Archive for Inspiration

Oct/01/14//Miriam Messinger//Inspiration

Time Compression

We can “contribute to the degradation of human capacity or we can take a stand”. That was the bold call of Meg Wheatley this month when she presented on being a “Warrior for the Human Spirit” on her webinar for our friends at System Thinking in Action (STIA).

Meg presented four things that interfere with our deep connection and our ability to be warriors for humanity:

  1. Burgeoning bureaucracy
  2. Austerity measures and mentality
  3. Distraction
  4. Time compression

Time compression: The ways in which we squeeze ever more—more tasks, goals, emails, news sources—into the same amount of time that has always been available to us.


Photo Credit: Greenzowie
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Sep/30/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration, Networks

Poetry for Collective Impact

Image by Dominic Alves

I have a practice in most of the networks and collective impact efforts I support, which is to offer poetry at the opening and closing of convenings. I’m struck by how impactful and important people have said this can be for them. In fact, just recently a very well-respected member of the public health community was compelled to say that this is exactly what is missing from the movement, more poetry and artistic expression!

“Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.”

-Lucille Clifton

Read the rest of this entry »

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Jul/29/14//Gibrán Rivera//Collaboration, Inspiration, Social Innovation

Creative Change 2014

I just facilitated the 6th Creative Change Retreat at the Sundance Institute in Utah.  The amazing experience leaves me grateful to my friends at the Opportunity Agenda for trusting me with the design and facilitation of such a significant convening.

Today more than ever I am convinced that the change we want to see in the world is a change that demands the evolution of consciousness and culture.  As the artist and the activist come together – as they become one – we will be able to join into a different kind of intervention.

creativechangeretreat_stories Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/23/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration, Liberation, Love, LoveLiberates, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Love of her Many Identities

Check out the ways that love of her many identities frees up spoken word artist Jamila Lyiscott to be her full self. She reminds us that a  full, loving embrace of yourself and your cultures enables others to see you more fully and embrace all of your cultures, while it makes space for others to do the same for themselves. That’s change making at a personal level that can radiate outward to the entire community.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/19/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration, Love, LoveLiberates

Love Liberates.

We continue to explore the power of love. Listen to Dr. Maya Angelou speak about the power of love to liberate the human spirit. She speaks of how her mother’s love liberated Maya to become her fullest self and how Maya’s love liberated her mother at the end of her mother’s life. She speaks of the unconditional love that frees a person to make their highest and best contribution to the world—a love that is at once personal and public, individually meaningful and essential to our collective lives.

“Love liberates. It doesn’t bind.”

loveliberates Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/11/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration, Your Experiences



This past weekend’s CommonBound Conference was quite the experience.  It was inspiring to be with the more than 600 participants from around North America talking about and sharing examples of what it might take to evolve a just and sustainable economy.  I found the event’s closing plenary, an interview of and conversation between Adrienne Maree Brown, Gar Alperovitz, and Gopal Dayaneni, to be particularly stirring. For those who missed it, here is a smattering of what was buzzing in the Twittersphere . . . Read the rest of this entry »

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May/28/14//Danielle Coates-Connor//Inspiration, Liberation, Love, Power, Equity, Inclusion

Remembering Dr. Maya Angelou

I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.’

- Maya Angelou

Today, May 28, 2014, the New York Times writes:

Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C.

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May/21/14//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration, Love, Power, Equity, Inclusion

We’ve Lost an Unsung Hero—Remembering Vincent Harding


Vincent Harding died on Monday and our world is emptier for it. Vincent is an unsung hero of the Civil Rights era, whose work as a speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was essential if not widely known. His best-known speech was Dr. King’s speech Beyond Vietnam, where Dr. King boldly extended his critique to U.S. foreign policy, connecting the struggle for civil rights in the U.S. with struggles for justice in other parts of the world. You can hear Vincent explain the significance of the speech in an interview with Democracy Now! You can hear or read some of his thoughts on spirituality and justice in an On Being podcast called Dangerous Spirituality. Read the rest of this entry »

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Apr/23/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration, Networks

Falling is Not Failing

Kate Tempest and this video were brought to my attention by Tom Kelly of the Sustainability Institute at UNH when he presented Tempest’s work as an “offering,” a ritual opening and closing we use in our meetings of the Food Solutions New England Network Team meetings.  It was certainly apt as we were talking about what it means to “put ourselves out there” on various fronts, to enter new territory with one another as we collectively push forward the conversation about New England creating a more just and sustainable regional food system.

I appreciate Tempest putting herself out there in general as a young artist, and this particular poetic rendering of the Icarus tale that suggests the young ambitious man’s “fall” provides lessons for the collective advancement of those whose feet have not “kicked the clouds.”  Celebrating boldness and reaching new heights . . .

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Apr/10/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration, Networks

Making Space for Kindness

‘The effect of positive emotions on helping others is stronger and longer-lasting than self-interest.”

- Wayne Baker and Nathaniel Bulkley

At times thinking about social change can get rather complex, and rightfully so.  And it can be helpful to ground ourselves in some of the simpler (though not necessarily easy) and timeless principles and practices of gratitude, kindness, and generosity.  This video, from a rather surprising source, speaks truth about the power of giving, recently validated by a study conducted by Wayne Baker and Nathaniel Bulkley, who are also creators of The Reciprocity Ring.  Both the study and this video remind me of an ongoing line of inquiry I have with respect to networks for social change - How can we cultivate skill, will, and structure so that the natural impulse to give (and receive) can thrive?  

How are you making space for kindness?  What does this look like?  Feel like?  Sound like?  What is the impact?

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Mar/18/14//Mistinguette Smith//Facilitative Leadership, Inspiration

Engaging Hearts and Heads

I’ve spent the last two days with twenty-three people who do the concrete, sometimes humble work of convening meetings, directing resources and evaluating programs.  They came from far flung places, from Ohio and Illinois to Hawai’i, to explore how the tools of Facilitative Leadership can remake our work so that it awakens and nourishes our communities’ deepest desires.  Working with them was like a peek into the future of what leadership can be.

There are lots of workshops that help leaders to learn about decision making; there are few that require a decision-making process to be informed by our hearts as well as our minds. This group seized the opportunity to engage both their hearts and heads to wrestle with tough practical questions: How can you do brainstorming that includes people who value reflection and introspection more than quickly generated speech?

2013-10-23 11.58.06 crop

They made space to speak tender truths that usually cannot be said out loud: How can we help our communities hold each other more accountable for achieving results without damaging the richness of our relationships, or abandoning our traditional cultural processes?

And they practiced creating the conditions for the people they serve–the people they supervise, their clients, their coalition members–to take responsibility for learning and working through these questions together.

It was an honor to witness how they showed up for each other in the workshop, as well as what they did and what they learned. Twenty-three new and seasoned facilitative leaders reminded me that the purpose of leadership is to show up as an agent of dignity and hope.

If another world truly is possible, I think I spent the last two days with the leaders who will guide us there.

Please register today for the Facilitative Leadership for Social Change  workshop Mistinguette Smith will co-facilitate April 22-23 in New York City.

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Mar/06/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration, Learning Edge

The Take and Give of Living Systems

This video makes it clear how wonderfully complex and interconnected life is. ‘Trophic cascades’ invite us to consider how changes in one part of a living system can change other elements of the system and the system as a whole. How did wolves change the behavior of rivers in Yellowstone Park?  Check it out.

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Feb/13/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Silly Stuff Matters

Thanks to my colleague Ashley Welch for sending along the link to this video while I’ve been feeling a little under the weather.  It was a great quick boost and reminded me of how silliness matters in what can otherwise become very serious work.  And laughter is a legitimate and effective practice for resilience and development.

Please share with us your favorite silly and/or laughter inducing media!

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Pete Seeger, 1919-2014

“My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.”

- Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger, singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who championed folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 94.  More about his extraordinary life here and in the above video from Democracy Now!

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Jan/30/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

The Human Scale

“Life comes when you give people a chance to contribute something.”

- Coralie Winn

IISC board member Jamil Simon brought staff attention to the film The Human Scale a few weeks ago during a discussion about building the capacity of cities to collaborate amidst growing demographic complexity and other social as well as environmental challenges. The film is screening this very evening in Somerville, Massachusetts.

From the film’s website: “50 % of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jan/29/14//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

The Longest Journey

The Longest Journey

In our collaborative capacity and network development work at IISC, there is considerable complexity to hold.  This can create quite a mental exercise for everyone involved – What is the system we are trying to develop/problem we are trying to solve? What are the contributing factors?  What is our desired future state? Who should be at the table? What are the systemic leverage points and associated strategies?  Etc.

This is necessary work, and it can become incomplete or rather one dimensional when it only taps some of our collective faculties.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec/23/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Inspiring Movement Moments of 2013

The following blog post was written by our friend Julie Quiroz  at The Movement Strategy Center.  We hope you enjoy it at as much as we did! 

Remember this spring, when the Associated Press finally dropped the I-word, and youth of color defeated prison-to-pipeline policies in Los Angeles public schools?

Or remember back in February when 50,000 people rallied in DC against the XL Pipeline?  And then in October when the protests of 5,000 young people linked the pipeline, fracking, and the whole mess of fossil fuel development?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec/02/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

Ask Not . . .

Much has been written and said in the past month about President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. I think the one important gift President Kennedy gave the country was a certain hopefulness about what people could do at their best and what government could do at its best. Listen (starting at 36:30) to an excerpt from President Kennedy’s inaugural address, read by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. He enjoins the listeners to “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” In these days of Washington gridlock and partisan gamesmanship, it’s a message we can stand to hear afresh!

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Nov/27/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

At This Table

In the regional food system network development that IISC has been supporting, we have been making a habit of building certain rituals into our meetings.  One is to invite offerings of various kinds to open and close meetings, an opportunity for people to share what matters most to them and bring more of what moves them to the conversation. The following poem has been making the rounds, and has become a favorite for some of the universals it seems to invoke.  Wishing you all a deeply nourishing Thanksgiving. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nov/22/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

…and sometimes it’s just hard

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did and don’t forget to join the conversation! 

Recently, four friends of mine lost parents and siblings. Rockwood has had a few unanticipated challenges this year. The ripples of the 2008 recession are still affecting the nonprofit sector, and many organizations are struggling. The instability of our national government in recent months has made things very difficult for many folks.

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Nov/11/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Remembrance Day

What we now know as Veterans Day began as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, commemorating the end of “The War to End All Wars.” Sadly, World War I paved the way and was quickly followed by World War II. And countless lives have been lost in wars since. Sara Robinson’s description of the relationship between Remembrance Day and pacifism in Canada struck me as a powerful reminder on this Veteran’s Day. Here’s an excerpt from a longer post.

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Oct/30/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration, Networks

Network Mantras: Show Up, Contribute, Repeat

Reporting live from the third annual Vermont Farm to Plate (F2P) Network convening, I am relishing this opportunity to work with and watch a successful network move into its third year of existence. There is much more to share about the F2P journey, which I hope to do in a follow-up post to this one, but for now, I wanted to highlight a couple of themes that continue to resonate throughout the convening and contribute to the growth and success of this network.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Oct/22/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Finding What You Didn’t Lose

With appreciations to Carole Martin for passing this along, I wanted to offer this poem as a reminder of the important role of listening in helping to create trust and grounded-ness in the work of social change . . .

Finding What You Didn’t Lose

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/21/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Connections Are Made Slowly

As we enter into the last weeks of summer (yes, it’s true), I find myself becoming more reflective, slowing down a bit in anticipation of a seasonal transition.  What comes to mind is this poem from Marge Piercy, for all that it has to offer in terms of thinking about harvesting, about reaping what we’ve sown through our care-full efforts, about going slow to go fast, and what it takes to do social change work well.

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Everyone else is taken

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Jul/04/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

The Roots of Our Interdependence

I recently was reminded of a truth about resilience.  It came in the form of a story told by someone about the root system of red wood trees.  These giant and venerable beings, some standing as high as 350 feet and as old as 1000 years, are not so deeply rooted in the soil.  Their roots tend to only go to a depth of about 4 to 5 feet, which is extraordinary when you consider how far up they reach.  So how do red woods remain vertical amidst storms and the ravages of time?  The answer is that they reach out to one another.  Below the surface, they stretch their roots out horizontally where they become entwined with those of their neighbors.  This becomes the source of the forest’s strength – vast networks of interconnections.

On a day when we like to focus on independence, I like how this story reminds us of the extent to which our ability to survive and flourish is caught up in our common roots and interrelationships.

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Independence Day

As we break bread with our friends and family, lets not forget about the men and women who sacrificed their lives so that we may live free. Thank You for all that you have done. We will never forget you. 

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Jul/01/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

Hat Chat

Thanks to our friends at for calling this post to our attention! Read on and ask yourself, what does it take to be able to create this kind of a “teachable moment” with such poise, grace and clarity.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/26/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

A Ritual to Hear Each Other


The last few weeks I have recited on a number of occasions the following first stanza from William Stafford’s poem, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/17/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

We Aren’t the Only Ones

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Jun/13/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Walking Away From the King

“We must join in common cause, we need conversations of the whole.”

- David Korten

David Korten: Walking Away From the King from Katie Teague on Vimeo.

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Tried and False

The following post has been reblogged from Seth’s Blog. He is a genius and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

The tried and true is beyond reproach. It’s been tried, and of course, it’s true. True because it worked. In times of change, though, most of the tried is in fact, false. False because what used to work, doesn’t, at least not any longer. Sure, it might be what you’ve always done. But that doesn’t make it true, or right, or best. It just means that you already tried it. The nature of revolutions is that they destroy the perfect and enable the impossible. Seeking out the tried and true is the wrong direction for crazy times.

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Jun/09/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

Keep Calm

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Jun/06/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

A Kid’s Fix for Education

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Jun/05/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Keep Dancing

I read a quote earlier this week that I had seen before that went something like, “We need to act our way into a new way of thinking.” Indeed, increasingly what seems to be called for is the practice of prototyping and risk-taking, breaking the more linear and often drawn out process of plan-act-reflect-refine. This poem by Mary Oliver, from her book A Thousand Mornings, captures something of this spirit for me: Read the rest of this entry »

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May/29/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

A Network View of the Future

In her new book, futurist Marina Gorbis references an inspiring passage from a document created in 2007 that supports the values of the Institute for the Future (IFTF):

“Valuing open collaboration, independence, and the ability of anyone to rise to the endeavor, we draw on network leadership models that provide a platform for self-organizing structures. The value of these self-organizing structures is that they can act quickly, responsively, and creatively from the edges. The guiding concepts in this view of leadership are openness, self-election, continuous prototyping, robust platforms, and low coordination costs. Leadership skills focus on community building, consensus building, mediation, commitment, and humility.”

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May/23/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

The Power of Words

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

-Mark Twain

Some version of reflection on the power of words has been coming up frequently in various networks lately, including the power of the right phrase, the right question, or the right story to become an attractor that galvanizes collective action. This seems a critical function in networks, tapping memetic resonance.  What have you seen in net work that helps unleash the lightning?

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The Growing Edge

“Look well to the growing edge. All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit.

Read the rest of this entry »

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May/15/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Feeding a New Economy

This beautiful video speaks to the importance of will, community, and creativity to transform an otherwise unused asset into a new engine for local economic vitality.  In the words of catalyst Greg Cox, “This is an evolution. . . .  You come up with an idea.  The human animal reacts with fear almost all the time.  And you go, ‘Ah, it can’t happen.  It’s Rutland.  It’s not going to happen here.  It’s been too difficult.  We just don’t have the capacity.’  This is the way the story is.  We looked at the outcome we wanted and we’re trying to rewrite the story.”

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May/14/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Lead Me On

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May/13/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

There is Beauty Everywhere

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Always Remember

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Apr/29/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

Deeper Roots

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Apr/18/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration


“This will be our reply to violence:
to make music more intensely,
more beautifully,
more devotedly than ever before.”

― Leonard Bernstein

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Apr/17/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

To Boston. From Kabul with Love

We are LOVED. Thank you for all your support.

To Kabul. From Boston with LOVE.

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Apr/16/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

Where there is LOVE there is Life

Our hearts and prayers are with those affected by the tragedy that occurred in Boston.  Though our hearts are broken,  LOVE and compassion will help us heal and move forward.  

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Apr/09/13//Gibrán Rivera//Inspiration, Structural Transformation

“El Hielo” by La Santa Cecilia

It’s a big week for the immigration debate among our policy makers. If you watch one video today, let it be this one.

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Apr/05/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

Its going to be Alright

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Apr/03/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

New Structures for Health and Security

“Structure is purpose expressed through design.”

- Marjorie Kelly, Owning Our Future

Detroit Voices: A Community Calls Out for Change from Phase 4 Media on Vimeo.

The new food movement, which is really several related but distinct movements, is a beacon of hope in this country.  You can find evidence of this in many diverse settings, from Flint, Michigan to Northeast Iowa to northern Vermont to Oakland, California.  While there are important distinctions in terms of emphasis and core players, one cross-cutting theme appears to be that we must create new structures to better nourish ourselves (calorically, economically, socially) through policy change, different land use patterns, new infrastructure, stronger relationships with ecosystems, new enterprises, and community building.  From the growing number of food policy councils, to alternative financing mechanisms, practices like permaculture and agroforestry, and more intentional network building, people are setting the stage for some significant societal shifts. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mar/29/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

The Rest Will Follow

Photo by: Nora Logue Check out her amazing work!

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Mar/28/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Grace Lee Boggs on (R)Evolution

The following quote appears in a piece written by Olga Bonfiglio on the Common Dreams website, which profiles the remarkable Dr. Grace Lee Boggs.  The now 97 year old long-time Detroit political and labor activist, author, and philosopher is the focus of a documentary film in the works called American Revolutionary.

“We are at a stage in human history that is as monumental as changing from a hunter/gatherer society to an agricultural society and from an agricultural society to and industrial society. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mar/19/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Inspiration

Crowdfunding Community

When we talk about networks we tend to think scale, we think viral.  But networks are also about community.  Networks can thrive in that mysterious place where the most local intersects with the global.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mar/15/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

No More Experts

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

Years ago before taking up the work of leading Rockwood, I was an organizational consultant. I was paid to be right — to be an expert. However, as I sit here at my current desk, I realize how very little I really knew about the everyday running of and caring for an organization. Now I’m not going to disparage or disrespect the work I did during my many years in organizational development, but I must admit that I would be a much better consultant today, having been in this seat for awhile.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mar/11/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

What is Play Fundamentally?

The following post has been reblogged from our friend Rob Fletcher at Quixote Consulting. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Play can easily get short-changed in daily work. Like music and arts education in schools, when budgets, deadlines and tempers are tight, it’s the first thing to go. Play is so important to me and yet I notice the number of posts I write about persistence go up and up…but not so much about play.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mar/06/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration


With thanks to Jeffrey Cufaude from Idea Architects, who I met on Twitter and from whom I learned about this video, I wanted to pass along this reminder of the power of empathy and the fact that the shoes of another are often our own.

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Feb/21/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Fire at the Gate

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” 

– Mahatma Gandhi

Winter is certainly a time that can test our resolve in the Northeast.  This winter in particular feels like it has done that on many fronts, including the volatility of the weather and the seemingly exceptional virulence of multiple strains of viruses making their way through the region.  And this is to say nothing of the ongoing personal and social challenges with which many of us are wrestling. Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb/15/13//Linda Guinee//Inspiration

And Still I Rise

Ellen Gurzinsky posted this on facebook this week (in honor of International Women’s Day).? Rather than adding my own words, I thought I’d pass it along here — a beautiful piece by Maya Angelou.? In the spirit of Melinda’s recent posts of wonderful poetry, here’s another gem.  Really – what more is there to say?

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Feb/11/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

What adults can learn from kids

Twelve year old Adora Svitak called for mutual respect and reciprocal learning between adults and kids. Her TED bio calls her a “child prodigy” but I think that exceptionalizes her talents and perspective and implies that she is very unlike her peers. I think she models a poise and wisdom that is all around us if we just look for it.

Here’s a little taste of her talk.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb/07/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Nourishing Food and Community

“When we are sitting down and eating food at the table, we are at the last part of a long chain of events that helped bring that food to our plate.”

-Bryant Terry, food justice activist, author of Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine; co-author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen

“Every single time we spend a dollar on food, we are casting a vote for the kind of world we want.”

-Anna Lappe, author of Diet for a Hot Planet; co-author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen

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Feb/04/13//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

A Decision Made

I made a decision not to worry.


I began to understand that

it was a habit of my mind.

My heart doesn’t worry,

my body doesn’t worry,

only my head does.

I chose to establish a new habit

of consideration and trust—

trust that people are

tremendously resilient

and that the universe

could operate without

my constant nagging


~ Akaya Windwood

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Jan/29/13//Gibrán Rivera//Featured, Inspiration

Seneca Falls, Selma, Stone Wall

Something BIG happened on Monday, January 21, 2013.  In his second inaugural address President Obama made an unapologetic link between the struggles for liberation and our nation’s evolutionary thrust.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.

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Jan/25/13//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Urban Roots and New Economies

“It’s time for us to get together and talk about how we get more healthy food to people, how we bring our community back using local food, how we improve our community health using local food, and how we create new jobs. . . . We need to change our food system and the answers are in the room.”

- Stephen Arellano

I’ve been closely and excitedly watching and participating in the local food and urban agriculture movement as it grows both here in New England and in my native Michigan. Detroit has certainly been catching national attention, in part due to exposure via films such as “Urban Roots” and the good and ongoing work of the likes of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and the Fair Food Network. And my lesser known and native Flint is doing its own to grow what my friend Stephen Arellano has called “a human scaled economy” rooted in a reclamation of old industrial and abandoned residential lands for the purposes of equitably feeding the community, not just through good food, but through a grounded education and good profitable work. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jan/21/13//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

We Will Never Forget

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Jan/04/13//Gibrán Rivera//Inspiration

Complexity and You

The following post has been reblogged from our friends at Management Assistant Group.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

Robin Katcher, the new director of the Management Assistance Group, is a friend of the Institute’s and a leader among those of us who work to bring an understanding of networks and complexity to the work of social transformation.  I found these reflections on the more personal aspects of working with complexity to be specially appropriate for the beginning of a new year.

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Dec/14/12//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

Letting Go, Bringing In

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

Winter Solstice is just around the corner. I find it’s a good time to reflect on the past year, and look toward the year ahead. Every year at each of the Solstices, I scan my life and consider what I’d like to let go of and what I’d like to invoke.

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Dec/13/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Turning to One Another

I was so grateful when Laura Moorehead, Director of Training with the Institute for Civic Leadership, shared this reading from Margaret Wheatley at the close of my time with this year’s ICL class.  From my perspective, there is much wisdom here, and the words do a very nice job of summarizing much of what IISC was there to share and discuss regarding leadership, networks, and collaborative change . . .

There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about Read the rest of this entry »

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Nov/15/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

The Most Astounding Fact

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Gross Organizational Happiness

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

Over the past several years, there has been a great deal of international focus on the notion of happiness. While there are many definitions of happiness, here is a composite of my favorites: “emotions experienced when in a state of well-being that range from contentment to intense joy.”

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Oct/17/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

The Butterfly Story

At the closing of last week’s Vermont Farm to Plate Network Gathering, my colleague and friend, Beth Tener of New Directions Collaborative, shared the following beautiful story and metaphor from the evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris.  In it is the invitation that we both feel net work offers – to not simply engage in new superficial ways of working, but to let it take hold of us in shaping a new “genome” for human awareness of and interaction with living systems . . .

A caterpillar can eat up to three hundred times its own weight in a day, devastating many plants in the process, continuing to eat until it’s so bloated that it hangs itself up and goes to sleep, its skin hardening into a chrysalis. Then, within the chrysalis, within the body of the dormant caterpillar, a new and very different kind of creature, the butterfly, starts to form. This confused biologists for a long time. How could a different genome plan exist within the caterpillar to form a different creature? Read the rest of this entry »

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Do the (extra) work

The following post is reblogged from Seth’s Blog. Short and simple , yet full of wisdom.  We hope that it will enrich your life and much as it has ours.

Do the extra work not because you have to but because it’s a privilege.

Get in early.

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Oct/08/12//Gibrán Rivera//Inspiration

We are in the Process

If you are a regular reader of our blog you have been part of our ongoing conversations on evolution.  I like to remind my clients that the big bang is not a one time event, that the bang is still happening, and that we are actually in it!

Yes, we are in the process of becoming.  Aligning ourselves with this idea can ground our efforts in a process that began 14 billion years ago.  Talk about a change in perspective!  Our own becoming conscious is integral to this evolutionary process.  So what will we do with this consciousness?  It’s a powerful way to think of movement, of progress, of development.  I loved this video, because it literally helps us to SEE it… with our own eyes, and on any given night.

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Oct/04/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

What is Your Thread?

I’ve found myself gravitating more and more to this poem, sharing it with others often in the context of system change work.  In these times of flux on so many fronts, the good news from my perspective, is that we are being asked to loosen our grasp on the myths of fixity and solidity that no longer serve us.  On the other hand, letting go can be very disorienting.  With so much changing, what can we count on?  What guides us through?  What is the thread that you follow? Read the rest of this entry »

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Oct/01/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

Finish Each Day

Years ago, Bob Moses of the Algebra Project gave me some feedback I response to my request. He said “You have to make peace with the fact that there’s more to do than you can get done.” I’ve been trying to make that peace ever since!

What helps you to “finish each day and be done with it?” What gets in the way?

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Let Hope Rise

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Playing it Safe

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

About a week ago I was in my car on my way home, and traveling toward me on the busy sidewalk was a young man (20-ish) on a skateboard. It took a moment for me to register that he had a toddler-aged girl on his shoulders. Neither of them had helmets or shin pads or any protection whatsoever.

My first thought was “Stop! Get that child off his shoulders — they could both be killed if he hits a rock! This is child endangerment!!!” All my alarms started clanging, and I was on HIGH alert.

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Sep/13/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

New Beginnings

During Monday’s IISC staff meeting I read the following poem.  It speaks to where many of us may find ourselves in this new season.  And it encourages some resolve as we embark upon new directions, approaches, configurations, partnerships, breadths and depths with our social change work in these uncertain and pregnant times . . .

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep/12/12//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Inspiration

The Growing Edge

“Look well to the growing edge.  All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born . . . “

Howard Thurman

The following are some notes I jotted down as I got myself ready to facilitate IISC’s first staff meeting of the new season, and in full swing of our new President, Ceasar McDowell’s, tenure.  The overall theme was one of new beginnings . . . 

In preparing for today’s meeting I was thinking a lot about how I can often take for granted development, growth . . . evolution!  In one moment I may be struggling with a challenge, straining with the growing pains and demands of a given situation and then a few moments (or hours or days or weeks) later I’m skating with relative ease to the rhythm of  life and not even appreciative of that fact.  I have simply moved on.  But of course it wasn’t so simple – in many ways it was and is remarkable. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/22/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

The Honey Bee Network

Anil Gupta created the Honey Bee Network to support grassroots innovators who are rich in knowledge, but not in resources.  His aim is to help them and other grassroots entrepreneurs gain the recognition they deserve.

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Aug/20/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Dance In The Rain

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Aug/14/12//Curtis Ogden//Featured, Inspiration

Gathering Voices and Questions

This trailer is from a film about the work of dropping kowledge, an initiative in which IISC’s new President, Ceasar McDowell, has been deeply involved. dropping knowledege “invites you to question yourself and the world around you.” “Every time you ask yourself a question, a new dialogue begins,” and dialogue is a step to reclaiming conversation and its outcomes.

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Aug/13/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

For One Who Holds the Power

The following poem  was written by John O’Donohue, from his last book, To Bless the Space Between Us

May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation,

Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.

As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,

May your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/06/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Inspiration

To be of use

The people I love the best

jump into work head first

without dallying in the shallows

and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,

the black sleek heads of seals

bouncing like half-submerged balls.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug/03/12//IISC//Featured, Inspiration

Peace is Within

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Your Soul’s Companion

“Your task is not to seek for love, 

But merely to seek and find 

All the barriers within yourself 

That you have built against it.  

Looking at my life,

I see that only Love 

Has been my soul’s companion.

From deep inside

My soul cries out:

‘Do not wait, surrender,

For the sake of Love…’”

– Jallaludin Rumi

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Jul/26/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

The Story of Change

It is hard to believe that I may have to convince some people that 6 minutes is worth their time to watch this, but seriously, think of how easy it is to fritter away that time in other ways.  This is well worth the watch, as is reading Bill McKibben’s recent piece in Rolling Stone Magazine.  Both the video above and the McKibben article put much in perspective and remind us why climate change is a fight we cannot afford to lose.  They also confirm why it is so important to come together as a community to share solutions, ideas, and positive energy.  For an opportunity to do this in New England this fall, check out Connecting for Change.

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Jul/19/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Land, People, and Place

“I believe that we can restore our hope in a world that transcends race by building communities where self-esteem comes not from feeling superior to any group but from one’s relationship to the land, to the people, and to the place.” 

- bell hooks

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Jul/12/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Generation Food Project

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Jul/04/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Feeding Our Interdependence

Regular readers of this blog will know of my work around and passion about food systems.  Food, as Growing Power founder Will Allen once put it, is “the great connector.”  So much comes together in what we eat, including: chains (more ideally cycles) of producers, processors, distributors, retailers, consumers, and composters; global and local providers; considerations of environment, economy, and equity/access; cultural traditions; and of course community when we bake and break bread together.  On this July 4th holiday, as conversations heat up around the region, country, and world, about the importance of remembering what literally sustains us, I want to celebrate the food movement and share 10 of the more inspiring and instructive articles, reports and videos I have come across in the past year or so.  Enjoy and Happy Interdependence Day! Read the rest of this entry »

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Jun/29/12//Marianne Hughes//Inspiration

Young at Heart

There is a lot of conversation in our sector about the generations…the boomers, the x’s, the y’s, the millenials now all working together. Someone recently mentioned they read that four generations can now be found in our organizations. This phenomenon is often presented as a problem to be overcome rather than an opportunity to be seized. In fact, combining the openness and technological know-how of youth with the patience and experience of older folks may finally be just the right ingredients for real social transformation.

As the founding Executive Director of IISC and the matriarch ( I am widowed) of my family, I am continually enriched and enlivened by the young people in my life. I have always found my children to be among the most interesting people I know; Kristen HughesJoe Hughes, Brendan Hughes, Christa Scharfenberg, David Scharfenberg.

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Jun/26/12//Marianne Hughes//Inspiration

Becoming a Hag

Today I am inspired to write about the hag. This is timely in that I am staring right into my 63rd birthday, born in 1946, the year that ushered in the baby boomers for better or for worse (depending on your point of view). It is also timely because like many others in the social sector, I am a founding executive director seeking to make room for the next generation of leaders (see future blogs) and challenged to re-imagine my continued contribution to social justice.

Not to be a caricature but again like so many of my cohort who were called to service by President Kennedy and came of age in the civil rights era, my life’s work was initiated as one of the first Vista Volunteers stationed in the border town of Laredo, Texas. It was there that I learned first hand about oppression, racism and injustice as well as hope, change and activism. I knew the work I wanted to do in the world. I was young then, not yet a hag.

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Jun/13/12//Curtis Ogden//Inspiration

Fixing the Future

After attending the recent “Strategies for a New Economy” 2012 Conference hosted by the New Economics Institute, Cheryl King Fischer, Executive Director of the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, alerted me to this upcoming event and ongoing campaign . . . As they say, “There are places right now in America where communities are fixing the future.  Across the country, people have found new ways to work, new ways to create jobs…and new ways to be sensible about using the earth’s resources.  Fixing the Future is a journey of discovery, finding communities which are thriving in these difficult times.”

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Jun/04/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Creating Space to Perform

This is a re-blog of a newsletter article by Brian Fraser of JazzThink. I was particularly struck by the invitation to consider how we “manage our voice” in conversations.

“Fatima Amarshi, Executive Director of the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society that runs the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, began her spring appeal letter with this wonderful quote from jazz guitarist.

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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/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/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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All artist are self-taught

The following post is reblogged from Seth’s Blog. Short and simple , yet full of wisdom.  We hope that it will enrich your life and much as it has ours.

Techniques and skill and even a point of view are often handed down, formally or not. It’s easier to get started if you’re taught, of course.

But art, the new, the ability to connect the dots and to make an impact–sooner or later, that can only come from one who creates, not from a teacher and not from a book.

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Apr/09/12//Cynthia Silva Parker//Featured, Inspiration

Dangers to Virtue


I picked this up from a Facebook Friend this morning. Apt description of too much of our national (un)civil discourse. At IISC, we have the privilege of working every day with folks who are crafting alternatives to these dangers. What alternatives are you working on?

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Apr/03/12//Gibrán Rivera//Inspiration

Own Your Silence

I caught this drawing posted among many other charts in IISC Learning Center. It caught my attention. I have long been familiar with the idea that silence equals complicity. But I always applied it to movement and our work for justice. I never quite thought of it as applying to organizational dynamics.

Read the rest of this entry »

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