December 8, 2009

Power, Equity, Inclusion and Collaboration

Part 2 of Three Lenses for Collaboration

Last week I started writing about the Interaction Institute for Social Change and our three lenses of collaboration.  We are talking about the sort of collaboration that is needed if we are to address the evolutionary challenges that define this historical moment.  We are talking about collaboration that catalyzes our collective wisdom and capacity to think new thoughts, the sort of collaboration that allows us to maximize our shared resources while inviting us to live ourselves into the world we are trying to build.  This is why I call this the lens of democracy, because it is the lens through which we define the best possible ways of being-with. Read More

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December 7, 2009

Confused or Enlightened?

HafizIt is our tradition at IISC at the beginning of every year to send out one of our “classic” postcards to all of our constituents reflecting on the year past and the year to come as well as to announce our upcoming training schedule. As I was writing the introductory paragraph for this years’ I happened to stumble across what I had written last year. With the exception of last years’ reference to “renewed hope for reinvigorating civil society” (this was before the inauguration), I was struck by the similarities and the focus on the ultimate paradox. Read More

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December 3, 2009

Twitter and Creation

“What does Twitter do to our relationship with Creation?”  This was the final question in a wonderful conversation the other day with Liz Parsons, Co-Director of Contextual Education at the Boston University School of Theology.  Our free-ranging dialogue ended on this note as we were exploring potential win-win formats for field placements for BU students at social change agencies.  What would be in it for the agencies?  Stating my belief that many students bring with them more natural collaborative inclinations and social media savvy than “seasoned’ social change leaders, I posited this as a value proposition inherent in members of the younger generation.  Which got us firmly down the Twitter path . . .

When Liz’s provocative question popped, my mind split.  On the one hand, I could see the case being made that Twitter and other Web 2.0 tools provide an additional and unhelpful buffer between us and the world.  Too much reliance on the technology can, as essayist Bill Holm writes, “separate and deracinate us from nature and one another” removing “any sense of from-ness or connection.”  The question looms whether we need any more mediation of our experience when so much suffering seemingly stems from disconnection.  In a follow-up message, Liz mentioned that when her husband purchased a laptop, it came with an ongoing slide show of nature photos.  “As if we have to be reminded,” she wrote, taking the words out of my mouth.

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December 2, 2009

What's The Plan?

Come meander with me!

I’m reflecting on World AIDS Day.? The World Health Organization established World AIDS Day in 1988, and it’s been observed on December 1st ever since to raise awareness and focus attention on the global AIDS epidemic. In the early years, some museums would have “A Day Without Art,” shrouding artwork to demonstrate the impact of the epidemic.? And there were many other ways of observing – e.g., candlelight marches, displays of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, local awareness-raising or fundraising events around the globe. Read More

December 1, 2009

Three Lenses for Collaboration

The Interaction Institute for Social Change is a vibrant place, a real learning community; we are always seeking to be on our learning edge.  Our internal strategic process has led us to wonder how to define ourselves for this new era without necessarily losing our 16 years of experience and the power of our proven collaborative methodology.  A couple of things have become even more clear through this process.  It is clear to us, to our clients and partners in the work of social transformation that collaboration is what we do.

We might be working with a single organization or a group of organizations, we may be designing a learning event, a high level facilitation or a citywide change process, but whatever it is that we are doing – collaboration is at its core.  We help people come together and work together.

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November 25, 2009

Stay! Stay! Stay!

I’ve recently been reading Bernie Mayer‘s new and game-changing book, Staying With Conflict.? A frequent leader in the world of conflict engagement, Bernie Mayer has spent many years working on large scale collaborative change and conflict processes, many of them in the environmental field.  He is also a strong proponent of the need to be clear and transparent about the assumptions behind practice.  With John Paul Lederach and Leah Wing, Bernie Mayer is one of my favorite practitioners and thought leaders in the “conflict resolution” world.? A couple of years ago, Bernie came out with a book called Beyond Neutrality that loudly and strongly asked for those in the conflict engagement field and those facilitating collaborative processes to cease and desist with the concept that we practice as “third party neutrals.”? In this new book, Bernie is pushing forward, changing the basic understanding of “conflict resolution.” He calls us to understand that, in fact, much of what is needed is not resolution, is not decision-making, agreement-building to overcome deep seated conflicts, but rather approaches that help people build the adaptive capacity and platforms from which to act – to stay with the tensions and conflicts that are an essential part of the human experience, to engage in a way that brings human dignity and that allows us to really stay in the difference. Read More

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November 24, 2009

A Little Contemplation

I am just returning from a weeklong spiritual retreat for which the central focus was selfless service.  I literally spent the week gardening!  (And yes, those of you who know me are right to find that funny!)  I did chant and meditate every morning, noon and evening, but in this very special place selfless service is considered a spiritual practice on the same level as meditation.

I bring this up because it felt like as soon as I got there I had all sort of “stuff” come up.  It was like the minute my life became a bit more silent all of the things that lie below the surface came bursting up in an overwhelming rush.  I had real moments of emotional upheaval very early in my stay.

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November 23, 2009

What Does It Mean?

Change is everywhere and at an ever increasing speed! In a recent post, Curtis highlights the trends that are shaping our sector and our society as a whole. In this provocative study, LaPiana invites us to become futurist and be attuned to what is unfolding now and what is yet to unfold.  Let’s fathom what some of this may look like…

What does this all mean?

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November 23, 2009

Collaboration and Merger are Not Synonymous

There is a dangerous and ultimately very confusing trend emerging in our sector. In the wake of the financial meltdown and its impact on funding, foundations and others are proposing organizational mergers and strategic alliances as a solution to the problem. The danger is that they are calling this “collaboration” and giving collaboration a really, really bad name!

For many years at IISC we have been trying to overcome what is often the very bad taste left in people’s mouths after some horrendous experience that they have had in a poorly executed and therefore failed collaboration. In many cases these were marriages forced by foundation funding or coalitions of individual organizations coming together but unable to detach from their own identities and agendas.

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