Follow the Spark of Yes: An Organizing Principle

Sooo, many of us are working together. I feel connection to a broad community that wants to work well and learn well together. For me, this shows up in varied communities of pracitce. The Art of Hosting, the World Cafe network, the PeerSpirit network, the Open Space community. And in many individuals. Many of us are trying to answer questions about how to get the work done. How to work in collaboration? In complexity? Through the “yah, buts.” Here’s a thread that has much life for me now, drawing from all of the above, and many individuals, and the Appreciative Approach.

1. What is working? — In any system, something is working. To orient to this question is to witness some of the good. It honors the commitment of people, of teams, of communities and all of the imagining that has gone into the current state. It doesn’t require us to stay in that state. This in fact is part of the pattern to practice forward. Yesterday’s brilliant solutions can become today’s ugly problems — that’s what dynamic environments do. Noticing what is working gives us access to what we can build upon, or in some cases, see the underlying process that we need for the next new.

2. What is possible? — Oh, it does so much good to invite people to dream. To access that part of them, that innate part that so wants to create. Create solutions. Create definitions. Be adaptive. Be in collaboration. I have worked so often with the motto, slow down to speed up. Being in the question of what is possible creates the energy and clarity for speeding up to get to all of those good results that we so crave. Being in this question also reforms relationships. It moves us from what can be ruts of problem solving, of problems, into that more generative state of creation, of real time learning, begining wherever we are.

3. What do we choose? — Aren’t there always several choices. And many of them are good. To have no choice has always felt very unreal to me. An illusion. What obsession with speed and efficiency clokes. To reintroduce choice is to reintroduce the brilliance of our adaptiveness with each other. I often feel like there are 37 (or more) good choices. In good relationship, most of those will work well. Use our intution to commit to one of those with some time agreements. Perhaps for the next year or the next six months. The simple act of recalling choice activates so much hope in myself and in others.

4. Follow the spark of yes. — This is response to the question of how. It is in response to the question of who should be involved, where to start? This has a metaphysical feel. It should. It is a choice of organzing. Beyond are immense, heroic efforts to structure life, I have often felt and tried to practice following the spark of yes. People show up. Clarity of mind. Intuition — the things the heart can know that the mind can’t know. All of this takes a practice and can feel kind of funny because it breaks with many habits so highly honored in leadership practice. The legitmacy of the spark of yes comes from a bias of organizations as living systems, and as such, with capacity to self-organize. Order for free, as Meg Wheatley often says.

These are just brief blurbs. Each is a practice, a life practice. Each is best done in the company of others. Muck it up. Do it well. Forget. The way that most of life is. But also the way that most practices are. To initially learn a physical skill can be awkward, but then something that evolves into unconscious body memory. When taken seriously / playfully, I find they open the path, and a great choice of principle of what to organize around.

Thanks in particular, Teresa Posakony, Chris Corrigan, Peggy Holman, fabulous colearners and workshops leaders and community learners for these stirrings.

Simple Action That Makes a Difference — Michigan Drug Courts

I love this simple story that hosting friend Muryah Baldwin shares. She speaks of the ever-growing parts of our work together. In this case, world cafes that gather a community and improve a drug rehabilitation program.

“My purpose for sharing this story at this time is to highlight the deepening fusion and connections that I am recognizing, between our work especially in AoH and TWC and to thank you for continuing my learning. I know that the scenario described is just one more example of experiences that we are all having in places around the world.

I just returned from working in Kalamazoo Michigan where I trained 30 enthusiastic citizens (judges, engineers, life coaches, business owners) as conversational hosts and who assisted me in hosting a large group of citizens at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market yesterday. In a program originally seeded by Fetzer and the Kellogg Foundation, The Drug Courts of Kalamazoo County have made a revolutionary shift in the way that they process drug use offenders. The court has shifted from simply penal system to a problem-solving resource for 1,500 recovered addict/criminals (over the past 10 years) who are now law abiding contributing citizens. Success rate in the program is high especially compared to drug-related criminal recidivism in general. This is a tremendous success story, from the mouths of deeply grateful recovered users.

Several courts across the country are now applying these principles by shifting their approach to a select population of “unintended abusers” not the hard core or violent, differentiating their sentencing options to also include recovery methods, mentoring and bridges back to becoming a NORC normal operating respectful citizen.. The now retired sheriff says it works because the collective of affiliated agents changed their perspective on what the courts are there to provide.

Saturday’s cafe table discussions was designed to take the principles used by the drug court to scale by addressing other immediate systems and situations in Kalamazoo. Citizens set the agenda by identifying next focus, opportunities and dilemmas. It was grand, with media coverage and about 75 people engaged in conversations resulting in rich observations and actionable ideas for moving forward, Attendees covered the scale from judges, sheriffs, mayor, professionals and other citizens across generations. The highlight came during the context setting , testimony from a bright light who fell from grace simply by trying something new. She drew tears with her story of going from rock bottom to a return to her intended life path all because she was given a chance as well as jail time. This set the tone for attacking “hard problems” with hope for success.

I had a blast. The proud town folks were ready, hungry for some way of moving forward (there is evidence that they are change agents) and TWC, introduced by Guillermina Hernandez-Gallegos at Fetzer – TWC Steward – became that bridge; they hit the ground running.

I am rambling………….all of this is to say that I noticed fundamental ways in which TWC/AoH complement to enrich my/our work. My attendance at AoH sharpened an agency for articulating/modeling for the conversational hosts the type of presence, posture, consciousness required to apply TWC principles and to “be a major embodiment of and for the environment they want to create.” This may have been particularly important as many of the learners were from the courts and law enforcement community (strong mindsets). In 3 hours they got it !!!!. The ‘father of the program’ and most engaged judge gave open testimony to the media and the crowd on Saturday of how TWC principles (he attended the training) provided a framework for understanding and repeating what they did well in the drug court without a map – just right hearts and minds. The 30 hosts are poised to become the local TWC community of practice supporting the anticipated conversations that have been stimulated

Gratefully, feeding the Field,

Killer Questions on Structure from Berkana

Below is an email from hosting mate, Tim Merry, reflecting on the deeper questions of structure. They come from a Berkana Board call. Tim shifts them to the Art of Hosting community. They are good for many places, particularly given the pattern of looking to structure first. I remember from some of my grad school studies — form follows function. These questions from Tim and others takes this to another new level for me. I am particularly interested in how structure grows out of relationship to enable us to face the next in uncertainty.

Some thoughts coming out of a call I just had with the Berkana Board – to seed our stewards conversations in June …

These times call us into living with, and coming to terms with, uncertainty.
What if the hunger for form and structure in the Art of Hosting community was just us clinging to something concrete in the journey to uncertainty?
What if form and structure was not the conversation to be in?
What if form does not arise when we focus on it – but only as bi-product of our relationships and co-practice?
It is our relationships which allow us to survive uncertainty. Turning to one another.
Form comes and goes – the seed is different from to the flower, yet the flower is in the seed. What if this was about how we move through forms that emerge as part of the path rather than what forms we create?
How can we be together beyond any attachment to form and enter the painful and potent ongoing life cycle letting go and letting come?
What if our hunger for form and structure – was truly a hunger for deeper trust and relationship across the AoH Community so we can be in the inevitable uncertainty of life?
What if we letting go of form was the way to enter into nourishing life and entering the forms of life ..?
Some thoughts to throw in the river ….

For My Children

OK, so this is a short piece about being a dad. I am dad to 13 year-old Zoe, 11 year-old Isaac, and 3 year-old Elijah. Particularly when I think of Zoe and Isaac, I feel this desire to welcome a social awareness and activism in them. I have a desire to share resources with them — websites, emails, cartoons, movies, groups, websites, people — and then just be in conversation with them. Active, curious, learning, loving conversation. Playful. Serious. Real. Not all are full hits. And on some I am not sure.

But here are a few tidbits that come my way, starting now. My criteria for including them here is the simple reaction that I have in seeing them myself that makes me say, I’d really like Zoe, or Isaac, or Elijah to see this. My dad identity is very strong. My colearning indentity with these old souls that I sometimes refer to as my children is very strong. I put there here because this learning has some spirit that is everything to do with any professional work that I do.
Forwarded from Caitlin Frost — “I found this video so moving as a reminder of the human goodness and joy all around the world. I nice reminder when there is so much international doom and gloom in the news. It is a fun watch for kids also. Enjoy.
The feature-length documentary ReGeneration goes beyond the labels of “Generation X” and “Generation Y.” ReGeneration looks at the many issues facing our culture through the eyes of today’s youth and young adults by exploring how we have been shaped by our media, education system, and parenting.

Christian the Lion (1 minute)
Reunion of a pet lion in the wild with two people that raised him. Thanks Bud Holland.

World Peace Day (Movie) — Trailer (2 minutes)
An inspiring website and video about World Peace Day – 21 September 2008. Thanks Jennifer Jones.

Adam Bender — Baseball Player (2 minutes)
Adam Bender, 8, is one of several kids who plays catcher in Southeastern’s rookie league at Veterans Park. What makes Adam stand out is that he plays one of the toughest positions on the field with only one leg. Thanks Larry Lires.

The Girl Effect — Several Videos and Materials
“A simple, clear expression of how women and girls are changing their communities. I found this very powerful. The video is also be used by CARE on their website.” Thanks Meg Wheatley

You Are Worth The Time (7 Minutes)
I love the message in this about art, our expressions or art, our process on creating, being as important as air to breath. And I like how many of my colleagues and I are describing ourselves as process artists. Thanks Harold Aldrich, cohost in Florida.

Did You Know (5 Minutes)
A video on the staggering rate of information change and availability. Thanks Jerry Nagel.