Archive for August, 2009

Aug/31/09//Marianne Hughes//Inspiration

In Loving Memory

“The Work Goes On, The Cause Endures, The Hope Still Lives, And The Dream Shall Never Die.”

Illustrated by Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press


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Aug/28/09//IISC//Facilitative Leadership

The Lion of the Senate’s Legacy: How to Step into A Leadership Void

By Melinda Weekes

On Wednesday, August 26, 2009, a great public servant and leader died.  Massachusetts Senator Edward “Teddy” Kennedy’s legacy of service, championing the under-served and working class of our country, had come to an end in one form, now to transition to a legacy of another sort. It was the second day of the Facilitative Leadership course I was co-training, and of course, that morning, we paused to mourn, reflect, reminisce and examine our study of leadership in the brilliant, shining light of his life long leadership practice.

Later in the day, I came across this blog piece published by the Harvard Business Review, entitled, “How Ted Kennedy Got Things Done,” and couldn’t help but notice how much the observations of his distinguished service track so well with several of the attributes and principles of Facilitative Leadership: Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/27/09//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration

Collaboration Past, Present, and Future

Today I recognize the shoulders that we stand upon as willing and enthusiastic collaborators!  Click here to listen to an interview with David Straus in recognition of the 40th anniversary of his founding Interaction Associates and officially launching his pioneering collaborative methods, of which the Interaction Institute for Social Change is a grateful inheritor.

David remarks the changes he has witnessed over the last four decades, including an overall movement from resistance to embrace of collaboration as an effective and often necessary approach to solving problems and leveraging opportunities in organizations and communities.  And what does the future hold?  For David, it comes down to seeing and using collaboration as a means of deeply shifting culture.

And what about you?  What and who would you raise up as part of the collaboration canon?  And what are the next frontiers?

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Aug/24/09//Gibrán Rivera//Liberation

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 the rest of this entry »

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Hope Born of Paradox

Eduardo Galeano is a man who really gets us to look at a new angle. And that is really what we need now right, new angles. New ways of thinking. New attempts at approaching the same problems that have plagued our history. A friend of mine tweeted this NPR article about Galeano’s current days, back home in Uruguay. It is short and sweet, and worth a read.

Galeano is famous for exploiting the beauty in contradictions, while at the same time being a forceful voice against injustice, poverty and war. One of his most famous writings entails the line, “Courage is born of fear, certainty of doubt”.  The article mentioned above, explores one of the short stories of history which Galeano recounts in his new book Mirrors. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/20/09//Curtis Ogden//What We Are Reading

Back to Thinking

“With the sophisticated mental apparatus we have used to build world eminence as a species, we have created an environment so complex, fast-paced, and information-laden that we must increasingly deal with it in the fashion of the animals we long ago transcended.”  – Robert Cialdini

As Alfred North Whitehead once suggested, one of the main conundrums of our evolution as a species seems to be that it has largely depended upon our ability to engage in more and more activities without thinking about them.  Hence a world built upon scientific discovery, full of ever declining numbers of people who are scientifically literate.  Hence a world of increasing complexity that we often meet with relatively primitive automaticity.

In her book, The Canon, Natalie Angier provides an entertaining primer on the hard sciences for adult non-scientists and along the way makes a strong case for the need for more of us to bring greater rigor and discipline of thought to the day-to-day.  She illustrates how we often operate with models of physical reality that are simply false.  In many cases, these models were ingrained at an early age and remain stubbornly embedded, owing to certain neurological tendencies.  Not understanding these tendencies, we remain convinced that we are more critical in our thinking than we actually are. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/19/09//Gibrán Rivera//Sustainability

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 the rest of this entry »

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Aug/18/09//Gibrán Rivera//Sustainability

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 the rest of this entry »

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Aug/17/09//Marianne Hughes//Structural Transformation

Sand Dunes and Democracy

The debate about how to reform health care in the United States rages across the country in a series of town hall meetings, constant cable coverage and apparent confusion and misinformation. I have been watching all of this from the distance that you can only gain by being on vacation. And, because my family has vacationed in Wellfleet, Massachusetts on Cape Cod for the last 25 years, I have been reflecting on the messiness of democracy while walking the dunes of the national seashore and riding the waves on the protected beaches of this part of the Cape.

It is a powerful reminder of how advocacy, policy and structural change is at the heart of creating a more just and sustainable world. Had President John F. Kennedy not signed a bill in 1961 authorizing the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore, (the goal of which was “to preserve the natural and historic values of a portion of Cape Code for the inspiration and enjoyment of people all over the United States”), I could be meandering through condominiums, McMansions and strip malls. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/13/09//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Keeping Our Eyes (Not Just) On the Prize

Thanks to Sean Stannard-Stockton for introducing me to this video.  He referenced it while writing about the risks of being outcomes-focused in philanthropy.  It’s a great reminder to keep ourselves open to what we aren’t looking for.  It may also provide some insight as to why networks bend our brains, at least those parts that are singularly focused on results of a linear cause-and-effect kind.  The social capital and new forms of self-organized action that are the result of network building activity are not always the first things that appear front and center on our screens.  Rather, they may appear in the background, on the periphery, or in the spaces where more concrete images meet.  And yet, there is little doubt about the potential of net-centric approaches for social impact.  Time to adjust our eyes from the isolated (old paradigm) prize.

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Aug/11/09//Gibrán Rivera//Networks

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 the rest of this entry »

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Want To Be Inspired?

Who doesn’t? And who isn’t? We at IISC are inspired daily by those we cross paths with and all that we might read. And it is always wonderful to pass the inspiration along. Well, you might remember this video from a few months back, orginally posted by Marianne, a rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” by Playing for Change.  Here it is:

But the song isn’t the great part right now. The great part is that Playing for Change will be on tour this fall in the United States and Canada! The will perform in many cities in the States, including our home base of Boston. I’m sure a few of the staff here will be attending. To see if they are playing by you, check here.

Inspiration often comes at times we least expect it, and most need it. How wonderful it must be to harness that energy and see it coming ahead of time.

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Aug/07/09//IISC//Social Innovation

Community Solutions

Just a month ago, the  President called on foundations, philanthropists, and others in the private sector to partner with the government to find and invest in innovative, high-impact solutions that are found outside the Beltway.  The press release for this new White House initiative, Community Solutions, stated:

“Now more than ever, we need to build cross-sector partnerships to transform our schools, improve the health of Americans, and employ more people in clean energy and other emerging industries.  These community solutions will help build the new foundation for the economy and the nation. ”

What say ye? What are the implications of a government that, at least in some sense,  ”gets it”?

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Aug/06/09//Curtis Ogden//Sustainability

No Such Thing as Waste


When we throw it away, it doesn’t go away.  This is an important lesson of both systems thinking and ecology.  Fritjof Capra, physicist and founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy, writes that we need to relearn the fundamental facts of life, including the fact that matter continually cycles through the web of life and that one person’s (or species’) waste is another’s food.  If our awareness and actions shifted in accordance with these facts, how would we live and work differently?

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Aug/05/09//Cynthia Silva Parker//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Race Equity and Systems Thinking

Check out this article by the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University about applying systems thinking to race equity work. It is a great overview of how important it is to think about race, racism and undoing racism systematically. Otherewise, we run the risk of reinforcing the very thing we are trying to undo, or even making things worse!

Click here to read: Systems Thinking and Race

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Aug/04/09//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

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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We Must Tend Our Planet

For those of you unfamiliar, here is IISC‘s first animation. Inspired by Antoine de St.-Exupery’s “The Little Prince”. What do you think?!

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