What do you look for up front to suggest that a collaborative endeavor is on the right track? This is the question that former IISC colleague and current VP of Programs at Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Courtney Bourns, and I are charged with answering today. Our audience and partners in this endeavor are a group of community grantmaking committee members convened by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The attendees want to know what to look for in applications and out in the field (‘beyond the grant”) as hints of future success.
This is an intriguing and challenging question, especially given the fact that the signs of success are often in places we do not think to look and of course there are never any guarantees. I certainly look forward to an engaging conversation with this group, and these are the thoughts I am prepared to share with folk at this point: Read the rest of this entry »
This week I’ve been rereading Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systemsand really savoring it. Each time I look at it, I pick up something new, not just about systems thinking but about life in general. I’ve been focused primarily on Meadows’ chapter “Living in a World of Systems,” which considers how we can work with complex systems while acknowledging that even when we understand them better, we cannot predict or control them. One of her suggestions is that we learn to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable. This is not a question of throwing out what we can quantify as being somehow overly reductionist. Rather, it is a matter of not giving up on what we cannot measure and making quantity more important than quality. How important this is for our social change work! Read the rest of this entry »
Over the last few days my family has been going through a sort of sacred grief. The mystery of connection, the power of vulnerability, turning to life with one’s whole heart – these are the themes covered by this wonderful talk and confirmed by my own experience.
It is quite likely that you landed in this page to take a quick peep at this blog, that you did not come here for a twenty minute commitment, but I encourage you to take the time, a shift in perspective is enough to change a life. Samantha and I are so convinced that this is central to our work in the world that we have decided to prototype a “Whole Heart Workshop,” a place for us to practice better ways of being-with. Stay tuned for more, this will be good.
This post first appeared back in March of this year, and I am re-posting as I prepare to co-present a session tomorrow at the Bioneers by the Bay gathering in New Bedford, MA. In our session, “Transformative Leadership for Sustainability” we will experience each of the dimensions below . .
As process designers, facilitators, and change agents, we are called upon to help create conditions in which amazing things can happen between people, whether alignment, agreement building, innovation, etc. At times this can be a tall order. Thankfully we are supported by an array of tools and techniques at our disposal. Knowing which of the social architect’s tools to turn to in any given situation is a core challenge. Something I’ve recently found useful as a guide is consideration of the different dimensions of social space and how these can be leveraged so that collective work can bring about the very best.
I’ve been doing more and more work with arts organizations lately – events like Creative Change and groups like the Arts and Democracy Project. I’ve been seriously considering the role of the arts in our quest for social transformation, and I have to agree with my future wife, Samantha Tan, who is an artist herself – “We’ve exhausted out left-brain approach, linearity found its limits and the problems that we face are now calling on our full self, art is the way.”
Gladwell misses the mark with two key parts of his argument. First is his misunderstanding of how weak-ties and strong-ties play play out in social media networks. Second is his defense of hierarchical, centralized structures, which is based on a clear (and popular) misreading of how the civil rights movement actually happened. Read the rest of this entry »
Peggy Holman is the co-author of a book that I consider to be one of the bibles for my work here at IISC -The Change Handbook. This wonderful resource was also required reading for a graduate course I taught on organizational and community change models at Antioch New England. Building on this essential tome, Peggy has recently authored another book that I look forward to diving into more deeply – Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval Into Opportunity. Her exploration of how to engage chaos in social systems and bring about greater coherence is certainly timely and in line with much of the conversation you see on this blog.
“The revolution will not be tweeted” – No sh*t Sherlock! But let me start with what I did like about Malcolm Gladwell’s annoyingly limited article. Revolution can only happen in the real world, it is neither virtual nor abstract. Revolution can only be measured as actual, successful and good when it has a real impact on increasing people’s capacity – people’s power – to determine their own destiny. A true revolutionary act, the sort of revolutionary act that re-defines power relations, will always be a risky endeavor – power most often has to be taken, for it rarely ever surrenders itself. Read the rest of this entry »
Picking up from yesterday’s post, the question I left off with was how do change agents identify and work with patterns in complex human systems where control and predictability are elusive. This is where Holladay and Quade offer up Glenda Eoyang’s CDE Model. This model names three different conditions that change agents can analyze and work with to shift constraints within a system so that it can achieve more optimal fit with (and thrive in) its environment. Below are an explanation of these conditions and examples of what can be done to either tighten or decrease constraints in the direction of more organized or unorganized surrounds. Read the rest of this entry »
What do you do when you cannot control or predict? For many people I’m sure this question raises just a little bit of anxiety. After all, having some sense of autonomy and mastery is reported as being key to our mental well-being. And yet increasingly we find ourselves in complex and changing situations that are beyond our grasp and where the outcome is very much uncertain. Of course this is not the case with everything. Some of our work falls within the ordered realm. But how do we work outside of this tidy zone? Read the rest of this entry »
I’m writing this post from St. Louis where I’ve been working with a team from Conservation International to facilitate a meeting of their Business and Sustainability Council. This three day convening is focused on sustainable agriculture and has featured presentations from content experts including Dr. Jon Foley from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, who offered the short video above to summarize “the other inconvenient truth” we face around feeding a growing population against a backdrop of stressed water and land resources. As the clip indicates, the challenge of sustainably feeding a global population of 9 billion (projected by 2050), if doable, will only be accomplished through extensive collaboration. Furthermore, it is going to take going beyond many of the either/or debates (local vs. global, GMOs vs. organic) to embrace a full spectrum of strategies. In other words, it’s not about finding a silver bullet, but rather the “silver buckshot.” Read the rest of this entry »
Malcolm Gladwell has certainly whipped up something of a firestorm, at least among social media and network enthusiasts. In a sense, his timing couldn’t be better as this very morning IISC staff gathers with some very bright and committed network building thinkers and consultants to take our ongoing conversation about networks for social change the next step, with some practical application in our collective sights. I expect, and hope, that some of the energetic on-line conversation Gladwell has inspired in our community will continue during this in-person gathering.