Tag Archive: structures

December 27, 2018

2018, The Year of Love: A Retrospective

“I need love
Not some sentimental prison
I need god
Not the political church
I need fire
To melt the frozen sea inside me
I need love.”

– Sam Phillips

Image by Luke, Ma, “Love by Nature,” shared under provisions of Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

I started this year with a post focused on love, and this idea that 2018 would be the year of love. This thinking wasn’t offered through rose-colored glasses, but from a shared sense and conviction that love would be required to see the year through. And not just any kind of love. In that original post there were a few definitions and quotes that we have been playing with at IISC, including these:

“All awakening to love is spiritual awakening… All the great social movements for freedom and justice in our society have promoted a love ethic.” 

– bell hooks

“Justice is what love looks like in public.”

– Cornel West

“To show compassion for an individual without showing concern for the structures of society that make him [sic] an object of compassion is to be sentimental rather than loving.”

– William Sloane Coffin

“Love is seeing the other as a legitimate other.”

– Humberto Maturana

“The ultimate act of love is allowing ourselves and others to be complex.” 

– Nora Bateson Read More
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December 22, 2014

Making the Invisible Visible

“As long as it remains invisible, it is guaranteed to remain insoluble.”

Margaret Heffernan, from Willful Blindness

Photo by Marie Aschehoug-Clauteaux

As I look back on 2014 through the lens of the work we have done at IISC supporting networks and movements for social justice and system change, one of the most significant themes that I’ve distilled is the value of “making the invisible visible.” This month I’ve facilitated a number of reflection sessions with diverse groups to gauge the development and impact they have felt and observed from our work over the course of the year. I tend to ask people how they see change happening at different levels: self, group, larger systems (organization, neighborhood, community, state, region, etc.). I also like to ask them to reflect via the use of stories, which I find often help to capture and convey developmental processes.

What has come from this sharing is that even though some of the big goals around equity and sustainability remain elusive, there has been movement and a significant part of this development comes down to seeing what had previously been unseen. While the methods for getting to this recognition have varied – from system mapping and analysis to network mapping to structural and power analysis to learning journeys to dialogue and tackling difficult conversations – by creating ample space to see, share and suppose, there has been significant deepening of relationships (to self, other, the work), change processes, and potential impact.

So what is being made visible? Read More

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June 26, 2014

Network-Inspired Questions for Change

networked inquiry

Picking up on the spirit of yesterday’s post about asking “beautiful questions” and inspired by a staff challenge to articulate lines of inquiry stemming from IISC’s core lenses, I offer this post.  It distills some of the underlying questions that adopting a “network lens” inspires for social change work.  Please add, adjust, edit, and rift!

  • How does your organization/network/change initiative strive to add value to (rather than duplicate) existing efforts?  What do you do best, and how might you then connect to the rest?
  • What are you doing to support and strengthen connections and alignment within and beyond your organization/network/change initiative?

Read More

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April 3, 2013

New Structures for Health and Security

“Structure is purpose expressed through design.”

– Marjorie Kelly, Owning Our Future

Detroit Voices: A Community Calls Out for Change from Phase 4 Media on Vimeo.

The new food movement, which is really several related but distinct movements, is a beacon of hope in this country.  You can find evidence of this in many diverse settings, from Flint, Michigan to Northeast Iowa to northern Vermont to Oakland, California.  While there are important distinctions in terms of emphasis and core players, one cross-cutting theme appears to be that we must create new structures to better nourish ourselves (calorically, economically, socially) through policy change, different land use patterns, new infrastructure, stronger relationships with ecosystems, new enterprises, and community building.  From the growing number of food policy councils, to alternative financing mechanisms, practices like permaculture and agroforestry, and more intentional network building, people are setting the stage for some significant societal shifts. Read More

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August 16, 2011

An Ecosystem for Movement

The great Kevin Kelly recently wrote a post titled “Cities are Immortal, Companies Die.”  He states that

Both are types of networks, with different destinies. There are two basic network forms: organisms or ecosystems. Companies are like organisms, while cities are like ecosystems.

This is a phenomenally helpful distinction.  Our work here at IISC includes network building as well as leadership and organizational development, and we don’t find these to be mutually exclusive.

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June 8, 2011

Positivity and Expanding Truth

“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.”

André Gide


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

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May 20, 2011

Love vs. Sentimentality

wscoffin2

|www.harvardsquarelibrary.org|http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/cfs/william_sloan_coffin_jr.php|

“To show compassion for an individual without showing concern for the structures of society that make him an object of compassion is to be sentimental rather than loving.”

William Sloane Coffin

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November 4, 2010

Surfacing Systems

systems

|Image from Pegasus Communications|http://www.pegasuscom.com/course_preview/gettingstarted/whyiceberg.htm|

Systems thinking is in the air.  This past weekend I was delighted to have the opportunity to teach an introductory course on the topic with John McGah of Give Us Your Poor.  Together we took 17 graduate students in the UMass-Boston MSPA program through an intensive and interactive look at the world through the systems lens.  Even before we got things rolling on Saturday morning, the pre-reading (Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems) had provoked two people to say that they were already seeing the world differently (and more clearly).  By the end of our 36 hour romp, which included guest presentations by David Peter Stroh and Paul Plotczyk, students were saying that all public sector employees, nay EVERYONE, should be required to take a systems thinking course.  All of this enthusiasm comes just a week in advance of Pegasus Communications’ annual systems thinking conference here in Boston, which has a focus on “Fueling New Cycles of Success.”  I am very excited to attend, and look forward to building upon the wisdom I’ve gleaned thus far about surfacing and living with systems (human and otherwsie), which includes these gems: Read More

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