"Only Connect"

June 27, 2012 3 Comments

This famous E.M. Forster quote takes on new meaning in this age of quantum waves and particles, Twitter, and Facebook.  But the depth of what he was saying is timeless: connect with one another through old and new means to realize that we are one family, one world, one universe.

At IISC, we are committed to deepening our connections, fostering collaborative efforts, and learning together in service of social transformation.  And so it is that IISC is formally announcing the launch of our blog, as another way that we can connect and learn from you in our common quest to build a more just and sustainable world.

In that spirit, I want to share with you some of what we have been learning across the three areas that we believe are foundational to the work of social transformation: network building; diversity, equity and inclusion; and, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “the love that does justice.”

Network Building

We have been exploring how the application of network theory and the use of social media can enhance collaboration and create the conditions for the kind of innovation needed to tackle society’s most intractable problems. We are continually learning from and inspired by so many of our colleagues who are also exploring this approach.  Most recently, I was taken with an article written by Bill Traynor in a recent issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly, Vertigo and the Intentional Inhabitant: Leadership in a Connected World.  I also want you to know about another valuable article just published, written by Diana Scearce, Gabriel Kasper, and Heather McLeod Grant of The Monitor Institute, Working Wikily 2.0: Social Change with a Network Mindset, offering a descriptive account of how networks are changing social change.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

IISC’s experience with and understanding of issues of race, class, power and related concepts has stretched and grown as we have over the years.  Our commitment to collaboration compels us to take seriously the identity-based differences among people and the ways in which those differences effect the distribution of power and privilege. My colleagues – Cynthia Silva Parker, Linda Guinee, and Andrea Nagel – explore two strategies that enable individuals and organizations to deepen their cultural competency and work across difference in a piece they wrote called Leveraging Diversity and Building Power.  We are also learning from and inspired by the work of the Center for Social Inclusion.  CSI works tirelessly “to expose the structural arrangements that exclude communities of color and weaken our society as a whole” through several compelling projects across the United States from New York City to the Gulf Coast.

“The Love That Does Justice”

At IISC, “the love that does justice” is how we refer to what some call the inner side of leadership.  We have been exploring how to bring transformative practices into the work of social change because of our belief that extraordinary individual and collective impact is rooted in deep values and a connection to an inexplicable force for good. Like many of our colleagues, we are intrigued by how secular, contemplative practices – such as meditation, art, mindful walking, martial arts, cultural ritual, yoga, and others – enhance our concentration, increase our effectiveness, and keep our hearts open and more compassionate.

Two great examples of this approach can be found in the work of the Movement Strategy Center and The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.  MSC  is working with leaders of social justice organizations on integrating the contemplative practices of inner transformation as a way of overcoming the all too familiar consequences of frontline work – burnout and isolation.  The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society has been at the forefront of bringing these practices into the work of social change since 1997.  The Center integrates “contemplative awareness into contemporary life in order to help create a more just, compassionate, reflective, and sustainable society” and contributes to the field by publishing and providing programs that explore and promote the effectiveness of contemplative practices.

In Closing…

In addition to exploring with you what we are learning in these and other areas, we view the blog as an opportunity to expand our own network.  It is yet another example of the many new tools that are available to us as we seek to think creatively together and have greater social impact.  At the same time, there is nothing more powerful than bringing people together to collaborate – in person, face-to-face – to build alignment and agreements and to develop the authentic relationships necessary to bring shared vision to action. This remains central to IISC’s methodology.

Please remember that it is your participation that will make the IISC blog truly useful as together we find our way through this new era: thinking in new ways, employing new tools, and creating social good only dreamed of just a few years ago! We hope you will visit our blog and post your comments, feedback, stories, and recommended books and links. I look forward to hearing from you!

Very best wishes,

Marianne Hughes,

Executive Director


  • Jodie Tonita says:

    Congratulations to all at IISC on the formal announcement of your blog launch! I am thrilled to be able to follow your work, your learning and engage with you in the richness of the unfolding. Thank you for leading the way. I look forward to the journey.

  • Gibran says:

    Here we go! Let’s connect!

  • Madeleine Taylor says:

    Blog on! I too look forward to the conversation. Especially about networks and social change – where connectivity leads to meaningful action.

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