Archive for November, 2009

Nov/30/09//IISC//Featured, IISC:Outside

Chase Community Giving

A fantastic opportunity for many across the country. Feel free to send a vote our way!

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Nov/26/09//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Nov/25/09//Linda Guinee//Love, What We Are Reading

Stay! Stay! Stay!

I’ve recently been reading Bernie Mayer‘s new and game-changing book, Staying With Conflict.? A frequent leader in the world of conflict engagement, Bernie Mayer has spent many years working on large scale collaborative change and conflict processes, many of them in the environmental field.  He is also a strong proponent of the need to be clear and transparent about the assumptions behind practice.  With John Paul Lederach and Leah Wing, Bernie Mayer is one of my favorite practitioners and thought leaders in the “conflict resolution” world.? A couple of years ago, Bernie came out with a book called Beyond Neutrality that loudly and strongly asked for those in the conflict engagement field and those facilitating collaborative processes to cease and desist with the concept that we practice as “third party neutrals.”? In this new book, Bernie is pushing forward, changing the basic understanding of “conflict resolution.” He calls us to understand that, in fact, much of what is needed is not resolution, is not decision-making, agreement-building to overcome deep seated conflicts, but rather approaches that help people build the adaptive capacity and platforms from which to act – to stay with the tensions and conflicts that are an essential part of the human experience, to engage in a way that brings human dignity and that allows us to really stay in the difference. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nov/24/09//Gibrán Rivera//Spiritual Activism

A Little Contemplation

I am just returning from a weeklong spiritual retreat for which the central focus was selfless service.  I literally spent the week gardening!  (And yes, those of you who know me are right to find that funny!)  I did chant and meditate every morning, noon and evening, but in this very special place selfless service is considered a spiritual practice on the same level as meditation.

I bring this up because it felt like as soon as I got there I had all sort of “stuff” come up.  It was like the minute my life became a bit more silent all of the things that lie below the surface came bursting up in an overwhelming rush.  I had real moments of emotional upheaval very early in my stay.

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Nov/23/09//Andrea Nagel//Social Innovation

What Does It Mean?

Change is everywhere and at an ever increasing speed! In a recent post, Curtis highlights the trends that are shaping our sector and our society as a whole. In this provocative study, LaPiana invites us to become futurist and be attuned to what is unfolding now and what is yet to unfold.  Let’s fathom what some of this may look like…

What does this all mean?

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Nov/23/09//Marianne Hughes//Collaboration

Collaboration and Merger are Not Synonymous

There is a dangerous and ultimately very confusing trend emerging in our sector. In the wake of the financial meltdown and its impact on funding, foundations and others are proposing organizational mergers and strategic alliances as a solution to the problem. The danger is that they are calling this “collaboration” and giving collaboration a really, really bad name!

For many years at IISC we have been trying to overcome what is often the very bad taste left in people’s mouths after some horrendous experience that they have had in a poorly executed and therefore failed collaboration. In many cases these were marriages forced by foundation funding or coalitions of individual organizations coming together but unable to detach from their own identities and agendas.

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Nov/20/09//IISC//Structural Transformation

Story of the Shoe Store Pink Slip

I heard a wonderful sacred story yesterday. It was shared by a member of SEIU’s in-house training arm (SEIU is the union representing service workers — janitors, custodians, parking attendants, homecare workers, etc.) in a conference I was asked to attend as a guest faculty member on behalf of IISC. The day began with a brilliant invitation to share personal stories exemplifying  “change” in our lives. The true story that follows was just one of many captivating, poignant, death-defying stories my ears had the pleasure of taking in yesterday. What an experience it was! Herein The Story of the Shoe Store Pink Slip (title mine), as told by “L”: Read the rest of this entry »

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Nov/19/09//Curtis Ogden//What We Are Reading

Sacred Stories

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

-William Stafford, from “A Ritual to Read to One Another”

I, for one, could not be happier that we have as our President a man with such apparent capacity of careful thought, measured analysis, and poetic expression.  The other day I reread a passage from Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father and was bowled over by its insight and beauty.  The passage comes at a point when Obama is reflecting upon his work as a community organizer in Chicago, which became all consuming as he often spent his social time with community leaders and residents, immersing himself in their lives.  He writes:

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Nov/18/09//Linda Guinee//Collaboration

Art for Social Change

I’ve been hearing a lot about collaborative art projects, including some that are happening right now in Boston (the location of one of IISC’s two offices). So wanted to write about one amazing project happening right now. Thanks to my neighbor Judith Leemann, I heard about a collaborative art project Mel Chin and Operation Paydirt have been creating to make safe lead-contaminated soil in the US.

Upon hearing that 86,000 properties in New Orleans are estimated to have unsafe lead contamination – and at least 30% of inner city children are affected with lead poisoning, Mel Chin started working. He learned that it would take $300 million to remediate the soil in New Orleans. Thinking he couldn’t raise that kind of money, he decided to make $300 million through a collaborative art project called Fundred, take it to the US Congress and ask for funding to remediate the soil. And so he has created Fundred, through which Operation Paydirt created blank templates for Fundred dollar bills. People are designing their own Fundred Dollar Bills, mailing them to Collection Centers to be counted and securely held – and they are then being taken by a special armored car to Congress, who is being asked to do an even exchange for funding to remediate the soil in New Orleans.

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Nov/17/09//Gibrán Rivera//Networks

Critical Yeast

My friend Arthur Romano does a very good job talking about John Paul Lederach’s concept of “critical yeast.”  We at the Interaction Institute for Social Change have been deeply influenced by Lederach’s book The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace.  Our network-building work is informed by this idea that since we are connected in networks, it is in fact possible for what seems like a tiny minority to significantly affect the whole.

I am appreciative of Arthur reminding us that this age of connectivity significantly enhances our potential to be that critical yeast.  He is very clear that the hard work of building authentic relationships is as important as ever – there are no short cuts in this work, but there are more powerful frames.

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Nov/16/09//Marianne Hughes//Collaboration

Collaboration R Us

Recently I was asked for a quote about the messiness of collaboration. In response to the request, I noted that because at IISC we are “Collaboration R Us” we tend not to think about the messiness of collaboration (though we do view messiness as part of any emergent and creative process).  Rather we focus on the elegant design and facilitation that will ensure success. The quote that I submitted is the following:

“Collaboration takes more than well-meaning people with good intentions coming together to determine a set of outcomes. Successful collaboration requires solid process design and skillful facilitation. This is what builds the scaffolding for multiple and diverse stakeholders to create a shared vision of impact, agreement on goals and strategies for achieving that impact and a plan for collective action. The process itself is what catalyzes the critical shift of mind and heart from believing that the right answers and expertise are held by a few to an understanding that it is the collective wisdom of the group that determines right action and greater impact.”

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Nov/13/09//Jen Willsea//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Let’s Talk About Class

One of the most intense and unique pieces of the Making Money Make Change (MMMC) conference, is the Money Stories session. Picture a room with 70 young people with wealth (accumulated, inherited, or earned) and/or owning class privilege sitting in a large circle. Each person gets 60 seconds to “tell their money story.” Questions that guide this storytelling include:

  • Where did the money that you and/or your family come from?
  • How is your or your family’s wealth connected to histories of racism and capitalism?
  • What have you done to move some or all of that money to social justice movements?

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Nov/11/09//Linda Guinee//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Closing the Achievement Gap

In this video, Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone looks at the structural nature of racism in the US and speaks about what it will take to overcome the legacy of unequal opportunity. Instead of putting people into the prison system, he advocates for rebuilding community, getting people reengaged by bringing communities together to solve their own problems.

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Nov/10/09//Gibrán Rivera//Social Media

Stay in Touch

We probably met at a beautiful place and had a great experience together.  I might have facilitated, and that gave me the privilege of forging a stronger point.  We connected; we recognized each other as part of this same tribe of people who are committed to ushering forth the future that is so badly wanting to emerge.  We sense a shift, and we want to be a part of it – to make room for it.

I don’t want to be exclusive, but I’m not talking about everybody who was there.  I’m talking about you, with that unusual spark in your eyes and that incredible sense of excited anticipation that shows up even if you can be a little shy.  It was a real connection, and we both want to keep it alive.

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Nov/09/09//Marianne Hughes//Social Innovation

Information Power

In this world where encyclopedias are written by millions on-line, policy change is influenced by citizen lobbyists through internet organizing and micro acts of inspiration and hilarity are seen daily on You Tube, the Tactical Technology Collective has created a video that illustrates this power called “10 Tactics for Turning Information into Activism”. They asked 50 human right activists: “What is info-activism?”

Be inspired by their answers!!!!

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More on Less is More

Once again, I’m trumpeting the truth that, yes folks, less IS more.

In his July 2005 Ted Talk, psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz’s estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

Instead of boosting our self-esteem, enhancing the quality of  our choices and promoting self-actualization and civility, this expert on the links between economics and psychology claim is that it yields:

1. Paralysis, not liberation.

2.  Dissatisfaction with the choice made (because the known options make it easier to regret the option you choose against ). Read the rest of this entry »

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Nov/05/09//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration, Featured

Means and Ends

One of the core models of IISC’s practice (for both our training and consulting work) is something we call the R-P-R Triangle, which basically makes the case that success in collaborative efforts is a multi-dimensional affair, not solely defined by “results” (goal or task accomplished), but also by “process” (the way or spirit in which work is carried out) and “relationship” (the quality of the connections between the people engaged in the work).  Our Executive Director, Marianne Hughes, has called this “the spine of collaboration,” suggesting that if we are not thinking in terms of all dimensions, we are not really serious about seeking win-win solutions with others.  And indeed experience really proves that these dimensions are intimately linked and dependent upon one another when diverse stakeholders come together to realize a shared vision.

RPR chart

A twist was given to this triangle the other day when a Facilitative Leadership workshop participant said he was struggling, not because he did not find value in this notion of “multiple dimensions of success,” but because of his concern that even in this model, process and relationships might appear to be subservient, or the “so that,” to results.  He went on to say that he is part of an organization/community in which relationships are really paramount.  They are an end in and of themselves and in a way synonymous with results.  How then, do we account for this in this model he wondered. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nov/04/09//Linda Guinee//Power, Equity, Inclusion

Racial Equity Grantmaking

As I described recently, I had the great fortune of hearing Rinku Sen of the Applied Research Center, Ellen Gurzinsky of Funders for LGBTQ Issues and Lori Villarosa of Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity present on”Catalyzing Change and Deepening Racial Justice Impacts” at the Neighborhood Funders Group Annual Conference in New Orleans. I wanted to share some of what I heard about racial equity grantmaking.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues (an affinity group of foundations who fund LGBTQ issues) started a Racial Equity Initiative a few years ago, under the leadership of Karen Zelermyer and with the creative and smart expertise of Robert Espinoza. The initiative was started to improve the ways that LGBTQ grantmakers incorporate a racial equity lens into their internal processes and grantmaking. Rather than taking a single approach, they used a multi-faceted approach (which seems to be what’s necessary to REALLY change an organization’s direction), choosing to create a broader context for the work. The initiative started with an assessment of foundations supporting LGBTQ issues, looking at internal operations and seeing whether they were applying a racial justice lens to their grantmaking (the 2008 Report Card on Racial Equity). Funders then launched a grantmaking initiative – raising $1,000,000 to match with funding at eight queer community foundations to identify and support local people of color organizations (which sometimes required learning and shifting of strategies for some foundations distributing funds). And they convened a very successful Racial Equity Retreat of LGBTQ funders.

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Nov/03/09//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Time for Transformation

I am an admiring fan of angel Kyodo williams and a few weeks ago she called my attention to a powerful blog post she wrote, “doing darkness,” it has been on my mind since.  I invite you to take the time to read and contemplate it.  Angel is inviting us to take a close look at the distinction between change and transformation.  She proposes – and I agree – that while change is something that can be undone with a shift in context, transformation is something that can not be undone.

This proposition appeals to my own commitment to the evolutionary paradigm, and to an idea of social movement that demands our conscious engagement with our own evolution.  Angel’s in an excellent articulation, and so I would rather you give your time to reading her piece than to anything else I could say about it.

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Nov/02/09//Marianne Hughes//Spiritual Activism

Mindfulness and Social Justice

Mirabai Bush founded the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society in 1997. While no longer the Executive Director, Mirabai is steeped in the work. I had an opportunity to both see her in action and to have lunch with her and talk about bringing contemplative/transformative practice into our organizations and the work of social justice. The title of her talk was Bringing Mindfulness into Public Life where she looked back to the seventies as the moment of the great divide between spirituality and politics; the inner and the outer, the personal and the professional. Ironically it was the same decade when many great teachers from the east came to the United States to introduce the west to the power of meditation. The tool of meditation and mindfulness was quickly adopted by leaders in the alternative medicine field like John Kabat Zinn and Dr. Herb Benso and then taken out to the world.

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