Tag Archive: Massachusetts

February 19, 2018

Practice for Presence … and Possibility

“It’s not knowing what to do that counts, it’s knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.”

– Mantra from Facilitative Leadership for Social Change

Last week I had the privilege of co-leading a three day Facilitative Leadership for Social Change training for a group of health equity advocates in Springfield, Massachusetts. It had been a while since I had done a training of that length, and it was a nice opportunity to not only cover more material, but to deepen the conversation and practice. Along the way there were many good questions about what to do around various challenges when one is co-leading a collaborative change effort. And a common response was, “It depends.”

Every group is different, every circumstance is different, and while it might make sense to take some cues from what has been successful in other situations, the caution is not to assume that it will work, or work in the same way, in other situations. This is one reason that I personally do not like the phrase “best practice” when talking about collaborative and facilitative change work. Given the complexity of people and social systems, I find it more helpful to think about “promising practices.”

That said, a promising practice that came up time and time again in our three day training, was the practice or practicing, of ongoing devotion to muscle-building in leadership skills such as process design, facilitation, coaching (leading with listening and inquiry), systems thinking, visioning/imagining, mutual learning and collaborative decision-making/governance. And in undertaking such practice, we at IISC would suggest this is not about achieving perfection. The humbling and exciting thing about collaborative leadership, in my humble opinion, is that it is a life-long learning pursuit and an endless opportunity to deepen understanding of ourselves, others and living systems. For this reason, one of my mantras is:

Practice for presence, not for perfection.

That is, practice can help practitioners get beyond being caught up in simply “learning the scales” of collaborative leadership, in trying to get the skills “right.” Practice at its best can contribute to a state of being more fully present to what is happening in any given situation and being able to work with that in powerfully improvisational ways.

Furthermore, over the past year, there has been a clear call for practice and practices that are explicitly about cultivating spaces to hold difference and tension and trauma. That may be another order of presence characterized by a deeper tuning in and movement away from more transactional processes to ones that are emergent, co-created and geared towards supporting moral courage and imagination. What that can require is vulnerability and a humble sense of “being with.” What it stands to make possible, as opposed to business-as-usual, is growth and real movement forward, together.

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January 30, 2014

The Human Scale

“Life comes when you give people a chance to contribute something.”

– Coralie Winn

IISC board member Jamil Simon brought staff attention to the film The Human Scale a few weeks ago during a discussion about building the capacity of cities to collaborate amidst growing demographic complexity and other social as well as environmental challenges. The film is screening this very evening in Somerville, Massachusetts.

From the film’s website: “50 % of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Read More

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April 5, 2012

In Transition 2.0

This past weekend, I attended our local Eco-Festival in Arlington, MA and connected with members of the nascent Transition Town group.  They, and now we, are evidence of a growing movement of people interested in grounding solutions to climate change and natural resource depletion in local community.  The above trailer is for a film from the Transition Network that captures inspiring stories of Transition initiatives around the world, “responding to uncertain times with creativity, solutions and ‘engaged optimism’.”

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October 13, 2011

Connecting for Change

For the third year in a row, I am looking forward to presenting at the Connecting for Change conference, also known as Bioneers by the Bay, sponsored by the Marion Institute. The community of New Bedford, Massachusetts becomes the host and scenic back-drop to some amazing speakers, well known and not so well known, as well as presentations by an incredible array of people doing important work in our New England region. Read More

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December 17, 2009

Claiming Nonindependence

ice storm

|Photo by Digital Agent|http://www.flickr.com/photos/specialagent/2241064739|

It was at this time a year ago that I made the trip to Keene, New Hampshire to teach my final weekend Change Models class of the semester at Antioch New England.  Just a few days prior, the entire region had been rocked by an ice storm for the ages.  When the storm hit I was in Maine.  Driving home the next day I heard reports about the worst damage being concentrated in western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.  All that had slipped my mind when I got up early on Sunday morning to drive to Keene.  It came rushing back when I got off of Route 2 heading north and the world turned dark and quiet.  Everything in sight was cocooned in ice.  Trees sagged.  Homes along the roadside for miles were without lights.  Businesses were shuttered.  The awesome force of nature really began to sink in.

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