Archive for May, 2012

May/31/12//Curtis Ogden//What We Are Reading

Sacred Stories

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

-William Stafford, from “A Ritual to Read to One Another”

This is a slightly edited re-post of something I wrote a couple of years ago, and it came back to mind during conversations these past few days with a group of conservation biologists about how to create more of a compelling case for their work, and also to better understand where various stakeholders (allies and adversaries) are coming from with respect to preserving precious natural resources.  The point has been made several times and in different ways that narrative speaks louder than numbers, and that in our change work, it helps if we become acquainted with the stories of others, and work ultimately at weaving ourselves into something more collective.   Read the rest of this entry »

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May/29/12//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation



I’m a huge fan of Kevin Kelly.  I really think of him as the prophet of the digital age.  He has done lots around complexity.  And he has spent time looking at swarms.  In “Bootstrapping Comlexity,” Andrea Lloyd’s “remix” of Kelly’s book “Out of Control” we find a useful list of benefits and apparent disadvantages of swarm systems.

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May/25/12//IISC//Featured, Structural Transformation

Rice on Strategy

The following post is from IISC’s Founder and Board Chair, Thomas Rice, he writes in response to Gibran’s recent post on Strategy and Tactics


This is a timely conversation to focus on, important on a number of dimensions. But you wisely place strategy in the context of the larger matrix: going macro toward mission, vision and values; going micro toward tactics.
But, first of all, to the definitions. Intuitively, we all know the centrality of strategy, whether we define it or not. The Obama administration is being blamed for “a failed strategy” in pulling us out of the recession; Apple lost the initial technology battle to Microsoft because they had a “flawed strategy”( failure to see the leverage of licensing the product). So, what is this thing we all claim to know so much about?
The word strategy is derived from the Greek(isn’t everything!) strategia, meaning “generalship”, itself a compound of two words–stratos (army) and agein (to lead). Note the implicit connection between strategy and leadership.

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May/24/12//Curtis Ogden//Technology

Recapturing the Value of Exchange

The following post was written by Adam Pattantyus, VP for Development of EASE (Environmental Accountability for a Sustainable Earth) and friend of IISC.  Adam and his colleagues are thought leaders around integrated systems for supporting and augmenting large-scale social change.  They are also purveyors of a collaborative on-line stakeholder engagement tool that incorporates financial exchange to leverage the power of purchasing to fund community initiatives. Here Adam reflects on some of the shortcomings of social change efforts with respect to integration and recapturing and reshaping the marketplace for community and civil society benefit, for which his work with EASE is meant to provide an answer.  He also speaks to the importance of engaging cross-sectoral work in the pursuit of lasting change.

As a participant and leader in change and social change over the past 20 years, here are some typical blind spots that I see as holding back social change efforts: Read the rest of this entry »

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May/23/12//Curtis Ogden//Power, Equity, Inclusion

We Are Not Ghosts

“Somebody’s gotta tell them, that we are not ghosts, that we are in this city and we are alive!”

- Jessica Care Moore

Feeling nostalgic, shaken, stirred, and inspired during my current trip to Michigan, and my first return visit to my hometown of Flint in 15 years.  So much here has changed: foreclosures – 2,000 last year alone, 40% of all property parcels in the city are vacant or abandoned, jobs have disappeared now to the point of 25% unemployment, 36% of all residents live in poverty, half of the student population in the public schools has left in the last 10 years resulting in numerous school closings including my high school, of those students that remain 81% qualify for free lunch.  And the flip side, there are anchor institutions, physical landmarks, and stalwart active citizens (thank you, Sylvester Jones and Harold Ford, among others!) that remain and provide some sense of backbone, continuity, and hope. Read the rest of this entry »

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May/21/12//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Strategy and Tactics


I just read a helpful Upmarket blog post on the distinction between strategy and tactic.  It was almost a relief to know that the business sector also struggles with the distinction.  Confusing these two terms has led to a lot of trouble in our work for social change.

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May/21/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Ode to unsung heroes at IISC and beyond!

You’ve heard that “it takes a village to raise a child.” It also takes a village to make an IISC engagement happen. I want to raise up a shout out and express my grateful for the excellence with which our colleagues do the detailed behind-the-scenes work that makes IISC’s practice possible.

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May/17/12//Marianne Hughes//Featured, IISC:Outside

Networking A City

We are delighted to share an article with you that was just published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review this week. The article, Networking a City, tells the story of the evolution of the Barr Fellows Network, launched by the Barr Foundation, and its impact on the City of Boston.

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May/17/12//Curtis Ogden//Spiritual Activism

Feed the Right Wolf

A Cherokee Legend . . .

An old man is teaching his grandson about life.  “A fight is going on inside me,” he says to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.” Read the rest of this entry »

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May/16/12//Curtis Ogden//Learning Edge

Genius to Scenius

This post is a slightly edited email message from Bart Westdijk of the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF).  NEGEF has 16 years experience resourcing the grassroots, thousands of citizen-led environmental and civic engagement initiatives around New England.  Bart spearheads some of the amazing work the Fund is doing in the virtual and social media spheres to better connect grantees, add value in new ways, and create a larger sense of movement.  Exciting new ventures include an emerging crowdfunding initative with ioby and a grassroots leadership skills building academy.  Keeping in the spirit of NEGEF’s emphasis on collaboration, networks, and partnership for social change, Bart sheds some light on the concept of scenius . . .  Read the rest of this entry »

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May/15/12//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Networks

Connection, Attention and Trust

I’m just coming out of a mind bending, heart expanding retreat with Orland Bishop, Rachel Bagby and the Barr Fellows Network.  It was one of those experiences that is hard to put into words.  For lack of a better word, and I hope Orland doesn’t mind this, it was more like being with a shaman than with a facilitator.

Orland led us in an exploration of intention and attention as he invited us to question how we relate to reality itself.  He led with the idea that our relationships – and therefore our human experience – can be radically redefined if we make it our purpose to truly understand the other; and to do it with radical acceptance.

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May/14/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Networks

Connection by Design

Two things reminded me of the power of design and physical space this week. First, in a workshop for Juvenile Justice leaders, the 12 participants were seated at three tables. It was a cozy arrangement and the tables were useful for handling the volume of materials they were using. After a morning focused on race, class and culture dialogue skills, we brought the chairs together in a circle in the front of the room to close a segment of the conversation. I asked folks how that arrangement felt and they say “Good!!” There’s nothing like removing physical barriers and enabling everyone to see everyone else easily to foster relational and conversational intimacy!

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May/11/12//Curtis Ogden//IISC:Outside

Being and Measuring Whole

They say being a change agent is an inside job.  This summer, we invite you to sharpen your tools and rejuvenate your capacity for leadership through a values-based professional development opportunity in a beautiful retreat setting! Center for Whole Communities (CWC) and Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC) are collaborating to offer a four-day residential Whole Measures Workshop July 10 – 13, at CWC’s retreat center at beautiful Knoll Farm in Fayston, VT. Read the rest of this entry »

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May/10/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Imagine a New World . . .

It’s been my pleasure over the last few years to have been of service to and learned from Antioch New England students and staff. The video above is the product of Antioch graduate student Emily Read Daniels, who has been in some of our discussions about networks.

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May/09/12//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Networks

Network Leadership

As I prepare to do a couple of trainings for leadership in multi-stakeholder networks in the New England region (focus being on the skills of facilitation, process design, and managing decision-making), I intend to frame our conversations with some exploration of the differences between traditional organizational leadership and what is required to steward networks towards positive impact.  I begin with the presumption that network form and function are chosen strategically for the ability to accomplish something that could not be done at all or as well through other approaches.  Whether trying to develop a food system to eliminate food insecurity or change an educational system to yield more equitable opportunities and outcomes, the attraction to a network approach is likely due to a desire for some combination of the following: Read the rest of this entry »

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May/08/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Power, Equity, Inclusion

The Power of Connection

Racial justice work can be soul depleting or soul enriching. A lot depends on how we do the work and who we do it with.

Last week, six of us from the Boston area gathered to reflect on our experiences at Transforming Race.  Sponsored by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Transforming Race brought together academics, students, advocates and leaders of a wide range of nonprofit organizations to explore Visions of Change. We were challenged to consider: What would a generation or two of racial progress look like?  What seeds of change are in place right now?  How do we get from here to there? The theme was inspiring all by itself, and the many speakers, workshops and activities engaged our hearts as well as our and minds. All of that was very good.

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May/04/12//Curtis Ogden//IISC:Inside

Making the Invisible Visible

I am so proud of my colleague, Gibran Rivera, for the due recognition that he has received lately in various quarters for his deep thinking and transformative work.  And I am grateful for how eloquently he captures the nature and intention of our collective work the Interaction Institute for Social Change in a recent interview:

“IISC seeks to make the invisible visible. When we are successful, people find themselves working in ways that are life-giving, generative, and unlike most of their experiences of working together.  We achieve this by paying close attention to process. Process works best when everyone knows what it is and where we are [in] it. But process is not enough. We seek to create spaces and conditions that foster connectivity at the level of authentic relationship. When we are working in authentic relationship with one another, when we learn to connect to each other in the place where our shared purpose meets, then it can feel like the work is happening all by itself. But these spaces have to be designed; they have to be held and they have to be tended to. This is where we come in. And this is how interconnectedness becomes palpable.”

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May/03/12//Marianne Hughes//Featured

Dear IISC Clients, Colleagues and Friends,

After nearly twenty years leading the Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC)—and loving every minute of it—I will be transitioning from my role as IISC’s executive director as of July of this year. After a couple of months off, I will return as an independent consultant to continue doing this work that I love so much—both on my own and on behalf of IISC.

It has been an honor and a privilege to work shoulder to shoulder with people like you—extraordinary change agents who labor every day to make the world a better place.

IISC is now in search of someone to take what might be one of the best jobs on earth—leading IISC as it partners with organizations, communities and networks to move from shared vision to collective action toward building a more just and sustainable world. Please pass the word along. View the job listing here.

With love and gratitude,



Marianne Hughes




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May/02/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Why Not Exhilaration?

A blog post on the Management Innovation Exchange site has got me thinking.  In a post entitled, “Forget Empowerment – Aim for Exhilaration,” Polly LaBarre profiles Ricardo Semler of Brazil’s Semco Group.  Semco is noted for its dramatic turnaround as a business, and for its unusual way of managing itself under Semler’s leadership, as noted by LaBarre -”no organizational chart, no fixed offices or working hours, no fixed CEO, no HR department, no five-year plan (or two- or one-year-plan), no job descriptions or permanent positions, no approvals necessary.”  All of this is geared towards increasing individual autonomy and agency, participation at every level, and trust.  The results are reported to be quite astounding with respect to business outcomes as well as employee fulfillment, with a long line of interested prospects at the door.  Semler himself has even freed himself up to pursue interests in the realm of helping to reform primary education and the legal system!  So how can I not help but be curious about some of what I/we might bring into our organizational life and work at IISC? Read the rest of this entry »

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May/01/12//Gibrán Rivera//Structural Transformation

Lessons from Frances

Today is May Day.  A few weeks ago I had the unique opportunity to share some ideas about working with complexity with a group of funders who are committed to social justice.  It was quite an honor to sit in the same panel as the great Frances Fox Piven and the amazing Ai-Jen Poo.

Ai-Jen was recently named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. I’ve been following her work for a while and I can tell you that the mention is well deserved.  Frances has influenced, informed and inspired thousands of people who have committed their life to this work.

In the presence of such an elder and a luminary anyone would be a fool not to take notes.  I thought I would share some highlights from Frances’ talk with you: Read the rest of this entry »

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