“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along those sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”
– Herman Melville
2017-2018 NLI cohort members engage in a team building exercise focused on the dimensions of collaborative success.
Last week I worked with the Backbone Team of Food Solutions New England to launch the second cohort of the Network Leadership Institute (NLI) at Ohana Camp in Fairlee, Vermont. This initiative has grown out of FSNE’s commitment to cultivating both thought leadership and network leadership“to support the emergence and viability of a New England food system that is a driver of healthy food for all, racial equity, sustainable farming and fishing, and thriving communities.” Another impetus for the NLI was a year spent doing system mapping and analysis that revealed four leverage areas for advancing a just, sustainable and democratically-owned and operated regional food system, including cultivating and connecting leadership (see image below). Read More
Food Solutions New England (FSNE) is a regional, collaborative network organized to “support the emergence of a New England food system that is a resilient driver of racial equity and food justice, sustainable farming and fishing, and thriving communities.”
For the past 5 years, IISC has supported FSNE to launch and structure itself as a formal network, as well as to concretize and evolve its core commitment to racial equity as it has become more diverse and inclusive and focused on systemic transformation. Over the winter, editorial staff from the Othering and Belonging Journal at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society solicited an article submission from FSNE to tell the story of why and how the network has operationalized its commitment to racial equity and food justice.
“While Othering processes marginalize people on the basis of perceived group differences, Belonging confers the privileges of membership in a community, including the care and concern of other members. As [john a.] powell has previously written, ‘Belonging means more than just being seen. Belonging entails having a meaningful voice and the opportunity to participate in the design of social and cultural structures. Belonging means having the right to contribute to, and make demands on, society and political institutions.'”
“You have to remember, every boundary is a useful bit of fiction.”
– Buckminster Fuller
One of the more memorable stories about my late father, who passed away 3 years ago this month, happened not long after the Great Recession began in 2008. At the time, he was on the board of a national organization devoted to the study and promotion of human consciousness and the connection between science and spirituality. During a phone meeting of board members, people got to talking about the economic crisis, at which point one member made the following remark: “It’s at times like these that it’s especially important to remember that we are all one.”
“Bullshit!” was my dad’s response (not prone to such outbursts on that board or in general).
After a momentary and no doubt stunned silence, he elaborated – “Clearly we are not one. Some people, a very few people, are making out like bandits from this crisis. Meanwhile of the so-called 99%, some have been much harder hit than others, their wealth decimated. How can we say we are one at a time like this?”
To be fair to my father and full in the storytelling, my dad acknowledged that he believed that it is important to recognize interdependence and shared humanity, and that how and when to do this is an important consideration. Which brings me to the quote from Buckminster Fuller above, a personal favorite and one that I seem to keep sharing recently. Fuller, the eminent systems theorist and design scientist, understood the interconnected nature of reality, as well as the human need and tendency to draw boundaries. Theoretically these boundaries are drawn to be of use to something and/or someone – to name important distinctions, focus attention, aid with analysis, etc. In fact boundaries, or at least difference, might be said to be crucial to life, as dynamic exchange is required to keep living systems alive. Yes, boundaries can be very useful . . . except when they’re not. Read More
“Re-examine all that you have been told . . . dismiss that which insults your soul.”
– Walt Whitman
Developmental theory is the source of some good healthy discussion within the Interaction Institute for Social Change. On the one hand, some point out that the notion of “stages of development” has been used to classify and oppress people, especially when theories come from privileged and powerful purveyors, are overly deterministic and linear, and do not account for cultural location and variation. On the other hand, some point to the “empowering” notion of evolution and development that can help liberate people from fixed and mechanistic views of the world and humanity. I had this all very much in mind as I read Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux. Laloux brings developmental and so-called “integral theory,” including the work of Ken Wilber, into the palpable realm of organizational practice and through his research, posits an evolutionary trajectory from aggressive (Red) to bureaucratic (Amber) to achievement-oriented (Orange) to culture/empowerment-oriented (Green) to self-actualizing/authentic (Teal) organizations.
|Photo by Ace Abendale Rothschild-Faber |http://www.flickr.com/photos/50809036@N02/5282577422/in/photolist-93NAe5-bATUbs-gV4zgZ-8pZXib-aajHgz-aaxd1T-bES8E1-aeZsVL-adC7oV-9ZbeNe-d6jhdm-aE8uVX-8ocwaF-a6Y5uR-7G2gQK-7Awvkg-93ruBR-bELXgv-8WABY3-8WxxEt-8E1NsT-8YsvVZ-93XFRM-bgKVuk-9JB9Ue-bdAYXM-d6jeZN-d6jePW-9hccxc-d6jh4s-8mraY5-dAkbkS-84LPQd-84HGNZ-84LPP7-9bALtz|
In the regional food system network development that IISC has been supporting, we have been making a habit of building certain rituals into our meetings. One is to invite offerings of various kinds to open and close meetings, an opportunity for people to share what matters most to them and bring more of what moves them to the conversation. The following poem has been making the rounds, and has become a favorite for some of the universals it seems to invoke. Wishing you all a deeply nourishing Thanksgiving. Read More
“The major problems of the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way people think.”
— Gregory Bateson
|Photo by amazon2008|http://www.flickr.com/photos/21654792@N03/3745280688/in/photolist-6GXxsY-6HCRqv-6L93Kt-6LFLKG-6MN2EA-6MZAwG-6NmnMj-6R9T78-6UuYYo-6VM6LM-6Wp5Qp-6ZcWpt-6ZHMrr-77FoRY-791JEy-79bwHB-7ax4Yo-7by5uN-7eRtnf-7jDnw3-7ohMBM-7qTm6G-9udNCU-bm9Sb8-asJWuq-fKs8H2-7Ayggf-9FUTKz-a5RCkJ-9rzSZ7-dZBjPo-8Hp3rc-bp5GBv-dwmDwx-djnQfa-dWAW1D-8KBQLy-8UdB66-8GFZ2z-7XBigb-8F2Gu4-7ZAMyi-87fnWU-8hZvM3-86ygbJ-81AMAg-9cYH2z-8eHptW-ei6RfC-hbUHL7-bDixAg|
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Joel Glanzberg. I had been hearing about Joel and his work from numerous trusted colleagues, including Bill Reed of Regenesis Group and Ginny McGinn of Center for Whole Communities. Joel describes himself as a builder, farmer, teacher, writer, storyteller, naturalist, and permaculturalist. And I would add to that, living systems thinker. Joel has cultivated a practice of seeing and working with patterns of life’s processes, and helps others to do this, for the sake of creating healthier and more whole communities of different kinds.
|Photo by Libby|http://www.flickr.com/photos/libbyandnicki/6337707632|
A number of months ago, I posted something on what I called “The Dimensions of Social Space,” the gist of which was the proposal that we are called to tend to different dimensions of our social being in our change work – the autonomous/individual, the communal/collective, and the transcendant/”divine.” When I wrote that post, I was thinking of these as three interlocking circles in a ven diagram. I have since evolved my thinking to see them as systems sitting in nested fashion, going from the lesser (individual) to the greater (divinity) in terms of complexity. Much of this development owes to the field of living systems thinking and the mentoring of Carol Sanford. Read More
In a rich and recent conversation about the upgrade of our very popular course, Facilitative Leadership, IISC deliverers addressed the question of which main points to instill through the addition of a new and framing segment on systems thinking. I offered the comment that we need to be sure to say that systems thinking is not monolithic, that there are different schools of thought and approaches within the field, and that we must also be clear about what our underlying cosmology is regarding systems thinking. Read More
“The most sustainable impact comes from our deriving meaning and then connecting that meaning to our purpose, to what we stand for, and to the contributions we make.”
-Dr. Monica Sharma
There is something about the invitation to health and wholeness and to talking about how to measure it that seems to be a real draw to our Whole Measures workshop, which we offer jointly with the Center for Whole Communities. I can see it in the eyes of many participants as they walk into the room – “Tell us how!” And there is a bit of a disruptive experience that occurs when we let people know it is not so formulaic. One of my favorite quotes comes from my mentor Carol Sanford who has said, “Best practice obliterates essence,” and I think it really applies to what we are talking about here. Read More
Blogging this morning from the Building Energy Conference, New England’s most established cross-disciplinary renewable energy and green building gathering. If you are here, come visit us at our IISC booth! One of the big topics of this year’s conference and trade show is thinking in terms of systems. In this spirit, the following post draws from an email that I recently sent to the convenor of a state-wide system change initiative that is poised to identify strategic points of leverage within the system and its component systems to nudge it in the direction of serving all people equitably in the state and ensuring community food security. Related to this goal is the desire to support a more robust local economy and to work synergistically with ecosystems. I believe the questions listed pertain to any complex dynamic system change effort, whether one is talking about food, education, or community energy use and production, and I welcome your thoughts . . . Read More
“We seem to have been living for a long time on the assumption that we can safely deal with parts, leaving the whole to take care of itself. But now the news from everywhere is that we have to begin gathering up the scattered pieces, figuring out where they belong, and putting them back together. For the parts can be reconciled to one another only within the pattern of the whole thing to which they belong.”
Throughout the past few years readers of this blog have seen some discussion about the tensions that exist between those working on individual behavior/spiritual change and those striving for structural transformation. Read More