Posted in Your Experiences

January 26, 2012

Where You Sit, What You See

It has been a heartening return to my home state these past couple of days while delivering a two-day Facilitative Leadership workshop with members of Michigan’s philanthropic community.  Yesterday, we spent some time in the afternoon talking about power and how it plays out in different kinds of change initiatives.  The point was made a number of times that those who are most impacted by the issues we are trying to solve must be in on the solutions, including the design and carrying out of the processes of problem-analysis, opportunity identification, and vision creation.  Read More

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November 23, 2011

Occupying Experience

Poetry is what you find

in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God

in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.

Elizabeth Alexander (From “Ars Poetics #100: I Believe”)

Occupy

|Photo by David Shankbone|http://www.flickr.com/photos/shankbone/6219944289|

Let me start by saying that I am well aware of the inherent irony of posting a piece with this title in the blogosphere and furthermore tweeting about it to my “followers.”  That said, I offer this in the same spirit of the saying, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha.”  In other words, thanks in advance for reading/sharing, and then let’s get back to the work of being our own lights.

As I turn thoughts to this week’s holiday, I am thankful for so much: for health, for family, for friends, for the opportunity to do the work I do, where and with whom I get to do it.  And I am also grateful to be living in these uncertain, trying, and exciting times.  If we would believe history and the views of certain amateur and professional philosophers, we might see our current circumstances as the makings of a great age and evolutionary leap forward. Read More

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September 7, 2011

Rising Waters

“Rain does not fall on one roof alone.”

Proverb from Cameroon

Irene

|Image from NASA Goddard Photo and Video|http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/6096549427|

Labor Day weekend took on a new twist this year in the state of Vermont where people came together to clean up, comfort one another, and rebuild after Tropical Storm Irene’s devastation. I was visiting my in-laws in Chester, VT when the storm hit last Sunday. Chester, as it turned out, made national headlines as a few local residents’ homes were swept away.  This is how The New York Times painted the scene the day after: “With roughly 250 roads and several bridges closed off, many residents remained stranded in their neighborhoods; others could not get to grocery stores, hospitals or work.”  Other parts of the state suffered as well, including Waterbury, where state offices were washed out, even forcing the state’s Emergency Management command post to evacuate.  Three people are known to have lost their lives as a result of the storm.  Read More

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July 6, 2011

Re-Entering the Land

Writing this post from beautiful Knoll Farm in Vermont’s Mad River Valley where we are offering Whole Measures for the first time with the Center for Whole Communities as host.  Knoll Farm is something to experience, a 400 acre working organic farm and retreat center with stunning views that speaks to the power of place as a foundation for our agency in the world.  Much of what the Center for Whole Communities stands for is the bridging of boundaries, between people and the rest of the natural world, between cultures, between experiences and perspectives.  And this site bespeaks a profound love for the diversity of land and community that sustains us all.  We hope that this is just the first of many offerings at this unique and mundane (very much of the world) spot.

In a little book that is on the table in my yurt entitled Entering the Land: A History of Knoll Farm, co-founder Peter Forbes writes, “We are lucky have such a place as a teacher.  In spite of all the pressures that might have made its history obscure and irretrievable, Knoll Farm remains a testament to the story of the past.  Similarly, it sets a promising stage for the story of the future.  How will this story read?  What role will humans play in it? . . .  The answers to these questions are in the land, for the land is the root of our well being.  It is time to listen, to sink our hearts in the soil and make it familiar again.”

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March 31, 2011

Funder as Convenor: Part 1

mi casa

|Photo by Keith Williamson|http://www.flickr.com/photos/elwillo/5440401913|

The more I do our collaborative consulting work here at IISC, the more interested I become in the role of the convenor in complex multi-stakeholder change efforts.  This role, typically held in our work by a funder or someone else with convening power (local/state government, school district, a well-connected community-based agency) has much to say about the success and nature of a social change effort, and yet from my perspective remains under-appreciated and/or poorly misunderstood.  Over the next few months I’ll spend some time in this space reflecting on what we and others are learning about this critical role and soliciting your thoughts, reactions, and experiences.

But first, what does it mean to convene?  In our practice, convening is one of a few central leadership functions in collaborative and networked approaches to change.  Read More

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March 2, 2011

Radical Acceptance

acceptance

|Photo from andronicusmax|http://www.flickr.com/photos/24258698@N04/4023806676|

This past week I’ve been in Florida for our family’s annual pilgrimage and a desperately needed reprieve from what has certainly been a challenging New England winter.  And as in years past, I’ve had the fortune to be able to attend a speaker’s series that my father-in-law has been instrumental in putting together down here.  Last Friday I got to hear from Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to President Carter and counsel to numerous other American heads of state, both Democrat and Republican, on matters of foreign policy.  Brzezinski had only 45 minutes to present what ended up being a dizzying tour of his perspective on the current state of geopolitics and suggestions for US strategy going forward.  As grand (and certainly opinionated) as this undertaking was, I was most struck by how he began his talk, and the ensuing response. Read More

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December 16, 2010

Public Leadership Shifts

contentcontent and process

Ever since the mid-term elections, I’ve taken to choosing a politically-oriented question for the practice meetings I do with participants in our collaborative skills workshops.  Specifically, in helping people to more firmly grasp the difference between content (an egg) and process (how you prepare the egg), I’ve invited participants to consider “process-oriented” changes they would like to see in our public leadership.  It’s been interesting to see some of the common themes and requests emerge across the political spectrum.  Below are some of the ideas that have come up for federal, state, and municipal/town levels: Read More

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November 10, 2010

Having What We Have

have what we have

|Photo by a_whisper_of_unremitting_demand|http://www.flickr.com/photos/jpovey/2039387260|

“How do you do that?  How do you step back and get perspective?”  The question came from a table mate in an Art of Hosting workshop at this week’s Systems Thinking in Action conference.  The earnest and wide-eyed inquisitor silently suggested the qualifier, “And how do  you do this when there is so little time?”  The question hung in the air in the midst of our World Cafe-inspired conversation about the kinds of change that are being called for in our respective communities, however we choose to define them.

My first response was to laugh.  How indeed?  As parents of three small children under the age of five, my wife and I often scratch our heads at how we can create more breathing space in general.  Frankly, the notion of stepping back often feels like a luxury we can’t afford.  And I know there are others in the same space with a variety of unremitting demands.  My laugh was surely an acknowledgment of this seemingly impossible situation.  And in the context of this rich albeit brief cafe conversation it also became something else, thanks to the careful attending of my colleagues. Read More

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September 29, 2010

Start With the (New) Whole

Essence

|Photo by Vincepal|http://www.flickr.com/photos/vincepal/2806832762|

I recently did work with an organization that had approached us with an interest in designing a retreat during which staff would consider options for embracing climate action and environmental organizing strategies as part of their efforts moving forward.  In one of our early planning calls, I asked how this new direction made sense given where the organization had historically focused its resources (affordable housing, open space advocacy, community beautification), and the response was a very thoughtful, “That’s a good question.”  Furthermore, I asked if there was anything they were planning on letting go of.  Again, pregnant pause and . . . “That’s a good question.”  And so began a very fruitful conversation, the upshot of which was an opening segment of the retreat that focused on developing a coherent frame for the organization that could more easily and sensibly integrate climate and environmental work. Read More

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