Archive for September, 2009

Sep/30/09//Linda Guinee//Inspiration

What Would It Look Like?

An amazing video about what’s possible from the Global Oneness Project.? So what would it look like if oneness were to manifest?


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Sep/29/09//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Social Media

Web of Change

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

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

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Less = More: A Dare

Friends, what if less really IS more?

What if in order to spend more time on the things that matter, we really do need to spend less time working on those things and on everything else, too?

What if its true that our energies, time, intellect, creativity and gifts — if concentrated, focused, harnessed, smartly– really will yield more, better, longer-lasting, more potent results and legacies than they will if we are everywhere-and-no where in particular, all things to all people, jack of all trades, and eh….spread too thin?

And, what if it is true that in a more focused, streamlined, measured, discriminating, approach to life and work will thereby make the experience of our working and living itself more rewarding? Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/24/09//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration

Putting “The People” in Philanthropy


We had an interesting conversation during last week’s Engage for Results session at the Donors Forum in Chicago.  IISC has been partnering with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) to offer this two day skill-building session to foundations interested in strategies for engaging stakeholders in their grantmaking.  This offering grew out of GEO’s Change Agent Project, which revealed the strong interest on the part of nonprofits to be in deeper relationship with funders in order to achieve greater impact.

On the first morning, I shared some striking results from a 2008 GEO survey of attitudes and practices of foundations in the United States.  Specifically, less than half (49%) of those foundations surveyed indicated that it was important for their organization to seek external input.  Among GEO membership the number was higher, coming in at 78%.  However, the survey also showed that overall only 36% of respondents actively solicited feedback from their grantees.  That strikes as quite a discrepancy between stated beliefs and actual practice.  So I turned to the workshop participants for reactions.

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Sep/23/09//Linda Guinee//Power, Equity, Inclusion

It’s Urgent That We Stand Up

There have been constant questions in the press over the last few weeks about whether much of what’s happening in the US these days is about race.

  • Here’s a recent article from the New York Times in which Bob Herbert calls it.
  • And another from Newsweek by Raina Kelley.
  • And a great blog by Damali Ayo

And so I’ve been reflecting on some of the things I read in graduate school by people like Ervin Staub about the critical role that can be played in situations of impending violence (and even genocide) by those who see clearly what’s going, stand up, call it by name and loudly and persistently demand that it must stop – the critical role played by what Staub calls “active bystanders.”

Not that this hasn’t been needed for generations, but the situation is incredibly urgent these days. The rampant and violent racism in the US calls for all of us to stand up and insist that it stop. Many of us see it clearly – and we need to be calling our Congresspeople, contacting the media (old and new) and talking to everyone we know to call things as they are and say, “Stop!”

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Sep/22/09//Gibrán Rivera//Learning Edge

Emergence and Strategic Intent

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

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

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Sep/21/09//Marianne Hughes//Spiritual Activism

Simple Acts of Kindness

In the September Shambala Sun magazine there is an article written about Huston Smith, the renowned philosopher, now ninety, who introduced Americans in the fifties to “The World’s Religions” through his writing and his teaching. This was territory completely unknown to the culture at the time.

In this article he remembers another famous spiritual adventurer, his friend, Aldous Huxley. He quotes Huxley as saying: “It’s a little embarrassing to have spent one’s entire life pondering the human situation and find oneself in the end with nothing more profound to say than…try to be a little nicer”. When I read this quote I remembered being equally struck by something the Dalai Lama said: kindness is my religion. And, of course, from the Bible, “do unto others what you would like them to do unto you”.

And as is often the case, I sit here on this Sunday morning sort of dumbstruck, as if I’d been given the most complicated of Zen koans, pondering the depth of these words that are so profound, so demanding and so completely, utterly and entirely simple.


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The Rat Trap in the Farm House

A few months ago, while attending the 95th session of the Hampton University Minister’s Conference, I heard my most favorite preacher of all times, the Rev. Dr. Claudette Copeland use a brilliant illustration that got me thinking about systems thinking, networks and collaboration. I will surely integrate this illustration into my consulting and training practice, and recount it herewith for your enjoyment and cogitation: Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/17/09//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration

“Maximum Contemplation, Minimum Action”

I am always interested to see parallel worldviews evolving across different fields.  Lately I’ve been thinking about the connections between the burgeoning enthusiasm about networks in social science and social change efforts and the growing interest I’ve been noticing in Permaculture, partly owing to the Transition Town movement and conversations about mitigating and adapting to impending climate change.

Permaculture was developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren during the 1970s as an answer to unsustainable industrial agricultural practices.  It entails creating robust, flexible, living systems that integrate ecology, landscape, organic gardening, architecture and agroforestry.  The focus of Permaculture is not on the individual elements in a garden, but rather on the relationships between them (just as networks are all about the links).  For example, with the Permaculture lens, one is always thinking about how one plant relates to others (could it cast shade or serve as a natural pesticide for others) and how different “zones” might serve one another (a pond stocked with fish can cut down on mosquitoes, eaves on a house can catch rain water that is siphoned into a garden, etc.). Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/16/09//Linda Guinee//IISC:Outside

Scooter Reflections on Social Media, Again…

OK, to be totally honest, I wasn’t reflecting on this while I was on the scooter, but that’s often where I am reflecting…

I had an incredible conversation with Susan Shaer, the Executive Director of WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions), the other day.? We were talking about creating a longer term vision and strategy given all that’s happened recently for those working on peace, security and foreign policy issues. We were reflecting on the amazing changes that have happened – and then Susan started talking about changes in what she was calling “new media” – and how that affects organizing strategies. At one point she said, “if we had known ten years ago how much time we would now spend reading and responding to email, think about how differently we would have organized ourselves.” And so I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

How should we be organizing for the new technologies that are ahead of us (instead of what is)? What are the new strategies for engaging people in our issues — not thinking just about what’s available now, but what’s coming? How will these changes affect how we work? Any ideas?

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Sep/15/09//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Structural Transformation

Bringing Honesty Back

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

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

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Sep/11/09//IISC//Structural Transformation

Remembering 9/11

Eight years ago Today:

  • 8:46 am – AA Flight 11 hits the North Tower of the WTC 
  • 9:03 am – UA Flight 175 hits the South Tower
  • 9:37 am – AA Flight 77 hits the Pentagon
  • 9:59 am – South Tower falls
  • 10:03 am – UA Flight 93 crashes in Shanksville, PA  
  • 10:28 am – North Tower falls

As a nation of families, neighborhoods, communities and citizens, let’s pause to remember the lives and courage of the nearly 3,000 who lost their lives 8 years ago today, on September 11, 2001.

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Sep/10/09//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Strategy or Fluency

One of my favorite summer reads was the book Leading from Within, which is co-edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner, both of whom have connections to Parker Palmer’s Center for Courage and Renewal.  The book is a collection of favorite poems selected by a diverse group of leaders in business, medicine, education, social services, politics, and religion.  Each poem was chosen because it provides guidance and support for these individuals’ work and lives, and each is accompanied on the left facing page by a short commentary that sheds light on the poem’s significance.

One of the contributors is Carla M. Dahl, a professor and dean at the Center for Spiritual and Personal Formation at Bethel Seminary.  For her poem, Dahl selected John O’Donohue’s “Fluent”:

I would love to live                                                                                                                      Like a river flows,                                                                                                                          Carried by the surprise                                                                                                               Of its own unfolding.

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Sep/09/09//Linda Guinee//Featured, Spiritual Activism

Lazy Days

A few months ago, I wrote a post called “Over-Working“, in which I was questioning the ways that I (and many of us) over-work. I am just now returning from a five and a half week sabbatical, thanks to the generosity and forethought of the staff and board of IISC and clearly, given what is happening to so many people right now, a great deal of privilege at having the kind of work environment I have.

It has been an amazing span of time, opening me in many ways and creating quite a space to build the life I’ve long been wanting. And so, in this returning to work (and, for some, school) time of year, I thought I’d reflect a little on what taking a break has meant.

About ten years ago, I spent three weeks at Plum Village, a Buddhist monastery in Southern France. The time there was primarily spent in silence – with long periods of sitting meditation, walking meditation, and even working meditation. (No surprise, I struggled with over-working during working meditation!)  One of the practices at Plum Village is that each week, everyone takes a “Lazy Day”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/08/09//Gibrán Rivera//IISC:Outside

Creative Change

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

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

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Sep/08/09//Marianne Hughes//Featured, What We Are Reading

A Swift Kick or a Gentle Nudge?

It is difficult on this Labor Day 2009 not to worry and fret about our collective ability in this country to do what is best, even in our own best interest. The two major policy debates of the day – health care and unemployment – came together this weekend in a heap of statistics, misinformation and just plain rage that leaves me, like so many, wondering: how will we move in the right direction? What is right action?

Heartbreaking stories of financial ruin and despair from job loss and crushing unemployment caused by the recession or untreated illness and bankruptcy from the effects of a completely broken health care system. And, at root of both issues we find the profit motive and really bad policy choices over the last two decades. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/03/09//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Sustainability

Wholeness and Reciprocal Transformation



Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit with staff of a few unique organizations in central Vermont, including a conversation with Peter Forbes at the Center for Whole Communities in Fayston.  What Peter, his wife Helen Whybrow, and their colleagues have created at Knoll Farm, a working organic farm, is truly inspiring, not just for the beauty of the land it occupies and the amazing views that are afforded of the surrounding mountains of Mad River Valley, but also because of the thoughtful attention that has been given to every detail of the Center and the programs that it offers.

The Center for Whole Communities is focused on reconnecting people to land, to one another, and to community as a way of healing the divisions that exist between those who are working for social justice and environmental conservation.  To this end they have created a setting and experiences that carefully tend to this mission of reconnection, from immersing people in the landscape, to engaging them in dialogue and storytelling, to grounding them in creative expression and contemplative practice. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/02/09//Charlie Jones//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Taking America Back? Back to Where?

“Some of the people who have been appearing at town hall meetings lately say they want to take back their country. Me too.  However, I am left wondering what country they want to take back.”  Excerpt from “The country we should have back”.

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