In the opening chapters, Block takes inspiration from the likes of John McKnight, Robert Putnam, Christopher Alexander and others to crate some basic patterns for collective transformation. These are beautiful and quite in line with the work I do and the things we teach through the Art of Hosting. In fact, I’ll probably add this list to our workshop workbook.
Here is the list, with my thoughts attached.
- Focus on gifts. Look at what people are willing to offer rather than what people are in need of.
- Associational life. There is great power in the associations that people form to come together to do good work
- Power in our hands. Who do you think is going to change things? In doing Open Space action planning, I sometimes make reference to the fact that there will not be an angel that parachutes in and saves us. It’s up to us to find the way to make things work.
From Werner Erhard:
- The power of language. What we say about things and people makes a huge difference. Speaking and listening (and therefore conversations) is the basis of changing things.
- The power of context. Contexts are the worldviews which we employ to see things. Powerful contexts enable powerful transformation. For example, in First Nations the context of self-government vs. Indian Act government represents a powerful context for community development.
- The power of possibility. Once a possibility is declared, it comes into being and with skillful invitation, work can organize around it.
- Work with bridging social capital. Social capital is the relatedness between citizens We express this through bonding social captial, which helps us find others like us, andbridging social capital which helps us find relations across groups. Bridging social capital is the holy grail that takes us from insular groups, to true communities.
- Work with aliveness and wholeness. One of my favourite ways to think about work that changes minds is to ask “How does a forest change a mind?” How do you react in a forest? How does it happen so suddenly? Why do old growth forests leave a permanent mark on us? How can we transform minds like a forest does?
- Transformation as unfolding. What is known by the whole of a group or community cannot be exposed all at once. You have to journey to the centre of it, one small step at a time. As you go, you harvest more and more of it, and as it becomes visible, it accelerates the collective consciousness of itself.
- Appreciating paradox. Paradoxes help us to see the creative tension that lies in complexity. Chaos and Order, Individual and collective, being and doing, work and relationships…all of these contribute to our understanding of the kinds of questions that take us to collective transformation.
- Choosing freedom and accountability. Freedom is not an escape from accountability. “the willigness to care for the whole occurs when we are confronted with our freedom, and when we choose to accepts and act on that freedom.”
- Accountability and committment. What I, and Harrison Owen, calls “passion and responsibility.” Don’t just ask what is important, ask what people are willing to do to make it come to pass.
- Learning from one another. Co-learning rather than experts preaching to students is the way to build the capacity for collective transformation.
- Bias towards the future. We leave the past where it is and focus on now, and the conditions that are arising to produce the futures we want.
- How we engage matters. Or, as we were fond of saying at VIATT, the system is the conversation. How we relate to each other in every instance IS the system.
- Small scale, slow growth. Big things begin from very small ideas. Cultivating the Art of Calling, whereby we learn to issue and embody invitations, and find the people to work with who will bring these into being, is the key practice here.
- Emergent design. Everything is in flux, and constantly adapting. Ask why the organization hasn’t been moving naturally in the direction that it desires and convene conversations on what you discover. Feed those back to the whole and the course corrects. Cohen also says that he CAN herd cats…by tilting the floor. Deeper contexts often have more leverage.