May 7, 2015
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to facilitate some of Farm to Institution New England‘s (or FINE’s) Summit at UMass-Amherst. Specifically I was asked to offer a bit of thinking, a few prompts and guide conversation here and there around the potential of further developing the Farm to College network, as represented in the room that day by students, faculty, college administrators, community organizers, institutional procurement professionals, farmers, funders and others from the so-called “value chain.”
I told the story that has been passed on to me by Beth Tener about her work with the Barr Foundation around the Green and Healthy Buildings Network in Boston. This is a well documented example of the power of mapping and connecting agents in related but otherwise separate fields for mutual benefit and greater impact. We used this as a jumping off point at the Summit to encourage people to be more curious about existing and potential connectivity in the room.
As we invited people to consider their connections and close triangles throughout the day, I offered the following questions for reflection that I find useful when helping participants in networks become more aware and intentional regarding their potential:
Who is here and who is not here and how does that matter?
June 3, 2014
If you are a regular reader you’ve heard me talk about the Barr Fellows. It is one of the most powerful experiments in developing a leadership network within a geographic context – the City of Boston. I have the privilege of being on the design and facilitation team for this remarkable project. Read More
December 4, 2013
“Ultimately if we are to avoid failure in the most critical work of this century, the deepest reaches of our beings must be brought to bear in honestly reevaluating and shifting the most basic structures of our society.”
– john a. powell
The following is a textual recapturing of a Pecha Kucha-like presentation that I gave at an ARNOVA Pre-Conference Session in Hartford, CT two weeks ago. This was part of a 3-hour interactive conversation, co-designed and facilitated with Dr. Angela Frusciante of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund, focusing on the power of networks for learning and social change, primarily with academic researchers and philanthropists.
At the Interaction Institute for Social Change, we are in agreement with Professor john a. powell when he points to the need to consider and make fundamental structural changes in our country and communities for the causes of greater social justice and sustainability. Read More
January 25, 2013
“It’s time for us to get together and talk about how we get more healthy food to people, how we bring our community back using local food, how we improve our community health using local food, and how we create new jobs. . . . We need to change our food system and the answers are in the room.”
– Stephen Arellano
I’ve been closely and excitedly watching and participating in the local food and urban agriculture movement as it grows both here in New England and in my native Michigan. Detroit has certainly been catching national attention, in part due to exposure via films such as “Urban Roots” and the good and ongoing work of the likes of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and the Fair Food Network. And my lesser known and native Flint is doing its own to grow what my friend Stephen Arellano has called “a human scaled economy” rooted in a reclamation of old industrial and abandoned residential lands for the purposes of equitably feeding the community, not just through good food, but through a grounded education and good profitable work. Read More
March 15, 2012
The following excerpt is taken from the introduction to Whole Measures for Community Food Systems, a resource that “is designed to give organizations and communities a collaborative process for defining and expressing their complex stories and the multiple outcomes that emerge from their work.” The guide is an example of what is possible coming out of the training that we jointly offer with the Center for Whole Communities called Whole Measures: Transforming Communities by Measuring What Matters Most. This year we will offer the workshop in San Francisco (May), at Knoll Farm in Vermont (July), and in Boston (December). In addition, the Community Food Security Coalition will offer a workshop on Whole Measures specifically focused on community food security work this April in Lexington, KY.
The spectrum of those working towards community food security is culturally and geographically diverse, spanning a broad range of people, places and activities. Organizations and individuals working in the food system and building food secure communities create complex relationships and inter-related activities. Read More
December 28, 2011
|Photo by ad551|http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaddaamn/5196833268|
As 2011 comes to a close, we here at IISC can look back on a year full of multi-stakeholder change work. I think I can speak on behalf of the entire team when I say that it has been our pleasure to contribute our process design, facilitation, and collaborative capacity building skills to a range of differently scaled social change efforts, linking arms with convenors and catalysts in a variety of fields. These have included (to name a few): Read More
June 23, 2009
I knew a few Barr Fellows before I started doing the kind of work I do today. I knew a few of them before they were Barr Fellows, and so I also knew them after. It was in this nonscientific way that I was able to observe some of the subtle and not so subtle shifts that were happening among my friends – the fellowship had an effect on them and on their work. Conceptually, the idea behind the fellowship was something that I could understand, network theory and the power of relationships already made intuitive sense to me.
Check out the Barr Fellows Program for a formal description of the effort. But to risk oversimplification, the fellowship is about taking a diverse group of amazing leaders in Boston’s social sector, rewarding them with a sabbatical, connecting them to one another and exposing them to social innovation in other parts of the world.
June 1, 2009
I was one of the lucky Bostonians to see Leonard Cohen (famed poet, folksinger and Zen monk) perform to a sold-out Wang Center audience this weekend. He is seventy five years old and noted that the last time he was in Boston was fifteen years ago when he was sixty and just “a kid with a dream”.
There was a tremendous sense of the sacred in his performance, from the way in which he interacted with his back up singers and his band to the care and honor that he showed to the audience. In a New York Times article Cohen was quoted as saying: “There’s a similarity in the quality of the daily life on the road and in the monastery. There’s just a sense of purpose in which a lot of extraneous material is naturally and necessarily discarded, and what is left is a rigorous and severe routine in which the capacity to focus becomes much easier.
And it was that sense of purpose and level of focus that was experienced in the concert hall and that monastics have been modeling through the ages: get rid of the extraneous; focus on the moment like a laser beam and you will be fully alive…hmmmmm…must try that…again and again and again!
After the concert, I was prompted to go back to a Shambala Sun interview with Leonard Cohen that I read and that has stayed with me, it is about love and a very Zen understanding of life.
In fact, Mr. Cohen appears to see performance and prayer as aspects of the same larger divine enterprise. That may not be surprising, coming from an artist whose best-known songs mingle sacred concerns with the secular and the sexual and sound like “collaborations between Jacques Brel and Thomas Merton,” as the novelist Pico Iyer put it.
One of Cohen’s most quoted verses captures it all:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
How do we apply THAT to Social Change?