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November 6, 2009

More on Less is More

Once again, I’m trumpeting the truth that, yes folks, less IS more.

In his July 2005 Ted Talk, psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz’s estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

Instead of boosting our self-esteem, enhancing the quality of  our choices and promoting self-actualization and civility, this expert on the links between economics and psychology claim is that it yields:

1. Paralysis, not liberation.

2.  Dissatisfaction with the choice made (because the known options make it easier to regret the option you choose against ). Read More

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November 5, 2009

Means and Ends

One of the core models of IISC’s practice (for both our training and consulting work) is something we call the R-P-R Triangle, which basically makes the case that success in collaborative efforts is a multi-dimensional affair, not solely defined by “results” (goal or task accomplished), but also by “process” (the way or spirit in which work is carried out) and “relationship” (the quality of the connections between the people engaged in the work).  Our Executive Director, Marianne Hughes, has called this “the spine of collaboration,” suggesting that if we are not thinking in terms of all dimensions, we are not really serious about seeking win-win solutions with others.  And indeed experience really proves that these dimensions are intimately linked and dependent upon one another when diverse stakeholders come together to realize a shared vision.

RPR chart

A twist was given to this triangle the other day when a Facilitative Leadership workshop participant said he was struggling, not because he did not find value in this notion of “multiple dimensions of success,” but because of his concern that even in this model, process and relationships might appear to be subservient, or the “so that,” to results.  He went on to say that he is part of an organization/community in which relationships are really paramount.  They are an end in and of themselves and in a way synonymous with results.  How then, do we account for this in this model he wondered. Read More

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November 4, 2009

Racial Equity Grantmaking

As I described recently, I had the great fortune of hearing Rinku Sen of the Applied Research Center, Ellen Gurzinsky of Funders for LGBTQ Issues and Lori Villarosa of Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity present on”Catalyzing Change and Deepening Racial Justice Impacts” at the Neighborhood Funders Group Annual Conference in New Orleans. I wanted to share some of what I heard about racial equity grantmaking.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues (an affinity group of foundations who fund LGBTQ issues) started a Racial Equity Initiative a few years ago, under the leadership of Karen Zelermyer and with the creative and smart expertise of Robert Espinoza. The initiative was started to improve the ways that LGBTQ grantmakers incorporate a racial equity lens into their internal processes and grantmaking. Rather than taking a single approach, they used a multi-faceted approach (which seems to be what’s necessary to REALLY change an organization’s direction), choosing to create a broader context for the work. The initiative started with an assessment of foundations supporting LGBTQ issues, looking at internal operations and seeing whether they were applying a racial justice lens to their grantmaking (the 2008 Report Card on Racial Equity). Funders then launched a grantmaking initiative – raising $1,000,000 to match with funding at eight queer community foundations to identify and support local people of color organizations (which sometimes required learning and shifting of strategies for some foundations distributing funds). And they convened a very successful Racial Equity Retreat of LGBTQ funders.

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November 3, 2009

Time for Transformation

I am an admiring fan of angel Kyodo williams and a few weeks ago she called my attention to a powerful blog post she wrote, “doing darkness,” it has been on my mind since.  I invite you to take the time to read and contemplate it.  Angel is inviting us to take a close look at the distinction between change and transformation.  She proposes – and I agree – that while change is something that can be undone with a shift in context, transformation is something that can not be undone.

This proposition appeals to my own commitment to the evolutionary paradigm, and to an idea of social movement that demands our conscious engagement with our own evolution.  Angel’s in an excellent articulation, and so I would rather you give your time to reading her piece than to anything else I could say about it.

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November 2, 2009

Mindfulness and Social Justice

Mirabai Bush founded the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society in 1997. While no longer the Executive Director, Mirabai is steeped in the work. I had an opportunity to both see her in action and to have lunch with her and talk about bringing contemplative/transformative practice into our organizations and the work of social justice. The title of her talk was Bringing Mindfulness into Public Life where she looked back to the seventies as the moment of the great divide between spirituality and politics; the inner and the outer, the personal and the professional. Ironically it was the same decade when many great teachers from the east came to the United States to introduce the west to the power of meditation. The tool of meditation and mindfulness was quickly adopted by leaders in the alternative medicine field like John Kabat Zinn and Dr. Herb Benso and then taken out to the world.

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October 29, 2009

Moving from Paralysis to Action

I’ve been reading Diana Block’s memoir, Arming the Spirit, and am grateful for the chance to dig into another story of someone whose work for social justice came before me and contributed to where we’re at now. Diana went underground for thirteen years in the 1980s and 90s as part of a collective doing solidarity work with the Puerto Rican independence and Black liberation movements. Diana’s journey represents one group’s choice about how to be effective as white folks challenging racist systems of oppression.

“Our political history was rooted in our commitment as white people to solidarity with Third World struggles around the world and inside this country. That commitment will take different forms today but I think solidarity is still critical for white people who want to make social change. Also, for people who live in America, we definitely need to situate our work in relationship to the efforts of people around the globe who are fighting imperialism or we cannot expect to achieve very much.”*

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October 29, 2009

The Design of Experience: Fun

Thanks first of all to Margaret Benefiel of Executive Soul for turning me on to this video.  It times beautifully with a lot of thinking, writing, and experimenting we’ve been doing here at IISC about/with the power of design, and specifically the design of experiences that can change behavior and bring out the best in individuals and groups.  Check out this clip from The Fun Theory, an initiative of Volkswagen, that aims to show that fun is one of the best ways to change behavior for the better.

In the collaborative leadership trainings we do, inevitably we get to a point where people talk about the dry, frustrating, “deadening” and even pointless meetings and gatherings they often attend.  Many are at a loss for what to do.  One response on my part is to ask, “What has brought you to life at meetings that have been particularly engaging?”  And when the answer comes, to say, “Do that!”  If it brings us to life, there is a good chance it will do the same for others.  To paraphrase innovation guru Marty Neumeier, in order to “focus minds and intoxicate hearts” many more of us will need to think and act like (process and experience) designers.  So what are you doing to throw a little fun into the mix?

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October 28, 2009

Climate (of) Change

It has been quite a week or so on the climate action/activism/advocacy front.  From the 350.org global day of action to the Bioneers conferences happening around the country, to some interesting personal conversations I’ve had with staff members of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Conservation International (CI), to ongoing preparations for the upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagan, it seems clear that momentum is gathering towards taking serious and significant steps to help mitigate and adapt to changes in our global climate that have already begun.

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October 27, 2009

Twitter’s Power to the People

I just finished reading “Mob Rule! How Users Took Over Twitter” by Steven Levy on this month’s Wired. This is the stuff movements dream of!  How many times have you been a part of the “leadership” conversation? Or the eternal question on the problematic role of the charismatic leader?  Who should really be in charge?  What is organic or truly democratic?  Who has the power?  What type of power?  And how is power distributed?

We often say that one of the key attributes of networks is that you have to give up control.  And little by little we are learning that this giving up of control is a new discipline of leadership, something we are having to learn after being socially trained into the command and control fantasy.  From this perspective, by creating a space that organizes and runs itself, the people of Twitter have accomplished something that we movement builders can only dream of – so I think it’s worth taking a closer look.

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October 27, 2009

Twitter's Power to the People

I just finished reading “Mob Rule! How Users Took Over Twitter” by Steven Levy on this month’s Wired. This is the stuff movements dream of!  How many times have you been a part of the “leadership” conversation? Or the eternal question on the problematic role of the charismatic leader?  Who should really be in charge?  What is organic or truly democratic?  Who has the power?  What type of power?  And how is power distributed?

We often say that one of the key attributes of networks is that you have to give up control.  And little by little we are learning that this giving up of control is a new discipline of leadership, something we are having to learn after being socially trained into the command and control fantasy.  From this perspective, by creating a space that organizes and runs itself, the people of Twitter have accomplished something that we movement builders can only dream of – so I think it’s worth taking a closer look.

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October 26, 2009

PopTech Inspires

Every October in Camden, Maine, 700 remarkable change agents from across all sectors, issue areas and the world come together to share their breakthrough social innovations that they believe will build a just, sustainable and positive future. The gathering is hosted by PopTech a truly unique innovation network “known for its thriving community of thought-leaders, breakthrough innovation programs, visionary annual conferences and deep media and storytelling capabilities”.

This year’s conference was titled America Re-Imagined and again proved that while the media covers only catastrophe and great suffering there is a parallel reality, a great force, that is building, creating and innovating our way forward. The effects of this movement are seen everywhere and some of its most talented members can be seen and heard through the PopTech video link.

Take heart and enjoy!!!!

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October 23, 2009

Day of Action

Curtis passed this along to me today. A video from 350.org which explains how tomorrow, October 24, 2009,  is a Day of Action focused on climate change. 350.org is focused on reducing global CO2 levels to a healthier 350 parts per million (ppm) compared to the current 387 ppm we are currently hovering around.

The video and site go over exactly what tomorrow means and how you can participate. To find out what is going on around you, take a look at their map. Enjoy!

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