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 25, 2010

Getting Over Our Selves


|Photo by jaycross||

“How do we help people move toward authentic inquiry when their default is aggressive inquisition?”  This question was offered up in a tweet by Larry Dressler a week ago and presaged my planned post today.  My departure was going to be a return to the work of Marcial Losada mentioned in a previous post, which shows that optimal group performance is attributed in part to members striking a balance between asking questions and promoting their own points of view.  Low performing groups tend to get caught up in self-absorbed advocacy.  “Aggressive inquisition” can simply be a form of advocacy, intended to attack and tear down other ideas.  This is not the spirit Losada is talking about.  And yet, it can be challenging for some to avoid simply campaigning for their own proposals.

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March 24, 2010

Writing a Theory of Liberation

Dazzie D

|Photo by Dazzie D||

At the 2008 White Privilege Conference, I went to a workshop on Critical Liberation Theory, led by Barbara Love, Keri DeJong, Christopher Hughbanks, Joanna Kent Katz and Teeomm Williams.? I was re-reading the piece they gave out at that workshop, talking about the ways that we can each take daily actions toward liberation.? This, they suggested, requires first clearly articulating our own theory of liberation, through which we can then build a praxis of liberation – daily work that brings us in the direction of liberation itself.? They talked of the need to know fully where you’re coming from (understanding oppression), but to look forward toward liberation.  Otherwise, they described it as if one were leaving on a car trip from Massachusetts to drive to California while looking out the back window instead of looking at the road ahead.

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March 23, 2010

World Café for the US Senate


|Photo by Kevin Dooley||

If you have been paying any attention to the national political scene, you know that in these days of no compromise everything seems to balance on the mathematics of the US Senate.  Given the latest equation, it was no small deal to learn that Senator Evan Bayh will not be running for re-election.  About a month ago he wrote a New York Times opinion piece that has been on my mind since then – Why I’m Leaving the Senate.

The piece is worth reading in full, but here is the part that inspired this post:

Any improvement must begin by changing the personal chemistry among senators. More interaction in a non-adversarial atmosphere would help…  It shouldn’t take a constitutional crisis or an attack on the nation to create honest dialogue in the Senate. Let’s start with a simple proposal: why not have a monthly lunch of all 100 senators?

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March 19, 2010

Spring Ahead

|Photo by dixieroadrash||

|Photo by dixieroadrash||

I believe New Years Day ought to be celebrated on the first day of spring.  It just doesn’t seem right to start a ‘new’ year in the dead of winter as we do.  In fact, prior to 1752 (more or less), most European countries (and their respective colonies) celebrated New Years Day on or about March 25th rather than January 1st.  Thus, until New Years Day was shifted to January 1st, one went to bed on March 24th in one year and awoke the next day on March 25th in the next year.  Pretty crazy, eh?

That the New Year used to be marked on March 25th makes total sense for a number of reasons, most obviously because the spring is the beginning of the planting season.  It is a time to sow the fields and start again.

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March 16, 2010

Standing in the Fire

Standing in the Fire

Our friend Larry Dressler just published a book titled “Standing in the Fire” it’s about “leading high-heat meetings with clarity, calm and courage.”  Curtis wrote an earlier post inspired by the book.  Larry interviewed a wide number of experienced facilitators and I was particularly appreciative of the way he high-lighted the words of our Executive Director, Marianne Hughes.

Referring to what I like to call “the inner condition of the intervener,” Larry says:

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March 12, 2010

Three Dimensions

This week, Melinda and I will be facilitating two workshops at the Transforming Race conference, hosted by the Kirwan Institute at The Ohio State University. Here’s a sneak preview of some of what we’ll be covering.

Facilitating discussions and dialogues about race can be tough. Lack of information and knowledge, different lived experiences, unspoken assumptions, varying definitions of key concepts and differing interpretations of problems and solutions are just a few of the things that can get in the way of groups communicating authentically and building solid agreements. I’ve found that attention to three dimensions of preparing for such conversations can make all the difference between productive engagement and destructive experiences that take years to repair.

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March 9, 2010

Share an Inspiring Vision


Sharing an inspiring vision is one of the seven practices of Facilitative Leadership.  Here at the Interaction Institute for Social Change we are fond of saying that “a leader must share an inspiring vision in order to inspire a shared vision.” If you are reading this blog you probably have a vision.  You are interested in social change, you want to believe that indeed another world is possible – and you have a role in making it happen.  You have a vision of the world you want to see. Read More

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March 5, 2010

Design Thinking for Social Change

In a recent conversation with professors and students at Savannah College of Art and Design’s Design Management program, I was asked to share what we at IISC mean when we use the phrase  “design thinking” in social change initiatives. Talking with vocational designers  about designing for  social change was a very different conversation from conversations with change agents and activists on the same topic.  I subsequently came across this insightful blog entry by interaction designer Dan Saffer, “Thinking about Design Thinking”, and although he does not apply a social change agenda to his thinking here, he helps lay out distinctive features of  what designers mean by the term “design thinking” as follows (we can apply the social change lens on our own): Read More

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