Posted in IISC Outward-facing Thoughts

October 26, 2011

Deep Listening

The following is a post from my friend and colleague Danny Martin, that appeared on his web page on Monday, following our joint workshop at Connecting for Change, a Bioneers Conference.  Tomorrow I will extend this reflection with more details about our session and regenerative leadership practice.

So much to say this week but it all turns on the same theme of how to access the wisdom we need to move forward together into a more sustainable and just society. In a recent article about what he calls The New Economy Movement, Gar Alperovitz, a Professor of Political Economy in the University of Maryland, says that, instead of feeling confined to the binary paths of reforming the broken economic system or revolting to overthrow it, citizens are opting to create something new that will replace the current economic regime, making the old system obsolete in the process. He calls this third way ‘evolutionary reconstruction.’ Read More

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October 13, 2011

Connecting for Change

For the third year in a row, I am looking forward to presenting at the Connecting for Change conference, also known as Bioneers by the Bay, sponsored by the Marion Institute. The community of New Bedford, Massachusetts becomes the host and scenic back-drop to some amazing speakers, well known and not so well known, as well as presentations by an incredible array of people doing important work in our New England region. Read More

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September 22, 2011

The System Is Us

“If you don’t see your role in contributing to the problem, then you can’t be part of the solution.”

-David Stroh

David M. Nee, Executive Director, William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund from Graustein Memorial Fund on Vimeo.

Yesterday I gave a general update on the proceedings of the Right from the Start early childhood development system change effort in Connecticut. Today I want to lift up some of the insights and wisdom that have been unearthed by the System Analysis phase. Key to this work has been the engagement of two experts in the realm of systems thinking – David Stroh of Bridgeway Partners and Keith Lawrence of the Aspen Institute’s Roundtable for Community Change.

David brings particular skill and experience in teaching about and mapping systemic dynamics as they play out at different levels.  In June, he gave a wonderful overview of systems thinking to the System Design Team, which included an introduction to the iceberg diagram (see below) that helps people get from more superficial and tactical questions to deeper systemic points of leverage, including awareness of one’s own unwitting contribution to dynamics that yield outcomes that are undesirable or in some sense not optimal.  Part of the shift we experienced over the course of these conversations was the understanding that “the system” is not out there, but as Yaneer Bar-Yam says, is “the way we work together.”  Read More

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September 21, 2011

Right from the Start

“In a sense, it’s not a system until it’s working for the people on the front-line, and above all the parents who need services for their children.”

-David Nee, Executive Director, WCGMF

RFTS

|Photo by jfinnirwin|http://www.flickr.com/photos/jfinnirwin/5248114004/in/photostream|

Last November I blogged about the launch of a bold and exciting initiative in Connecticut, spear-headed by the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund based in Hamden.  My colleague Melinda Weekes and I were engaged to assist the Memorial Fund as it answered a community-based call to step into a convening role to bring relevant stakeholders together from around the state to re-imagine and build an early childhood system “that is accessible and effective in all settings and in all communities for Connecticut’s children and families regardless of race, abilities and income.” This initiative has since been dubbed Right from the Start, a name that has turned out to be quite prescient in light of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s recent comments.  Right from the Start builds upon 10 years of work by the Memorial Fund in supporting community-based efforts to promote development and learning for all children.  Melinda and I are proud to have been able to make a contribution over the past four years by providing Facilitative Leadership training and collaborative capacity building to more than 200 individuals from the 57 Discovery Collaboratives around the state. Read More

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June 16, 2011

A Breakthrough Moment

breakthrough

|Image by MiRo740|http://www.flickr.com/photos/11558475@N04/2080024629|

The storming had begun.  For the first few meetings, the team had engaged in “feel good” conversations, getting to know one another, breaking bread together, laughing, and bonding around their shared desire to build a stronger local food system to ensure community food security.  They had agreed to a set of values and a vision to guide their work.  Now they were diving into more of the specifics.  What would the scope of the work be and what wouldn’t it include? Read More

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March 9, 2011

KISS or Keep It Simple, Stupid

Fender Telecaster

“The Fender Telecaster is an instrument of beautiful simplicity.” Jim Mauradian, luthier.

For you non-guitar geeks this may take a moment to explain. The electric guitar as we know it today, is a product of the 1950’s. Back in the stone ages of electric guitar making, it was an accepted practice to trick out the instrument with as many buttons, knobs and toggle switches as could be fit on a block of wood. And dang it if those guitars didn’t look sweet. Problem was, most of those guitars sounded like crap and because of the complex nature of the design, were in constant need of adjustment when not in a state of total ill-repair.

In response to this over complicating trend, a Luthier named Leo Fender set about to design and produce an electric guitar that was (1) simple to use, (2) durable, and (3) sounded great. Leo Fender’s genius was in stripping away all of the unnecessary crap, reducing the design to the barest essentials.

The product of his design was an electric guitar called the Fender Telecaster, which to this day is considered by many guitarists (myself included) to be the platinum standard of guitars. Go figure.

I wonder how it might look if we consistently applied Leo Fender’s approach to our own work and lives. Thoughts? Anyone want to put in a good word for complexity?

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February 25, 2011

“The book doesn’t matter. The conversation matters.”

Evil Plans

“Everybody needs an EVIL PLAN. Everybody needs that crazy, out-there idea that allows them to ACTUALLY start doing something they love, doing something that matters. Everybody needs an EVIL PLAN that gets them the hell out of the Rat Race, away from lousy bosses, away from boring, dead-end jobs that they hate. Life is short.”

My second book, EVIL PLANS launched today. Here are some notes:

Read More

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February 24, 2011

Clarity Through Community

“Give me the listening ear
The eye that is willing to see.”

-Howard Thurman

clearness

|Image from ky_olen|http://www.flickr.com/photos/ky_olsen/3133347197|

This past weekend I had the opportunity to be part of a Quaker-style “clearness committee” with a few twists thrown in.  I have done a few similar sessions in the past, though it has been a while, and once again it proved to be a remarkable experience.  The impetus for the session was a friend who, acknowledging that she is at a crossroads in her life and career, reached out for help with discernment.  My wife, Emily, and I suggested convening a small group of people who know her well to lovingly listen to the core question with which she is wrestling.  Over the course of the two and a half hours we were together, there was an amazing peeling away of layers that occurred as we asked questions and watched for what either brought our friend to life or weighed her down.  By the end of the evening, she was excitedly looking at very real and enlivening opportunities in what she had previously perceived as being frivolous or “once I win the lottery” kinds of scenarios. Read More

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November 11, 2010

Ready to Launch

WCMGFTomorrow my colleague Melinda and I officially launch an exciting endeavor with the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund in Connecticut, as we meet for the first time with a Process Team that will begin designing a state-wide early childhood systems building initiative.  The Memorial Fund is stepping boldly into its leadership as a convenor, at the urging of its grantees and the many communities with whom it has cultivated deep trust.  In its sights is a process that ultimately yields a broadly shared and community-rooted vision for providing high quality and equitable care and education for all of the Connecticut’s youngest children, as well as policies and structures that support greater community-state collaboration towards this vision. Read More

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July 20, 2010

Something is Working

I’m the one that’s all shook up.  I’m just getting back from doing some very powerful work with Reading Village in Guatemala and I’m still processing the experience.  It is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of poverty and palpability of oppression.  I come back with images of the smiles of an incredibly resilient Mayan people and I can not understand how they have withstood five centuries of aggression.  It is in this context that we were called to do our work. Read More

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July 13, 2010

Reading Village

As you read this post I find myself in Guatemala, honored to be working with Reading Village, a truly inspired reading promotion organization.  I’ve been impressed by the principled stance of its founders, the serious attention they are paying to respecting local culture and being of authentic service.  Having run a successful pilot, they have asked me to come a facilitate a set of conversations towards the development of a field guide – a text that will serve replication of the success of Reading Village while remaining flexible enough for local adaptation.  Wish us luck!  We are doing something good here!

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