Caitlin and I are hosting a learning process for the Vancouver Foundation which has brought together 11 people from community foundations around BC. We are trying to discover what kinds of new practices community foundations can adopt to roll with the changing nature of philanthropy and community.
It’s a classic complexity problem. The future is unknowable and unpredictable. Data is plentiful but not helpful because context trumps all. There are competing experts with different hypotheses of what should happen. These twelve people are brave. They’re willing to be the innovators in a sector that is by nature fairly conservative when it comes to change.
We are using an architecture combining Theory U and complexity work coming from Cynefin practices. I can maybe write more about our design later, but today I’m struck by a comment one of our participants made when she was reflecting on the past three months of engaging in deep dialogue interviews with people in her community. She talked to a number of people as a way of beginning to understand the context for making change, and noticed that the conversations she was having were taking her away from the rigid roles and responsibilities (and the associated posturing) that comes with trying to do interesting work in a hierarchical, top down and controlling way. Today in our check in she shared this:
“When we are given permission to talk to anyone about anything it’s freeing. We let our roles drop as well our limiting beliefs about what we can and can’t do. We are able to more closely align our actions and our way of being with our intentions.”
A pithy but powerful statement in how changing the way we converse changes the way we are able to act. It’s lovely witnessing the birth of a complexity worker.