January 24, 2018
“The most robust and resilient networks are those that create additional value for each participant while strengthening a community or ecosystem as a whole.”
Return-on-investment (ROI) is not a term that I love, especially given how militantly utilitarian and narrowly it is often considered and applied. My friend, mentor, business consultant and holistic thinker Carol Sanford refers to ROI as “the future increase in value that is expected when the initial capital contribution is made.” Carol is quick to point out that capital can take many forms (financial, intellectual, social, spiritual, natural, etc.), and for network participants (or let’s call them “co-creators”) this often takes the form of investments of time, money, knowledge, creativity, and social connections.
Why would co-creators in networks take the time and risk to make such an investment? What is the expected return? Presumably, when we are talking about networks for social change, the principle driver is the desire to make a meaningful difference for people, places and purposes they care about and that they sense will be more positively impacted through network activity. Co-creators are also “kept in the network game” if participation enhances their own capabilities, grows and deepens their connections, and gives them increased opportunities to be creative, and perhaps even find a place of belonging! Read More
April 19, 2017
In sustainable agriculture you hear talk about no and low-till farming. These are approaches that emphasize minimal disturbance of soils to preserve their structural integrity and also to keep carbon in the ground. No-till increases organic matter, water retention and the cycling of nutrients in the ground. As a result it can reduce or eliminate soil erosion, boost fertility and make soils more resilient to various kinds of disruptions. This flies in the face of mainstream approaches that recommend ongoing and significant intervention, “fluffing” soil and digging down to considerable depths to get rid of weeds and aerate the ground. What actually happens can be quite destructive to the long-term productive and regenerative capacity of the soil.
“When we harvest, weed, rake or trim gardens and landscapes, we remove the organic material that feeds the soil.”
I like this as a metaphor for what can happen when there is failure to see and respect the networked structures that already exist in communities, organizations and other living systems. Read More
April 22, 2015
The following is a slightly modified post from a little over a year ago. In recent months, the notion of putting care 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.”
February 27, 2014
In “networks-as-change,” effectiveness is grounded in affectiveness.
In an essay that I continue to revisit, the poet/essayist/novelist/farmer/ conservationist and champion of overall 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 tendency to despoil landscapes and “the other,” he takes a strong stand for both deep rooted connection and . . . imagination: Read More
September 12, 2013
“If what we change does not change us we are playing with blocks.”
– Marge Piercy
|Image by Nico Paix|http://www.flickr.com/photos/91845235@N00/6523944047/in/photolist-aWuVgV-84KnUQ-9p5Xr2-e7QpWv-fr9W96-bYrHxs-aamm8N-bfB8Bn-bh5d8M-9JejMT-bh4YjD-bq9z27-bD4txZ-bD4tye-dgEWqj-8AwwCb-a2hh5y-aGsxtr-7Rg5mV-7Rjmeb-7Rjm9U-7Rjm79-7RjmfS-7Rg5rR-7RjkVE-7RjmeU-7RjkUJ-7Rg5uK-7Rjm1C-7Rjmdh-7Rg5hM-7Rjmch-7Rjm95-7RjkS5-7Rg5iR-7Rjm2o-7Rjm5s-7Rjmgo-7RjkTS-7Rg5nM-7Rg5vv-7Rjm6m-7RjkWW-caM8Bm-dgtEDV-9p5VLa-7CdrXE|
At IISC we see taking a developmental view as being critical to effective collaborative and network-based approaches to social change. This is largely because of the complexity of the issues we are striving to address with our partners and the “adaptive” nature of the work. It is also because we hold an evolutionary perspective; that is, we see change and development as being part of the underlying dynamic of reality. As scientist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once declared, “We are moving!” And so we are interested in paying attention to and working with evolution as it occurs at different levels – individual, team/group, organization/institution, community, etc. Read More
August 21, 2013
As we enter into the last weeks of summer (yes, it’s true), I find myself becoming more reflective, slowing down a bit in anticipation of a seasonal transition. What comes to mind is this poem from Marge Piercy, for all that it has to offer in terms of thinking about harvesting, about reaping what we’ve sown through our care-full efforts, about going slow to go fast, and what it takes to do social change work well.