Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance — Wild Lands Dialogue Project

Two days ago I cohosted with Terri Martin a dialogue on preserving Utah’s wildlands, and in particular, how to engage faith communities and involve young people. We were invited by Deeda Seed, SUWA’s Development Director.

Three journalists were present to harvest some of the event…

Holly Van Woerkom, BYU Daily Universe — Holly did a great job, capturing with clarity the main purpose.

Caleb Warnock, Daily Herald — This one felt a little less clear on the overall intent — less on the importance of engaging in dialogue and listening — but did include some specifics from the faith communities small group.

Amy Stewart, Deseret News — Also a helpful write-up.

The event itself was good. As Holly noted at the end of her article, people left with hope, enthusiasm. In participants words, one word each around the circle to seal the space: Hope, community, dialogue, motivation, spirit, responsibilities, compassion, community, sharing, promise, empowerment, understanding, wilderness, possibility, optimism, different view, hope.

And, I feel that a bigger vision needs to take root — not just one time gatherings but connecting people into more connection. Or to a bigger event that could birth more. Hmmm…

And here, a few photos

And here, a harvest of flip chart notes

And here, a beautiful harvest document from SUWA…

Center for Engaging Community

John Kesler is my patner in work with the Center for Engaging Community. He is a man of great vision. He attracts incredible people around him. He is very humble. And a great catalyzer of efforts. Together we co-direct the Center.

Last week, John and I were checking-in. Projects. Imaginations. Plans. A central point of our efforts is an initiative called Culture of Connection. We launched this effort in many ways with a large community event last spring. Today it lives in many people, committees, and community relations.

I wanted to name this initiative because last week John and I had one of those moments where we revisited purpose and a few agreements. We weren’t trying to per se; but it became clear that in our phone conversation, that is what was happening. These all spoke to me…

  • Bring capacity of conversation
  • When we find competence and passion, help to catalyze the self-organizationt that manifests flourishing community.
  • We can look through multiple lenses.
  • Be a trusted neutral convenor, not an advocate.
  • Grassroots community engagement.

This also spoke to me, three anchors. We support flourishing community by…

  1. Convening, training, connecting, practicing in conversation.
  2. Supporting technology that connects, both in content and social community (this a project that we are just starting to imagine)
  3. Grounding our work in specific domains — currently feeling the biggest need in a bipartisan legislative dialogue project, and, and exploration into supporting and integrating immigrant and refugee communities in the Salt Lake Valley.

Mud Cookies — Systems Thinking Story

I read an article in the Salt Lake Tribune recently. It was a tender story of a 16 year-old mother in Haiti that had no food. She was eating mud cookies.
The story was a systems thinking story. It began with increase oil prices. At this point I feel the core question — what does increased oil prices have to do with a 16 year-old mother in Haiti eating mud cakes and mud cookies?
Oil prices go up. Among other things, this increases the cost of food production — machinery. Increased cost of production increases the cost of the food, including staples such as rice. This mother can’t afford the increased price of such a staple. She eats cookies made of mud with some salt and shortening. And what might be the impact of this? Disease. Malnourished babies. A pattern of physical suffering.
What does rising oil prices have to do with a poor mother in Haiti? Lots from the systems view.

The Tao of Open Space

I first read this in Chris Corrigan’s book, The Tao of of Holding Space. Read all of this book many times. I immediately used it to help invite people into an Open Space session. It comes from the Tao Teh Ching, by Lao Tzu — the edition I have is translated by John C. H. Wu.

And as I think of it now, and a design proposal I am working on with some university faculty, staff, and an advisory committee, I think I might use this again to invite the opening to conversation with each other. The release of the managed presentation agenda.

Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub;
It is on the hole in the center that the use of the cart hinges.

We make a vessel from a lump of clay;
It is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful.

We make doors and windows for a room;
But it is these empty spaces that make the room livable.

Thus, while the tangible has advantages,
It is the intangible that makes it useful.