Cultural Values & Social Change (Reflection)

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A Reflection on Values and Common Cause

By Don Officer

If we’re all committed to our own self-selected values, how will we ever agree on anything we might want to see changed? This was the underlying question we were asked to consider at the May 13, 2015 session of Design with Dialogue.

Experienced, adept sustainability facilitator Aryne Sheppard of Living Simply led about 40 attendees in open discussion, dyads and triads to probe and explore how we might choose our value preferences. Later we’d each be asked to identify and chart our own value preferences using whatever reasoning we could think of.

Discussion was deliberative yet wide ranging and never dull. It began to dawn on everyone in the room how complex the difficulties in appealing to a media saturated public, bombarded by messages from every compass point could be. True to form though, the votes we cast with sticky notes exposed consistent patterns. When an irregular spider web overlay showed just how clustered and closely associated personal value choices might prove to be, I suspect inner voices protested at how inclined to conform to the short list of values stereotypes we actually are.

In discussion we considered where these categories might come from. Are you among the self-directed, the universalists, the benevolent, the conformists, the traditionalists or the security minded? Perhaps you crave stimulation, seek hedonistic indulgence or strive for power unless achievement is your heart’s desire. Some choices straddled categories even if close to common dividing lines and a few reflected a more esoteric methodology, scattering stickies across the chart.

What was the point? Apart from prompting an energizing discussion, Aryne’s process surely showed us how hard it must be to attract support for any cause. Hence the term and the strategy: Common Cause. At first glance, that phrasing suggests a coalition of militants, but in the current social change framework it is a philosophy that seeks shared overlaps among a wider, often divided community as diverse in opinion as any other describable way.


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I don’t know whether or not any relentlessly inclusive approach to the tough issues of our time such as environment, social justice or resource distribution has any chance of succeeding. Are the clusters (or the quadrants they roll up into) fixed positions or stages in personal development? Not easily determined.

However, as a participant-based example of group learning, showing rather than describing, the cultural values exercise lays out some broad decision landscapes vividly and clearly.

Cultural Values & Social Change: The Common Cause Framework

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How do cultural values shape environmental and social movements?
How might deepening our understanding of cultural values and frames help us to co-create the solutions for a more equitable, sustainable and democratic society?
May’s DwD was hosted by Aryne Sheppard, who led an inquiry into the Common Cause framework as an instrument for understanding how we are shaped by our culture and the way in which we respond, both as individuals and collectively, to the most pressing problems that we face.

Environmental campaigns tend to fall into two categories:

1. Public engagement and behaviour change; and,
2. Institutional (corporate or government) engagement.

But there is a deeper level we must consider as we move towards a sustainable future: the realm of values. Cultural values influence our behaviours, attitudes and voting decisions. Culture is a key influence in shaping our view of the world and our sense of responsibilities within it. As social change leaders, it is critical to understand the role values play in individual lives and cultural norms. Working to understand and rebalance cultural values is a powerful tool if our goal is to build a more equitable, sustainable and democratic society.

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Aryne discussed how power dynamics in society are seldom the subject of public scrutiny and debate. The dialogue explored how fostering intrinsic values—among them self-acceptance, care for others, and concern for the natural world—has real and lasting benefits.

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The Common Cause model, with a values mapping resulting from participants selection of supporting values (green) and negating values (red) with respect to societal betterment, based on our individual perspectives.

For more information explore The Common Cause Framework 

About the Host

As an adult educator and facilitator, Aryne Sheppard has worked in the areas of personal growth & wellness, leadership development and community capacity-building for over 12 years. She has have a track record of creating innovative, experientially-based programs in both the non-profit and public sectors.  She believes that valuing the inner life, as individuals and as a society, is one of the most important things we can do to create deep and lasting change. Aryne earned her professional designation as an educator from OISE / UofT, specializing in Transformative Learning, with a Master’s degree in Adult Education & Counseling Psychology (2004). Aryne currently works with the David Suzuki Foundation in Toronto and her consulting practice is called Living Simply.

Innovative Learning in Canadian Higher Education

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April’s DwD was convened by an graduate student-led panel, organized by Strategic Innovation Lab and Strategic Foresight & Innovation, responding to the question:

What new ways of learning, particularly in higher education, will Canadians need to thrive in an evolving society and labour market?

The roundtable and dialogue contributes to Imagining Canada’s Future, the strategic development of next-generation social science for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) with the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS). This DwD event  and sponsored by SSHRC and CAGS.

Our question was one of their key Future Challenge Areas.

Canada, like many other countries, is at a tipping point in the way its education system, especially higher education, is conceptualized, structured and delivered in light of the knowledge and skills required for the 21st century. The panel will discuss and the audience will explore the following issues:

  • What knowledge, skills and delivery methods are required in order for the public education system to create an innovative, resilient and culturally rich society?
  • What aspirations and expectations will a diverse and global citizenry bring to the work environments, jobs and labour markets of the future?
  • What conditions are needed for new models of research—particularly, co‑creation of knowledge with the public, private and/or not‑for‑profit sectors—to flourish?
  • What roles will emerging and/or disruptive information and communication technologies play in learning for individuals, institutions and society?
  • What role should individuals, institutions and governments play in promoting and supporting the life cycle of knowledge—including creation, accessibility, retention and mobilization—across sectors, both domestically and internationally?
  • How can we harness Canada’s strength and innovation in the arts, digital media and cultural industries to build social, economic and cultural well‑being?

HOSTED BY THE SFI DIALOGUE TEAM

Inessa Chapira
Christina Doyle
Maggie Greyson
Conor Holler
Goran Matic
Corey Norman
Adrienne Pacini
Sheldon Pereira
Patrick Robinson
Peter Scott
Jacqueline To
Ryan Voisin
George Wang
with faculty advisor Peter Jones

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Creative Leadership for Climate Change

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Creative Leadership for Climate Change at the Intersection of Art & Neuroscience

By Kelly Okamura and Don Officer

Except for a few stubborn holdouts most of us are convinced climate change is something serious to be concerned about. But where do we start? At week’s end we barely have energy enough to sort out the blue boxes and the green messages.

This is the big issue governments and interest groups must contend with individually and will again collectively at the Cop21 climate change summit this year in Paris. Our guest presenters this March have been exploring ways to meet that challenge and are hoping to showcase a few at the upcoming summit.

Scott Baker and Ross Curtner of Adjacent Possibilities led the DwD participants on March 11 in a mindfulness-oriented dialogic session that built on personal engagement. During the evening they demonstrated several ways to concentrate our skills and capacities in a group setting.  At the summit their team plans to use wearable EEG technology to assess participant mindfulness.  At March’s DwD we discovered how effectively the practice could focus on what matters to any group.

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Our session began with a classic mindfulness practice: imagining a raisin. We pondered the qualities of raisins and recalled personal memories of raisins.  Then we experienced a raisin through guided practice. The raisin exercise led to partner work dialogue on climate change. Impressions were articulated, recorded and plotted on a grid divided into abstract-concrete, and engaged-disengaged quadrants.  Everyone shared in open session before splitting again into groups of four to consider the big question, “How might we most meaningfully engage mindful participation on climate change?”

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The consensus was we had participated in a successfully led, thought provoking dialogue offering new ideas, new “adjacent possibilities” as we contributed to the Paris project.  I left with my own insights on engagement with “wicked problems’” that seem to offer no openings or purchase.  I wish the team success in Paris.

 

ABOUT THE HOSTS

How do we experience climate change? How does the nature of our experience influence our ability to take action? How might insights from art & neuroscience inform our leadership on the issue?

March’s DwD  was hosted by Ross Curtner and Scott Baker of Adjacent Possibilities.  Drawing inspiration from systems thinking and game design, the session provided participants the opportunity to prototype the mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics of renewed relationship with this complex issue.

At heart, Ross Curtner is a facilitator, curator and purveyor of purposeful play. Putting these passions to work he’s lead strategic planning retreats for cleantech investment and business development groups, designed leadership experiences for arts foundations, consulted for government and recently, co-founded Adjacent Possibilities, an agency which connects artists and entrepreneurs to enable new approaches to complex challenges. An alumni of MaRS’ Studio Y Fellowship, he previously worked at The Stop and Community Food Centres Canada. When he’s not scheming of creative ways to address big issues, you can find Ross exploring Toronto’s forests with the PINE Project. @RossCurtner

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Scott Baker was raised on wind-licked west-coast of Vancouver Island and has since been working at the intersection of climate policy and civic engagement with the Canadian and European Green Parties, Leadnow, and Tides Canada. Currently Scott is a StudioY Fellow at MaRS Discovery District and the co-founder of Adjacent Possibilities.

 

The Wisdom of Movement, Song and Story: A DwD Workshop in InterPlay

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Last February 11, Rehana Telpara guided a smaller group of DwD session participants in hybrid forms of reflective play call Interplay. Rehana introduced herself as an InterPlay leader in training, with more modesty than necessary led us through a series of exercises that awakened the playfulness in everyone there. Emotional interactions occurred and we left more relaxed, connected with one another and aware that we had shared an experience with everyone in the room at a meaningful level.

We began with a series of gibberish vocalizations that engaged us all in uttering and attending to what initially seemed out of context, content free nonsense. Seemed, but wasn’t really. Rehana who is clearly one of this world’s genuine seekers, brought us face to face (literally) with the simple truth: whenever someone interacts, however loosely, with another, communication happens.

Following reflection, we moved into movement in pairs, suspending an imaginary beam of energy between each other while carefully moving. This activity continued into a journey around the room inspired by the music being played. We moved from this activity into more personal explorations through floor based movement. We then convened and had a dialogue about the experiences, which sparked a number of interesting reflections by participants, making connections to personal events and fields of psychology some had been exploring. We finished the session with the group harmonizing our voices, an activity that had a spiritual quality, and ended the session beautifully.

During the session we learnt of Rehana’s own journey to Interplay, through a trip in the Himalayas where a gentle woman named Neesha described this systematic, yet spontaneous approach to basic dialogue that connects without confronting the other. Again, as the DwD website announcement explains, we need to recover that ability lurking mischievously dormant in all of us: “to laugh, savor and relax.” Interplay’s own website, www.interplay.org gives a fuller picture of the process we sampled at DwD.

In InterPlay, we pause to notice our physical experience. One thing we notice is that affirmation (versus critique) produces more of what we want! We often invite people to witness others or to be witnessed as they practice an InterPlay form. In InterPlay, witnessing means, first, noticing my own physical experience as I watch and listen and, second, affirming the person I have witnessed by telling them my own physical experience in just a few words or images. There are two reasons for this: 1) Most people find at least one of the forms we teach to be pushing the envelope of what they think they can do. When they are witnessed doing it and affirmed doing it, they begin to experience themselves as actually able to do it. If that were all (achieving some internal sense that I am able to do something I could not do before), it would not be enough, but it isn’t all. I have seen over and over again how people actually blossom in this process. They seem magically to create works of beauty and power that were unimaginable earlier. 2) Equally important, the witness has an experience of his or her own.  Tom Henderson, “How Interplay Can Help Your Organization”

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves” – Carl Jung

 ABOUT THE HOST

rehana

Rehana Tejpar is a mother, dancer, theatre artist and community arts facilitator dedicated to staging stories of social importance, and evoking community dialogue. Using popular education, Theatre of the Oppressed and Art of Hosting techniques, she has been designing curriculum and facilitating leadership programs with young women, children and youth in Canada, Kenya and India for the past 10 years. Since 2011 she has been playing with InterPlay and is currently a leader in training. She is an active performance artist in dance-theatre and is currently working on Eventual Ashes’ Ocean Carving: A Performance in Water, to be performed in the 2015 Rhubarb Festival.

Rehana and her colleague, Agnotti Cowie have scheduled a three day “untensive,” they call “Unlocking the Wisdom of Your Body: Toronto InterPlay Art and Social Change” March 27 – 29, 2015. For more information, contact: rehana.tejpar@gmail.com