Monthly Archives: February 2015

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

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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