Back in March we ran an Art of Hosting for the Vancouver Island Aboriginal Transition Team and all of our comunity partners. At the conclusion of that Art of Hosting we held an Open Space. One of the topics that I posted was about the pattern of our work with community based on the experiences that people had had over the three days of training. I was interested in seeing if anything we did over three days with forty people in an Art of Hosting could scale up to larger levels in the system. I had a couple of powerful insights during that session.
- The idea of “consultation” with community stakeholders is dead. This process is about inviting community members to take ownership over the structures and institutions that affect their lives. Instead of a one-way flow of advice from the community to VIATT, the new model is a gift exchange between cousins, relationships between familiy members who are putting children in the centre and looking after each other. As such there is expertise, care and ownership everywhere in the system and so we all must actively become “TeacherLearners.”
- The circle is the fundamental pattern for reflection: leadership at the rim and inquiry in the centre. The relationships in the Art of Hosting developed quickly because we established trust and openness in the beginning with an opening circle. We were able to establish a real sense that everyone was sitting on the rim of the circle together, facing inward at the question of how to do this work. The circle is a structure that opens up the possibility for leadership to come from anywhere, with inquiry at the centre. In this case the questions at the centre of the circle revolve around the principle that when the system puts children in the centre everything changes. This is a powerful organizing principle guiding our transformation of the child and family services system from a system that places resources and institutional interests at the centre while trying to keep families there. The proof of this is embodied in the idea that when the current system breaks down, and a child dies, the parts of the system fly apart and many different process are required to bring it back together. By contrast, when a child dies in a community, everyone comes together. There can be no one else in the centre, only the needs of the family. That is the ideal for our work: a system that places children in the centre.
It is interesting to see the way some of these insights have deepened into operating principles. The idea of Children at the Centre has become a simple but powerful organizing principle for all of our community linkage work with VIATT. The idea of TeacherLearners in the community has informed the way that we are developing community circles – policy and decision making bodies that will hold significantly more responsibility for the system that mere advisory committees. At the moment we are looking at using study circles as a methodology for running the community circles.
[tags]VIATT, community consultation, circles, children, child and family services, study circles[/tags]