Archive for September, 2010

Sep/29/10//Curtis Ogden//Your Experiences

Start With the (New) Whole

I recently did work with an organization that had approached us with an interest in designing a retreat during which staff would consider options for embracing climate action and environmental organizing strategies as part of their efforts moving forward.  In one of our early planning calls, I asked how this new direction made sense given where the organization had historically focused its resources (affordable housing, open space advocacy, community beautification), and the response was a very thoughtful, “That’s a good question.”  Furthermore, I asked if there was anything they were planning on letting go of.  Again, pregnant pause and . . . “That’s a good question.”  And so began a very fruitful conversation, the upshot of which was an opening segment of the retreat that focused on developing a coherent frame for the organization that could more easily and sensibly integrate climate and environmental work. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/28/10//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Naming What’s Broken

Seth Godin at Gel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

This video of Seth Godin’s funny Gel Conference talk about why so many things are broken around us has, from my perspective, many truths and considerable wisdom to it.  One thing that has become clear from the last few years’ worth of meeting and working with community groups and social change advocates is that it’s time for more of us to step up and name what’s broken.  From our antiquated and alienating public participation processes (see this link for a list of 21st century engagement techniques) to mind-numbing soul-sucking meetings to our siloed and overly simplistic ways of seeing and approaching complex and systemic problems, we know we can and must do so much better.  So say it with me – “It’s broken.”  This isn’t about complaining or assigning blame (because that would be broken too), it’s about getting curious about the brokenness and creative about reassembling the pieces into something that better supports our collective humanity.  And, to follow Mr. Godin’s lead, why not have a sense of humor about it?

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Sep/23/10//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Your Experiences


“The process of coming to terms with vulnerability is one that necessarily shifts a person’s values focus to one that emphasizes self-transformation and interdependence.”

-Greg Jemsek

The word “vulnerability” seems to be up in many parts of my life.  On the home front, there is a lot of discussion about vulnerability as being key to building stronger relationships with my wife and daughters.  What this generally means is being more in touch with feelings of not being in control, of concern for those most dear to me, and of desiring greater closeness.  At times I seem to be good at ignoring these either because I perceive them as painful or inconvenient, and subsequently create a buffer to my ultimate aim which is depth and richness of connection. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/20/10//Curtis Ogden//IISC:Inside

This Auspicious Moment

I read from the poem below at our staff meeting this morning, to recognize one of many transitions we are making as a collective.  Now settling into our new space that features an amazing “Collaboration Zone” that is garnering some attention locally (wait until you see the pictures!), we are also recognizing the new season that is upon us.  By way of checking in with one another during our inaugural in-gathering in our Seaport offices, I invited people to take Robert Penn Warren’s lead below and think about what they hoped to preserve of summer and what they look forward to embracing in the fall.  “Transcend and include,” is what we like to say around here.  So what about you?  As you pause, what do you hope to keep and to strive for?

First Moment of Autumn Recognized Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/20/10//Gibrán Rivera//Inspiration


Beautiful and timely video.  Historically, we have shown and unbelievable ability to dehumanize one another.  We seem to like dehumanizing one group at a time.  In the United States today, it seems like Muslims have become the latest target – this video goes a long way to bring our beauty into perspective.  Art leads.

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Sep/17/10//Curtis Ogden//Networks

The Power of Potlucks

This post comes courtesy of IISC friend Beth Tener of New Directions Collaborative.  You can find the original post here.

One of the most inspiring speeches we heard at the Slow Money National Gathering was from Tom Stearns, President of High Mowing Organic Seeds. His company is based in Hardwick, a small town in northern Vermont, which was featured in The New York Times article entitled “Uniting Around Food to Save an Ailing Town”. Remarkably, over the last three years, the local area has added 150 new jobs to an existing 500 jobs, spread across many small companies, all associated with the local food economy.

One of the key ways this came about was through strong locally-based business networks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/16/10//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration

Lessons from a Collaborative Partnership

Last month I was asked to present to the Children and Nature Network’s Grassroots Gathering in Princeton, New Jersey, along with Ginny McGinn of the Center for Whole Communities.  We were invited by a common acquaintance who knows both our respective organizational work and our recent collaborative endeavor in developing and offering a training entitled Whole Measures: Transforming Communities by Measuring What Matters Most (the next public workshop will be in Boston from November 16-18).  Both IISC and CWC work to build the collaborative capacity of social change endeavors, albeit in slightly different and complementary ways.  The topic of our presentation was “Collaborative Leadership,” and what became core to our joint plenary address was the story of our own partnership. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/14/10//Gibrán Rivera//Facilitative Leadership

The Builder

hammer and nail_web

I’ve been getting into Umair Haque lately, he is among those of us concerned with this emergent paradigm shift, and he comes at it from a business perspective.  I was specially appreciative of one of his manifestos – yes, he has many.

This one he calls “The Builder’s Manifesto,” and he is pointing towards a new model of leadership – the leader as builder.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/13/10//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Inspiration

September 11 and 100 Things

Gandhi Possesions

I have a paradoxical relationship with September 11.  Like most of us, I am affected by our shared experience on that terrible day nine years ago.  Like many Latin Americans, I remember the US sponsored coup against the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende in1973.  But in what is the most significant twist, it also happens to be the anniversary of the most important day in my spiritual life – the day I met my teacher – September 11, 2004, an event that has changed my life forever. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/10/10//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

The Complex and the Quantum

I was recently sorting through some of my thoughts and feelings about complexity and social change when I arrived at a question to gnaw on – What is the difference between taking an “emergent” versus a “quantum” approach to complex problems? We are told that complexity does not lend itself to existing, linear, cause-and-effect responses.  The multiplicity of factors contributing to complexity make it difficult for traditional kinds of expertise to grasp.  So what is one (or many) to do? Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/09/10//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Learning Edge

Accentuate the Positivity, Take 3

Another school year begins and with it we students of life are filled with excitement and perhaps some nervousness about what will be asked of us.  For me, I look forward to work that will keep me deeply aligned with purpose and, yes,  challenged.  No doubt there will be moments when my outlook will be buffeted.  I will admit to being someone who in the genetic cortical lottery was not bestowed the rose colored glasses.  It’s not that I didn’t get a winning ticket, I just have to work for my earnings.

And as I have blogged about in the past, I am aware and research shows that keeping a net positive outlook can be critical to heightening collaborative outcomes and staying engaged in the tough times.  So what are some steps for staying on point without veering towards disconnected or disconnecting pessimism? Read the rest of this entry »

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At the heart


Another inspirational quote; our latest postcard designed by Hamilton Hughes Design. Join our mailing list to receive news and periodic thoughtful postcards from us.

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Sep/08/10//Linda Guinee//Liberation

Hitting Refresh

Just yesterday in a meeting of the Senior Associates at the Interaction Institute for Social Change, Gibrán Rivera made a comment about the ways in which being too fixed with an identity prevent us from getting to a place of liberation.  I’ve heard him talk about this before – and am challenged by it every time he says it.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/07/10//Gibrán Rivera//Inspiration

Creative Change

Santa Fe

I’m just returning from Santa Fe, where I had the privilege of facilitating the 2nd Creative Change Retreat. The Opportunity Agenda brought together an amazing intersection of artists and activists who are committed to social justice. It was one of the most inspiring and diverse groups of people I have had a chance to work with. Experiencing such a combination of passion, creativity and commitment is enough to make one hopeful again. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/06/10//Gibrán Rivera//Inspiration

Creativity in Action

Tomorrow’s post is about Creative Change, the retreat I just facilitated in Santa Fe – the intersection of arts and social justice. With that in mind, and in solidarity with working people who are celebrating Labor Day, I thought it would be good to share the following video clip – an excellent example of creativity for social change:

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Sep/02/10//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Your Experiences

What Inquiry Makes Possible

A couple of weeks ago I worked with a special group of special education facilitators who will be helping to coordinate key players in their school district to provide services to students with different learning needs.  This work will put these people in some difficult circumstances when it comes to occasionally not being able to provide exactly what parents want for their children.  For this reason, we spent a fair amount of time talking about how one can be of service when faced with irreconcilable differences.  Much of this came down to staying grounded in one’s values, continuing to regard the humanity of those of others, and standing firm for what the district could reasonably provide.

What I also also saw on display for those three days was the incredible power of artful and compassionate inquiry.  Read the rest of this entry »

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