This is part 2 about going mainstream ... there's more to come! A part 3 on business models, branding and protection. All my understandings here are evolving on a daily basis in conversations with clients, collaborators and colleagues ... it would be super to here any thoughts you have to throw in the mix! Here we go ...
Making it as easy as possible to lead change
My experience of change leadership and participatory approaches is that it demands people shift their world view; the way they see their world. This means their beliefs about themselves, their work, their community, what results are etc all has to change. Without the worldview shift none of the models and methodologies deliver. The level of change we are willing to go through inside ourselves is directly relative to the level of change we will see around us.
That is no small ask! I want to remove all obstructions and distractions from that core activity. I want to make it as easy as possible for people to enter that realm of my work because it is so critical. That has meant I have had to let go of some of the things I held most sacred and develop new ways of working that fit better the context I am in. I do not want to give people an excuse to dismiss it - it just feels too important to me. I cannot be precious about it.
What can I let go of to allow for greater connection among people? What are the props I am attached to that no longer serve the work? What language alienates rather than invites people into conversation and action together?
Drop the props
I loved it when I heard Harrison Owen say that open space technology was just training wheels for how to Iive in community. Once we remember the simple art of working together, we no longer need the methodology - it just becomes the way we do things round here. None of the methods are important, none of the tools or techniques are essential. It is the practice of being together, turning to each other in the face of change and figuring out way ahead that matters. Any distraction to that is not helpful.
I very rarely introduce the methods now unless we are in a training context. For world cafe I just say we are working in small groups because that is better for conversation, everyone gets heard over a 20 minute round. Then I intro the process and questions with some simply articulated principles. I find myself stripping away all the trappings right down to the bare essentials. Using a talking piece, for example, can be more of a distraction for people than a contribution. I simply speak three or four principles for how to be together and we move around the circle or table to hear everyone's perspective before the meeting starts and to close the meeting. The magic still happens, the depth is still there ... in fact it is easier to get to because there is less in the way.
The ambiguous language barrier
In the same way I am stripping down the process I am also re-working the language to remove the distractions from the real work of being in relationship to ourselves and others to get work meaningful done. When I talk about 'hosting and harvesting' the majority of people just don't get it. The mental models I was working with were just not sharp enough - unless they were being taught live. I needed a language that people can get straight away. So much of the lingo I was turning up with, turned people off. It was not the work itself but how it was being introduced and articulated.
I have spent a lot of time putting together a model and a way of talking about my work that reflected how I wanted to talk about things and hopefully it is more accessible. The feedback has been good. I rarely talk about myself as an Art of Hosting practitioner these days but ground myself in my own brand and language. I always acknowledge the lineage of my work but feel what I am offering these days is distinct in its articulation and delivery. There is such a broad range of practitioners locally and globally that I need to be able to present myself clearly or I end up in the wash with people and practices that run contrary to my brand and the work I am currently involved in. More on the branding next time ...
Whatever it takes to be connected and present
It's like to bring the essence of the work I have to shed all the trappings of the tribe that I created it within. The props and language all too often are things that obscure the real work of turning to each other and taking action together on something that is meaningful. I don't want to work with words, terms, practices, tools etc that separate me from participants. My intent is to be as present with people as possible and create the conditions for people to present with each other. That is what is sacred to me in this work - I am unbuckling my attachment to everything else.
What are you letting go of to do good work? What are the things that are non-negotiable for you? How can we make access to the essence of participatory change as easy as possible?
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