December 10, 2014
“What’s most systemic is personal . . . and interpersonal.”
– rift on a Peter Senge quote
At IISC, one of the three core lenses that we bring to our collaborative capacity building for social change work is love as a force for social transformation. How this lens impacts what we do as practitioners depends on context, though often it comes down to ensuring that there is time for people in the collaborative change efforts we support to connect on a personal and interpersonal level. One way to do this is to invite people to share stories and do this beyond the parameters for their professionally defined roles. I did this recently with a group and as is often the case, there were a few areas of resistance in the collective body. “Why are we doing this?” asked someone with a hint of consternation. That became my opening. Here is what I offer as a response to discomfort around what some people call “touchy feely” exercises.
Why are we doing this?
- In general terms, to expand collective potential.
- To help each of us to be more fully seen and appreciated for who we are, beyond abstractions and implicit assumptions. When people do not feel seen or appreciated they can disengage, or “act out” to get the attention they want.
- To deepen connection, build trust and increase social velocity.
- To test and stretch the boundaries of “appropriate” and “legitimate” ways of knowing and being with one another. Otherwise people can default to ways that privilege those most comfortable with certain ways of being (often strictly professional and cerebral).
- To grow “positivity” – that is, to expand the overall collectively felt sense of positive emotions (which includes pride related to the demonstrated ability to have and hold difficult conversations). Positivity has been scientifically linked with greater physical and psychological capacity to see and take in more (of systems and one another).
I offer these, like a yoga teacher, with compassion for any expressed discomfort or tightness felt in different parts of the collective body. And the invitation is to breathe through this and to see what might be loosened up for the benefit of the whole. For another take on this, I highly recommend my friend Joe Hsueh’s piece “Why the Human Touch is Key to Unlocking Systems Change.”
Curious to hear your own experiences connecting what is most personal and interpersonal with systemic change.
September 3, 2014
Photo by Tela Chhe
One mantra I have for working with groups is, “If you’ve seen one group, you’ve seen one group.” Part of the welcome and challenging nature of collaboration is that in each instance we are dealing with a unique organism or constellation of human beings coming together to get something done. As complex living systems, groups of people are not prone to simple “best practices” for getting them working in a prescribed way. There certainly are some “promising practices,” including what we teach at IISC in our Facilitative Leadership for Social Change courses. Still collaboration, including the practice of group facilitation, is a heuristic undertaking – an experience-based approach to problem solving, learning, and discovery that suggests solutions which are not guaranteed to be optimal. Read More
March 13, 2014
At last week’s gathering of the Tillotson Fund Community Practitioners Network, Carole Martin and I facilitated a session on network/multi-stakeholder engagement techniques. This built upon some work we’ve been doing with the cohort around “positivity” practice, and the question of how, beyond individual practice, we can spread the increased capacity that positive emotions bring to groups, organizations, and networks. To this end we explored some of the methods from Art of Hosting, and also engaged in some of the practices of Liberating Structures. Our leading question was, What about the way in which we engage with one another can facilitate the best of what we have to offer to a shared endeavor? Read More
December 5, 2013
|Photo by Manuela de Pretis|http://www.flickr.com/photos/24141546@N06/8559396140/in/photolist-e3n9gw-cTpPPN-d1dvTd-d1dvC9-d1dvto-d1dvjW-d1dvbm-cZuvob-cZunHN-9zX8Sz-ax3pnQ-e4wUZj-eaf1p3-bEqAP4-9zJw2f-brvfdL-bEqguP-brvtTs-bEqo76-8Eev3a-bdwXog-9kfqCB-9HgmuC-7L5k6b-ax9ASs-9Nt9k5-c62iqA-bEqygR-f5eTyJ-f4ZDuv-bEqzcZ-bEqoDB-brvFWY-brvpph-83RYMt-bEqrup-fCnaiV-bEqfpi-bEqkhM-bEqpCK-bEqnBe-bEqkVM-bEqdpz-e46RkD-e46RGP-e4cw9J-e4cwju-e46Sxk-e46Rqx-e4cubU-bEqzCR|
When I take time to slow down, as I was able to do over the holiday break last week, my interest is refueled in practices that support our ability to maintain perspective and a sense of effective agency in the world. My line of inquiry is not simply around what can keep us energized, pull us back from the edge, or deal with burn-out, but focused on how we can align our internal state with external aspirations in an integrated way and grow ourselves so we can help evolve larger systems. My thinking and reading often takes me back to the work of Barbara Fredrickson, the emotions scientist based at the University of North Carolina, as well as to a host of others in the fields of positive and social psychology. Having revisited some of these writings over the break, here are 10 recommended practices for personal and social resilience and development: Read More
May 17, 2012
|Photo by Martin Pettitt|http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdpettitt/454595511|
A Cherokee Legend . . .
An old man is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he says to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.” Read More
March 21, 2012
“Ontology transcends interest.”
-john a. powell
|Photo from fotologic|http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotologic/3108613104|
At last week’s Transforming Race conference, Kirwan Institute founder john a. powell gave a powerful and compelling presentation about some of the false binaries that he says we have embraced in this country, to our own collective detriment. This includes pitting “whiteness” against “blackness” and “public” vs. “private” spaces in such a way as to lose sight of the larger game that is happening around us. Read More
January 25, 2012
Photo from xinem
Picking up from Gibran’s post yesterday and continuing in the vein of follow-up to our LLC webinar on collective leadership, I want to respond to some of the questions we did not have a chance to answer or answer fully from participants, including requests for examples of collective leadership in action and inquiries about blocks and how to work through or overcome them. Read More
August 4, 2011
|Photo by ernohannink|http://www.flickr.com/photos/ernohannink/3931122112|
Last week’s post on “Negativity and Self-Limiting Advocacy” ended up setting off quite a conversation. In light of that, I thought I might further flesh out some of what Barbara Fredrickson recommends via her book Positivity in a chapter entitled “A New Toolkit.” Here she enumerates ways to enhance overall positivity, and therefore broaden our individual and collective minds, build resourcefulness and resilience, and flourish in the direction of our highest aspirations. Here is what she suggests, based on rigorous research: Read More
July 28, 2011
“When the only tool you have is a hammer,
every problem begins to resemble a nail.”
|Image by petesimon|http://www.flickr.com/photos/petesimon/4289748362|
Someone once said, “Advocates can be hell to work with, but they make good ancestors.” Agreed. And . . . Read More
June 29, 2011
“It is time we recognized that ‘the system’ is how we work together.”
|Image from Carlos Gershenson|http://complexes.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html|
I’m writing this post from Quincy, Massachusetts where I’m attending the International Conference on Complex Systems. My head is very full and there is much to process that will no doubt spur further posts. A question I brought with me into these proceedings is what we are learning from complexity (in fields such as systems biology, network theory, epidemiology) about developing stronger collective regenerative capacity, the ability to work with each other and our various contexts in order to both survive and thrive (co-evolve). So here is a first take, in alliterative fashion: Read More
June 8, 2011
“Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.”
September 9, 2010
I’ve spent a few blog posts over the last year or so looking at how the research around positive emotions and outlooks connects with more effective collaboration and change work (see “Accentuate the Positivity”: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Just a couple of weeks ago, inspired by Erik Gregory’s LeaderLens presentation, I considered the connection between positive leadership and sustainability, looking at the way in which the creation of positive environments might lead to greater adaptive capacity. Having recently explored more of the research of psychologist Barbara Frederickson, I see a greater case to be made for maintaining positive outlooks, individually and collectively, as they increase our ability to engage in creatively adaptive and regenerative work at deeper systemic levels. Read More
|Photo by mattwi1s0n|http://www.flickr.com/photos/piccadillywilson/132561245|
Another school year begins and with it we students of life are filled with excitement and perhaps some nervousness about what will be asked of us. For me, I look forward to work that will keep me deeply aligned with purpose and, yes, challenged. No doubt there will be moments when my outlook will be buffeted. I will admit to being someone who in the genetic cortical lottery was not bestowed the rose colored glasses. It’s not that I didn’t get a winning ticket, I just have to work for my earnings.
And as I have blogged about in the past, I am aware and research shows that keeping a net positive outlook can be critical to heightening collaborative outcomes and staying engaged in the tough times. So what are some steps for staying on point without veering towards disconnected or disconnecting pessimism? Read More