Last night I hosted an event with my friend Carla Kelley of the Human Rights Education Center of Utah. It was an evening with 100 people from the Glendale community in Salt Lake City.
One of the things that I think we did particularly well in this evening was to keep a simple and purposeful design. While people were eating, I introduced some simple context. First, a concept I’ve learned with my Berkana colleagues — “Whatever the problem (dream), community is the answer.” And second, a principle I’ve learned with my friend Chris Corrigan about community work — “There is no finish line in community work.” I shared that in community work, we know that we must turn to one another. That is what we would do during the evening.
There were multiple ethnic groups gathered for this event with need for language translation: Spanish, Tongan, Swahili, Burmese, Nepali, Somali. Carla, John Erlacher (Glendale Middle School Principal) and I agreed that we wanted part of the evening to be less reliant on verbal communication. We played some simple cooperative games that had people standing in circle and crossing through the middle with different levels of interaction and attention with other participants.
We then moved our evening into two rounds of cafe style questions. The first, inviting participants to share stories with one another about what they appreciate in this community, and what they know is a challenge. We harvested these. The second round was an invitation to share suggestions for improvement. Again we harvested these.
It is a lot to ask to move into what many would define as concrete action plans in the space of 90 minutes together in a first meeting. Carla, John, and I knew this. However, what is essential and what I believe we accomplished very well was helping to create a pattern of invitation, of turning to one another, of sharing stories, of being curious with each other. It is the re-establishing of pattern that helps a system to begin to change. This is a fundamental principle of working in living systems. We created the format for interaction — in play and in conversation — that can create conditions for well and thriving community. And it was a lot of fun.
There was some news coverage from one of the local TV stations. That report and video is here.
My friend and colleague Glen Brown posted a thoughtful blog on the evening. It is here.
Some of the other pictures I have from the evening are here.
Great to be part of this story, and to offer a process that will help it be sustainable and attractive.