/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

The lost art of democratic debate

One of the most important courses I took in college was Justice with Michael Sandel. (These days, anyone can “take” the whole course on video.) In a TED talk, Sandel spells out a way to think about justice and a way to improve democratic discourse. Here are a few highlights from the talk:

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Nov/14/13//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Embracing Change

“Much of what we think of as ‘rules’ are really just traditions and habits and assumptions that don’t get challenged until some new kid comes along who really doesn’t see the value of dying at the office or getting punched in the head, just because everyone else has.”

-Jason Clarke

Thanks to Laura Moorehead of the Institute for Civic Leadership for sharing this resource with us.  Jason Clarke is the founder of Minds At Work, and has been consulting to government and industry for nearly 30 years. In this talk, Mr. Clarke raises a number of interesting points about overcoming resistance to or ambivalence about change.  I especially like his approach of helping people move from what is perceived as negative about change to what is interesting to what is positive.  Meet people where they are and help them find that space between what is “good” and “bad”- the space of “unusual” or “different.”  This is the space of artistry and innovation.

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Nov/13/13//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Where There is Will

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

- Lao Tzu

Recently overheard:

“Yes, sure it’s great that that community is taking a network approach.  But we don’t have anything like the resources they have here.”

“No, I didn’t follow up on my commitments to the team.  I acknowledge that.  I’m just an “in the moment” kind of person.  When I’m with the team, I’m with them.  When I’m not, I’m not.”

“No, we haven’t met yet.  Someone should take responsibility for getting us organized.” continue reading


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Nov/11/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Remembrance Day

What we now know as Veterans Day began as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, commemorating the end of “The War to End All Wars.” Sadly, World War I paved the way and was quickly followed by World War II. And countless lives have been lost in wars since. Sara Robinson’s description of the relationship between Remembrance Day and pacifism in Canada struck me as a powerful reminder on this Veteran’s Day. Here’s an excerpt from a longer post.

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Nov/07/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Connectivity is a Result: Learning in Networks

Our friends at Third Sector New England (TSNE) have released an informative report about learning networks. From 2004 to 2012, TSNE and clusters of nonprofit organizations joined in a grant program designed to further social change through building relationships and sharing insights that enabled them to better work together to achieve common goals. The resource, entitled “Funding Learning Networks for Community Impact,” includes interesting explorations of the stages in the development of learning networks and the roles and functions that are key success drivers for nonprofit networks. There are also wonderful and resonant quotes throughout from participants of the Capacity Building Fund (CBF) about the power of and key contributors to effective networks, and I wanted to share a dozen that really jumped out, while strongly suggesting you consult the entire report: continue reading

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Nov/06/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, IISC:Outside, Networks

Networks and Changing the Game

Last Friday, I worked with the Network Support Team (NST) of the Connecticut Food System Alliance (CFSA) to facilitate a gathering of over 100 food system and food security activists.  This was the fourth convening in the past year and a half, and featured what have become typical elements of fostering connectivity between people (welcoming and introducing ourselves to new people, learning together, making offers and requests) and alignment around the CFSA vision.  And to honor what has been growing in the network as both a call for and a question about the possibility of collective action, NST members Melissa Spear, Marilyn Moore, and Jiff Martin created the following exercise to stimulate people’s thinking about how the network could “change the game” in Connecticut and boldly advance the state towards a reality where “everyone has access to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and affordable food.” continue reading

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Nov/04/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Keeping the People at the Center

Since my recent visit to LUPE in San Juan, Texas, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes LUPE’s community union model so different from most of our efforts (IISC’s and the social sector at large). César Chávez spelled described the core premise succinctly. “From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.”

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Oct/31/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

VTF2P Network: Leading With Values

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this week the Vermont Farm to Plate (F2P) Network held its third annual convening.  This marked the move to the third year of the F2P Network’s existence, and another significant milestone.

At the first convening in 2011, there was a mix of enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity, impatience, and some reticence.  Many were intrigued by the notion of this new form of multi-organizational collaboration seeking to double local food production in 10 years time, boost the state economy, and address issues of food access and security.   continue reading

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Oct/30/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration, Networks

Network Mantras: Show Up, Contribute, Repeat

Reporting live from the third annual Vermont Farm to Plate (F2P) Network convening, I am relishing this opportunity to work with and watch a successful network move into its third year of existence. There is much more to share about the F2P journey, which I hope to do in a follow-up post to this one, but for now, I wanted to highlight a couple of themes that continue to resonate throughout the convening and contribute to the growth and success of this network.

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Oct/29/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Structural Transformation

Breakthrough Public Process

We work in close partnership with the Barr Foundation.  I appreciated this video of my friend Rahn Dorsey, the foundation’s evaluation director, articulating three keys to breakthrough on complex public conversations.  I specially like that Rahn’s understanding that even when the will for change is strong, it takes good process to make a way.

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Oct/28/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Keeping our promises

“We can’t retreat, we will win… We are winning because our revolution is one of the mind and the heart.” César E. Chávez

During a visit to LUPE, the community union founded by César E. Chávez and the United Farm Workers, Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Partner Organizations of Color explored the connections between child welfare, juvenile justice, community organizing and immigration. One participant spoke a word of caution to capacity builders and organizers who seek to engage and mobilize community residents. “We can’t be another broken promise to the people.”

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Oct/24/13//Curtis Ogden//Love, Networks, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Net Work Does Not Justice Make

“Wealth and income distribution no longer resemble a familiar ‘bell curve’ in which the bulk of the wealth accrue to a large middle class. Instead, the networked economy seems to be producing a ‘power-curve’ distribution, sometimes known as a ‘winner-take-all’ economy.” 

 - David Bollier, from “The Power Curve Society”

As is no doubt evident from past posts on this blog, we at IISC are enthusiastic about networks and their potential to create more equitable, healthy, thriving and sustainable communities.  We do not, however, subscribe to the belief that network approaches in and of themselves guarantee the kinds of just and humanizing opportunities and outcomes we seek.  We do encounter people who hold up networks as a sort of panacea, hoping that in an age of more distributed technology and open source approaches to problems and solutions, we will achieve some kind of democratic ideal that has to this point eluded us.  That there is promise is evident in many stories that we have heard, witnessed, and shared on this site.  That there is reason to be vigilant is also illustrated in the many signs of an ever-growing and highly racialized gap between rich and poor in this country and a continued reluctance on the part of many to look at these glaring inequities or the systems that perpetuate them. continue reading

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Oct/23/13//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Gravity and the Overview

I saw “Gravity” last night.  It was a fun thriller, relatively formulaic; and yet, also of great importance.  It is significant that “Gravity” has been the top seller at the box office three weekends in a row.

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Oct/22/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Finding What You Didn’t Lose

With appreciations to Carole Martin for passing this along, I wanted to offer this poem as a reminder of the important role of listening in helping to create trust and grounded-ness in the work of social change . . .

Finding What You Didn’t Lose

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water. continue reading





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Oct/21/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//What We Are Reading

The Gift of Power

I just started reading Playing God: Redeeming the gift of power by Andy Crouch, thanks to a book reading group at my church, Grace Chapel. I’m already drawn in by the premise that power is a gift and by his central question: How do we use our power to make people and things around us flourish?

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Oct/17/13//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Bringing Networks Home

I had a virtual exchange the other day with Jane Wei-Skillern of Stanford University, as we discussed different ideas for going beyond case studies to help engage people in thinking in networked ways.  This is what came to mind at the time, and I am eager to hear from others what you have done:

  • In the past I have asked people to think about network forms or topologies (hub and spoke, mesh, distributed); assign different forms to pairs/trios and have them think about what examples of that form exist in their lives.  What are the strengths of that form?  What are its limitations?  How might they shift it to be more “effective” in terms of desired impact?

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Oct/16/13//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Networks: Trust, Drive Time and Other Offerings

“Creating a culture of trust in a network can have a big payoff. Why is this so? First, when trust is well-developed in a network, people are willing to get involved in high-risk projects where their reputation and resources are at stake. These kinds of projects usually have a lot of impact. Next, high levels of trust usually make decision making easier and less time consuming. Finally, a culture of trust enables people to accept and work with people who are quite different from them, which increases the number of people working on network activities.”

- June Holley, Network Weaver Handbook

The importance and power of trust in networks for social change cannot be overstated.  Time and again, and despite what might show up as initial resistance, being intentional about getting to know one another beyond titles, official positions, and transactional exchanges reaps tremendous benefit, for all the reasons June Holley mentions above and more.  Taking time and making space to build trust helps people to do the important work of social change and is in many cases an embodiment of the change we are trying to make in the world – when we expand our circles of compassion and inclusion; when we create new patterns of opportunity, exchange and resource flows; when we see and validate previously unrecognized or undervalued assets.

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