Archive for July, 2011

Jul/28/11//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration, Featured

Negativity and Self-Limiting Advocacy

“When the only tool you have is a hammer,

every problem begins to resemble a nail.”

-Maslow’s Maxim

Someone once said, “Advocates can be hell to work with, but they make good ancestors.”  Agreed.  And . . . Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/27/11//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Who Do We Think We Are

The physicist Fritjof Capra, founder of the Elmwood Institute, tells the story about a meeting convened years ago by him and his colleagues with a group of Native American elders and thought leaders to explore different perspectives around ecological thinking.  From the outset, the gathering was marked by some suspicion towards the Elmwood group, given the historic dynamics of exploitation.  The meeting opened with a round of introductions, and an Okanagan woman from British Columbia was first to speak.  She began by stating the tribe from which she came and then described the landscape where the tribe lives.  She then talked about her father’s and paternal grandparents’ origins, in similar detail, and continued with a description of where her mother and maternal grandparents’ came from.  In the end, she linked each family member not just to a named geographic location, but also an illustration of the associated rivers, mountains, plants, and animals.  “This is who I am,” she said, wrapping up. “The features of the land determine my conduct, responsibility, and ethics.  Now I want to know to whom I am talking, before I say anything else of substance.   And I don’t want to hear the books you’ve read, the degrees you’ve obtained, or the organizations you are a part of.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/25/11//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Power and Privilege: Undoing

In case you missed my earlier posts in this series, [include hyperlink to first post], I am raising a series of questions about power and privilege in social change work at the invitation of the “Walk the Talk” zine/book project. Prior questions included:

Today I want to pose two related questions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/21/11//Curtis Ogden//Collaboration

Building Power Through Collaborative Change

In this week’s public Pathway to Change workshop in San Francisco, participants engaged in a practice meeting facilitated by some of their colleagues that focused on effective means of building power in collaborative change efforts to enhance their overall effectiveness to realize more just ends.  The assumptions going into the conversation were that power is defined as the capacity to influence people and one’s environment, create change, address needs, pursue desires, and/or protect interests.  Furthermore we suggested that power is not a fixed asset that people possess. Rather, it is socially constructed, understood, and legitimized through social relationships among individuals and groups of people. Given that it is not fixed, it can also grow or be grown.

So here is the list of ideas that surfaced for ways to build power and we certainly invite your reactions and additions (items in bold ended up being given higher priority by the group): Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/20/11//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Value-As Storytelling

In our Whole Measures workshop, we come to a point when participants realize that the promise of learning how to “measure what matters most” is not a case of digesting “best practices.”  This is often a difficult moment, one fraught with frustration, but also the beginnings of insight (or a reminder) that we are each part of a gradual unfolding that is unique depending upon our particular context, and that to simply embrace some kind of cookie-cutter method of measuring health and wholeness is futile.  This is so, in part, because before we measure what matters most, we must determine what matters most, and this changes from system to system.  Furthermore, it is no easy task of discernment.  Often people are good at setting goals, or talking abstractly about “values,” but this does not always equate with getting to heart of what is most meaningful to us, as demonstrated by the lives we actually live or our hearts’ deepest desires.  One of the best processes we’ve found for doing this is to embrace storytelling. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/19/11//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Power and Privilege: Dynamics

In case you missed my earlier posts in this series,  I am raising a series of questions about power and privilege in social change work at the invitation of the “Walk the Talk” zine/book project. Prior questions included:

Today I want to pose two questions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/18/11//Marianne Hughes//Facilitative Leadership, Testimonials

Testimonial for IISC by Elena Letona

Elena Letona is the former Executive Director of Centro Presente a member-driven, state-wide Latin American immigrant organization dedicated to the self-determination and self-sufficiency of the Latin American immigrant community of Massachusetts and that works for immigrant rights and for economic and social justice.

IISC worked with Centro Presente’s staff in the year leading up to Elena’s transitioning out of her role as Executive Director. Both Elena and the staff were determined to bring the organization through this period with grace and to grow together by deepening their own capacity.

The process was launched with a Facilitative Leadership program that focused on creating a culture of collaboration. No one describes the impact on the organization more eloquently than Elena in this video testimonial. Both Elena and Centro are thriving.

Our Organizing Model
Leadership development is a very important component of our mission and our work. We recognize that the members of our community bring to this country their personal experiences and capabilities and in return we provide them the space to build opportunities to develop and exercise leadership. Our leadership development model focuses on community organizing around specific themes like immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights and civic participation.

The model engages, internally, our staff, board, members, and program volunteers, and externally, allies and other community stakeholders. For example, our Board is composed of Latino immigrant workers and youth members. Through participation in our committees, the members of Centro Presente have the opportunity to be actively engaged in leading campaigns and activities that impact their own lives, as well as the lives of their families and the broader community.


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Jul/18/11//IISC//Inspiration

Jump to move Ahead

Photo by: Kathleen

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Jul/15/11//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Teachers Are Everywhere

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath.

-Charlotte Joko Beck

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Jul/14/11//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Holding Tension

“Tension and transparency of tension create capacity.”

-Mistinguette Smith

Last week I blogged from Knoll Farm in Fayson, VT, where I was  serving as a co-trainer of our Whole Measures workshop, which we offer in partnership with the Center for Whole Communities.  In that post I reflected on the connection that the Knoll Farm site creates between people, and between people and land.  A remarkable aspect of the Farm is its intentional design, in that its human-made elements naturally work with and build upon the contours of the landscape and draw people’s attention to certain dynamics that reflect essential truths.  An example is the large yurt, that sits on an outcropping at the end of an old logging road.  It is a welcome (and welcoming) sight as one rounds the bend having climbed a fairly long steep incline.  Its brown and green colors integrate nicely with the forested landscape, and its very structure invites one into contemplation about the life that surrounds it and with which it is in relationship. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/13/11//IISC//Inspiration

Capture your Life

Picture by: Convoy

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Jul/12/11//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Exploded Democracy

I recently came upon the following abstract of a paper we presented at the Sutures Conference in the University of Toronto back in 2003.  I was intrigued by the continuing relevance of the concept and how these ideas continue to inform my work: Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/11/11//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Power and Privilege: Responsibility and Leverage

In case you missed my first post in this series, I am raising a series of questions about power and privilege in social change work at the invitation of the Walk the Talk zine project. Today’s post is a bit long, and covers two questions:

How do I handle my privileges responsibly and avoid the “oppression Olympics?” Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/08/11//IISC//Sustainability

Love our Earth

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Jul/07/11//IISC//Featured

Medicine Stories

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors.

I have three close friends/colleagues who are working hard to interrupt old patterns of internalized oppression (i.o.), which the Urban Dictionary defines as the process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the group.  All three of them are examining the stories they’ve been told (and now tell themselves) about how they are 1) not capable 2) lazy and 3) not smart or prepared enough.  All three are brilliant, wonderful leaders.  I find it amazing (and appalling) that they should spend even one nanosecond fighting these old patterns. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/06/11//Curtis Ogden//Your Experiences

Re-Entering the Land

Writing this post from beautiful Knoll Farm in Vermont’s Mad River Valley where we are offering Whole Measures for the first time with the Center for Whole Communities as host.  Knoll Farm is something to experience, a 400 acre working organic farm and retreat center with stunning views that speaks to the power of place as a foundation for our agency in the world.  Much of what the Center for Whole Communities stands for is the bridging of boundaries, between people and the rest of the natural world, between cultures, between experiences and perspectives.  And this site bespeaks a profound love for the diversity of land and community that sustains us all.  We hope that this is just the first of many offerings at this unique and mundane (very much of the world) spot.

In a little book that is on the table in my yurt entitled Entering the Land: A History of Knoll Farm, co-founder Peter Forbes writes, “We are lucky have such a place as a teacher.  In spite of all the pressures that might have made its history obscure and irretrievable, Knoll Farm remains a testament to the story of the past.  Similarly, it sets a promising stage for the story of the future.  How will this story read?  What role will humans play in it? . . .  The answers to these questions are in the land, for the land is the root of our well being.  It is time to listen, to sink our hearts in the soil and make it familiar again.”

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Jul/05/11//Marianne Hughes//Spiritual Activism

Kip Tiernan

I first met Kip Tiernan in 1970. Her reputation for no-nonsense, wise-cracking productivity had preceded her. We were all a little bit intimidated. She was older than we were and had already had a successful career as a pianist and an advertising executive. Still, she always treated us with the utmost respect…as if we, too, knew what we were doing.

We were organizing the first political sanctuary to ever have been held in a catholic church. The sanctuary was for our friend Paul Couming who was a conscientious objector and draft resister at the Paulist Center church in Boston. Kippy was handling the press, the FBI was outside the building and we were singing Amazing Grace. It was the beginning of my life-long admiration for Kip Tiernan, who died on Saturday. Kip went on to found the first homeless shelter for women and worked tirelessly with and on behalf of the poor of our city.

In her obituary, her wife Donna Pomponio is quoted as saying:
“The tragedies in the world continued to propel her to fix things and make them better. She knew that as human beings, we could do better for each other. There was a support and strength that came from that woman, and having her by your side and in your life, you knew that you could do it, too.’’


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Jul/01/11//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

“Big History”

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