Two weeks ago I wrapped up Harold Jarche’s on-line course on social learning and am committing to practicing some of what I learned through blogging as “learning out loud.” This is not an entirely unusual practice for me, but Harold has helped me to better appreciate the value of turning off the critic and putting “rough draft thinking” out there, as a way of crystalizing and mastering my own knowledge but also (possibly) connecting it to others who may be on the same wavelength/ have similar lines of inquiry and (perhaps) contributing to social change. Preposterous? Maybe.
But consider how our understanding of how the world works is shifting through our ability to see connections, appreciate the social creation of knowledge and grasp the emergent nature of change. Seeing reality through a living systems lens helps us to understand ideas as seeds, expression as sowing, interaction as fertilizer and social networks as the metabolic infrastructure to bring new things fully to fruition. Read More
The following is a slightly modified post from a little over a year ago. In recent months, the notion of puttingcare at the center of “net work” – to ground it, make it real and people accountable – has surfaced a number of times and strengthened. The original post included the phrase “the empathic turn.” Since that time I’ve come to see “caring” as a more appropriate word, rather than “empathy,” as it evokes for me not simply feeling but action. This re-post is inspired by the activists and thought leaders who are about to gather in Oakland, CA for the “Othering and Belonging” Conference, hosted by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.
In an essay that I continue to revisit, the poet/essayist/novelist/farmer/ conservationist and champion of sanity, Wendell Berry, talks about what he calls “the turn towards affection.” Having spent many years reflecting on and pushing back against the unfortunate demonstrated human capacity to despoil landscapes and demonize “the other,” he takes a strong stand for both deep rooted connection and . . . imagination:
“For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it.”
In other words, by his assessment, imagination thrives on contact, on an intimate form of knowing that is not simply intellectual, but intimate and holistic. For Berry it is only this kind of knowing that can lead to truly “responsible” action.
Others, past and present, hold the truth and power of this kind of fuller bodied knowing to be self-evident, in environmental conservation and social justice efforts and in what it means to be a responsible human. Professor john a. powell writes in his book Racing to Justice:
“There is a need for an alternative vision, a beloved community where being connected to the other is seen as the foundation of a healthy self, not its destruction, and where the racial other is seen not as the infinite other, but rather as the other that is always and already a part of us.”
“Transformation comes more from pursuing profound questions than seeking practical answers.”
– Peter Block
|Photo by Bilal Kamoon|http://www.flickr.com/photos/55255903@N07/6835060992/in/photolist-bpZtvb-8A6i9c-8p2AtP-do8Bez-do8JT3-7RiJTU-ao63dG-7Cjh9a-7Co7Fm-ihgH2m-9dXKU2-bgGa4c-8CkodQ-azGM3y-cBFFBS-8ChFDT-bX6EoZ-fPzNoo-9PBH3p-7GZn1X-9iKHnC-8nxop8-9tQh9o-9tMiYv-9tMj4F-7QpV8y-do8JVU-7Co7vW-7Gh8sv-8qQBZ9-eUDNUt-7Gh3sp-9ESmzs-8nAwhG-8nxom2-8nxonr-8nAwhf-8nAwgm|
Three of our IISC blogger-practitioners have been in conversation about 3 questions they are each carrying with them into 2014 to guide and develop their practice to support social change. We invite your reflections on and additions to these: Read More
|Photo by USDAGov|http://www.flickr.com/photos/41284017@N08/7740419400/in/photolist-cMZF1U-9bjsio-9ZTS3b-9UWk5k-fomtZ4-9UYk2h-agjHzA-agjHTo-ajSoZJ-agBMia-ajSogU-ajPA7r-9X7pyg-9UVcQZ-9UVnmz-9UVof4-9X1Gip-9ZTSSh-9X1S7v-9X4syC-9ZQZbV-9X1Mbc-9UVktD-9UVqix-9UVrU6-9UYipj-9X1Kh2-9X1PgP-9X1SSH-9X1QhF-9ZQZSx-a4uQan-9X4DWN-9X1Eut-9X4va3-9X1CqT-9X1HtB-9X4x9W-a4xKTw-9X1BKF-9X1R5e-a4uUin-a4uPkp-ccXodW|
I am increasingly interested in how networks can help to reclaim and reshape marketplaces, bringing them back down to earth and keeping them more stimulating of local economies, helping give value to what is not formally valued, as well as shifting and restructuring flows for greater equity and abundance. So I was delighted to get a number of tips on this front from Lawrence CommunityWorks during a visit there last week. Staff and residents shared a number of ways in which they help to identify and exchange assets as a part of daily operations. For example, here is an exercise called “Marketplaces” which comes from Bill Traynor. Read More
|Image by photologic|http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotologic/3107777489|
The physicist Fritjof Capra, founder of the Elmwood Institute, tells the story about a meeting convened years ago by him and his colleagues with a group of Native American elders and thought leaders to explore different perspectives around ecological thinking. From the outset, the gathering was marked by some suspicion towards the Elmwood group, given the historic dynamics of exploitation. The meeting opened with a round of introductions, and an Okanagan woman from British Columbia was first to speak. She began by stating the tribe from which she came and then described the landscape where the tribe lives. She then talked about her father’s and paternal grandparents’ origins, in similar detail, and continued with a description of where her mother and maternal grandparents’ came from. In the end, she linked each family member not just to a named geographic location, but also an illustration of the associated rivers, mountains, plants, and animals. “This is who I am,” she said, wrapping up. “The features of the land determine my conduct, responsibility, and ethics. Now I want to know to whom I am talking, before I say anything else of substance. And I don’t want to hear the books you’ve read, the degrees you’ve obtained, or the organizations you are a part of.” Read More
Several years ago I worked with a friend who is an outdoor educator to put together an orientation session for a group of high school students who had signed on to be part of a youth activism project I was directing. The program invited young people to explore issues in their community and to select and address those that spoke to them. As part of our orientation, my friend put together an “alien test,” something he learned from the tracker and educator Tom Brown. Just before the session we scoured the school grounds gathering leaves and bark, plants and nuts, a bird’s egg, soil, and other sundry items and brought these into the classroom where we met after school, along with a series of prepared questions. One by one, my friend laid the objects and questions out in front of the students: What is this? Is this plant edible? Can you tell me whether this soil is healthy or not? Where does your water come from? Do you know which, if any, of the items you ate for lunch today was locally grown? There was a marked silence after most of the questions. The point was made poignantly clear – in many respects we are aliens to our immediate surroundings. For us to do meaningful community change work, we suggested, it behooves us to really get to know our community, or as someone once put it, take a step towards inhabiting it not just residing there. Read More
It is rare for any of us, by deliberate choice, to sit still and weave ourselves into a place, so that we know the wildflowers and rocks and politicians, so that we recognize faces wherever we turn, so that we feel a bond with everything in sight.”
|Photo by Muffet|http://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/150903281/|
Some dozen years ago I went on a road trip with my grandfather to our ancestral home in Arkansas. Leaving from upstate New York at this time of year was not exactly a recipe for easy driving and awe-inspiring views. After a particularly dreary stretch in Ohio, I was ready to snooze the rest of the way when we crossed over into Kentucky. Suddenly things opened up. As we continued south on Route 75, I felt my body started settling into the lovely rolling farm-studded landscape. I remember how my breathing eased and the extraordinary sensation of “being home,” though I had only been to the state once before.