Posted in Your Experiences

May 7, 2014

Aligning Beliefs and Tactics

“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.”

-The Talmud

Last week I had the privilege of being part of faculty for the launch of the Presidio Institute’s Cross-Sector Leadership Program in San Francisco.  My role in representing IISC was to lead conversation around core concepts and frameworks related to the design and facilitation of complex multi-stakeholder change processes. The last day I partnered with Jennifer Splansky Juster from the Collective Impact Forum to do a deeper dive around collaborative process design, with Jen offering more guidance around the specifics of taking a “collective impact” approach. During this session, I invited Fellows to step back and take a deeper view of their cross-sector change work by reflecting on the framework above, the essence of which I have inherited from the thinking and work of Carol Sanford.

This framework offers that our chosen change methods are always grounded in an underlying belief system about what we hold to be true about humanity, the world and what constitutes “knowing.”  Not being aware of or transparent about this can get us into difficulty when it leads to mixing and matching techniques/methods that may contradict one another, or when we are not operating from the same system of beliefs as others.  Here are some questions I offered the CSL Fellows in consideration of their cross-sector work: Read More

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March 20, 2014

Unique, Not Special

faces in the crowd

Photo by Big Mind Zen Center

One of the roles that I’ve found to be particularly helpful in coaching collaborative initiatives and groups over the long-term is to help people understand that as a collective, they are unique.  That is, like every living being, each group has its own distinct qualities and personality and for groups who have not worked together before, part of the early work is getting a better sense of who we are together and how we want to be together.  We cannot simply assume that what worked with one collaborative will work with another.  We have to honor history and other contextual factors as well as work to find was is real and essential about this living system. Read More

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March 19, 2014

Storytelling as Action

storytelling here

A few different experiences last week reinforced my conviction that storytelling can constitute significant “action” and advancement, including work done in networks for (and as) change.  The first was during a session that I co-delivered on behalf of IISC with the Graustein Memorial Fund and The Color of Words, about our work with an early childhood system change effort in Connecticut called Right From the Start. During the conference session we emphasized that one of the biggest leverage points for system change is at the level of narrative and belief systems.

Surfacing the dominant implicit and explicit stories about what is and should be, analyzing the degree to which they align with our values and intentions, and countering/reframing them if and as necessary has been part of the work of Right From the Start (RFTS).   Read More

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January 16, 2014

EmBODYing the Work

“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”

– James Joyce, The Dubliners

vision bodies

The above quote caught my attention in light of much thinking about and work around the importance of being more fully embodied in social change efforts. This year I have personally made some commitments to more intentionally acknowledge and care for my own body, including investing in a rather basic standing desk, and recommitting to a morning workout (this post on the lasting benefits of just a 20 minute exercise routine served as an extra-added push).  And I’ve been carrying this commitment directly into my work with clients, not just in terms of focusing on the importance of caring for themselves, but also grounding aspirations they have for their work. Read More

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May 9, 2013

Hopping to Justice?

“Problems require solutions.  Questions must be lived into.  We often do not know the difference.”

– Krista Tippett paraphrasing Jacob Needleman

I recently had a lively and illuminating conversation with an unexpected teacher.  He came in the form of a well-spoken and measured man who works in the field of emergency food.  We were talking at a state-wide food system convening about the causes of and solutions for hunger and he mentioned the idea of the “two footprints.” Read More

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February 27, 2013

A Conspiracy of Love

“We have an obligation to wake others up so that they can share their light.” 

– Mayor Cory Booker

booker

|Photo by Veni Markovski|http://www.flickr.com/photos/veni/3408307467|

It was a privilege to see and hear Newark, New Jersey Mayor and possible Senatorial candidate Cory Booker speak this week.  His topic was education, which is near and dear to his heart, and he began by telling a remarkable story about his parents.  Booker’s mother and father were both born into relative poverty in the south, and both benefitted tremendously from other people looking out for them, extended family and community members.  His father, who was raised by a single mother, was able to attend college in North Carolina because neighbors came together and took up a collection for his tuition.  Ultimately both of his parents received a college education and went on to become successful executives at IBM. Read More

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January 24, 2013

Reframing the Systems We Want

reframe

|Photo by Darrel Birkett|http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrelbirkett/6935043394/sizes/m/in/photostream|

I’ve been playing with different reflection questions lately to try and help various networks and multi-stakeholder collaborative change efforts put a clearer and more aligned frame around the kinds of systems (food, education, health, etc.) that would yield more equitable, sustainable, and enriching results.  This is not to pretend that they can take control of the systems and command them to be different, but rather to create an image toward which they can nudge these systems via various leverage points.  In one recent convening, I borrowed a page from critical systems heuristics, which asks us to identify and play with the existing systemic boundaries, including motivation, power, expertise and legitimacy. Read More

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January 10, 2013

New Calls to Leadership

leadership puzzle

|Photo by Michael Cardus|http://www.flickr.com/photos/create-learning/4607228635|

At this point in my tenure at IISC, I get the opportunity to return to certain systems and programs that I have been serving for a number of years.  This includes a few organizations and leadership development initiatives to which I’ve been contributing for a half-dozen years now, through two presidential elections, the Great Recession, the Arab Spring, the explosion of social media, and some stormy knocks over the head about the reality of climate change. Through all of this I’ve been interested to see how the conversation has changed, where it has in fact changed, within these institutions and programs and among the participants. Read More

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October 31, 2012

Practicing Wholeness

alchemy of wholeness

|The Alchemy of Wholeness by Armanda Moncton|http://www.flickr.com/photos/armandamoncton/1705798622|

On Sunday, Gibran Rivera and I facilitated a workshop at Connecting for Change/Bioneers by the Bay about change practices for a networked world.  Another way of thinking about what we were exploring was to put it in terms of “practices for wholeness.”  Part of our premise was and is that we are suffering from a worldview that leads with and to fragmentation and fixity.  This is part of our inheritance from the industrial age that strives to understand through division and an associated mindset that believes we can make a separation between observer and observed with no associated impact.  For certain tasks, of course, it makes sense and is possible to divide, diagnose and put back together.  But this does not make sense, nor is it possible, in the case of complex living systems.  Furthermore, we have gotten ourselves in a bind because our habits of thought have led us to thinking that the divisions and categories we have created are in some sense primordial.  And so we are hard pressed to believe, or remember, that what we do to our “environment” or “others” we do to ourselves! Read More

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March 28, 2012

Funders by Other Names

Earlier this year I co-facilitated a learning session on collaborative social change process design and stakeholder engagement approaches for a group of foundation employees from around the country.  As we got deeper into the conversation, some of the participants began to speak to their own doubts about the effectiveness of grantmaking, especially when it only focuses on grantmaking.  “In the larger scope of things,” said one program officer, “our money is just a drop in the bucket.”  “Frankly,” said another, “there are other ways we can add value, but we limit our own validation of these efforts by calling ourselves ‘grantmakers.'”  Interesting.  As we explored other avenues for change agency, it was as if we were tapping into the work going on here in Michigan through the Council of Michigan Foundations. Read More

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March 7, 2012

Leverage in Living Systems

Blogging this morning from the Building Energy Conference, New England’s most established cross-disciplinary renewable energy and green building gathering.  If you are here, come visit us at our IISC booth!  One of the big topics of this year’s conference and trade show is thinking in terms of systems.  In this spirit, the following post draws from an email that I recently sent to the convenor of a state-wide system change initiative that is poised to identify strategic points of leverage within the system and its component systems to nudge it in the direction of serving all people equitably in the state and ensuring community food security.  Related to this goal is the desire to support a more robust local economy and to work synergistically with ecosystems.  I believe the questions listed pertain to any complex dynamic system change effort, whether one is talking about food, education, or community energy use and production, and I welcome your thoughts . . . Read More

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February 29, 2012

Gifts of My Father

I offer this post in memory of my father, John D. Ogden Jr. (1942-2012), who passed away much too young this past Saturday after a two year fight with cancer. Known to all of his friends and family as a good and kind man, my father was also the inspiration for much of my interest in conscious evolution and the fight for justice.  From his time as one of the first Peace Corps volunteers in Liberia, he spent his career promoting inter-cultural understanding, most recently as director of international programs at SUNY Cortland.  My dad once told me the older he got, the more radical he became.  Read More

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