Friday, December 19, 2008

Strengths and Archetypes

I've been thinking about strengths and archetypes. Carolyn Myss talks about archetypes in her book The Sacred Contract. She says we all have 12 archetypes, four of these are the same for everybody and 8 are unique to us. The archetypes aren't good or bad -- they can be expressed differently. There is a shadow side to each and a possible benefit. For example, one of the universal archetypes is the Victim. This does not mean you will experience being a victim necessarily, that is the shadow side. An example from her book is of a woman who was an expert in finances and who was exhibiting the positive expression, almost an anti-victim.

Angeles Arrien's also talks about archetypes in her book The Four-Fold Way. She talks about the 4 universal archetypes Warrior, Visionary, Teacher, and Healer. When an individual is in balance they experience the positive aspects of each. When an individual or community is not in balance they may experience the shadow side.

What is the connection between strengths and archetypes? When I did the Strengthfinder 2.0 test one of my strengths identified was being a Maximizer. This did not surprise me. When I experience the shadow side of this "strength", I may be a little obsessive or even perfectionistic. This means there is not a lot of flexibility available. However, if I am highly conscious and able to experience acceptance, this strength can work for me. I naturally see the highest potential for any person, project or situation. Without acceptance, this is challenging. Without discrimination this is challenging. When I bring consciousness to this, I realize that while I may see the maximimum potential I don't have to reach it all the time.

To remind myself I put notes around my office that say - Do as little as possible! Do the minimum. This raises my consciousness and I recognize my automatic projections of what the maximum could be. It isn't advisable or healthy to do the maximum all the time. It is exhausting. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Reminding myself of this allows me to stay out of the shadow side of the maximizer strength. What do you think?

Cassandra at

Shared Abundance Philosophy

I love this document called The Shared Abundance Philosophy A World of Giving is A World of Receiving By Bob Johnson, Founder of Leadersearch

Click on the pdf for the whole article.

My favorite part is the principles:

Key Principles of the Shared Abundance Philosophy:
• The More You Share, the More You Will Receive
• Competition Only Exists in the Scarcity Mindset
• Aligning with Your Greatest Competition Will Bring You the Greatest Success
• Both Scarcity and Abundance are Self-perpetuating

Cassandra at

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Photographs of My Graphic Recordings in 2008

My journey as a graphic recorder is just beginning, I've posted a couple of examples of my "baby steps" in working with large pieces of paper, icons, and key words with groups of engaged people. Sometimes it is challenging to get all of the paper in the photograph. Cassandra at

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 YWCA Women on the Move Awards

Thanks to Allison T for nominating me for the YWCA Woman on the Move Award. We had a great time at the Awards Banquet on December 14. It was such an honor to see all the women recognized. They showed video interviews of the Lifetime Achievement Award winners Mary Belle McCorkle, Priscilla Robinson, and Jessie Zander and the Iris Dewhirst Award winner Betsy Bolding. The Business Leadership Award Winner was Jan Lesher and the Corporate Award winner JP Morgan Chase. All of the Women on the Move honoree's received certificates signed by the Governor and we had our names up on the big screens. I've included a photograph of Sarah G, Allison, and me. What a great night! Thanks to the YWCA. If you want to see the names of all the women nominated click here.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Acceptance - Quote by Eckhart Tolle and Photograph

Click to make the image larger or to download.

This was made by Jim Roussin at

Thanks Jim.

Questions to Ask When Designing and Implementing a Change or New Program

This document is meant to be used to help frame an initial conversation when planning to adopt a new practice or develop a new program. The implementation driver framework allows the opportunity to choose the direction of your system change efforts in a planful and purposeful manner and in doing so be good stewards of limited resources. This document is not intended for use as a performance indicator but rather as a planning guide. The National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) is working on a tool that will facilitate an in-depth performance analysis of implementation and sustainability throughout the life of a new practice/program. These 7 implementation drivers are integrated and compensatory. Thus, a discussion of the components could start with any one.

IMPORTANT: Before you begin, identify who the “participant” is. There may be a single participant that will be involved with implementation or there may be multiple types or levels of participants that you will take into consideration as you are having this initial planning conversation.

Participant Selection:

• Who is qualified to carry out this practice or program?
• What methods of participant recruitment and selection are you going to use?
• Beyond academic qualifications or experience factors, what personal characteristics must be a part of the selection process (e.g., knowledge of the field, common sense, social justice, ethics, willingness to learn, willingness to intervene, good judgment, etc.)?
• How will these personal characteristics be assessed during the selection interview (e.g. vignettes, role plays)?
• Are there workforce development issues that need to be taken into account? (e.g., availability of participants; ability to recruit new participants; ability to train existing participants; ability to “grow your own” staff; etc.)
• Are there extra demands on the participants beyond the scope of this practice/program that need to be taken into account? (e.g., transportation issues to and from work; family/personal stressors; safety concerns; etc.)

Pre-service and In-service Training:
• How will you assure that background information, theory, philosophy and values of this new practice/program are provided? Who will you provide this information to?
• Do you have a formal introduction to the key components and rationales of this practice/program? Who will you provide this introduction to?
• How will you provide opportunities for participants to practice new skills and receive ongoing feedback in a safe environment?

• How will you use coaching and consultation to support and monitor behavior change:
o at the participant level?
o at the supervisory level?
o at the administrative support level?
• How will you maintain this coaching and consultation throughout the life of this practice/program?

Participant Evaluation: (Formal and Informal)
• How will your participant evaluation process assess the use and outcomes of the skills:
o that you determined were important in your selection criteria?
o that are taught in training?
o that you want to have reinforced and expanded through consultation and coaching?
o in order to assist with determining the effectiveness of the coaches and consultants?
• Are there existing fidelity tools that can be used to evaluate the above skills and/or effectiveness?

Decision Support Data Systems:

• What data will be used by the coaches and supervisors to determine the progress of practice/program implementation efforts (including the information from the participant evaluation)?
• How will data be used by the coaches and supervisors to determine the usefulness of the training and coaching?
• Is there an overall assessment of the agency/organization’s performance to help assure continuing implementation and outcomes of the core components of this practice/program over time?

Facilitative Administration:

• Who provides the strong leadership for this practice/program (internal and external to your agency/organization)?
• Who provides strong leadership as a “connector” to external systems?
• How will the leadership use data to inform their decisions and support the overall processes of this practice/program?
• How will the leadership work to integrate and keep improving the implementation drivers throughout the life of this practice/program?

Systems Interventions:

• In order to support the implementation and sustainability efforts, what strategies are in place or will need to be created for the practice/program to work with external systems in order to obtain:
o financial support?
o agency/organizational support?
o human resource support?

This instrument was adapted from a tool developed by the Kentucky Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

I went to a presentation by staff from the Kentucky Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse and they were so excited. Using this tool and others they tailored to different components of their program resulted in greater success in the implementation of their programs and greater sustainability - which is one of my favorite topics. Cassandra at

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Learning Pyramid

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Are you familiar with the learning pyramid? Based on research this shows us what the average retention rates are with different types of instruction. Notice that lecture is the least retained? What are the implications of this when we look at how information is generally given to people?

Cassandra at

Friday, December 12, 2008

Visual Thinking Strategies

I just read and posted Christina's article on integrating the left and right sides of the brain. I loved it and I really resonated with the cycle she described with her clients who were at first afraid it wouldn't work, were willing to try it, and then were joyfully surprised when people loved it. She was talking about Graphic Facilitation and we experience the same pattern with the work that we do that is participatory. Sometimes people are hesitant and somewhat afraid to try something new, and yet when they are willing to give it a try they find that people love the opportunity to authentically participate and become highly engaged.

I have been exploring visual thinking the last couple of years since I learned about Graphic Recording and took a training in it. Last month I learned about Visual Thinking Strategies. I had the unique opportunity to see a mini-demonstration of this technique which is a facilitated group discussion about a piece of art.

It provided a dramatic understanding of multiple viewpoints and realities. The facilitator actually uses tools I'm now familiar with as a coach - paraphrasing being one of them - to help people articulate the meaning they see in a piece of art. It is a beautiful example of how people see and interpret things differently and there is no judgement.

I spent an hour today on their website - Visual Thinking Strategies - which has some great information on the technique, the research behind it, how it is used, the benefits, and you can see some videos of it being done. Click on and check it out.

Cassandra at


This is a fantastic article by Christina Merkley.


I knew this week that I wanted to write something about the visual approach. Something about the importance of our creative sides and ‘art’ in general. Something about the INTEGRATION and importance of both sides of our brain – the rational AND the creative.

All these thoughts were swirling in my mind, as I made my way from my parked car to the departure doors of the airport (yes, I’m traveling again... last trip of the season thankfully!).

I checked in for my flight then turned around to see a huge new art installation staring me in the face: “The measure of a culture is its integration of the arts into everyday life” ~Anonymous

I laughed out loud and grabbed my camera to take a shot. A physical sign of the internal stuff I was trying to articulate.

A Creative Identity Sneaking Up on Me: I’ve been working in the ‘creative world’ for about 15 years now. I didn’t start out as a ‘creative’, its taken me about that long to really own and appreciate that side of myself (even if others identified me in that way long before).

As many of you know, I started my career in Organizational Development... becoming a ‘graphic recorder’ and then a ‘graphic facilitator’ – using interactive visuals to help groups see their environment, dialogue and make decisions. I then progressed into taking those skills into coaching and self-actualization via my SHIFT-IT work. In short, for years I’ve used a creative method to help people think and feel effectively. Kind of a marriage of both sides of the brain – for my clients and for myself.

Battling Cynicism:
Inevitably, when a new organization or group was interested in working with me, I would have to go through a ‘cynicism phase’. As my work is visually-based, I would have to counter the ‘pretty picture’ worries that a new and inexperienced client would have. Sure, they had heard raves about this effective way of working, but since they hadn’t experienced it personally yet, they were worried about it not going over well and being seen as frivolous or silly (particularly with their peers and bosses).

When I did the actual meeting, at the first break, my formerly concerned client would, like clockwork, come up to me and express their relief and pleasure about how things were going and how folks were responding – ‘wow, I’m so glad, this is really going over well... people are LOVING this. I gotta admit I was a little skeptical, but this visual stuff really works doesn’t it!?’.

Of course, I was glad that they were feeling pleased and assured. But I was also saddened when this habitually happened. Isn’t it sad that people are so concerned about the ‘artistic’? That its value is subtly and not so subtly maligned as being ‘not serious’, ‘soft’ or ‘wimpy’. That people feel they are taking a risk by doing something that the deviates from the straight and narrow norm.

It’s Time for Integration:
Working in over 800+ groups over the years, I can unequivocally say that we are crying out for different, pleasant and more enjoyable ways of interacting, thinking and making decisions. The one-dimensional way of being isn’t going to serve us any more (if it really ever did). Is it really fair (or wise) to expect people to check large portions of themselves at the door when they enter work.

Work has typically been viewed as masculine, linear, rational, logical and action oriented (at least in the typical North American business setting). It feels like a shift is now occurring where the feminine, circular, feeling, creative and being sides can now come in too – and be equally valued and appreciated. As societies and a world, we can’t afford to reject whole sides of ourselves and our populations much longer. We need to find a way to integrate the fullness of who we are. We need to move into ‘yes/and’ and away from ‘either/or’ games.

A Bit of a Soapbox, But Hey: Ok, I went on a bit of a rant there. But in talking with my current clients, there is an awakening occurring. People are attracted to new ways of doing things. They are attracted to the creative. To the visual. To the heart and feeling based. And they are willing to pay for it too - handsomely.

The linear is not being thrown out. Its valued and cherished. But other things are now being added in. In our work lives and in our personal lives as holistic people we need the full deal. Our world and its current problems needs an integrated approach to find new ways of being and new solutions.

How Do You Fit In?
So, you are reading this e-zine. You are attracted for a reason. Chances are, you have a role to play in this big shift that is occurring in our world. What is calling out in you? What wants to be expressed through you? Why are you attracted to me and my work... what’s the allure?

In working with tons of people, I know its because I mirror or reflect some quality that you yourself have within – like attracts like. Perhaps you are already owning it. Or, perhaps, you have yet to fully claim that part of yourself. Whatever is going on, I invite you to step more fully into your creative and feeling gifts, as well as your rational and thinking gifts. You obviously have a part to play in the larger SHIFT that is currently occurring. So get SHIFTing! Now is the time.

© 2008 Christina L. Merkley

Christina Merkley, "The SHIFT-IT Coach" and creator of the SHIFT-IT Method® is a Visioning and Strategic Planning Expert specializing in Graphic Facilitation and Law of Attraction techniques. Based in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she works deeply with individuals, partners and groups in defining and getting what they really, really want. For more information visit:

Friday, December 5, 2008

What Is Community? OST on December 5

Sarah Griffiths and I had the pleasure of facilitating a session at the SLHI What is Community Event. We co-facilitated a session using Open Space Technology one of our favorite methods. We were so lucky because we had a Graphic Recorder and I've attached a photograph of what she captured during the session. She also did some beautiful charts for the room which she asked me to hang up crooked. I was so excited about this - because I can't hang anything straight and it turns out it is better for thinking and learning to have some things crooked (although not the big graphics). Thanks to everyone that participated - we'll post more about this event later. Cassandra at

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Handout on Strengths Based Evaluation from November 18 meeting

Thanks to B.J. Tatro for providing this handout on Strengths Based Evaluation from the November 18 meeting

SLHI Health in a New Key Consultant Community
& Arizona Evaluation Network
“Strengths-based Approaches to Program Evaluation”
Gwen Relf, Jane Pearson, Chrystal Snyder, and B. J. Tatro
November 18, 2008


Designing the Evaluation
1. Were stakeholders, including those affected by and invested in the program, involved in visualizing what success would look like (defining the outcomes or desired results)?
2. Are the measures of success important to the stakeholders?
3. Are the measures of success stated in positive terms (what we want more of, not only what we want less of)?
4. Were stakeholders involved in designing the data collection tools and methods?
5. Are the data collection tools and methods focused on discovering what is right and why, not only what is wrong?
6. Are the data collection tools and methods culturally appropriate?
7. Are the data collection tools and methods respectful of participants and strengths-based?
8. Are the data collection tools and methods focused on learning?
9. Is the evaluation design consistent with the values underlying the program?

Conducting and Reporting
1. Who is doing the evaluation? Are they knowledgeable of and sensitive to the culture and context of the program?
2. Are stakeholders involved in the implementation of the evaluation? What are they involved in (e.g., data gathering, serving as a source of data, making sense of the data, preparing the recommendations)? How are they supported to have a successful experience?
3. Are reports provided that answer questions stakeholders care about?
4. Are reports user-friendly (e.g., language, format)?
5. Does the report focus on what is right, as well as what needs improvement?
6. Is the language in the report respectful?
7. Does the report promote learning?
8. Do recommendations build on participants’ strengths?

1. Does reporting promote utilization? Consider frequency, length, content, and format of reports.
2. Were stakeholders engaged in a review of the findings and recommendations and the development of an implementation plan?
3. Are recommendations practical?
4. Are recommendations consistent with the culture and context of the program?
5. Are successes celebrated and used to energize future improvement?
6. Is there opportunity to reflect on what has been learned and its meaning?
7. Are evaluation results tied to future planning? Used to guide decision making? Program improvement? Influence agency and public policy? Increase program visibility?
8. Is accountability internalized? (We are doing this because we want to be the best we can be.)

Prepared by B.J. Tatro

Think you can't do anything without a grant? Think again.

Article published by the Charity Channel's Grant and Foundations Review

Think you can’t do anything without a grant? Think again.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
by Cassandra O'Neill

Traditional approaches to collaboration can look like this. “We want to work together, and we can only do something if we get a grant. Let’s develop a list of things to do if we had a grant and try to find a grant to do them.” What if by focusing on this approach, you miss out on all the things that you could do without a grant, with existing resources, things that are sustainable?

What if the idea that you can’t do anything without a grant is just a limiting belief? What if you change the question from Question 1 - “What can we only do if we get a grant?”, to Question 2 -“What might be some of the things we can do now through exploring new collaborations with organizations and individuals that share a common vision?” The first question can be answered quickly. The second question takes longer, and involves having exploratory conversations and some out of the box thinking. This may take a little longer than making up a wish list of things to
buy with grants.

In Power vs Force David Hawkins writes:

“The world conventionally assumes that the processing of problems requires starting from the known (the question or conditions) and moving on to the unknown (the answer) in a time sequence following definite steps and logical progression. Nonlinear dynamics moves in the opposite direction: From the unknown (the nondeterministic data of the question) to the known (the answer)! It operates within a different paradigm of causality. The problem is seen as one of definition and access rather than a logical sequence (as in solving a problem by differential

When we look at this, and apply it to possible approaches to collaboration we get two different scenarios.

Scenario A is the traditional approach.

We get partners together to define a problem, develop a solution that meets the needs defined in the problem, and we seek to move from our definition of the known (the unmet needs, barriers to overcome) to the unknown. Our solution often involves developing new services to be delivered to those defined as “in need” to meet their needs.

One downside of this approach is that all attention is focused on what the partners don’t have and can only do with a grant. Additionally, it applies linear thinking to non linear human systems, and ignores what the people who are defined “in need”, have as strengths, resources, and assets. It also ignores solutions that involve building resiliency. Meeting others needs often does not build resiliency. Nor does it build resiliency in the agencies that get the grants, as they continue to
view themselves as unable to do anything without a grant, the getting of which directs their efforts into unsustainable short term activities.

What is an alternative? How can we try on an approach that moves from the unknown to the known? How can we explore partnering with people and organizations in a new and sustainable way, one that is strengths based, embedded in the dynamic reality of human systems? There are many ways, here is what one might look like:

Scenario B reframes the question.

What if the people interested in working together focused first on exploring the unknown - the strengths, resources, peak experiences, and resiliency of the potential partners. Imagine that, you meet with someone that you think may share a common vision and values. You learn from each other, you learn what strengths and resources you each have, and what may be possible by connecting the resources you share -- and directing them towards your shared vision.

Imagine that you hold similar exploratory conversations with many other potential partners. What will you end up with? You won’t know, you wait for it to emerge from your explorations. When you’ve found a critical mass of partners sharing a common vision, jointly exploring the unknown, hidden, and underutilized resources -- something positive may emerge. Some activities, strategies, and system changes that reflect the potential of the partners to do something sustainable towards their shared vision. Will these be the same activities as the list drawn up in
Scenario A? No, absolutely not. Will these have a bigger impact in both the short and long term? Probably. If nothing emerges, keep adding new partners for exploration.

Think about what might be possible if you move from the unknown to the known. You focus on the resources we have collectively - and explore how they can be connected in a powerful way. And guess what? If you do this, you may come up with some things you can get grant funding to support – And it will look very different than if you followed Scenario A. When you pursue Scenario B – you end up with a list of activities and strategies built on strengths, that are sustainable by nature, and that can be done with existing resources. There will be things that could support these strategies that you can seek grant funding for. These activities will build the capacity of your collaboration to reach their shared vision -- by building on strengths and creating community resiliency. Want to know more about what this might look like? You can check out the St. Luke’s Health Initiative website at – and download their publication Health in a New Key.

CharityChannel LLC


Michael Wells

Mr. Wells is joined by a body of contributors who are well-respected leaders, observers, and pundits in the field.

Grants and Foundations Review™ is a domestic and international trademark of CharityChannel LLC. Copyright (c) and Trademark (tm) CharityChannel LLC. All rights reserved. The article in this issue, "Think you can’t do anything without a grant? Think again.," Copyright © 2008 by Cassandra O'Neill.

Grants and Foundations Review is published by CharityChannel LLC, 30021 Tomas St., Suite 300, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688-2128 USA. Telephone: +1 949 589-

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Thoughts on Using Appreciative Inquiry Guides

What is an Appreciative Inquiry Guide?
Appreciative Inquiry is an approach to change -- that assists individuals and organizations identify what they are doing successfully so that they can do more of it. People build on their strengths to design a compelling future to move towards. There are four phases of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), discover, dream, design, and destiny. The guides are used during the discovery phase to find out more about experiences that people in the group have had around a specific topic. There are a lot of great books about AI and many with sample interview questions. For more information about AI go to: Appreciative Inquiry Commons at

We developed this specific guide on lasting change because of our work in helping others think differently about sustainability. We use this guide to help people shift their focus on what they have done -- that has been successful in creating lasting change.

Using this AI Guide
Using this guide is as simple as asking someone to interview you and in turn be interviewed. Using this guide with a group is as simple as passing the guides out, asking people to pick a partner, and setting a timer for the first interview. When it goes off ask people to switch turns. The person interviewing will ask their partner the questions on the first page of the guide. After they have asked all the questions on the first page, they will use the back to record what surprised and surprised them about what they heard.

Want more information? Keep reading.

This is a great activity to do with a group at the beginning of a meeting or training. Why? Because it helps sets the energy of the group as a group. Feeling connected to one person in a group is often all it takes for people to feel connected to the entire group. If you have time, you can do it before introductions, and then have people introduce themselves by sharing what they learned from their partner. This focuses attention on what they learned, what surprised them, and what inspired them. If you have more time, you can have people discuss the themes in small groups. If you have even more time, you can flow through the other phases of AI.

More about the questions.
Appreciative Interview guides start by asking people to share a story about a peak experience, then ask about the person’s contribution to this experience, and they tend to end with a question about the person’s wishes. The purpose of the questions about their wishes is to connect what they discovered, when sharing a peak experience, with their hopes for a group, organization, partnership or a community they are part of.

Introducing this to a group.
You can introduce the activity by talking about Appreciative Inquiry, or you can introduce it as ice breaker. If you want to provide more of an introduction to a group you can go over the purpose – which is to shine a spotlight on the peak experiences of the individuals in the group. You can also go over the questions before people pair up and offer alternative wordings. Once in awhile someone has difficulty thinking of a “peak” experience. Responding to this is as easy as encouraging them to pick any experience that they felt alive and excited. The same thing for the wishes, sometimes people can’t identify wishes for a specific group. It is fine to think about wishes in a more global way, maybe wishes for the world. If you want to do this activity spontaneously you can write the questions on a flip chart or white board. One thing that we have found is that the more we use this, the more we want to. Shifting the focus to peak experiences always creates a positive energy that changes the trajectory of a meeting or event. We have found that once you bring out these guides, magic happens.

There are books that have sample guides on a variety of topics which are listed on our Resource List blog post. Also, we've posted one from the meeting on November 18 about Strenghts based Evaluation and Consulting.

Cassandra - email me at

Notes from Open Space Session on November 18

In the afternoon of our meeting on November 18 we convened small group discussions using Open Space Technology. Sarah Griffiths facilitated this and typed up the notes from the sessions. We've attached them here. The overarching question for the group was: How can we use, and further, strengths-based approaches in our work?

5 Small groups formed to discuss the following topics:
Strengths-based Professional Development,
Using Strengths-based approaches in the Jewish Community,
Staying Connected,
Involve Community Members and Stakeholders more, and
Effecting Change when Low Morale is an Issue.

Strengths-based Professional Development
Host: Allison Titcomb

Discussion Highlights:
• Definitions—cultural, theory/use, target.
• Ask the people—using strengths-based questions.
• Flexibility—web, in-person, learning circles, short-term, long-term.
• Follow through—opportunities, building trust, application, reflection.
• Ask—what do you want from these relationships?
Powerful Quotes:
• “On the hunt for new questions.”

Using Strengths-based approaches in the Jewish Community
Host: Bonnie Wright

Discussion Highlights:
• Are there sensitivities special to this “culture”? Yes, but not prohibitive. Appreciative Inquiry might be the best approach.
• Conversations need to lead to action.
• Build off the strengths in the community (and outside models).
Powerful Quotes:
• “Know and respect the audience.”
• “Not everything will work.”
• Have courage.

Staying Connected
Host: Jon Ford

Discussion Highlights:
• Early wins—personal contact is so generative.
• Substance and value of communications wanted.
• Key authors/leaders/resources/tools.
• Everyone’s contributing; more than one voice/leader.
• Communication—easy, clear and active. Start by asking—what do you want from this?
• Share learnings after the meeting.
Powerful Quotes:
• “Something powerful about an invitation>’
• “Collaboration.”
• “Step into the center and radiate out.”
• “Being part of the vision.”

Involve Community Members and Stakeholders More

Host: Wendy Wolfersteig
Scribe: Barbara Garvey, Barbara Schoeneweis

Discussion Highlights:
• Reframing/refocusing on what we are doing well. What are good outcomes?
• Why do people get involved? What matters to them? How can your initiative/program help them think/benefit them?
• Delineate groups/partners who are possible stakeholders. Look at how best to reach each group—Internet, Open Space, Coalition, etc.
Powerful Quotes:
• “We only do what we care about.”
• “Our challenge is to restore our quality f life and personal well-being.”

Effecting Change when Low Morale is an Issue
Host: Elizabeth Eells

Discussion Highlights:
• Working with Native communities.
• Segued into organizations—burnout, low-morale.
• People need a voice, want to be heard, need to understand boundaries.
• Focus on what is working.
• Leadership style and perspective are important.
• Give a voice—ask their opinion, for suggestions.
• Explain why—be open to suggestions for change.
• Get all levels of the organization/community involved.
• Be respectful.
Powerful Quotes:
• It is easier to ask for forgiveness . . .”

Slides from November 18 Strengths Based Evaluation and Consulting Meeting

I've attached a link to the slides that we used at the November 18 meeting. These look beautiful because Jon Ford from St. Luke's Health Initiative took the content and not only made it look fabulous but increased the learning value of the whole experience. Thanks so much Jon!

If you click on the attached link you will be able to click where it says click here to download and download the whole file. Feel free to use them if you credit Wholonomy Consulting at
Enjoy. Cassandra contact me at

File name: ConsultantsRetreat111808fpm.ppt:
Download link:

Strengths Based Evaluation Tool - Appreciative Review Form

In our meeting on November 18 on Strengths based evaluation and consulting - We ended the day by using a strengths based evaluation tool. Here is a copy of it. We've written about in our last newsletters the power of taking off the standard questions that are deficit based such as what do you like least - because they shut down thinking, eliminate the benefit of reflecting during the peak retention period after a learning experience, and do not produce meaningful information. The Appreciative Reviews are a way to get at useful and meaningful information which enhance the participants learning and retention. Feel free to modify and use this. Cassandra -

November 18 meeting
Appreciative Review

1. What was the high point for you in this experience? Please share details and descriptions that brought the experience to life for you.

2. What do you value most about ….

The experience overall?

What you’ve learned?

What this has prepared you for?

3. What 3 wishes do you have for your learning and practice of strengths based methods?

Interview Guide on Using Strengths

We had 80 people interview each other about their "peak" experiences using their strengths and/or using strengths based approaches on November 18 at our Strengths based consulting and evaluation meeting. I've attached a copy of the interview guide that we used and I'm going to put up some thoughts on how you could use Appreciative Interviews in your work in a future post. Cassandra contact me at

Appreciative Interview Guide for November 18, 2008
Topic: Using Strengths and Strengths Based Approaches

Don’t ask what the world needs. Rather – ask what makes you come alive; then go and do it! Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. Howard Thurman Whitman

Pick a person to be interviewed first. The other person will ask the following questions and listen to the responses. The person asking questions and listening can take notes on what is heard on this sheet. When the questions have been asked and answered, the person who interviewed will be interviewed.

1. Tell me a story about a peak experience when you were using your strengths to accomplish something meaningful, a time when you were able to make a difference that really mattered to you. A time you felt excited, alive, and engaged. What was the situation? What happened? What was it about this that made it a peak experience for you?

2. If you think about an opportunity that you have had to use your strengths and strengths based approaches in your work, a time you’ve been able to collaborate with others to explore what is working, to identify strengths and build on them, what is an example that comes to mind?

3. Without being modest, what strengths did you bring to that experience, without which, success wouldn’t have been possible?

4. If you had 3 wishes that, if fulfilled, would allow you to use your strengths even more, help others discover and utilize their strengths, and to incorporate strengths based approaches to your work – what would they be?

Creating what we most want is fundamentally different than making bad things better. Creating is about bringing into being what most matters-the concrete results you most want to see exist.
-- Bruce Elkin

Appreciative Interview Worksheet

This page is for taking notes on your partner’s story

Notes on your partner’s story:

1. What inspired you?

2. What surprised you?

3. Best quote that came out of the interview:

Insights from Jennifer Abrams

Every month I look forward to getting Jennifer Abrams newsletter. I'm passing along this month's. She talks about a recent learning opportunity with George Lakoff. I was there too and look forward to sharing some of my learning from that in future posts. Hope you enjoy this. Cassandra Jennifer's website is linked at the bottom.

Hello! My book,(Jennifer's book) Having Hard Conversations, is coming out in January of 2009. I have been giving the workshop on which the book is based for several years and I often hear murmurs of resistance during the session. I was giving the workshop to a group of new teacher coaches last week and I overheard the comment, “I can’t believe she’s telling coaches to have these types of conversations.” This comment has come up before so I am taking time here to address it in more detail. Why would someone need to study this topic? Isn’t a hard conversation the superintendent’s job or the principal’s job? Yes, I believe that it is their job to speak up when they see something they feel doesn’t align with the vision of their district or when they witness something they don’t feel is good for students, and I believe we all lead from whatever position we have in our organization. This month’s newsletter is a first attempt to articulate my ‘why’; why I feel it is everyone’s responsibility to learn how to have hard conversations and learn to do them with clarity and compassion.

“Getting into Necessary Trouble”

Collective Responsibility

This summer I watched a video of Congressman John Lewis being interviewed by students at Mount Madonna School. They asked Congressman Lewis about his values and how they informed his work as a legislator. At the end of the talk, he looked at the students and said, “Get into trouble, necessary trouble.” Given his history in the Civil Rights Movement, what was in the ‘white space’ around his comments spoke to me through that video just as loudly as what he said. It is our responsibility to speak out and have hard conversations when we feel the collective isn’t being served. There are times when we are the ones who witness something academically unsound, physically unsafe or emotionally damaging. It could be a comment that wasn’t supportive of a fellow colleague or an action that wasn’t helpful to a student. In those situations, it is our responsibility to speak out and create a safe and supportive climate for the growth of adults and children alike. We should all feel the responsibility to learn how to have hard conversations and increase our capacity to do so for the social good.

Creating Cultures of Excellence

Last year, Palo Alto USD had a statement at the top of their home page on their web site that said, “Excellence by Design.” There is a certain sense of confidence in that statement. It said to those who were looking at it, “We are deliberate and self-assured.” Yet while design is necessary and critical, one can’t believe design is an end goal in itself. In education, we need to also be excellent in our communication, delivery and follow through. Do we truly provide the excellence we are aiming for? And if we don’t, do we have a hard conversation with ourselves and acknowledge it? I aspire to be excellent and I want to work in an organization that also aspires to do so. When we aren’t at our best, we need to recognize the gap between our existing state and our desired state. We need to skillfully articulate that difference and speak honestly to the potential we have to become our best selves.

Having Humane and Growth-Producing Conversations

One of the core beliefs foundational to my work on hard conversations is that we have them with one another so we can all become our best selves. We aren ’t having hard conversations to be cruel or shaming. We aren’t having hard conversations to blame or gain power. We have them so we can begin a dialogue that centers around all of us learning and becoming more human human beings. We are all in a process of ‘becoming’ - growing in our personal and professional identities. At times, we don’t see our impact and how it might not align with what we intended. If I am off the mark, I want someone to help me see how I could do an even better job as a teacher, trainer, facilitator and leader and tell me so in a humane and growth producing way.

We might have terrible memories of hard conversations that were hurtful. There is a better way to do them. No matter the roles we have, learning how to speak up in a way that is respectful of ourselves, respectful of others and holds a bigger vision of respect for our schools is at the core of what we need to be doing.

On the topic of the conscious use of language in positively shaping our conversations, take a look at these books...

* I spent this past weekend studying with George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at UC-Berkeley – his work on reframing concepts and being conscious of our use of language is stimulating and mind-bending in the best sense. Check out Metaphors We Live By or Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind.

* Connected to education, check out Judy Yero, author of Teaching in Mind: How Teacher Thinking Shapes Education writes about how your beliefs about teaching, learning, and students influence your perceptions and behaviors—indeed, all of your teaching decisions. Worth looking at…

Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleague. You may reprint this newsletter in whole or quote with attribution to Jennifer Abrams and a link to

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Resources on Strengths Based Approaches

Resources on Strengths Based Approaches compiled for Azenet and SLHI Consultant Community Meeting on November 18, 2008.

Our definition of Strengths Based Approaches: Strengths based approaches focus on the identification and development of the strengths of an individual, organization, community, and system. Strengths based approaches start with what is working, where you are strong, successful, and passionate. They are based on and align with the research on resiliency, positive psychology, asset based thinking, and whole system methods.

Our definition of Whole System Methods: Whole system methods such as Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space Technology engage people from all parts of a system in creating change. They help you initiate high leverage, sustainable, and transformational positive change in organizations, partnerships, communities, and systems by tapping into the collective intelligence.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Resources
• Power of Appreciative Inquiry by Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom
• Appreciative Coaching by Sara Orem, Jacqueline Binkert, Ann Clancy
• The Appreciative Inquiry Summit A Practitioner’s Guide for Leading Large-Group Change by James D. Ludema, Diana Whitney, Bernard J. Mohr, and Thomas J. Griffin

AI books with good appreciative questions
• Appreciative Teambuilding by Diana Whitney & Amanda Trosten-Bloom, Jay Cherney and Ron Fry
• The Encyclopedia of Positive Questions Diana Whitney, David Cooperrider, Amanda Trosten-Bloom, and Brian Kaplin

• Reframing Evaluation through Appreciative Inquiry by Hallie Preskill and Tessie Tzavaras Catsambas
• Information Gold Mine: Innovative Uses of Evaluation by Paul Mattessich

Other Resources on Strength Based Approaches
• Change the Way You See Everything Through Asset-Based Thinking by Kathryn D. Cramer Ph.D and Hank Wasiak
• Change the Way You See Yourself Through Asset-Based Thinking by Kathryn D. Cramer Ph.D and Hank Wasiak
• Open Space Technology A Users Manual by Harrison Owen
• The Soul of Money by Lynn Twist *
• Strengthsfinders 2.0 by Tom Rath
• The Power of Asset Mapping: How Your Congregation Can Act on Its Gifts by Luther K. Snow
• The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter by Juanita Brown, David Isaacs and the World Cafe Community,
• Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness by Martin E. P. Seligman PhD
• Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits by Leslie R. Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant
• Transitions and Transition Management by William Bridges
• The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt
• How The Way We Talk Can Change The Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey
• Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in theWorld Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming by Paul Hawken
• The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and rod A. Beckstrom
• Health in a New Key and Weave the People – available at

Resources on the New Sciences
• The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.
• The Philosopher’s Stone by F. David Peat
• Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World by Margaret J. Wheatley
• Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi.
• The Neuroscience of Leadership by David Rock (article)
• Strategic Thinking and the New Science by T. Irene Sanders

Tools to Help Identify Strengths of Individuals
• Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 – one on-line assessment comes with the price of a copy of the book Strenghtsfinder 2.0.
• StrengthsExplorer for ages 10-14 –

Available at
• VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire Measures 24 Character Strengths
• VIA Strength Survey for Children Measures 24 Character Strengths for Children

Appreciative Inquiry Commons -
Asset Based Community Development
Asset-Based Thinking
Open Space Technology -
Positive Deviancy Initiative -
World Café -

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reinventing Holiday Giving

An excerpt From Mrs. Green Goes Mainstream Newsletter of Friday November 14, 2008 about re-inventing holiday gift giving.

"Let's re-write the script and focus on embracing this holiday season with joy and a return to evaluating what really matters. Let's turn the recession into a revival! This is not about doing less but it is about doing things and giving things that have meaning, that matter most, that create lasting memories.

I have so many ideas as to what we can all do to bring true meaning back to our holiday season and truly manifest a debt free, waste free, stress free holiday experience that my mind is exploding - kind of! I will share some with you and extend an invitation to you to share your ideas with me. I would like the next two newsletters to be all about YOU! I want to hear your ideas, your childrens' ideas, your grandchildrens' ideas - get on the holiday imagination train and see where it takes you. When you catch your breath, write me an email! Forward this newsletter to family and friends and ask them to join the movement for a meaningful holiday and share their ideas with the rest of us.

Here's my start:

Give the gift of time - to your family, to your community, to yourself.

Start the tradition of family game or movie night (turn the phone ringer off) and make real popcorn in a popcorn popper - the healthy way!

Gift something special you own to someone who has admired it (recycle). I have already put my friend's diamond earrings on my wish list.

Start a family or neighborhood tradition like making Gingerbread Houses or Holiday cookies (one of my favorites to receive). The only request one of my daughter's had for her college winter break? Make Gingerbread Houses with the Murphys!

Give hand-made/home-made gift certificates offering to baby sit, clean house (okay - that might be a stretch), yard work, rearrange a pantry.

Give gift certificates that are practical like "This Certificate Good for One Home Cooked Meal on the Night of Your Choosing - Some Advance Notice Needed."

Reach out to your neighbors and friends and organize something like preparing a meal for the Ronald McDonald House.

Be joyous and excited about giving used gifts like books or jewelry.

Make a CD of someone's favorite music.

Buy a picture frame and put that special photograph of a happy memory in it that will bring a smile to someone's face.

Get creative about wrapping! My niece shared with me that she is going to cut up old bridesmaids' gowns with her children and use fun ribbon to wrap their presents this year. (Fun family time, great message to kids!)

Plan a road trip. It doesn't have to be around the holidays but part of the gift is planning and creating the trip as a family.

Offer to pay off something on another person's charge card (bold but beautiful!)

Donate an old sewing machine or computer or Ipod to someone who needs it and wants it.

Buy a Christmas tree that can be planted. If you are a desert dweller, find out which trees can survive.

And did I say give the gift of time and love and laughter?

Be a stand for something different and share it with the world. Help start a movement - turning back the hands of time to when people got together to sing, and laugh and share homemade goodies - things which come from the heart. Brace or embrace? You decide!"

Thanks Gina

A Model of Shared Leadership

This is a great article from Jeff Thoren's newsletter from Gifted Leaders. Thanks Jeff. I had heard about this and didn't know where to get more information on it and there it was in your last newsletter.

Today's leaders are seeking to adopt new ways of thinking and to apply new models of organization in the workplace. Sometimes new insights are found in unexpected places. One symphony orchestra -- New York City-based Orpheus Chamber Orchestra -- has become a model for a new kind of loose and flexible organization.

By removing the position of conductor from the organization, Orpheus has unleashed an incredible amount of leadership from its members. The highly acclaimed orchestra has achieved a level of excellence and success by explicitly honoring the ideals of democracy, personal involvement, and mutual respect.

"In a conducted orchestra, you play a more passive role. Not only is less expected of you, but less is expected from you. I don’t see that people in regular orchestras are emotionally involved in the same way. Everybody plays well, but the level of emotional involvement isn’t there."
- Orpheus cellist Eric Bartlett

Here's this month's feature ...

The Conductor-less Orchestra

By Harvey Seifter

Leader to Leader, No. 21, Summer 2001

Highlights from the article:

In most orchestras, the conductor not only decides what music will be played but how it will be played as well. There is little room for the opinions or suggestions of the musicians themselves. As a result, orchestral musicians are a notoriously unhappy class of employees.

By contrast, Orpheus has developed a unique system of collaborative leadership that invites every member of the orchestra to participate in a variety of formal and informal leadership positions. The system is extremely flexible -- musicians freely move in an out of positions of leadership -- allowing the orchestra to quickly adapt to changing conditions.

With no conductor to act as a filter to the what and the why behind the group's decisions, the members of Orpheus are uncommonly energized and responsive to the needs of the organization and to the desires of its leaders. Turnover is extremely low and employee loyalty is extremely high. The result is a better product, increased customer satisfaction, and a healthier bottom line.

While the Orpheus approach to collaborative leadership is not without its difficulties -- getting 27 talented and strong-willed people to agree to anything can often be a very real challenge -- it has served the group well over more than three decades. Here are eight guiding principles:

Put power in the hands of the people doing the work. Orpheus musicians actively participate in deciding who will lead, how a piece of music will be played, who will be invited to join their ranks, and who will represent them within management.

Encourage individual responsibility for product and quality.
Each member of the orchestra feels a very real and personal responsibility for the group's outcomes.

Create clarity of roles. The organization's members have clear roles and all roles are communicated widely throughout the organization.

Foster horizontal teamwork. Orpheus operates with Peter Drucker’s words in mind, "No knowledge ranks higher than another; each is judged by its contribution to the common task rather than by any inherent superiority or inferiority. Therefore, the modern organization cannot be an organization of boss and subordinate. It must be organized as a team."

Share and rotate leadership. Fixing leadership in positions rather than people wastes the leadership potential within employees whose positions are not part of the organization's formal leadership hierarchy. Orpheus brings out the strengths and talents of each individual member of the group.

Learn to listen, learn to talk. The members of Orpheus know the power of communication, and it is the lifeblood of the organization. Two-way communication is expected, fostered, and reinforced almost constantly.

Seek consensus (and build creative systems that favor consensus). This requires a high level of participation and trust among the members of an organization. Everyone must be willing to listen to the views of others and to be flexible and willing to compromise on their own positions. In Orpheus, the more important the decision to the organization, the more people are involved in it.

Dedicate passionately to your mission.
Passion is the spark that can make an ordinary organization great -- and a great organization truly exceptional. In Orpheus, all the members of the orchestra are focused on one thing: producing the very best product possible.

For the full text article, go to ...

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Lifecycle of Emergence

Using Emergence to Take Social Innovations to Scale

Margaret Wheatley & Deborah Frieze, 2006

Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad-based change.

But networks aren’t the whole story. As networks grow and transform into active, working communities of practice, we discover how Life truly changes, which is through emergence. When separate, local efforts connect with each other as networks, then strengthen as communities of practice, suddenly and surprisingly a new system emerges at a greater level of scale. This system of influence possesses qualities and capacities that were unknown in the individuals. It isn’t that they were hidden; they simply don’t exist until the system emerges. They are properties of the system, not the individual, but once there, individuals possess them. And the system that emerges always possesses greater power and influence than is possible through planned, incremental change. Emergence is how Life creates radical change and takes things to scale.

Since its inception in 1992, The Berkana Institute has been experimenting with the lifecycle of emergence: how living systems begin as networks, shift to intentional communities of practice, and evolve into powerful systems capable of global influence. Through our work with communities in many different nations, we are learning what’s possible when we connect people across difference and distance. By applying the lessons of living systems and working intentionally with emergence and its lifecycle, we are demonstrating how local social innovation can be taken to scale and provide solutions to many of the world’s most intractable issues—such as community health, ecological sustainability and economic self-reliance.

Why we need to understand networks

Researchers and social activists are beginning to discover the power of networks and networking. And there is a growing recognition that networks are the new form of organizing. Evidence of self-organized networks is everywhere: social activists, terrorist groups, drug cartels, street gangs, web-based interest groups. While we now see these everywhere, it is not because they’re a new form of organizing. It’s because we’ve removed our old paradigm blinders that look for hierarchy and control mechanisms in the belief that organization only happens through human will and intervention.

Networks are the only form of organization used by living systems on this planet. These networks result from self-organization, where individuals or species recognize their interdependence and organize in ways that support the diversity and viability of all. Networks create the conditions for emergence, which is how Life changes. Because networks are the first stage in emergence, it is essential that we understand their dynamics and how they develop into communities and then systems.

Yet much of the current work on networks displays old paradigm bias. In social network analysis, physical representations of the network are created by mapping relationships. This is useful for convincing people that networks exist, and people are often fascinated to see the network made visible. Other network analysts name roles played by members of the network or make distinctions between different parts of the network, such as core and periphery. It may not be the intent of these researchers, but their work is often used by leaders to find ways to manipulate the network, to use it in a traditional and controlling way.

What’s missing in these analyses is an exploration of the dynamics of networks:

Why do networks form? What are the conditions that support their creation? What keeps a network alive and growing? What keeps members connected? What type of leadership is required? Why do people become leaders? What type of leadership interferes with or destroys the network? What happens after a healthy network forms? What’s next? If we understand these dynamics and the lifecycle of emergence, what can we do as leaders, activists and social entrepreneurs to intentionally foster emergence?

What is Emergence?

Emergence violates so many of our Western assumptions of how change happens that it often takes quite a while to understand it. In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, pre-conceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a more global or comprehensive level. (Global here means a larger scale, not necessarily the entire planet.)

These powerful emergent phenomena appear suddenly and surprisingly. Think about how the Berlin Wall suddenly came down, how the Soviet Union ended, how corporate power quickly came to dominate globally. In each case, there were many local actions and decisions, most of which were invisible and unknown to each other, and none of which was powerful enough by itself to create change. But when these local changes coalesced, new power emerged. What could not be accomplished by diplomacy, politics, protests, or strategy suddenly happened. And when each materialized, most were surprised. Emergent phenomena always have these characteristics: They exert much more power than the sum of their parts; they always possess new capacities different from the local actions that engendered them; they always surprise us by their appearance.

It is important to note that emergence always results in a powerful system that has many more capacities than could ever be predicted by analyzing the individual parts. We see this in the behavior of hive insects such as bees and termites. Individual ants possess none of the intelligence or skills that are in the hive. No matter how intently scientists study the behavior of individual ants, they can never see the behavior of the hive. Yet once the hive forms, each ant acts with the intelligence and skillfulness of the whole.

This aspect of emergence has profound implications for social entrepreneurs. Instead of developing them individually as leaders and skillful practitioners, we would do better to connect them to like-minded others and create the conditions for emergence. The skills and capacities needed by them will be found in the system that emerges, not in better training programs.

Because emergence only happens through connections, Berkana has developed a four stage model that catalyzes connections as the means to achieve global level change: Name, Connect, Nourish, Illuminate (see Appendix). We focus on discovering pioneering efforts and naming them as such. We then connect these efforts to other similar work globally. We nourish this network in many ways, but most essentially through creating opportunities for learning and sharing experiences and shifting into communities of practice. We also illuminate these pioneering efforts so that many more people will learn from them. We are attempting to work intentionally with emergence so that small, local efforts can become a global force for change.

The Lifecycle of Emergence

Stage One: Networks. We live in a time when coalitions, alliances and networks are forming as the means to create societal change. There are ever more networks and now, networks of networks. These networks are essential for people finding likeminded others, the first stage in the lifecycle of emergence. It’s important to note that networks are only the beginning. They are based on self-interest--people usually network together for their own benefit and to develop their own work. Networks tend to have fluid membership; people move in and out of them based on how much they personally benefit from participating.

Stage Two: Communities of Practice. Networks make it possible for people to find others engaged in similar work. The second stage of emergence is the development of communities of practice (CoPs). Many such smaller, individuated communities can spring from a robust network. CoPs are also self-organized. People share a common work and realize there is great benefit to being in relationship. They use this community to share what they know, to support one another, and to intentionally create new knowledge for their field of practice. These CoPs differ from networks in significant ways. They are communities, which means that people make a commitment to be there for each other; they participate not only for their own needs, but to serve the needs of others.

In a community of practice, the focus extends beyond the needs of the group. There is an intentional commitment to advance the field of practice, and to share those discoveries with a wider audience. They make their resources and knowledge available to anyone, especially those doing related work.

The speed with which people learn and grow in a community of practice is noteworthy. Good ideas move rapidly amongst members. New knowledge and practices are implemented quickly. The speed at which knowledge development and exchange happens is crucial, because local regions and the world need this knowledge and wisdom now.

Stage Three: Systems of Influence. The third stage in emergence can never be predicted. It is the sudden appearance of a system that has real power and influence. Pioneering efforts that hovered at the periphery suddenly become the norm. The practices developed by courageous communities become the accepted standard. People no longer hesitate about adopting these approaches and methods and they learn them easily. Policy and funding debates now include the perspectives and experiences of these pioneers. They become leaders in the field and are acknowledged as the wisdom keepers for their particular issue. And critics who said it could never be done suddenly become chief supporters (often saying they knew it all along.)

Emergence is the fundamental scientific explanation for how local changes can materialize as global systems of influence. As a change theory, it offers methods and practices to accomplish the systems-wide changes that are so needed at this time. As leaders and communities of concerned people, we need to intentionally work with emergence so that our efforts will result in a truly hopeful future. No matter what other change strategies we have learned or favored, emergence is the only way change really happens on this planet. And that is very good news.


Berkana’s Four Stages for Developing Leadership-in-Community
Berkana works with pioneering leaders and communities using a four-stage approach. This has evolved out of our understanding of how living systems grow and change, and years of practice and experimentation.

I. Name
Pioneering leaders act in isolation, unaware that their work has broader value. They are too busy to think about extending their work, and too humble to think that others would benefit. Berkana’s first act is to recognize them as pioneers with experiences that are of value to others.

II. Connect
Life grows and changes through the strength of its connections and relationships. (In nature, if a system lacks health, the solution is to connect it to more of itself.) Berkana creates connections in many different ways. We design and facilitate
community gatherings. We host networks where people can exchange ideas and resources. Our collaborative technology supports communities of practice through dedicated websites, online conferences, asynchronous conversations and cocreated knowledge products.

III. Nourish
Communities of practice need many different resources: ideas, mentors, processes, technology, equipment, money. Each is important, but foremost among these is learning and knowledge: knowing what techniques and processes work well, and
learning from experience as people do the work.

Berkana provides many of these sources of nourishment but, increasingly, we find that the most significant nourishment comes from the interactions and exchanges among pioneering leaders themselves. They need and want to share their
practices, experiences and dreams. Creating opportunities for people to learn together has become our primary way of nourishing their efforts.

IV. Illuminate
It is difficult for anybody to see work based on a different paradigm. If people do notice such work, it is often characterized as inspiring deviations from the norm. It takes time and attention for people to see different approaches for what they are:
examples of what the new world could be. The Berkana community publishes articles, tells our stories at conferences, and host learning journeys where people visit pioneering efforts, learn from them directly, and develop lasting relationships.

click here for their version on line which has some great graphics

Thursday, November 6, 2008

We are the ones we've been waiting for..

We have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour
And there are things to be considered

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in the right relation?
Where is your water?

Know your garden.

It is time to speak your truth
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.

The elders say we must let go of the shore, and push off and into the river, keep our eyes open, and our head above the water.

See who is in there with you and Celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over,
Gather yourselves!

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that you do now must be done in a sacred manner
And in celebration.

"We are the ones we've been waiting for..."

The Elders, Hopi Nation, Oraibi, Arizona

This was posted on the Open Space Listserv

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Is the Concept of Competitive Advantage Obsolete?

I read this quote the other day.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - Buckminster Fuller

I started wondering, what are we doing that has become obsolete?

I started wondering about the concept of competitive advantage. People frequently talk about competitive advantage in both the business and social sectors as if this is the highest goal, motivator, or possible expression of accomplishment. One thing that we know from working with people in the social sector is this -- they are motivated by their passion for making a difference - and not by being "better" or "more competitive" than others.

Is the idea that you should focus on being better than someone else really missing the point? Does this focus cause an organization to miss opportunities to be the best that they can be - given what Angeles Arriens calls your original medicine. What is original medicine? This is the unique strengths, talents, skills, resources, and ideas that you or your organization has to offer to the world. What if the focus on competitive advantage actually distracts from what is possible if you develop the potential of your original medicine?

What do you think?


Playing for Change: Peace Through Music

A friend of ours shared this incredible clip about a documentary called Playing for Change: Peace Through Music. Here is a link to a clip on Bill Moyer's program about the transformative power of music to connect us. There are actually two parts to the program, both important and interconnected. The part about music starts at about 3:45 minutes into the program. There is a button to watch it in full screen; it's in between the timer and the volume control at the bottom of the video.

Thanks Mark!


Monday, November 3, 2008

In Times of Change, Wild Magic is Afoot by Tama J. Kieves

Tama's Musings

(Note: This article originally appeared as the lead article in the Fall Catalog for the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health)

Change, in all shapes and sizes, can definitely bring out our deepest fears--but it also offers us vital encounters with the bountiful magic of life...

We live in crackling times. Change seems to electrify the air, in our individual lives and in the world. The media reports sad stories, dark messages, dire predictions and warnings. Hope is rarely broadcasted from the channels of the mainstream. Rowdy angels rattle our cubicles and turn our retirement accounts upside down—and they will get our attention. But the challenges of our time will spur new and remarkable solutions. The oyster produces its jewels in response to sand. Agitation gives birth to transformation.

I invite you to consider that in times of change, wild magic is afoot.

For most of us going through change, fear pounds on our door. Yet, this discomfort brings an invitation to awaken our passion and aliveness like never before. Something larger wants to express itself in our lives. Pain often nudges our growth or illuminates where we have been holding back on our true selves. Most of us seem to need a pinch of desperation to awaken our honesty and inspiration. As poet David Whyte says, "Absent the edge, we drown in numbness."

Still, when you hit your edge, numbness looks like Shangri-la. When it happened to me, I remember feeling as though I couldn't breathe. My whole world felt like one of those Salvador Dali paintings, where normal reality begins to drip and arc in unnatural ways. I had been a rising star in the litigation department of an elite, big-city law firm. I had graduated from Harvard Law School with honors and with grand expectations about my future security. I had consciously avoided the flimsy foot bridge of risk, but deep down, I knew I wanted to become a writer. I chose law instead because I wanted financial free dom, baubles, and safety—but I hadn't counted on the ruthless mercy of the soul. I didn't know that you can only avoid yourself for so long before the truth hits the fan.

I never imagined that my life could get so out of control (and I certainly never imagined that I'd eventually bless the day it did). But I found myself sitting at a beach in California, watching the waves and realizing I didn't want to live anymore. I couldn't bear to practice law in that office one more day. But I also refused to leave my job, my identity, my income, and everything I knew. Of course, I was fighting the inevitable. The soul's true desire has infinite strength. The creative part of me, the one I had always considered weak, frivolous, and negligible, had the power to bring about depression, rage, and even the willingness to die. I felt helpless and stripped of all my previous powers to function. In the end it was my vulnerability that gave rise to my greatest freedom and joy. I stopped defending the life that was caving in. I let the last precious scraps fall from my hands. Now I was available to spirit. Just a few weeks later, without a viable plan or income, I walked out of my safe career and into the next phase of my life.

I found it absolutely terrifying to walk into the unknown. I didn't care how many spiritual books said peace would come from letting go of control. I read every one of them with clenched white knuckles. "You will find your way," said my therapist. She clearly had me confused with someone lucid and resourceful. Still I came for more sessions. It felt important to hear these reassuring messages.

Gradually I found my way, or more accurately "the way" found me, breath by breath, as it always does. I wrote about this journey in my first book, This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love. The alchemy of change had tempered my fear into absolute wonder, and I wrote: "I've become someone who trusts that though I feel as fragile as a flaming leaf in autumn, I house the capacity of a tidal wave, a meteor shower, a white tornado of inspiration. I've become someone who believes that every human being has a tornado just beneath the skin and that we are meant to live our dreams so that we can discover that natural force within us that blows constriction away."

For years now, I've taught personal-growth seminars, stirred audiences, led retreats, and coached thousands. I have often witnessed this astounding alchemy in others. In unsettling periods, courageous individuals begin to discover that there is more to life than what they think they're losing. They turn to new ways of seeing, being, and relating to their experience. Uncertainty gives them permission and motivation to examine their present life and delve deeper into their own extraordinary mystical and creative reserves. In This Time I Dance!, I explained, "Because I had to search for a sense of safety beyond dollar, privilege, and approval, I inherited the ultimate trust fund. I learned to trust in my own resources and the startling generosity of life. You will, too. And, there is no other security."

Like many, I am still tempted to contract with fear during times of distress within our world, and within my personal circumstances. I find my mind whirring away with "What if this happens?" or "What if that happens?" I search for wisdom and strategy through the lens of limitation. But I know better. As Albert Einstein said, "One cannot solve a problem at the level of the problem." I know my distraught identity will recede into the night sky. To embody new answers and perspectives, I will grow new muscles, read new books, mend wounds and memories, ignite new fires, and take bold steps. Nietzsche says, "It takes chaos to give birth to a rising star." A different self will walk into that different life. Ultimately, that's the service provided by the challenge.

Here's what you need to know: There will be stepping stones, places of safety and clarity on which to stand. More than that, it's actually all solid ground, consistent safety appearing as terror in your imagination. It's solid ground upheld by a net. The net is woven with velvet, roses, and diamonds and governed by a band of mighty angels. The angels have support teams. And the support teams have backups and tech support in India. Love is always with you. Love helped you create that job or marriage or bank account in the first place. It will help you create whatever you need this time, too.

Yes, there is wild abundant magic afoot. The woods stir with howls. The world is restless. Part of me is now eager to witness the genius and healing that is evolving on the planet. Change will bring new responses. More of us will now give birth to the divine qualities within us that we ignored while answering e-mails. We are resourceful and beautiful beyond our imagination.

In her book The Gift of Change, Marianne Williamson says, "I think we stand between two historic ages, when a critical mass of the human race is trying to detach from its obedience to fear-based thought systems. We want to cross over to someplace new." Later, she writes, "As we cross the bridge to a more loving orientation, as we learn the lessons of spiritual transformation and apply them in our personal lives, we will become agents of change on a tremendous scale."

This is what I know: You have barely scratched the surface of your true strength. Your love is your light in shadow times. You have tremendous and unique gifts to offer us. Fear whispers to you about scarcity and guarding your limited resources. But you don't have limited resources. There are only finite assets in the known world. But now we are walking into the unknown. We have new abundance to discover and explore. It's not about clinging to the old sources of power that once sustained us. It's about launching into the inspired capacities, passions, and vitality we have always longed to express.

I'd like to offer you three helpful touchstones when facing the unknown:

Stay in the present moment: Your mind may torture you about choices you made in the past. The present moment can heal the past. Your mind may fly into agitations about the future. This present moment creates your future. Focus on this moment only. You are safe right now.

Do something you love: Write a song, work in the garden, or talk to a good friend. You activate different brain chemistry when having fun or expressing creativity. A loving and inspired mind bubbles with new perspectives and possibilities.

Strengthen your connection to the Divine: You are not alone on this journey. Remember a time when you felt loved, safe, or at peace in any way. That loving force that surrounded you then surrounds you now. Step up your commitment to meditate, pray, walk in nature, visit a spiritual mentor, or anything that feeds your experience of connection and guidance.

Finally, know that when you feel insecure and inadequate, all is well. You're right on track. Transformation defies your imagination. A mother doesn't have to understand or even trust the birth process to give birth. Your next expression wants to be born. Great and mighty forces marshal their strength around you. It's your time. You're one of the brave encountering the new frontier. Change may wear a wolf suit. Still, don't be fooled. It's wild, abundant magic knocking on your door.

With my love and blessings,


©Copyright 2008 Tama J. Kieves. All rights reserved.

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What neuroscience reveals about how to come up with new ideas

Neuroscience Sheds New Light on Creativity
By: Gregory Berns

Close your eyes and visualize the sun setting over a beach.
How detailed was your image? Did you envision a bland orb sinking below calm waters, or did you call up an image filled with activity -- palm trees swaying gently, waves lapping at your feet, perhaps a loved one holding your hand?

Now imagine you're standing on the surface of Pluto. What would a sunset look like from there? Notice how hard you had to work to imagine this

Did you picture a featureless ball of ice with the sun a speck of light barely brighter than a star along the horizon? Did you envision frozen lakes of exotic chemicals or icy fjords glimmering in the starlight?

What you conjured illuminates how our brains work, why it can be so hard to come up with new ideas -- and how you can rewire your mind to open up the holy grail of creativity. Recent advances in neuroscience, driven by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that lets scientists watch brain activity as never before, have changed what we know about key attributes of creativity. These advances, for example, have swept away the idea that there is a pleasure center in the brain that somehow acts as an accelerator to the engine of human behavior. Rather, chemicals such as dopamine shuttle between neurons in ways that look remarkably like the calculations modern robots perform.

Creativity and imagination begin with perception. Neuroscientists have come to realize that how you perceive something isn't simply a product of what your eyes and ears transmit to your brain. It's a product of your brain itself. And iconoclasts, a class of people I define as those who do something that others say can't be done -- think Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, or Florence Nightingale -- see things differently. Literally. Some iconoclasts are born that way, but we all can learn how to see things not for what they are, but for what they might be.

Perception and imagination are linked because the brain uses the same neural circuits for both functions. Imagination is like running perception in reverse. The reason it's so difficult to imagine truly novel ideas has to do with how the brain interprets signals from your eyes. The images that strike your retina do not, by themselves, tell you with certainty what you are seeing. Visual perception is largely a result of statistical expectations, the brain's way of explaining ambiguous visual signals in the most likely way. And the likelihood of these explanations is a direct result of past experience.

Entire books have been written about learning, but the important elements for creative thinkers can be boiled down to this: Experience modifies the connections between neurons so that they become more efficient at processing information. Neuroscientists have observed that while an entire network of neurons might process a stimulus initially, by about the sixth presentation, the heavy lifting is performed by only a subset of neurons. Because fewer neurons are being used, the network becomes more efficient in carrying out its function.

The brain is fundamentally a lazy piece of meat. It doesn't want to waste energy. That's why there is a striking lack of imagination in most people's visualization of a beach sunset. It's an iconic image, so your brain simply takes the path of least resistance and reactivates neurons that have been optimized to process this sort of scene. If you imagine something that you have never actually seen, like a Pluto sunset, the possibilities for creative thinking become much greater because the brain can no longer rely on connections shaped by past experience.

In order to think creatively, you must develop new neural pathways and break out of the cycle of experience-dependent categorization. As Mark Twain said, "Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned." For most people, this does not come naturally. Often, the harder you try to think differently, the more rigid the categories become.

Most corporate off-sites, for example, are ineffective idea generators, because they're scheduled rather than organic; the brain has time to predict the future, which means the potential novelty will be diminished. Transplanting the same mix of people to a different location, even an exotic one, then dropping them into a conference room much like the one back home doesn't create an environment that leads to new insights. No, new insights come from new people and new environments -- any circumstance in which the brain has a hard time predicting what will happen next.

Fortunately, the networks that govern both perception and imagination can be reprogrammed. By deploying your attention differently, the frontal cortex, which contains rules for decision making, can reconfigure neural networks so that you can see things that you didn't see before. You need a novel stimulus -- either a new piece of information or an unfamiliar environment -- to jolt attentional systems awake. The more radical the change, the greater the likelihood of fresh insights.

Some of the most startling breakthroughs have had their origins in exactly these types of novel circumstances. Chemist Kary Mullis came up with the basic principle of the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR -- the fundamental technology that makes genetic tests possible -- not hunched over his lab bench, but on a spring evening while he was driving up the northern California coast. Walt Disney was a decent illustrator, but he didn't imagine the possibilities of animation until he saw his advertising illustrations projected onto the screen in a movie theater. In an extreme example, the preeminent glass artist Dale Chihuly didn't discover his sculptural genius until a car accident led to the loss of an eye and literally forced him to see the world differently. Only when the brain is confronted with stimuli that it has not encountered before does it start to reorganize perception. The surest way to provoke the imagination, then, is to seek out environments you have no experience with. They may have nothing to do with your area of expertise. It doesn't matter. Because the same systems in the brain carry out both perception and imagination, there will be cross talk.

Novel experiences are so effective at unleashing the imagination because they force the perceptual system out of categorization, the tendency of the brain to take shortcuts. You have to confront these categories directly. Try this: When your brain is categorizing a person or an idea, just jot down the categories that come to mind. Use analogies. You will find that you naturally fall back on the things you are familiar with. Then allow yourself the freedom to write down gut feelings, even if they're vague or visceral, such as "stupid" or "hot." Only when you consciously confront your brain's shortcuts will you be able to imagine outside of its boundaries.

Adapted from the book Iconoclast, by Gregory Berns, by permission of Harvard Business Press. Copyright 2008 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. All Rights Reserved.