Working Families Finding Community Solutions

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We know it takes a village – but how does that work?

Working families finding community solutions

The issues facing working parents are most often posed at either the individual level (“How can I achieve better work-life balance?”) or at the level of society at large (“Should Canada have a national child-care strategy?).

Jane Thompson led to October DwD centred on the question “How can community-level change help working families?”

Can local initiatives like babysitting co-ops, community kitchens and pedestrian school-buses transform the lives of working parents?

Jane introduced the session with an overview of the issues facing working moms and dads, and how reframing our understanding, at both the individual and the family level, can help us navigate our way to greater resilience. She presented some common assumptions we have about the role of the individual in households and gendered differences in work. Jane defined resilience as the ability to adapt and reorganize without loosing your essential self.

 

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While these family issues are played out against the backdrop of broad social policies (including paid parental leave, child-care subsidies, and full-day kindergarten), this session focused on how we can address the challenges of working families at a community level. One of the themes that emerged was the important of having public spaces and the role of the public school in being a multi-functional space to build community on a neighbourhood level.

Photos by Cameron Applegath

Photos by Cameron Applegath

 

THE HOST

Jane Thompson is the author of Resilient Woman: Weaving Together Work, Family, and Self. She writes and speaks on the challenges and opportunities faced by working families. A working mother herself, Jane has a PhD in women’s history, as well as a business degree, and a certification as a life coach. As part of her broad commitment to helping people live their best lives, she also works as the executive director of a national scholarship program, granting $1.4 million in undergraduate funding each year.

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Leading Between the Lines

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How might we as citizens inspire responsive governance in the next term of Toronto’s city leadership and beyond?

As citizens of Toronto we are responsible for the governments we elect to represent us. How can we inspire leadership for a shared, sustainable future? The rapid changes and growth that Toronto is undergoing has both local and broader consequences. As we look towards some of the city’s pressing issues, such as public transit, infrastructure development, child poverty and voting reform, what conversations can we hold now that will shape equitable, desirable civic action?

As we find ourselves at another political juncture with the mayoral election in October, we invite you to explore how we might further democratic dialogue on issues that matter to Toronto citizens. The September DwD hosted an Open Space session to discuss ideas and themes related to city governance and the upcoming mayoral election.

Urban scholar Richard Florida has noted that city governance has more direct impact than national governments on the lives and well-being of people, and that large cities have significant global influence ( What If Mayors Ruled the World? Atlantic CityLab, June 2012):

 “It is of course vital that mayors and their staffs understand not just what they share with other cities, but the challenges they face from a distinctive global environment that include pandemics, climate change, global financial markets, immigration and terrorism.”

Recent initiatives such as Turnout Toronto and Move the GTHA  have created more activist venues for civic engagement. DwD sister group Unify Toronto Dialogues has held nearly two years of ongoing inquiry and experiential dialogues. And over its 6 year history, Design with Dialogue has hosted several sessions for civic conversation – Citizen’s response to the G20 policing, the Occupy movement, the mayoral elections, planning Change Camps, and Arab-Jewish community dialogues.

 

Michael Jones: Re-generating the Soul of the City

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Placemaking Toronto with Michael Jones

August’s DwD was led by Michael Jones with an exploration of placemaking in Toronto. Ideas from his latest book, The Soul of PlaceReimagining Leadership through Nature, Art and Community, was shared in the context of an active dialogue and workshops around the themes of the book. Prominent themes in the dialogue were the experience of beauty in place, how the soul of a place is discovered, how and whether Toronto has an ethic or soul. Rather than “answer” these as questions, the group of about 25 shared everyday, yet extraordinary perspectives that helped each discover new value, wonder and hope within the experience of the city itself. From the book:

“The dessouligner is like and anthropologist who listens to what the community wants from its public spaces. As such, design literacy is rooted not only in academic or design school environments, but in living environments, neighborhoods, and communities – any place where the integration of our mythic life is common to all and where the integration of art, beauty and functionality serve as our “schools for life.”

Re-generating the Commons.  How might we move beyond mid-stream strategic and tactical conversations? Too often they simply involve rearranging business as usual, and don’t get to the heart or the ethos of what really matters and so nothing fundamental changes in how we uniquely see and experience our world.

To see and to truly make visible the hidden potential involves gathering together in ways that may bring about shifts of mind. We can achieve this through asking questions about destiny and divine purpose, about roots and legacy and about how the seeds of our future can be found nested in the historic significance of the stories from our past.

Conversations regarding destiny and regenerating the commons and health of the whole naturally involve thinking like artists, designers and storytellers or ecologists. It is through the evocative power of a living language that we can shift the predominant paradigm from problem solving to pattern thinking and our predominant focus from a sustainable to a thrivable city.   Seeing the soul of the city as an energy system and a space not only for commerce but as a communion of gifts and a space for life will be our new paradigm for the future.

 

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Jones touches on the four archetypes for leadership conversations about place, which all have roles in “designing place:”

  • Sovereign – telling the story of destiny
  • The Weaver – stories of magic, truth, and possibility
  • The Enchanter – stories of beauty, gifts, appreciation, and inner seeing.
  • The Steward – stories of our history, legacy, traditions, and care.

Patsketch

Patricia’s sketch of the plenary circle revealed the themes raised in reflective dialogue:

Place-canvas-sm

These include, among others:

  • Experiencing the city as not busy and confronting, but a place of gardens, art, culture, trust, connection
  • Natural beauty, the canopies of trees, water spaces, sunshowers and wild patches of meadow and forest
  • Giving us the ability to “grow down” into the soil and become rooted and grounded
  • Constant change, and the problem of missing histories (and no agreed future) in the glass towers dominating our skyline
  • The possibility of Toronto’s soul or ethos being caught in the transition between economic regimes and the domination of ecology
  • Making this city a place of true homecoming

We have an ongoing need for conversations about restoring the health of the polis and commons,of place and place-making, and in so doing regenerating the soul of the city. To be regenerative is to make the invisible visible – this includes making visible the places of the heart and the ethos defining character or tone of the city including its sense of self, its transformative potential and its special uniqueness. The conversation has been continuing with other participants, such as Marsha Skain’s post on her website: Place-making: Where do we see Beauty in the city?

The Soul of Place websiteBuy the book ($15) at Friesen Press.

 About the Host
Michael is a leadership educator, dialogue facilitator, writer and Juno-nominated pianist/composer.  His most recent book, The Soul of Place, is the third in a series on Re-imagining Leadership.  Others in the series include Artful Leadership and the award-winning Creating an Imaginative Life.

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Michael has also been a thought leader with the MIT Dialogue Project and Dialogos and other prominent leading edge universities and centres. He has co-chaired several place-based initiatives and spoken on the leader’s emerging role as placemaker in a variety of forums including The Authentic Leadership in Action Conferences (ALIA), The Society for Organizational  Learning (SoL) and many others.

As a pianist/composer Michael has composed and recorded fifteen CD’s of his original piano compositions and performed as a solo pianist across North America  as well as Korea and Japan.  He has been integrating his music in his leadership and dialogue work for over twenty years. See www.pianoscapes.com to learn more about Michael and his work.

Facilitating Co-Creation – Design Patterns for Dialogue

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How do we design dialogues?

With 35 participants, July’s DwD explored the patterns for design for dialogue events, for clients, organizations, and communities. We explored the patterns and elements of effective group processes expressed in both theory and our experience, with guidance from emerging process design tools.

  • What patterns and modes of engagement enable committed participation and reflective inquiry?
  • How might deepening our awareness of the essential elements found in our best methods foster successful group outcomes?
  • How might these patterns differ between arenas, whether creative organizational workshops or in civic dialogues?

Based on a workshop taught in the OCADU Strategic Foresight and Innovation program, Peter Jones shared a foundation for workshop design patterns for group dialogues in any setting.   Working with the Group Pattern Language Project as a source of structure and tools the session addressed:

  • What patterns for dialogue structuring might best enable our own, everyday group work situations?
  • How do we select and adapt best-fitting practices and methods to create mindful, evocative learning communities for creative inquiry?
  • How can we learn from these patterns to co-create new methods or group structuring approaches?

The ultimate goal of the workshop was to co-create better workshop designs and deepen competency through collaborating with peers, using the resource of the pattern model and toolkit.   Participants offered 5 of their problems or upcoming opportunities in their current practice, including an urban youth summer camp, a 24-hour intensive retreat, a community  engagement series with underserved immigrants, a new UofT course program and an international workshop in Lisbon.

Participants co-created new workshop plans with the patterns and shared ideas, exercising the pattern language for meaningful workshop design problems.

The group pattern cards can be downloaded and ordered from GroupworksDeck.org.

waymaking

Creating a kit for learning and teaching Waymaking.

YouthCamp

Designing a youth summer camp program.

Charette

Designing a sustainable cities retreat workshop.

Rexdale

Designing community engagement for an underserved neighborhood.

 

The Hosts

Peter Jones and Chris Lee guide this session on group design patterns. Peter is co-founder of Design with Dialogue and associate professor at OCAD University, in the Strategic Foresight and Innovation MDes program. Peter runs the innovation research firm Redesign and has been engaging groups of all sizes and shapes since the mid-1990’s. He is author of the early handbook of facilitation process, Team Design (1998), We Tried to Warn You (2008), and the recent Rosenfeld title Design for Care: Innovating Healthcare Experience. His work can be found at designdialogues.com

Chris Lee is a Toronto based facilitator and process designer. He runs Potluck Projects, actively using concepts and participatory methodologies from the Art of Hosting, Asset Based Community Development, and Person-Centred Planning to support groups in achieving collective outcomes that are greater than the sum of its parts. He also works with the YSI Collaborative, a network and community of practice that accelerates and amplifies the conditions for youth-led organizing and engagement in Ontario.

Where is Home? Leadership & the Soul of Placemaking

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June’s Unify Toronto dialogue hosted leadership educator, facilitator and Juno-nominated pianist Michael Jones, inspired by his forthcoming book: The Soul of Place: Reimagining Leadership through Arts, Nature, and Community. The book is expected shortly, and will be available for August’s Design with Dialogue (8/13) as Michael returns to OCADU with a second session for the book launch.  In the meantime, his brief brief article titled Recovering the Soul of Place:  Reflections on Place-Based Leadership is available.

soulMichael’s approach to placemaking is radically different than the current trend in urban planning and city-building. His book and view is a platform for community leadership grounded in the essential humanity of understanding place, nature, and creativity.

We are shifting from the industrial age and the age of information and technology to the age of biology. We are now asking, “how do we create spaces for life?” “How do we align our thinking with how nature thinks?”  He asks us to create places as living systems inspired by biology and interconnection.

We explored the four patterns in Michael’s book that underlie the soul of place:

  • Homecoming  – Where is home and how do we find our way there?
  • Belonging  – How can the connective tissue of life-giving relationships align us with the essence of nature and how nature works, connects, and thinks?
  • Regenerativity – What does it mean to make the invisible visible, to contribute to the conscious evolution of life?
  • Carnival – How can we gather together on the square or in the commons, bringing together diverse energies, democratic spirit and upturning the old for the new?

 

The event was uniquely facilitated to engage multiple modes of experiencing and presencing the patterns. Michael Jones told stories about his experiences in embodied leadership and his musical learning journey (“Who’s going to play your music, if not you?”).  He played several pieces while participants listened, contemplated, moved or held small group dialogues. Our gathering hosted dialogue around the four themes and patterns. An integrated sketch by Patricia Kambitsch formed a visual story of the experiences and dialogue in the room.

Placemaking-sketch


“By looking at place not only as something to return to but also something to grow out from –orienting us to the future and not only the past; and by realizing that a place is not an object or a thing, but a power and a presence, we can partner with place in a way that is itself deeply transformative, opening our hearts to the experience of beauty, aliveness and possibility.” - Michael Jones,Recovering the Soul of Place

About special guest Michael Jones:

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Michael is a leadership educator, dialogue facilitator, writer and Juno-nominated pianist/composer.  His most recent book, The Soul of Place, is the third in a series on Re-imagining Leadership.  Others in the series include Artful Leadership and the award-winning  Creating an Imaginative Life.  Michael has also been a thought leader with the MIT Dialogue Project and Dialogos and other prominent leading edge universities and centres. He has co-chaired several place-based initiatives and spoken on the leader’s emerging role as   placemaker in a variety of forums including The Authentic Leadership in Action Conferences (ALIA), The Society  for Organizational  Learning (SoL) and many others. As a pianist/composer Michael has composed and recorded fifteen CD’s of his original piano compositions and performed as a solo pianist across North America  as well as Korea and Japan.  He has been integrating his music in his leadership and dialogue work for over twenty years.
See www.pianoscapes.com to learn more about Michael and his work.