Posted in Your Experiences

August 13, 2010

Squirrels and Shiny Objects

squirrel

|Photo by exfordy|http://www.flickr.com/photos/exfordy/1184487050|

Had you visited the IISC Cambridge offices a couple of weeks ago, prior to our staff putting all of our belongings in boxes and pink (yes pink) crates in preparation for our move, you would have seen a piece of paper on my computer stand with the following word in bold letters:

FOCUS

This has been my mantra for the past year, and there is is increased urgency around it these days, not simply because that paper is now sealed in some box on its way to Boston’s Seaport.  With so much in flux (including our move), with so many possibilities and so much to be done out there, with so much information flowing through the various channels into which I am tuned, I can easily find myself getting distracted – “Oh Look, A Squirrel!”.  And I know I am not alone.

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July 23, 2010

Keeping the Spark

Creativity

|Photo by popculturegeek.com|http://www.flickr.com/photos/popculturegeek/4775844727|

“The problems we face now, and in the future, simply demand that we do more than just hope for inspiration to strike.”

“The Creativity Crisis” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Blogging on a weekly basis and trying to stay on my social change game generally speaking, requires a steady flow of inspiration and creativity.  Of course, there are times when both can feel in short supply, and so I’ve been interested in how to keep this vital stream clear and moving.  Bronson and Merryman’s recent Newsweek article highlights both the importance and possibility of ratcheting up generative capacity.  Turning to a few sources, including my artistic brother, creativity guru Michael Michalko, Venessa Miemis, and The Innovator’s Toolkit, here are a few of my favorite ways for keeping the old noodle limber: Read More

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June 18, 2010

Man Up for Change

With Father’s Day around the corner, my thoughts are focused on what it means to be a good father and a good man in this world.  For those who have not yet heard, The Good Men Project has created a rich forum for these questions and has just launched a magazine delving into issues such as men’s health, relationships, sexuality, ethics, and boys/adolescence.  From what I’ve seen so far, I appreciate the initiative’s willingness to go broad in eliciting a diversity of stories and perspectives.  Furthermore, The Good Men Foundation has dedicated itself to helping organizations and efforts that provide educational, social, financial, and legal support to men and boys at risk.

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April 30, 2010

Anticipation

(A repost from April 2009)

I suppose it’s the overlooked companion of Change: Anticipation. It’s the silent provocateur that causes us to peer into the distance, squint past the horizon, turn the proverbial corner, stand on the brink, gear up for the jump off, and on and on. It is the automatic reflex within us that kicks into gear once we have a cognitive or instinctual knowing, that things are about to…shift.

That Change is afoot, we well know: Sam Cooke crooned it; Grandma prayed for it; Obama touted it; analysts predicted it; planners plan for it. My thoughts here turn to unpacking a hunch that what we are missing out on, quite unbeknownst to us, is the wisdom, creativity and knowledge available to ( through?) us/clients in that (anticipatory space of) calm before the storm (of Change). Scharmer’s naming and exploration of pre-sencing gets at it; Gibran’s queries around testing for “readiness” in groups is along the same lines; prototyping as a way into solving complex problems is yet another expression within this same sphere. Rather than an anxious, fear-based, controlling energy wherein we brace for change, I’m suggesting that there is a playful, curious, self- and Other-awareness we can decide to adopt that enables us to learn from Change, and how to navigate it, perhaps even before it occurs.

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April 16, 2010

A New Day for Philanthropy?

GEOConf10_logo_final_RGB

Just back from the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) Conference, the theme of which was “Unleashing Philanthropy’s Potential.”  Marianne and I were in attendance in part to facilitate a session on “Leveraging Philanthropy’s Best Intentions for Collaborative Change.” We came away inspired, impressed, and heartened by the overall conference conversation, which included explorations of whether there is a need for greater empathy in philanthropy, how funders can support and evaluate the impact of networks, strategies for foundations to embrace innovation in their grantmaking practice, and what we might all learn from the Obama Administration’s emphasis on supporting “what works” (via such mechanisms as the Social Innovation Fund).

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March 30, 2010

Leverage Week

gibraneinsteinWhy will I be selected to be a part of Seth Godin’s nano-MBA? Because it was made for me! Because the very essence of my job is to produce interactions that organizations care deeply about and because this is how change happens – there is a reason we are called the Interaction Institute for Social Change.

I’m doing this because my job is to help organizational leaders understand how to transcend organizational constraints. Because we are experimenting with ways to liberate the passion and the energy that are over-abundant in the social sector. Because the sector’s infrastructure has calcified and has become a constraint – and we are here to unlock it, and to set that energy free. Read More

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March 4, 2010

Listening (& Learning) as an Ally

peace

|Photo by bitzi took his umbrella and left|http://www.flickr.com/photos/bitzi/193922475/|

My wife and I are wrapping up our annual winter vacation to visit family in Florida.  Each year this proves to be something of a spiritual practice for me, and this trip has been no different.  As wonderful as it is to slow down, un-hunch shoulders, and wear fewer layers, the focus of my practice tends not to be the natural surroundings and climate so much as what I find to be the challenging social environment.

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March 4, 2010

Listening (& Learning) as an Ally

peace

|Photo by bitzi took his umbrella and left|http://www.flickr.com/photos/bitzi/193922475/|

My wife and I are wrapping up our annual winter vacation to visit family in Florida.  Each year this proves to be something of a spiritual practice for me, and this trip has been no different.  As wonderful as it is to slow down, un-hunch shoulders, and wear fewer layers, the focus of my practice tends not to be the natural surroundings and climate so much as what I find to be the challenging social environment.

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February 4, 2010

SOTU U

Seal

|Photo by nathanborror|http://www.flickr.com/photos/sketch22/3054286601/

With the dust now fairly settled from President Obama’s first State of the Union Address, I feel like it’s safe to offer a few comments here without being labeled an aspiring pundit.  IISC friend and fellow network-phile Bill Traynor of Lawrence CommunityWorks captured some of my own feelings initially – impressed by the speech, on board . . . for now.  Coming into that evening I was concerned about what I had been picking up as a big push of the “Obama brand”, leading me to ask along with Naomi Klein whether the man in the Oval Office is more about symbolic gesture than substantive change.  Suffice to say that I don’t have the behind-the-scenes knowledge to confidently declare how much is actually getting done.  But to the extent that anything in front of the curtain matters, and we know at least some of it does, I came away with some real adaptive leadership lessons from the SOTU Address.

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December 18, 2009

Lessons from a Facilitation Evangelist

I attended a powerful, short workshop led by Adrienne Maree Brown (abbreviated from longer trainings she offers) and Invincible on how to facilitate high tension and/or high conflict conversations at the Making Money Make Change conference. Weeks later, ideas and exercises from that workshop are still sticking with me.

Adrienne calls herself a “facilitation evangelist,” because she believes that the world would be transformed if we all practiced facilitation intentionally and were prepared with the tools to do so. I agree with her. And this reminded me of something so basic – facilitation isn’t just for meetings! I hadn’t thought about practicing facilitation in tense conversations with family members, for example, but Adrienne pointed out that facilitation in these and other everyday situations, whether the role is explicit or practiced silently within oneself, can have a profound impact on peoples’ experiences – turning what could be explosive into something more productive.

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