Revisiting the Heart of Convening

I’ve been revisiting some of the most core materials that helped to shape my work of facilitation in the 1990s. A few covers are above — these are samples of some of the most important books that opened my heart, my mind, and my practices.

It was a potent era, back in the early to mid 90s. That’s when I was first working with Meg Wheatley and folks through The Berkana Institute. That’s when a cadre of folks were building off of each others works to bring a wave of more humane and purposed work to communities and to corporations. Meg Wheatley. Myron Kellner-Rogers. Bob Stilger. Juanita Brown. David Isaacs. Francis Baldwin. Harrison Owen. Ann Stadler. Christina Baldwin. Ann Linnea. I was fortunate to know each of these people in both professional and deep friendship ways. I was fortunate to meet a next wave of practitioners and dear friends — a few of us that would weave both our professional lives and our deep friendships. Toke Moeller. Monica Nissen. Roq Gareau. Sarah MacDougall. Amanda Fenton. Penny Hamilton. Chris Corrigan. Caitlin Frost. Teresa Posakony. Deborah Frieze. Kathy Jourdain. Jerry Nagel. Quanita Roberson. And on it would go for each of us in our contributions to a field of facilitation that insists on both the outer and the inner.

I’m revisiting these materials because I suppose, I’m in a season of revisiting what was core and what was most central in both premise and practice that I continue to use in my work.

I’m designing a couple of workshops now in which the client invites me to create and nuance a program as I wish. It’s sweet to have such freedom. It’s also potent to connect the essence of work that still grounds the work now.

So, I find myself returning to some basics to claim the jewels that they were, and also to claim a particular simplicity that I’ve found over the years that helps bring people in to their facilitation quickly and with clarity. I won’t offer it all here. But I will offer a few gems.

I rely so much on Circle, World Cafe, and Open Space Technology. And often in that order. I so often start with Circle for the deep grounding that it can create. I so often follow it with World Cafe for the communal connection it can create. I so often follow that with Open Space Technology for the self-organized learning and project work that it can create. All of that sequence relies on a relational quality together. It’s an important lesson to learn — behind method, there is a premise that connection matters. Behind that is further important lessons to learn — connection matters within self, with and among others, with circumstance and purpose.

It’s easy to go to methods when working with groups, because there is still such overarching hunger for tools. I’m glad for this. Circle is a method and a tool at one level. So is World Cafe. So is Open Space Technology. But it’s clear to me from knowing these originators and from the applied work I’ve evolved as a facilitator that each of these methods are also ways of being. They are about changing and growing the hearts of people involved, again both inner and outer. Harrison bakes this way of being in to the title of his book above — “expanding the now.” He offers a pretty keen invitation to know that the work isn’t just about better meetings — although that too is pretty wondrous. It is about expanding a sense of presence while in this meetings and in that work. Juanita and David were keen on naming “the central garden” that connects many methods and many practices of people. They were keen on naming the way of being that was meeting in shared space. Christina and Ann were clear about invoking more kind and human listening together as way of being, knowing full well that that changed who we are to one another. Meg and Bob so often implored depth. “Depend on diversity. Rely on human goodness. Trust self-organization.”

“Expanding Our Now.” “Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter.” “Leaders in Every Chair.” “Turning to One Another.” “Simpler Way.” The titles and the subtitles do much to nuance the work that really matters. To nuance the living that really matters. To nuance what lives underneath, or at the heart of the methods. I’m so glad for both this kind of lineage that both has taught me well, and has also humbled me well. I’m so glad for the colleagues and friends that have appeared along the way and with whom I’ve sojourned for months, years, and even decades.

And on we go. Revisiting. Clarifying. Inviting. Continuing to welcome transformational ways of being. For the times in which we live. For the evolutions and revolutions. And with the people with whom we create and surprise together. Convening. And shining light and clarity on what arises from that. Simple things. Complex things.

I’m grateful. And I realize as I write and reflect, I’m hungry for next waves.

3 Replies to “Revisiting the Heart of Convening”

  1. This resonates deep within me. Thank you. The focus of my work of creating authentic connection culture has been to help circles and communities deepened in their interaction so we are taping into the wisdom within us and amongst us to create space for new possibilities to emerge. I love being in such a space with others that is rich in creativity and profound connection at a heart and soul level, a place where we can fully bring our gifts to weave together a tapestry of life rooted in joy. I too await the next to build on the foundation explored so far to grow an awareness of the power of significant conversations.

  2. Thank you Saoirse, Karen. It’s so good to journey together in this learning and imagination together. Life itself has a way of guiding, doesn’t it (serendipity, synchronicity, surprise — and probably some other “s’s” too). 🙂

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