Archive for April, 2010

Apr/30/10//IISC//Your Experiences


(A repost from April 2009)

I suppose it’s the overlooked companion of Change: Anticipation. It’s the silent provocateur that causes us to peer into the distance, squint past the horizon, turn the proverbial corner, stand on the brink, gear up for the jump off, and on and on. It is the automatic reflex within us that kicks into gear once we have a cognitive or instinctual knowing, that things are about to…shift.

That Change is afoot, we well know: Sam Cooke crooned it; Grandma prayed for it; Obama touted it; analysts predicted it; planners plan for it. My thoughts here turn to unpacking a hunch that what we are missing out on, quite unbeknownst to us, is the wisdom, creativity and knowledge available to ( through?) us/clients in that (anticipatory space of) calm before the storm (of Change). Scharmer’s naming and exploration of pre-sencing gets at it; Gibran’s queries around testing for “readiness” in groups is along the same lines; prototyping as a way into solving complex problems is yet another expression within this same sphere. Rather than an anxious, fear-based, controlling energy wherein we brace for change, I’m suggesting that there is a playful, curious, self- and Other-awareness we can decide to adopt that enables us to learn from Change, and how to navigate it, perhaps even before it occurs.

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Apr/29/10//Curtis Ogden//Sustainability

Collaboration for Sustainability 2: Framing

“To work at this work alone is to fail.”

-Wendell Berry

Picking up from where I left off last Thursday . . .  How might collaboration be a key to making the sustainability shift?  At its best, collaboration is the act of modeling complex systems at work, and with awareness and intention comes critical adaptive capacity.   The goal is to achieve collective and distributed intelligence that can respond in timely ways to threats to sustainability (stressed ecosystems, injustice, etc.) and that can be proactive in creating optimal conditions for future generations to meet their needs.  That’s the ideal, right?  How do we get there?

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Apr/28/10//Linda Guinee//Power, Equity, Inclusion

What IS Power Anyway?

One of the first questions you might ask when thinking about looking at power dynamics in group facilitation is what IS power anyway? This seemingly simple question, of course, is not really all so simple after all. What do you think? How would you describe power?

When I first started trying to answer this question for myself, I found that I was overwhelmed with material -? literally hundreds and hundreds of books about what power is, where it comes from, how it operates, etc.? For many, a definition of power has to do with the ability to force something to do something they wouldn’t have done otherwise – a coercive definition of power.? Feminist psychologist Jean Baker Miller described power as “the capacity to produce a change.” Others (and in fact, our common terminology) talks about power as a “thing” that can be divided, shared, owned, and transferred. Read the rest of this entry »

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Apr/27/10//Gibrán Rivera//IISC:Outside

Practice, Practice, Practice


IAF Workshop

I’m just getting back from the International Association of Facilitator’s North America Conference and co-leading a workshop focused on the facilitator’s inner journey.  It was a cool set up.  The presenters included our convener, Larry Dressler as well as experienced facilitators, Erica Peng, Roger Schwarz and Beatrice Briggs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Apr/26/10//Curtis Ogden//IISC:Inside

Questions Paving the Path to Change

With another public offering of Pathway to Change on the horizon (May 4-6), I’ve been putting my thinking towards how best to encapsulate this robust course, which focuses on skills and frameworks for designing and facilitating collaborative change efforts.  The genius behind IISC’s courses in general (for which I can take absolutely no credit) is the simple elegance of the visuals that capture many of the essential ideas and steps.  That said, we can sometimes find ourselves awash in images and wanting something a little more to the point to guide us.  For these purposes, I’ve boiled the course down to a series of key questions that stand behind the various models.  So here is the Curtis’ Notes version (which also applies to a related course, Engage for Results, that we offer to foundations in partnership with GEO):

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The Praise Report

(This is a re-post from April 2009)

I write this on the eve of the 3rd day of a training session of our Facilitative Leadership course, where the last of 7 practices,“Celebrate Accomplishment”, often gets the short shrift on this last day of training. The verdict is still out in terms of whether we will give it its just due for tomorrow’s class. Yet, I find myself wrestling with a provocative body of information I became aware of through a recent tweet I received on the subject of praise.

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Apr/22/10//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Sustainability

Collaboration for Sustainability 1: Intro

Wishing you a hopeful Earth Day, and thinking of the good people gathered in Bolivia for the World People’s Summit on Climate Change . . .

For the past few decades, the Interaction Institute for Social Change and Interaction Associates have worked to develop the collaborative capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities with the conviction that this holds the promise of greater effectiveness with respect to shared missions and goals.  We have long upheld and witnessed the importance of bringing more minds and hands together for the purposes of creating insight, understanding, alignment, agreement, strategy, and shared ownership.  Lately, I have been trying to specifically clarify the value all of this has to offer the unsustainable relationship we have with our planet.

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Apr/21/10//Linda Guinee//Power, Equity, Inclusion

What’s Power Got to Do With It?

A few years ago, I researched and wrote a masters’ thesis on addressing power dynamics in collaborative process design and facilitation.? I was doing the study based on great questions raised over the years by Cyndi Suarez (Co-Director of Northeast Action) – and with the belief that if power dynamics are not well understood and addressed, group process facilitators are likely to unknowingly reinforce the status quo – a scary thought for those of us working on social justice and social change!

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Apr/20/10//Gibrán Rivera//Sustainability

This Paradigm Shift


I am honored to be presenting at the Symposium on Sustainability that is being organized by the Institute for Sustainable Social Change at Prescott College in Arizona. Following are some ideas on the themes we want to explore together:

Everything is changing, we are in the midst of a significant – and desperately needed – paradigm shift. The industrial models of the dominant paradigm no longer serve us, they are in fact holding us back.  But what does this emergent paradigm look like?  And how do we live our way into it? Read the rest of this entry »

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Apr/16/10//Curtis Ogden//Your Experiences

A New Day for Philanthropy?


Just back from the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) Conference, the theme of which was “Unleashing Philanthropy’s Potential.”  Marianne and I were in attendance in part to facilitate a session on “Leveraging Philanthropy’s Best Intentions for Collaborative Change.” We came away inspired, impressed, and heartened by the overall conference conversation, which included explorations of whether there is a need for greater empathy in philanthropy, how funders can support and evaluate the impact of networks, strategies for foundations to embrace innovation in their grantmaking practice, and what we might all learn from the Obama Administration’s emphasis on supporting “what works” (via such mechanisms as the Social Innovation Fund).

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Apr/15/10//Curtis Ogden//Facilitative Leadership

Working the Lizard in Us

Science has confirmed what many of us feel, that we are each more than one person.  We are minds and bodies, left brains and right brains, controlled and automatic responders.  This last division is due in part to the fact that we each have more than one brain.  Our old reptilian brain is what we can depend on to keep us safe from physical harm most of the time.  Our newest brain is what gives birth to the wonders of critical thought and creativity.  The amazement I feel about the evolution of our higher thinking is dampened somewhat by my understanding and experience that my multiple brains are not often well coordinated.  I walk into a meeting on the one hand (or brain) excited to facilitate, while on the other I am anxious, my more primitive wiring believing there’s a saber toothed tiger in the corner).  Welcome to what Seth Godin calls “the lizard” inside.

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Apr/14/10//Linda Guinee//Love


Over the years, those of us at IISC have had great conversations about busyness – the ways in which we, as social change activists, process designers and facilitators, find ourselves sometimes being overly busy, taking on too many responsibilities and running from one thing to the next. Some of us mentioned noticing that our ability to do things well sometimes seems impaired by this overly busy approach. (I would add that this is not something confined to those of us working for social justice and social change – but has a special twist when it’s combined with this work, which so requires us to bring forth our best selves.)

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Apr/10/10//IISC//Social Innovation

Building Capacity, Building Change (WE Can Believe In)

Friends — I am asking you to help build my capacity to build our capacity to create the change we seek…. from the grassroots to the grasstops, and every village and hamlet in between. Last week, I  received an invitation to participate in a meeting in a few weeks on the federal government’s nonprofit capacity building efforts — at the White House! Read the rest of this entry »

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Apr/08/10//Curtis Ogden//Facilitative Leadership

Framing Social Space

In a post of a few weeks ago I explored the different dimensions of social space we might be called to attend to as leaders and change agents in creating environments for people to collaborate.  I suggested that these dimensions exist in dynamic tension and together form a holistic picture of how we can leverage the potential of groups by respecting the values of autonomy, community, and divinity.  In recently reading a book by Tim Kasser and Tom Crompton, I was reminded that how we frame these dimensions matters in terms of what ends we seek and ultimately serve.

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Apr/06/10//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Community and Happiness


DISCLAIMER:  Dear Progressive friends, I have not sold out!  I still believe in economic justice and I remain painfully aware of the racialized outcomes of poverty.

I feel like part of my mission in life is to expand the lens with which we look at our quest for social transformation.  One of the points I keep harping on is the point that happiness matters.  And this is why a recent David Brooks column caught my attention. Read the rest of this entry »

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Apr/05/10//Gibrán Rivera//IISC:Outside

The Center of the Universe

Into Chamula

Working closely with the Berkana Institute, Gibrán and Marianne had the privilege of facilitating the Barr Fellows learning journey to Chiapas, Mexico.  Here they are at the conclusion of their journey, getting ready to enter the Church of San Juan Chamula, which actually is a Mayan Temple that the people consider to be the very center of the Universe.

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Apr/02/10//Curtis Ogden//Networks

Elephants, Riders, and Networks

On Wednesday, IISC hosted an impressive group of network building practitioners to discuss what we have collectively learned and have yet to discover about building networks for social change. Melinda and I tweeted ourselves silly with participants’ insights (which you can find by searching hashtag #NTWK). While there is still so much to sort through and have sink in, one of our small group break out sessions got me thinking about how we can preach the potential of networks without turning folk away. As we talked, some pieces began to fall into place in part with the help of the work of Chip and Dan Heath.

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Apr/01/10//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration

Humor for Our Humanity

(In the spirit of April Fool’s)

A town is hit by a fire that catches in the church district one evening.  As the fire spreads, so does word among the members of the neighboring congregations.  Before long, people have assembled in front of their respective houses of worship and are deciding what to rescue from inside.  A roving reporter goes from group to group to see how they’re responding.  She notes that the Catholics have already salvaged the communion cup.  Moving to the Episcopal Church, she witnesses a man emerging from smoke to cheers as he hoists the Book of Common Prayer.  The reporter heads next to the Unitarians, and as she approaches cannot see a particular object among the group assembled in the street.  Observing the expressions on peoples’ faces, she becomes alarmed that someone may still be inside the church, which is on the verge of collapsing.  As she gets closer she hears the group in heated debate about who should be on the ad hoc committee to make the final decision about what to rescue . . .

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