New Website in Progress

Welcome everyone. I am between blogs / websites now. Moving from one host and format to another. From an old tool that just got to clunky. Learning a new tool. Playing with colors. Playing with formats. Pictures. Everything. It might look quite different by the end of the month. Yes, there is some learning in public. 

The new, in-progress site with some changing look and feel is here.

So, I suppose the sign should say “Pardon the mess.” I’ll call it a beautiful mess :). You’ll see some as I continue to migrate posts, old locations for docs, etc in other formats. Yes, there is a continual improvement that will happen. And yes, there is a move-in time also. Thanks for welcoming the in-progress shift.


Pot Pourri

November 28, 2009

Core deficiencies for nonprofits as learning organizations (from friend and colleague Jeannel King's master's thesis research): 1) Promoting dialogue and inquiry, 2) Empowering people toward a collective vision, and 3) Connecting the organization to its environment. Makes for good contexting of why dialogue and hosting conversations that matter.

On resistance, from Maya Lin, designer of the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington, DC: "You need resistance to fly." (Thanks Kathy Lung for sharing this.)
On creativity, a must-watch 20 minute video featuring author Elizabeth Gilbert. I found her great, funny, insightful, inspiring. (Thanks Kathy Jourdain for recommending.)

Inner to Outer

November 28, 2009

Kathy Jourdain is a good friend and colleague in Nova Scotia. This morning we were on a call working the next level of an invitation for an event next year. Kathy is a great colleague. Our work together feels easy. It always begins with delightful invitation to just share what we are noticing in our lives, what has our attention. Inevitably, that sharing creates just the right doorway into the work we've agreed to do.

This morning the gift of insight was about the sweet spot of developing the individual and how the individual is developed in the context of the group. These are not new theories of change. What I found helpful in the individual was clarifying the working assumption that there is an inner _____ in all of us. In our case we were talking about Shaman. However, it could just as easily be an inner artist or an inner tyrant. The implication is that if we give attention to the inner _____, there will likely be a re-relationing of what is, rather than something that is entirely absent. To develop the individual starts by working with something that is already there.

The second part of this discussions was that the individual is fed by the group. There is more that becomes available to the individual just because of being in the group. The field feeds the individual. For example, if I were to go to a writers workshop, just being amongst other writers would improve the realm of what is possible to me as an individual. Coaching would be good. And, the field itself would help. I was trying to think of a farming metaphor. I used to grow corn in the back yard garden. The first year was an experiment. A short row. Ten stalks. The corn was very poor. Small ears. I was told by my wife's grandfather that corn must be planted in bigger fields to grow well. I don't fully remember the reason why. But the field of corn made each stalk more hearty.

Also germane to this conversation, given we were talking about not wanting to create a personal retreat workshop was the difference between group therapy and group wellness. An outcome of so many of the workshops I do is a sense of wellness. I and my colleague don't advertise it that way. It is an outcome though. People say it feels like therapy because that is the label that most know for that kind of experience. Yet, there is a deliberate lack of attention on fixing anything. Rather, there is simple witnessing in a group context of experiences that impact us. And there is simple invitation to create together. In the combination of those two, group wellness emerges. It is quite a beautiful thing.

Thanks to Kathy and the space in the middle that fed these insights.

A Sleep of Prisoners

November 28, 2009

Nice little poem by English playwright, Christopher Fry. Sent to me by local friend and colleague, Carla Kelley of the Human Rights Education Center. After we shared an afternoon exploring each others work. I love the notion, "Thank God our time is now...."

Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul we ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise
Is exploration into God.
Where are you making for? It takes
So many thousand years to wake,
But will you wake for pity's sake!
-Christopher Fry

About Hosts, Other Supporting Organizations

About Kathy Lung -- My current work is to be in the co-creation of social change through meaningful conversation.  My exploration is in the discovery of who & how we would be if we were to "dare to be naïve" (Buckminster Fuller).  I am learning and experiencing the fullness of this exploration through my work with The Art of Hosting and specifically in working with and sharing in conversation with Tenneson.

About Tenneson Woolf, The Berkana Institute -- I am a consultant, practitioner of change, and group process artist. I am dedicated to what is possible when we explore the heart of our work and the edges of our communities. I use participative leadership methodologies, maps, and models as strategy to create helpful meetings and inquiries. I have hosted interactive processes at large conferences, worked with many teams, and coached many individuals in diverse organizations – from hospitals to financial planning associations, from universities to faith communities, from corporate clients to labor unions. I am a steward of two communities of practice: The Art of Hosting and The World Café. I work locally with The Salt Lake Center for Engaging Community supporting and designing local dialogues on living in healthy community.;

Other Local Supporting Organizations / Colleagues

About The Salt Lake Center for Engaging Community -- SLCEC is a 501c3 non-profit serving communities and organizations in the Salt Lake Valley and cultivating relationships with other communities in Utah, the nation, and the world. SLCEC convenes community conversations, models best practices, and fosters learning toward healthy, resilient flourishing of local communities.

About The Berkana Institute -- Co-founded in the early 1990s by Utah resident Margaret Wheatley, the Berkana Institute works in partnership with a rich diversity of people around the world who strengthen their communities by working with the wisdom and wealth already present in their people, traditions and environment. Berkana and our partners share the clarity that whatever the problem, community is the answer. We prepare for an unknown future by creating strong and sustainable relationships, by wisely stewarding the earth’s resources, and by building resilient communities and teams. We rely on the belief that human beings are caring, generous, and want to be together. Each of our initiatives is based on a coherent, in-depth theory of how life organizes in cooperative, generous, and interdependent systems -- work we’ve developed with hundreds of colleagues over many years of dialogue, think tanks and practical applications in all kinds of settings.

About The Art of Hosting -- The Art of Hosting and Convening Meaningful Conversations is a training and practice retreat for all who aspire to lead 
by engaging with interactive ways of working with groups and teams. It is for leaders—those who want to help—community builders, teachers, social workers, youth workers, trainers, social innovators, administrators, community leaders, consultants, entrepreneurs, politicians. The Art of Hosting and Convening Meaningful Conversations 
is offered in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and North and South America. We are a growing community of practitioners,supporting each other to further our ability to facilitate co-creative learning and problem-solving.

The Art of Hosting practice has been used to support numerous for profit and non-profit organizations in large scale change including:
  • Community Health Reform in Ohio
  • Faith Community Democracy Planning in Indiana
  • Navajo Health Services Innovation New Mexico
  • Social Innovation Labs in the UK
  • Strengthening Families Initiatives in Illinois
  • Aboriginal Youth Initiatives in British Columbia 
  • Labor Union planning in Ontario

Overview of Our 2010 Salt Lake Valley Participative Leadership Offerings

1. Community Engagement Conversations: December 12, 2009, January 2010 TBA

2. Monthly Participative Leadership Development Workshops: January - August, 2010
- Skills development, leadership capacity building, applied practice.

3. Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that Matter Training (3.5 Days): September 2010 TBA 
  • Deep dive intensive and experiential training.

4. Ongoing Community of Practice: October 2010 - 2011
  • Monthly circles, quarterly learning days, annual multi-day learning and application forums

Summary of Need, Purpose, Limiting Beliefs

Summary of Need and Purpose

  • Many people are living in times of high-level uncertainty.

  • People are hungry for more meaningful work and community.

  • People want to contribute to their local community.

  • Train together in the next level of skills / tools that can be applied to existing and new participant projects. 

  • Foster processes for accessing collective wisdom that moves to collaborative action.

  • Create next levels of leadership consciousness, wellness, resilience, wholeness.

  • Some Limiting Beliefs

    - Fear and weightiness is the only way through if we are serious about change.

    Some of the Principles that Guide this Work

    • Invite celebration, joyousness, creativity.
    • Get to do / “get to have to do.”
    • People want renewal together and of what is already in them
    • Whatever the challenge, community is the answer (The Berkana Institute)
    • “The answer to how is yes.” (Peter Block)
    • The wisdom we need is already in the systems where we work and live.
    • “Activate” resonance of leadership in community.
    • Work from the sacred and sense of open mind, open heart, and open will. (Otto Scharmer)
    • Working across boundaries.
    • Innovating.
    • Balancing colearning, building relationships, application to participant projects.
    • People will come out of the wood work -- many of us yearn for other ways to work together.
    • Offer what we can. Ask for what we need.
    • Act locally. Connect regionally. Learn trans-globally. 
    • “Just go for it.” Playful experimentation. Start anywhere.
    • Trust the universe.
    Return to Main Document

    Contextual Narrative of Context for Practicing Participative Leadership -- Questions as Tools

    What are the questions we need to ask together on behalf of the future of us who live and work in the Salt Lake Valley? What are the next levels of these questions? What if asking these questions together was the most enduring and strongest leadership act we could offer to each other, to our work teams, and to our community?

    All over the world we see unprecedented change. Uncertainty. Challenges. These fill news and media reports. Unemployment. Healthcare reform. Education innovation. These impact everyone. 

    Yet, also all over the world, we see groups of people daring to ask the most challenging questions with each other. Daring to explore more deeply together. Daring to take action to make a difference by working and living more democratically. In government. In corporations. In community groups. In families.

    Participative Leadership In the Salt Lake Valley


    Thank you for your interest in Participative Leadership in the Salt Lake Valley. We know there are many of you. Participative Leadership is work that we have been practicing and doing in many parts of the world. With joy in very tough settings. We’ve seen great success and differences made in many organizations, working teams, movement leaders, and community.

    An initial gathering was held December 12, 2009. It was an "appetizer" if you will. Well attended with 40 of us together for a half day, we began with a checkin hearing from each why participative leadership matters and in what aspect of work / life it is important. We moved then into a model and framework for thinking about participative leadership -- a container if you will. And then into a questions cafe where participants began to surface the kinds of work and questions that they know are theirs to host. A harvest of some of those materials is here.

    A second appetizer is being convened January 16, 2010 at the Holladay United Church of Christ (2631 East Murray-Holladay Road). We will begin at 9:00 (please plan to arrive 10 minutes early to mingle) and be finished at 1:00. Thanks to Rev. Erin Gilmore for offering the space. As before, we will welcome donations to pay for the cost of snacks and drinks.

    If you came to the first, you are welcome to the second. You do not need to have participated in December to join us on the 16th. Please, bring a friend. We will be inviting participants to help co-design essential aspects of a Participative Leadership Development Series (tools, skills, maps, methods) that will begin in February or March, and run monthly for 6-7 months. It is intended as before as a learning and experience of working with Participative Leadership. This time to deliver the beginnings of a product. It is also intended, as always, to further weave our local community of people in participative leadership projects.

    What follows is really a set of working notes that have helped us evolves the purpose and intention of Participative Leadership work that we are offering in the Salt Lake Valley.  We offer them with transparency and with invitation to create together the next level of leadership needed for flourishing community in the Salt Lake Valley.

    Download All Sections in PDF Document

    7 Insights on Conversational Leadership -- Canadian Media Guild

    November 19, 2009

    Yesterday I had a really helpful phone call with friend and colleague Barb Saxberg. Barb invited me to work with her committee to bring conversational leadership to a Presidents Council meeting in Toronto. It was a meeting for 60 local union presidents, CBC Branch Council staff, and for some of the time, senior leadership from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The meeting was held over two days, one with theme of "Looking Back," and the other with them of "Moving Forward." Our phone call was a chance to be in reflective learning together. I received several gifts and points of clarity from our call. I felt like we were in the best of what people and organizations do to continuously learn. Thanks to Barb and many other leaders at the Guild.

    1. Courage -- It really takes courage for someone inside an organization to invite a different way of meeting. They know clearly what they don't want to continue. They have some sense of what they want to move toward. Yet, it is in the end, a paradigm shift. When the habit is presentations from a podium, sitting in circle is a courageous act. When the history is blasting grievances, small group conversations about values and possibilities are a courageous act. Colleague Juanita Brown of The World Cafe speaks about this -- "conversation as a radical act." Her commitment is like that of Barb and the Guild's organizing committee. They knew they needed something different. They knew they could have played it safe and done more of the same, but chose not to, even knowing there would be some bumps and challenges. They knew they needed more capacity in their system to face their challenges and live their highest ideas, and that meeting in conversation was one step on the journey. Hats of to Barb, Marc-Philippe, Fiona and the others that lead with heart and courage to find a new way.

    2. Team Clarity -- For design teams and planning committees that are moving into a new way of working, conversational and participative leadership, it is really important to do some good work up front on agreements. They are the ones that will hear the whispers from participants, the worries. This can be difficult to hold when colleagues start to question the effectiveness of the meeting. Speaking some of this up front and clarifying agreements for when it is "not easy" can really help hold a team together.

    3. Harvest is Leadership -- Barb is working very thoughtfully to compile a report from the two days. I shared with her some of the notes I had. Some of the key questions. When working from a new paradigm there are two parts of a harvest report / document that feel important. One is the content. What happened. What we learned. Decided. What is different. For the Guild, this includes key questions surfaced with CBC management about work load, quality, sustainable resource models, etc. It includes core values that carry the Guild forward. It includes a sense of report on first next steps. Not full plans. First next steps of plans that grow from values. But the second part, and I believe as important or more, is the narrative on the "how" of working together. This is the one that talks about the need to innovate, to listen and learn together, to move to the next level of democratic participation. This is is the narrative that builds upon older models committed primarily to speed and efficiency, inviting the next level of creative thinking together about unprecedented challenges and dreams. It is the story we tell as leaders. I don't mean that to be manipulative or ingenuine. Rather, just owning it as an important leadership act. As my colleague in Utah, John Kesler says, "changing the narrative is half of the work."

    4. Surveys -- It is common to offer a survey, inviting feedback about meetings. Sometimes on the spot. Sometimes later through email or electronic survey sites. There is a tendency in those surveys to ask how people "liked the meeting." Though this can be interesting, and I always hope that all people loved the meeting, it isn't as helpful as it could be. More helpful are questions that speak to the specific objectives of the meeting and of the conversational leadership process. For example, an assessment about strengthened relationships is helpful. About joy. About enthusiasm. About learning new approaches. I tend to focus conversational leadership on three areas. 1. Co-learning (not just presenting into the room, but learning together, creating together). 2. Building relationships (for the challenges that the Guild and all organizations face, we need strength or relationship to carry us through the challenges.) 3. Work (focus on specific projects that are called forward from the group). All are anchored in helping the group do what it needs to do. Action and accountabilities. Surveys need to assess the qualities of the new paradigm of working together, not the old. This is a strong and another courageous act of leadership.

    5. Specific Reports -- We used open space technology for the "moving forward" part of the day. It was the way to get to action. It was the way to move into priorities. The reports we asked people to complete in their self-organized groups identified participants and key points of the conversation. However, less attention was given to the action steps. I'd like to add a bit more to the forms that include specific responses to next steps, resources needed, proposals, offerings, and asks for what people need. I sensed that the conversations that occur in the groups were quite rich. Yet, more can be done to move from the impression that conversation is "just talking" into "creating next action steps." In particular, I find myself wanting to emphasize more of the "this is the action" part of the meeting. Needing to be very explicit with it. And in particular offering the freedom framework from living systems that you can "start anywhere and follow it everywhere."

    6. Length of Time for Open Space Groups -- At this event we chose three rounds of 45 minute sessions. Some groups that met in the first session re-posted their topics during the second round, thus extending their time to meet. Barb pointed out a good learning for me. When the intent is to explore, shorter sessions can work well. I tend to not go any less than 45 minutes. When the intent is to come up with plans, as was the case for this client group, 75 or 90 minute sessions are more helpful.

    7. Preparing the Group -- In this case, the participants were told that they were coming to "something different." They were told that we would meet in circle. That message was clear. However, learning from this for me is that groups need more explicit description ahead of time about how the meeting will be different. Even a list of "will be doing / won't be doing." For example, "will be working at small tables / won't be sitting classroom style to hear presentations." "Will be creating your own agenda of topics / won't be assigned to particular groups." There are a bunch of things to say that just give the most simple form of expectations. Helpful, and I would say kind, to be explicit with this amidst groups that have strong patterns of how they meet. And, I say this with awareness that there will always be an invitation and need for people to welcome surprise and not knowing.

    I return to courage, and courage to be in continuous learning. With thanks to Barb, Marc-Philippe, Fiona, Joanna, Gaynette, Xavier, Elizabeth. It takes courage to work in new ways. Particularly with your immediate colleagues and friends. Yet so needed in the pioneering and evolutionary time we live in when we must risk the letting go of the old to find our way to the added benefit of the new. At the Guild. At CBC. And so many other places, where our work immediately impacts the wellness of ourselves and of broad communities.

    Photos -- A few that turned out well.
    Design -- Agenda and timing that emerged for the days.

    Fall Reading

    November 18, 2009

    The last few days I have given myself added permission to read. Books. Articles. From the stacks of books and such that I've been wanting to read for months now. From the new ones that are just showing up now. From the gifts I was given for my birthday a month ago. It feels like a bit of a tucking in. Something about the fall weather. Something about being at my apartment now with no immediate preparing to go on a trip. And something about feeling called to read and write. A few simple notes and impressions below.

    What capacities must individuals and groups cultivate to experience emergence and create anew? An Exploration of Dialogue, Theory U and Circle (Magy Oriah Nock) -- Shared through the Art of Hosting list serve by Chris Corrigan. A thesis from graduate work. Some good information about circle gained from experience with Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea of PeerSpirit. A good overview of steps and important orientations. The same for Theory U. I liked Magy's comments at the end, "feeling a need for play and silence." These are some of the gifts I experience in the Art of Hosting workshops that seems to deepen the quality of what emerges. I also related to her call for further future attention to shadow.

    The Lost Compass: One Father's Journey (B. Clement Makepeace) -- Meg Wheatley gifted this one to me. A simple, short read. Story of a father discovering what he cares about -- his relationship with his son first among them. Might read this one with my son Isaac. For the story. For the experience. For the openings that shows themselves in years to come. Noticed as symbols in the book, and thus the invitation to pay attention, to "true north." What is the true north in my life? What becomes available is focused on this? Also like the reference to "garden as a place and a process." Like most aspects of life, they have an outcome kind of feel as well as a dynamic ongoing process. Relationships. Reminds me of Chris Corrigan's teachings with me about "all is practice." Reminds me of my Uncle Vern's teachings about all as particle and wave at the same time.

    Pot Pourri

    November 13, 2009

    Just returned last night from two hosting events. One in Toronto, Ontario. The other near Rosendale, New York. Peeking in to email and back through my notes at some of the gems that have my attention.

    On Seeing from Anais Nin -- "We don't see things as they are. We see things as we are." (Thanks Roq Gareau for sending this.)

    On Beauty from Terry Tempest in her book, "Open Space of Democracy" -- "Beauty is not optional. It resides at the core of each conversation around the dinner table. Beauty nourishes our soul alongside food. It allows us to remember not only what is possible, what we are capable of as human beings, but what is necessary." (Thanks Ann Pelo for sending.)

    A Call for Wilderness Stewardship -- Some work that friends Terri Martin and Deeda Seed at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are creating. Love how this started in simple dialogue circles that we created together. It's grown to much, much more because of their attention.

    Beckoning the Lovely -- Great video on a community gathering in Chicago on 8/08/08 to gather and create something lovely and beautiful in a park.

    Pot Pourri

    November 4, 2009

    Vision for Inclusive Community -- Good to see this one from Valmae Rose in Australia and her work with a national non-governmnet disability program. A group of us from the disability sector (an unusual alliance of people who are passionate about the future for people with disabilities but who don’t usually work together) got our act together and created a vision for the future using a scenario building process.  You can check out the process and the scenario at  We had a launch a few weeks later in the botanical gardens, with ministers from both federal and state govt and 350 members of the community involved.  We have since engaged about 500 people in conversation  and we’re planning a statewide schedule of conversations around the question of inclusive community on December 3 which is international day of people with disability.

    Chaordic Drumming -- Last week I spoke with friend and colleague Sally Wolf. Sally works in restorative justice efforts in Illinois. We've had several conversations now about how to work at the scale of community. We talked about the model of the chaordic path. It is the search for the sweet spot between chaos and order. As Mitchell Waldrop speaks it in his book, Complexity, "enough form to be sustainable and enough freedom to deserve the name of life." Sally was describing drum circles she has been a part of. At first chaotic, without particular rhythm. But then they find a rhythm, even for people without particular music skills. And often, once that rhythm is found, people can't help but introduce some variation, a bit of chaos, that people then reorganize around. Looking forward to trying this one.