I’ve just about had it with the vitriol and saber-rattling lately. Our world cannot sustain much more bellowing from those on one end of a spectrum at those on the other, with no room for nuance, ambiguity or the unknown. Enough!
So much of our current day “discourse” is framed (at least in the mainstream media) by discussions of who is right/wrong, right/left, bad/good, holy/evil. As long as we are limited to these extremes, we will be doomed to the tyranny of righteousness and posturing. This will not, and cannot, sustain us.
A very interesting thing has been going on in the Development Community. They’re getting it wrong. And while the norm is to hide failures away out of fear and embarrassment – and concern about funding being affected, they’re doing something different. A group of people working in development have just started a new website, called “Admitting Failure” – sharing their failures and trying to build transparency, collaboration and innovation into the development sector. They’re building a shared resource, saying that “the only ‘bad’ failure is one that’s repeated.” Take a look!
Each January, whether formal or informal, uttered or silent, many of us resolve to do something different for the coming new year. We commit to starting some things and finishing others. We put plans into motion, we reassess, reevaluate and take stock of the life that we have and where we want it to be.
In two weeks, as President of the United States, Barack Obama will issue the State of the Union, as is constitutionally required “from time to time,” reporting on the condition of the country and setting forth his legislative agenda — resolutions for the nation — for 2011. Likewise, as a Movement of Peoples United in striving for a just and equitable world, we should require of ourselves a reflection upon the state of our union as we reconsider and reset our course for change in this new year. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week it was my humble privilege to be part of an august team of network thinkers and consultants as we delivered on our contract of working with community-based organizations that are involved in the pioneering Renew Boston initiative. My teammates included Steve Waddell, Madeleine Taylor, Beth Tener, Tom Cosgrove, Nick Jehlen, Noelle Thurlow, Carl Sussman, and Bruce Hoppe. Our deliverable ultimately emerged in the form of an action learning forum focused on best practices and challenges around enrolling community members in an exciting money-saving program that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy. As part of the forum, we collectively offered and demonstrated net work tools and strategies for enhancing overall success.
At one point a comment was made by one of the participants about the importance of leadership, which spurred some break-time conversation between a few of us on the consulting team. Truth be told, we never came to full agreement as a consulting team on what we mean by “networks” (I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to avoid conversations about orthodoxy and instead focus on the practical implications of what is otherwise a shared felt sense or essence) but I think we all agreed that leadership is a tricky concept when applied to new distributed ways of working. Read the rest of this entry »
We at IISC have the privilege of witnessing heartful, sometimes heart wrenching dialogue about critical issues in our world from multiple perspectives. We work with passionate laypeople and professionals focused on education, environment and sustainability, public health, peace and justice, youth development, racial justice, city planning and community development, to name a few disciplines.
I’m encouraged by a few themes that are coming up more and more in our work. And, I’m even more encouraged that increasingly, they are emerging as imperatives, not just “nice ideas.” As we facilitate processes and bear witness to the struggle to bring forth justice, here are some of the voices we’ve heard calling out: Read the rest of this entry »
HOSPITALITY is not to change people, but to offer them a space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.
It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation of good books, good stories, and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that the words can find roots and bear ample fruit.
It is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but the opening of an opportunity for others to find their God and their way. The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness – not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations
Leave it to David Brooks to put a nice point on our string of posts this week and last on the importance of tending to our “interior condition.” Brooks’ recent article in The New Yorker (“Social Animal: How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life”) pulls together much of the brain research that is pointing us in the direction of redefining (or is it rediscovering?) what matters most in our lives. Without going into a lot of the details, I wanted to highlight some of the points the article raises, and then heartily encourage you to make it part of your weekend reading (and then get back to us here with some of your reactions!): Read the rest of this entry »
Talk of tending to our “interior condition” has been in the air and very active on this blog the past couple of weeks (see “What Love Looks Like in Action,”“Between Hope and a Hard Place,” and “Meditation for the Love of It”). In all of these posts there is a thread that makes the point that focusing on our inner selves, expressions of empathy, and cultivating mindfulness and deep connection to self and other(s) are vital to the work of transformational social change. In line with all of this, I’ve been re-reading a wonderful book that speaks about why and how we should make considerations of our individual and collective interiors central to our work.
One of the guiding mantras here at the Interaction Institute is the idea that “the success of an intervention is directly proportional to the inner condition of the intervener.” This idea and our commitment to “the love that does justice,” help us to uphold those practices that nurture our inner condition and facilitate our capacity to love. It is with this commitment in mind that I share the following review:
Sally Kempton has written a wonderful book. Meditation for the Love of It is a breath of fresh air in this current wave of meditation literature. Pleased as I am by the booming interest in the practice of meditation, I am often frustrated by what feels like a one sided perspective of a beautifully multi-faceted tradition. A masterful teacher, a great writer who is able to transmit her own direct experience of the Self, Sally Kempton makes accessible a rich meditation tradition that could otherwise be relegated to the inaccessible realms of esoterica. Read the rest of this entry »
In her keynote address at Boston’s Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast, Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry invited us to consider the meaning of Dr. King’s 1967 book, Where do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community (excerpt here) at in this political moment. She reminded us what was going on in 1966, as Dr. King wrote. The Freedom Movement had achieved many legal and legislative victories by then, (Brown vs. Board of Education supporting school desegregation and the Voting Rights Act to name just a few). The Movement and its victories created justifiable hope that the lives of people on the margins of our society could improve. At the same time, poverty and racism still created the need for continued struggle. By 1966-67, many felt their hope was no longer justifiable in the face of violent backlash and intractable injustices. In the face of withering criticism including charges of cowardice, Dr. King continued to urge the country toward community rather than chaos, without shrinking back from the justice issues before him. Read the rest of this entry »
Picking up from my post the other day (“Pauses for the Cause”) about the process learnings of our recent IISC retreat, I wanted to focus a bit on the content take-aways. As I previously mentioned, the reason for our coming together as a staff was to revisit and dive into the roots of our collaborative practice: networks, equity/power/inclusion, and “the love that does justice.” It wasn’t long before we were wondering whether these are not more appropriately called the lenses through which we look as we go about our collaborative capacity building and change work. And it did not take long after that for us to question whether the labels we have selected for these lenses are the appropriate ones. I want to spend the rest of this post looking at where our conversation took us with respect to love, in particular.
What’s love got to do with it? That was not exactly our guiding question, but we got there eventually through some of our struggles to reach shared understanding and agreement about what we mean when we say “the love that does justice.” Our facilitator engaged us in writing on stickies short phrases and sentences that explained what it means to integrate this into our practice. The activity yielded a plethora of multi-colored squares that we then organized into themes. Here is what emerged, categorically speaking: Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, IISC staff took a step back to consider what we had been referring to as the roots out of which our collaborative capacity building work grows (we have since wondered whether these may be more appropriately cast as “lenses,” but more on that at another time), and to come to some agreement about what is core to our practice in these imperfectly titled areas:
“the love that does justice”
We were guided in our conversations by the talented Mistinguette Smith, with whom I have had the pleasure of partnering in delivering our joint work with the Center for Whole Communities – Whole Measures: Transforming Communities by Measuring What Matters Most. Anyone who is able to handle a group of facilitators has certainly earned her stripes, and if that person can teach those “process experts” new tricks, well now you’ve really got our attention. Ms. Smith, we are listening! Read the rest of this entry »
Facilitative Leadership is foundational to everything that we do at the Interaction Institute for Social Change. We believe in collaboration, and we believe in tapping the power of participation. These powerful ideas have shaped the best of our society. These ideas are alive, and thus constantly evolving. We are living through a moment of rupture, experiencing the potential for an evolutionary leap – ours is a moment of choice. How far can we take the idea of participation? How will we collaborate to step into this moment? These guys are onto something.
The New York Times ushered in 2011 with a front page story (below the fold, at least) titled: Boomers Hit New Self Absorption Milestone: Age 65 in which the author notes that in the next 10 years 26% of the population will redefine what it means to be older. As a member of this graduating class of boomers born in 1946, I am always humbled to be swept up by the statistics and perceptions of the generation. My own experience reflects part of its story: heeding the call of JFK to service, I was one of the first VISTA volunteers, followed by years of activism and organizing and finding myself today transitioning from my role as a nonprofit executive director.
2011. A new year for us here at IISC to continue to move on the vision of ensuring that everyone engaged in social change work has some knowledge of and facility with Facilitative Leadership. Another year to restate and reframe the need for these critical skills to bring alive our goals of a more just and sustainable world. So why Facilitative Leadership? Here is my take . . . Read the rest of this entry »
Toward the end of last year I tweeted about stumbling back upon Don Miguel Angel Ruiz’s Four Agreements, thanks to a reminder from a participant in the Hanley Center Health Leadership Development initiative. They were invoked as being key to keeping people grounded when their collaborative skillsets were being pushed to the limit by challenging circumstances. In thinking about these agreements more deeply over the winter break, they struck me as powerful and appropriate intentions to set for the new year, especially in our social change and sustainability work. Here they are with my own editorializing: Read the rest of this entry »