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Leadership in the process arts
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    A few years ago, Juanita Brown shared a very powerful image with me. She talked about how those of us that practice dialogue and facilitation in a deep way have access to various gateways that take us into a “central garden.” All of our pathways invite us into this garden where we come to discover and realize something about the role of dialogue, meaning making and collaboration. It is a set of realizations that lies beneath the practice of methods. On a call today with my friend Mark McKergow, we were discussing this image  There are a bunch of us ...

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    Evaluation is such an influential constraint in organizational and community life. When resources and attention are tied to evaluation results, a kind of tautology gets set up. One begins managing projects towards the evaluation outcomes, in order to give the best chance of an initiative surviving and continuing to attract resources. One of the things I appreciate about developmental evaluation is its deliberate engagement with emergence. Making sense of emergence however can be a really time consuming affair, and so I’m thinking about how we can use good use of time to use dialogue and collective meaning making to help ...

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    As Bronagh Gallagher and I have been musing about our offering on complexity, facilitation and social justice, we have been discussing the shift in activism from ideology to evolutionary. Ideological movements try to coalesce activities and people along a line towards a fixed end state. Evolutionary movements start with intentions, principles and move outward in multiple directions along vectors.  They adjust and learn as they go, and they both respond to and change their context. This nice post from Network Centered Advocacy capgtues what I’m talking about by first looking at how a lacrosse player’s artistry evolves in changing contexts ...

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    I have been spending my Saturday inside watching a bit of soccer and engaging with Donald Trump supporters on twitter.  You might consider that a waste of time. I loved the soccer (Tottenham survived a thrilling FA Cup scare) and I learned some stuff about Trump supporters, and I think I have one strategy that might be worth trying. This is all predicated on a hypothesis about what Donald Trump is doing. I believe that he has every intention to continue the trend in US government (and G20 governments in general) of ensuring that a small group of ultra wealthy ...

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    My friends over at the Social Labs Revolution website have been fielding questions about the prototyping phase of labwork and today published a nice compilation of prototyping resources. It’s worth a visit. It got me thinking this morning about some of the tools I use for planning these days. Tools for prototyping abound – discerning what’s needed, trying things out, iterating and learning.  In my experience, working on complex challenges requires us to master first of all the mindset of complexity work and then deploy tools.  We have to be careful about the tools we employ because some are great for ...

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  • 03/13/17--06:40: Every herring is a word
  • Yesterday I spent most of the day honouring people who have worked for decades to preserve and grow the Skwxu7mesh language.  I’m on the advisory board of an organization called Kwi Awt Stelmexw, which supports Skwxumesh language learning and fluency.  Kwi Awt Stelmexw translates roughly as “everyone who is here in the present moment” meaning ancestors and descendants.  It is for these people that we are all doing our work. There are only a handful of fully fluent Skwu7mesh speakers currently.  When I say a handful, I mean 7.  My friend Khelsilem has been ramping up fluency capacity with an ...

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  • 05/22/17--11:38: The VALUE of invitation
  • This month I am in the middle of delivering another very cool online offering with Beehive Productions on the art of invitation. It’s a three session program focusing on the practice of invitation as it relates to participatory meetings, longer term participatory strategic initiatives and even organizational design.  Michael Herman will be joining us next week for the “Inviting Organization” module.  He’s really the guy that got me thinking about invitation way back in 2000 when I first came across his work as an Open Space colleague. While Rowan and Amy and I were thinking about content we discussed some ...

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  • 06/07/17--04:09: Understanding vision
  • “Vision” is one of those words that is overused in our work and the reason it is so elusive is that is is so context dependant. You can have a vision of a full bath tub of steaming hot water. You can have a vision of making your home run on rain water alone. You can have a vision of safe drinking water for all humans. The first is simple, short term and you have all the tools and abilities to make it happen. The second is more complicated and you require a few experts to make it happen, but ...

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  • 08/03/17--04:23: The creative challenge
  • Nadia has a small piece this morning on one element of good design, reflecting on a book review by Ian Pinasoo.  I like the way she puts this: Great workshops are based on a creative challenge. A creative challenge is real and not fake. It matters. A creative challenge engages, pulls us in and takes us on a discovery tour. Responding to a creative challenge is like the hero’s journey of accepting a call, going through the process of revelation and returning with deep insights. I would add that if the challenge is anchored to a common need, and the people you have ...

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    Last week I was a guest keynote facilitator at Econous2017, the annual gathering of Canadian community economic development practitioners. In all, 450 people from across the country gathered together in a traditional conference of panels, workshops and tours to learn and develop their own practices of social entrepreneurship, community development, planning and research. The conference organizers, led by the courageous Barb Davies of Momentum Consulting were resolved to make at least part of the conference a participatory plenary. The idea was to put the intelligence of the network to use and to ground and apply the learning and experiences of ...

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  • 12/04/17--19:10: Better decision making
  • At the end of a couple of weeks in Europe and being here in Glasgow during this past week has heightened my sensitivity to how democracy, devoid of deliberation and focused only on numeric results, has been hijacked and rendered ineffective for making complex decisions related to governance of complex issues.  The UK is currently paying the price for a ridiculous decision made in June of 2016 to leave the European Union.  Whatever you think of the merits of Brexit, there can be no denying that the method for doing so has been deeply flawed both in its democratic implementation ...

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    In the Cynefin framework, the domains are really shades with some clear boundaires.  Strategic work using Cynefin is about making various moves between different domains for different reasons.  This is called Cynefin dynamics, and there’s an old but good paper on it here. In Cynefin dynamics there is a strategic move of “taking a shallow dive into chaos” which is useful for strategic purposes when one needs to break pattern entrainment.  It is a very useful move in teaching contexts when we are trying to get people to let go of some of their fixed ways of seeing and doing ...