Monday, February 27, 2006
Moving to WordpressI'm switching over to Wordpress, and so blogging might be light until I can get everything tweaked just right.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Blogger for five years of great free services. I have had very few problems with Blogger over the years, and I'll still be using it for several blogs and bits and pieces I'm working on.
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to using Wordpress and I ask your indulgence to bear with me through this change.
Tags: wordpress, blogger
Thursday, February 23, 2006
What's up with Blogger?I've been losing posts somehow. My post on waiting and emergence shows up in my archives, but not on the front page here or in my dashboard.
Anyone know what's up?
Time for a move to Wordpress?
Tags: blogger, wordpress
MashupCamp uses Open SpaceHere's a great story from MashUp Camp on how an Open Space Technology unconference worked. The article concludes with this quote:
'The amazing thing about these camps, using open space methodology, is they shouldn't work,' said Ross Mayfield, CEO of Socialtext, which makes social software for collaboration. 'Like a wiki, it turns out that some very simple and open rules have shockingly positive results--because people, on the whole, are good. Open events like these have become almost commonplace in the Valley. In fact, I'd say they are a key driver for the current wave of innovation. One part wiki, one part space and two parts people, add water, and voila!'
Tags: openspacetech, openspace, facilitation, unconference
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Strengths and weaknesses of volunteer networksI'm reposting this list holus bolus from Peter Levine's blog. It's an excellent summary of what we can expect from volunteer networks, and very top of mind for me at the moment:
1) Volunteers will plan and run meetings and conferences, even doing hard, detailed work on invitation lists, agendas, and menus. But they will not reliably write up the results of meetings for public distribution. After a meeting, writing feels like a chore, and there's usually no specific deadline. Therefore, many meetings leave no tangible public record.
2) Volunteers will write grant proposals, because proposals are plans that determine the work that will actually be done later on. However, they will not do the other work involved required to obtain grants, such as identifying potential funders. If they have their own contacts with foundations, most won't share them.
3) Volunteers will handle pleasant human interactions, but will avoid difficult relationships.
4) Volunteers may provide regular, written information under their own names and control, but few will contribute in a sustained way to collective writing projects. That problem can be overcome with scale but is serious in small networks.
5) Volunteers will generate wonderful ideas but are much less likely to implement them.
Tags: networks, volunteering, learning
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
RIP Jockey Shabalala
Jockey Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo has died at age 62. Even people who are not fans of world music know the legacy of this man's work. Jockey was the founder of LBM, although he took a backseat to his brother who sings the lead for the group.
According to a report on CBC today, he chose the name because "Ladysmith" was his home township, "Black" was for the colour of the strongest oxen, and "Mambazo" means to cut down with an axe, a reference to the fact that the group started out singing in contests and that it would lead its competition in shreds.
Here is a track to commermerate Jockey's passing.
Noticing fieldsSubmitted for your consideration, as they used to say on The Twilight Zone...
I am a newcomer to the notion of "morphogenetic fields" - basically fields that contain information whereby social or biological structures take shape (see more at Wikipedia)- but whether they exist or not I'm keenly aware of something like that happening in working with groups.
Yesterday I was working with a small group and we saw something happen that surprised me. The field within which we are working is philanthropy and we are designing a program that will help Aboriginal non-profits develop capacity. This work is supported by foundations and other funding and has a great deal of goodwill associated with it. Our work has taken us into designing a program that is based on sharing, free exchange of materials and learning and funding. Our language is full of the language of gifting, sharing and capacity building.
The participants in our design consultation groups were given an honorarium for being in attendance, and yesterday several of those participants donated their honorarium to one organization that provides meals to homeless folks. The gesture was out of the blue, and had no connection to what we were talking about when the first person volunteered their money. That made me curious about where the volition for doing so had sprung from.
I think that as a facilitator, a lot had to do with how we were shaping space, or shaping the field. The conversations throughout the day were about this very thing, and then to have the behaviour manifest so clearly and so out of the blue made me wonder about the power of shaping space, awakening moments, and working with morphogenetic fields. Several folks have been commenting here recently about this idea of shaping space and awakening moments. Here is a concrete example of how doing so creates emergent phenomena like the sudden donation of $500 to a mobile soup kitchen.
Categories: facilitation, gift, morphogenetic+fields,
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Free speech, responsible listeningFrom Jack Ricchiuto's blog:
I want to riff off the comment on the 'Free Speech' post by zenmaenad: In my experience, when the issue seems to be free speech, the deeper issue usually has to do with responsible *listening*.
It surfaces a significant distinction between free speech disconnected from listening and free speech that flows from listening.
I've been thinking about this in a variety of contexts, but the one that comes to mind is the kind of listening we do when we are receiving a teaching. Traditionally, in First Nations communities and in other traditional settings, when Elders are teaching, listeners engage in a kind of deliberate discernment. The point is to hear the underlying truth of the story being told, to believe not the truth of the story's "facts" but the truth of the myth itself.
This came up elsewhere this week with a post at Anecdote as well, about the truth contained in narratives. I think this arises largely because in the west we have forgotten these practices of listening to stories and observing the world as interpretational acts, in which we see everything around us as a teaching. The history of the past 500 years has been the history of trying to figure out how to reach an objective consensus about things. This weighty cultural thread has created a situation where conversations about stories, if they are conversations at all, seem to be about clarifying the facts.
The deeper truths, the embedded teachings, are lost if we put too much weight on this. That's important because if you are setting out into the world to learn something, whether it is a personal quest, or with a group, on behalf of an organization or as a member of an inquiry team, simply getting at the facts does nothing to propel your trajectory to a new level. Instead, you are left solely with the facts and very little else to suggest how one might transcend the situation that gave rise to those facts. Developing the capacity to hear all stories as teachings is an incredibly valuable practice.
Categories: facilitation, dialogue
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Listening to some wonderful podcasts from Alan Watts. In the current series, Images of God, which is made up from talks given during his lifetime, he is delivering all kinds of angles on the divine.
In the third installment of this series, he was talking about school, journeys and the dance. The point of a dance or a piece of music, is not the end, says Watts. If it was, then we would only have composers that wrote finales and audiences would only go to hear great final chords, or see people in their final positions.
No, the point of a piece of music is the way one experiences time. It's all about the journey, the movement from here to there, the texture of moments that music or dances imparts.
From this he draws a parallel with schooling. We school in this society as if there is an end in sight, a point at which we are heading. In so doing, we teach people to sacrifice the moment for the delayed gratification of the end. And of course the end never comes. One grade finishes and the next begins. High school ends and university begins. University ends and work begins and work is simply more of the same, chasing promotions, until at some point one wakes up and realizes that one has arrived. And in fact one has always arrived and always been arriving, but we miss it constantly, and we school our children and ourselves into missing it completely as well.
Life as dance. Life as the middle phrase of the middle movement of a violin concerto, moving right on to the next one..
Categories: alanwatts, unschooling
Friday, February 10, 2006
Republished piece on First Nations and the perfect economic stormI piece I wrote here after the BALLE conference in June was republished on the Sustainable Review website.
Nice of them to re-publish my work. Would have been nicer if they had contacted me and asked me to fix the typos. Ah well...the price of glory!
Categories: firstnations, sustainability, local, economy, BALLE
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Maori voice with humbackFrom the logs of The Whalesong Project, located in Kihei on Maui:
We witnessed a beautiful and unusual, from a modern western perspective, event this week. Raina Ferris visited us from Aotearoa, New Zealand, and we took her out on the ocean to support her cultural interest and connection to the whales. Raina is a Maori kai-karanga tahuna (spiritual chanter) and professor of Maori studies at Te Wanganga O Raukawa in Otaki. She came to Maui to share Maori tradition, and to further research on ancient ties between Maui and Aotearoa - alluded to in the ancestral chants of her clan. Those of us who saw the movie Whalerider witnessed Maori chanting and belief systems that connect the Maori to Hawai'i, and to the whales. Paikea, the young woman who inherited the name of the Maori 'prophet' who came to Aotearoa on the back of a whale, from Hawai'i, chanted - and the whales came. We witnessed this in real life when Raina performed her Haka - prayers in a chanting format. We cut the engines and drifted in the wind and waves as Raina chanted from the bow and we were followed by a mother and calf on the surface. And a male with a powerful voice stayed below the boat and sang a beautiful, powerful, soulful song. Those of us who have been listening closely to the songs of these whales for over five years now were surprised to hear the characteristics of the song change rapidly and dramatically. There was a strong impression that there was an unexplainable interaction between Raina and the whales...
I think this is not a haka, but a powhiri, if I'm not mistaken. Hakas are war chants, and this sounds like a powhiri, the kind of song sung on the marae to welcome vistors. Please correct me if I'm wrong. The song is haunting, and especially the way the humpback seems to respond. While I was in Maui last month, we went whalewatching and saw 20 humpbacks and sat transfixed listening to them sing as well. You can find more about Maori whale songs at folksong.org.nz
By the way, the Parking Lot soundtrack, a list of all the mp3's I have been collecting here over the past year is hosted at Webjay. You can go visit and stream the whole thing. It's a pretty good listen, if I do say so myself.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Sometimes facilitation is like thisAs a facilitator, there are days when a well planned process gets derailed by a million little unexpected things. It's at those times that a little calm serenity and well timed ducking comes in handy. You do your best to hang on, and harvest whatever lands in your boat.
This video captures that feeling perfectly.
Storytelling, reflection and learning in real timeThanks to a link at plep, I stumbled today upon the journals of the Apollo 11 astronauts. There is a mass of material at this site, but what I have been finding most interesting is the transcriptions of the debriefing sessions that the astronauts went through when they returned to earth. A lot of the details are technical and full of acronyms and other jargon, but certain sections stand out. For example, here is a section from the debrief where Armstrong and Aldrin, the first two men on the moon, are talking about learning to walk:
I don't think there is such a thing as running. It's a lope and it's very hard to just walk. You break into this lope very soon as you begin to speed up.
I can best describe a lope as having both feet off the ground at the same time, as opposed to walking where you have one foot on the ground at all times. In loping, you leave the ground with both feet and come down with one foot in a normal running fashion. It's not like an earth run here, because you are taking advantage of the low gravity.
The difference there is that in a run, you think in terms of moving your feet rapidly to move fast, and you can't move your feet any more rapidly than the next time you come in contact with the surface. In general, you have to wait for that to occur.
And you are waiting to come down. So the foot motion is actually fairly slow, but both feet are off the ground simultaneously. You can cover ground pretty well that way. It was fairly comfortable, but at the end of this trip, going out there and back, I was already feeling like I wanted to stop and rest a little. After about 500 feet of this loping with a 1-minute stop out there in the middle to take pictures, I was ready to slow down and rest.
The transcript is full of these kinds of reflective learnings. Reading through, one comes away with the sense of how important story is in reinforcing learnings. There was much that the astronauts had to do for the first time during their mission, things that they couldn't practice on Earth or things that were different under the conditions of being in space. It's these things that make the best storytelling, and you can see them trying to make meaning of their experiences.
Here's another section. This time Aldrin and Armstrong are talking about the colour of the moon's surface:
Probably the most surprising thing to me, even though I guess we suspected a certain amount of this, was the light and color observations of the surface. The down-Sun area was extremely bright. It appeared to be a light tan in color, and you could see into the washout region reasonably well. Detail was obscured somewhat by the washout, but not badly. As you proceeded back toward cross-Sun, brightness diminished, and the color started to fade, and it began to be more gray. As we looked back as far as we could from the LM windows, the color on the surface was actually a darker gray. I'd say not completely without color, but most of the tan had disappeared as we got back into that area, and we were looking at relatively dark gray. In the shadow, it was very dark. We could see into the shadows, but it was difficult.
We could see very small gradations in color that were the result of very small topographical changes.
Of course, when we actually looked at the material, particularly the silt, up close it did, in fact, turn out to be sort of charcoal gray or the color of a graded lead pencil. When you're actually faced with trying to interpret this kind of color and that light reflectivity, it is amazing.
When illuminated, it did have a gray appearance, very light gray.
Wouldn't you say it is something like the color of that wall? It isn't very far away from what it looked like. Yet when you look at it close, it's a very peculiar phenomenon.
It actually feels like a privilege to be sitting in on this conversation. It inspires me into a similar practice with facilitation events, debriefing with clients and partners as well in a way that is story-based learning.
Categories: learning, storytelling, astronauts
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Open and closed language in facilitationAt Anecdote,Andrew has teamed up with friend Viv McWaters in an innovative community of practice exercise. They are running a three month long learning group on the uses of open and closed language among facilitators:
Our focus is on the language facilitators use to encourage or discourage a group discussion. This reflective practice will run over 3 months and for those participating we will provide reminders, feedback and stories from other participants. We aim to share our learnings and findings at a workshop for some upcoming Australasian facilitation conference... If you would like to join in on this reflective practice, send either Viv (firstname.lastname@example.org) or myself (email@example.com) an email and we will join you in to our program.
I signed up for it. It should prove to be an interesting exercise and should also contribute much to my understanding of the four practices of open space, and especially opening and inviting. Join us!
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Open Space Practice Retreat, April 18-20Michael Herman and I are pleased to announce a three day Open Space Technology practice retreat to cultivate the essense of Open Space leadership April 18-20 here on Bowen Island. This is an intensive retreat for leaders, managers, facilitators, consultants, community activists, and anyone else who wants to open more space for renewal, visioning, learning and productivity -- in business, government, educational and community organizations. This is an opportunity for deep learning about leadership and change, in the context of the practices that support facilitating Open Space.
If you would like to register, or for more information, visit the Practice Retreat page or contact me directly.
Technorati Tags: openspacetech, facilitation
Monday, January 30, 2006
UnconferencingOkay folks...having read Jeff Jarvis today (thanks for the pointer Johnnie) and noting the unconferencing angst going on out there, and noting also that people seems to be feeling around in the dark for some way forward, I'm here to offer what I can.
I am a facilitator and I specialize in Open Space Technology. There is hardly a better method of structuring a conference that mimics the social networking landscape that we call the Internet. I have run all kinds of conferences with Open Space, including using Open Space combined with speakers and other bits of inspiration. I've used Open Space in combination with other large group process like World Cafe. I've convened conference using Open Space that were supported by wikis and blogs and that had an online and real life for months afterwards.
If you are after building bottom-up, conversational and highly networked conference, it's really a very simple thing to turn a traditional conference into an Open Space event that gives you what you're looking for. I have been hearing about people wanting to do this for a couple of years now, but no one has called yet, so here's the offer:
If you are serious about wanting to create an unconference, phone me or Skype me or drop me an email and I will talk your ear off for free and tell you everything I know about how to do it. I will even help you create the invitation and figure out the logistics. If it suits you to work with me after that, I'll facilitate the conference for you as well and/or find others out in the world who will be eager to help you out for an obscenely reasonable rate. You will have, at the end of the day, a dynamic event, with engaged participants and you will bring it in at a huge cost savings over what you are budgeting for a full-on conference with panels and video conferencing and skirts on the tables and such. You will have a powerful, low cost, learning event.
In exchange for my free set up advice, I'll ask you to share what we learn with others on our respective blogs. All I want to do at this point is make sure that the new kind of conferencing takes off and that we can learn from one another.
So I look forward to hearing from you.
Mindful of teachers all aroundGood old whiskey river:
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
- Mary Oliver
Yesterday my five year old son and I went for a walk in a remote and wild part of our island to a point where the waves riding the southeasterlies up the Strait of Georgia break on a basalt reef littered with driftwood. And in that place, in that moment, with rain washing our faces and wind lashing at our ears, we talked about seeing with the close-seeing eye that watches where we step and seeing with the long-seeing eye that knows where we are in the forest. So turning, we made our way back through the trees with our close-seeing eyes and long-seeing eyes both tuned. We learned that it is important to stay aware of our feet below us and the turns in the forest path ahead of us, and that getting lost is a result of losing the manner of both modalities.
Such a trove of teachings in a simple, slippery path on a rainy day.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Allegri's Miserere and Mozart's birthdayHere's an mp3 post for a rainy Friday afternoon, another contemplative moment.
This is Allegri's Miserere, a stunning piece of choral music composed in the 1630s. It is so sublime that for a long time it was only performed once a year and anyone who wrote it down would be excommunicated for doing so. The story goes that Mozart (whose 250th birthday is today) broke the ban by hearing the piece, transcribing it from memory and then giving it away. In this respect Wolfgang may have preceeded Napster by a couple hundred years. Thanks to Wolfgang's transgressions, this Miserere is now open source and able to be performed by any choir with a soprano that can hit that high C. For me, as one who is not a great fan of Mozart's music in general, I consider this one act to be his greatest acheivement.
The piece is ten minutes long, so sit back, close your eyes and enfold yourself in the textures of it as it moves between plainsong and polyphony and as that soprano descends from heaven with the most heartstopping phrase in choral music.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Networking models for grantmakingThat sounds like a dry title...but let me explain.
I am doing some work at the moment with an organization called the Centre for Sustainability, a group out of the Vancouver Foundation that administers some grants programs to support organizational development for non-profits.
We are designing a program, called the Technical Assistance Program for Aboriginal Non-Profits (TAP) specifically for Aboriginal non-profits and as part of that work we are travelling around BC hosting conversations with the folks out there who might end up being recipients of the program's funding. Yesterday in Terrace we heard some things that made us rethink a large part of the approach to how these types of programs are run.
Essentially, government and philanthropic organizations support these types of initiatives by issuing grants to recipients who do the work and then return a report to the funder. The work benefits the organization, and the funder is satisfied with the results. The loop is closed.
In Terrace we heard from people that there is much to gain from sharing stories about organizational development efforts and that our focus groups themselves, using storytelling as a means to contribute to our learning, are just as valuable as activities for which organizations might get funded. This started us thinking a bout a new model of networked learning and organizational development support that we sketched out for further inquiry.
Essentially, this model is an open loop learning process and is based in the idea of "paying forward" the lessons learned. Organizations would continue to receive grants to do the work, but with one additional reporting requirement: they would have to share what they learn. Materials produced in the process of rejigging their governance, designing policy manuals or creating human resources recruitment processes for example would be open source, and freely available to any other organization that wanted to use them. The resources would be hosted on a website and available to all.
Also, the recipient would be required to produce a presentation for one of five annual regional networking events around the province. These events would be supported by the granting agency and would invite organizations interested in OD issues to come together to learn from one another, participate in workshops and most importantly, hear the results of TAP recipients learnings from the work they have been doing. The advantage here is that presentations and reports could be in any format. And arts organization could make a dramatisation of their process, others could use video or storytelling sessions, and some might want to convene a conversation to tell the story and then discuss it further with other, to build even more learning.
Over time, we can build these networks into self-sustaining communities of practice, using and contributing to a growing body of materials freely available to all, and with increasing capacity in the regional networks for mutual help, support and collaboration.
The idea is new to us, but it combines many thoughts and theories I have worked with over the years including open source, social networking, learning networks and communities of practice, new forms of giving and I think it has some implications for progressive philanthropy as well. Hopefully Phil and others will weigh in and let me know.