Three Years Later

April 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Last weekend I had a most unique privilege.  I facilitated the final retreat of a three-year process.  I have been working with the Barrboletas, the Barr Fellows cohort of 2009, since their inaugural learning journey to Brazil in June of that year.  We have a book worth of documentation.  The fellowship as a whole will be highlighted in the May issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  This post is a celebration of their last retreat as a cohort – they will continue to participate in an exciting plethora of network activities as they are moved and able.

Our closing circle was a true moment of beauty and a powerful affirmation of our theory of change.  Each of the fellows took the time to appreciate the transformative nature of their experience.  They spoke of being individually transformed – personally, spiritually.  And they spoke of the perceptible power in their transformed relationships with one another.

The fellows spoke of a bond of trust, a sense of authentic relationship and an experience of love.  To sit among them and to hold that space is to see the very fabric of a city’s civic life as it knits itself into a new and dramatically more positive formation.

The fellows spoke directly of their commitment to support one another in the most practical of ways.  They credited the fellowship with creating conditions that allow them to cut through the morass of organizational constraints and straight into collaboration.  They explicitly spoke to the logic of emergence as they affirmed that they did not need to invent a collaborative project for the sake of working together.

The fellows understand that their web of relationship can be called upon as the need arises.  They look forward to working with each other in decentralized ways.  They are free of the idea that the only thing worth doing is what they can all do together.  This network is nimble.  It can work in different combinations.

This cohort of fellows explicitly endorsed the facilitated process.  Participants acknowledged that three years of group process had allowed them to break away from conditioned ways of interacting.  The fellows appreciated a process that allowed them to get below the posturing of the head space into the connectedness of the heart space.  By recognizing each other’s humanity, by sharing one another’s vulnerabilities, by intersecting at the points of shared passion, the fellows have successfully woven a web that will continue to propel them forward even beyond the bounds of this three-year experience.

Our circle’s “talking object” was a vase that held earth from Brazil and earth from each of their homes.  This earth held each of their intentions as explicitly articulated at the beginning of their three-year process.  What I witnessed that Friday night in Baltimore was the manifestation of a most beautiful intention – an intention to build beloved community.  What I witnessed that night was a complete experience of Grace.

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  • Sara Oaklander says:

    Beautifully captured, Gibrán. I too had the privilege of working with this extraordinary group of leaders throughout the three years of their fellowship, and bearing witness to their closing circle was a powerful experience. I was deeply affected by hearing them speak from their hearts about the bonds of trust and authentic relationships that have emerged over these three years, thanks to the Barr Fellowship.

  • Curtis says:

    G, it must be so deeply satisfying to have been a part of that 3 year journey. You remind me of one of my mentor’s practices to never engage with a client that does not commit for three years!

  • Gibrán says:

    Sara!!! Deep gratitude for the unbelievable ways in which you have supported this process and the fellows every step of the way! This could not have happened without you!

    Curtis – a privilege indeed, and yes – transformation happens in organic time!

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