A fantastic opportunity for many across the country. Feel free to send a vote our way!
Archive for November, 2009
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 »
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.”
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?
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 »
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.
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 »
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.