Tag Archives: System change

A Citizen’s Design Brief for Canadian Foreign Policy

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Following on a commitment expressed in the December retreat, Design with Dialogue has been continuing to develop a morally-guided vision and narrative characterizing the emerging commitments and proposals for a new Canadian foreign policy. Across the perspectives of a wide variety of citizens and residents, ages and sectors, ethnicities and spiritual traditions, a growing group of DwD members have started to define a foundation for agreement on principles and proposals that might guide a new Canadian values orientation to policies affecting our relationships with other nations and cultures in this single shared planet.

The consensus of the group meeting in two successive sessions was the topic was urgent and necessary to develop with further inquiry. To instigate dialogue we have embraced a series of motivating questions including:

  • What do we (as Canadian citizens) believe to be a socially and culturally responsible foreign policy?
  • How should Canada conduct herself realistically in the complex future of international relations? What are our  proposed decision criteria for state responses?
  • What ought to be the most critical objectives for Canada’s social license to advise and act in global affairs?

The workshops have yield a challenge map expressing a wide variety of perspectives, which are being structured by influence and relationship to their moral weight on other issues in the problematique (the relations of the challenge map).

We continue our Canadian peacefinding series with a dialogue to co-create foreign policy principles and proposals. Today the spheres of national security and foreign policy are held closely by government and decisions are made based on undisclosed interests and unknown expected outcomes. In a democratic society, we can state our claims on policy input, even if government secrecy holds sway in decision making.

As citizens we might exercise our option to participate in defining people’s interests in foreign affairs, which ought to be as much a domain for grassroots citizen participation as indigenous affairs, labour relations, healthcare, or education. Perhaps even more, since misguided foreign relations disrupt the futures of our families and children and relationships with other cultures. The outcomes of bad policy choices, as seen in similar societies to ours (US, UK), leads to institutionalized racism and participation in war making and profiteering. In this session we will continue and complete discussions leading toward an outline or draft of a citizen’s policy brief. Possible outcomes could include:

  • Proposing a mandate for an honourable and transparent diplomacy model.
  • Identifying a set of clear guidelines for the proposals to endorse war or state violence.
  • Articulating a mandate for decolonization of Canadian government interests, ensuring corporate and special interests are not colonizing (determining) the marginalization of rights and freedoms anywhere in the world.
  • Providing for a clear path of state representation that fully includes Indigenous people, as rights holders to treaty lands of Canada, in diplomatic and foreign affairs decision making.
  • Positive relationships based on Canada’s support of indigenous peoples and cultures everywhere.

 

Foreign policy is as much a domain for grassroots citizen participation as indigenous affairs, labour relations, healthcare, or education. Perhaps even more, since bad foreign relations decisions disrupt the futures of our families and children and relationships with other cultures. In this session we will construct (an outline or draft) a citizen’s policy brief following dialogic design principles. Possible outcomes could include:

  • Proposing a mandate for an honourable and transparent diplomacy model – A new model for Track II diplomacy between cultures.
  • Identifying a set of clear guidelines for the proposals to endorse war or state violence.
  • Articulating a mandate for decolonization of Canadian government interests, ensuring corporate and special interests are not colonizing (determining) the marginalization of rights and freedoms anywhere in the world.
  • Providing for a clear path of state representation that fully includes Indigenous people, as rights holders to treaty lands of Canada, in diplomatic and foreign affairs decision making.
  • Positive relationships based on Canada’s support of indigenous people and cultures everywhere.

We will close by defining actions and possible outcomes consistent with participant proposals. These may include editorial writing and citizen participation in hearings, forming alliances with other grassroots groups concerned with decolonizing our foreign policy, and sponsoring a continuing dialogue series on the issues.

ABOUT THE PRESENTING TEAM

Peter Jones will convene and document this dialogue. An adaptive dialogic design method will be employed to facilitate the session as an “open stakeholder” Agora dialogue model.

Liberating Structures for Systemic Change

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So, ” how DO you change the culture around here?” July’s DwD brought Liz Rykert of Meta Strategies together with the DwD community for an exploration of Liberating Structures, a powerful set of 33 self-organizing group engagement and process change methods. The goal of the session was for all participants to learn and acquire initial experience in LS methods, for productively and playfully changing their conventional patterns of engagement. With a focus on Organizational Culture Change, Liz’s session employed a series of introductory methods for group learning of several of these ready-to-hand tools, all of which are powerful exercises for creating knowledge through relationships and convening explorations:

  • Impromptu Networking (Moving introductions)
  • Flocking (experiential understanding of network behavior)
  • What? So? Now What? (Framing questions using the 1-2-4 small group practice)
  • Brief Stories
  • Heard Seen Respected
  • 15% Solutions

Liberating Structures are well-known in organizational development and change work for helping to equalize input, access hidden creativity and insights and breakdown the barriers to full participation for everyone. A live sketch (thanks to Patricia at playthink) reveals the course of the evening’s program, from the compelling interest in organizational change, to the processes and principles of Liberating Structures, to the attitudes of engaged facilitation in the practice. Liz’ slides from the workshop are also available online.

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One often hears how “we need to change the culture around here.” But changing the culture can feel particularly ephemeral and hard to pin down. The session explored how the patterns of relating contribute to the culture we co-create together in the groups and communities where we work and live. Liz turned the discussion toward the “ghosts” in culture, the patterns and attractors and understand how shifting up our behaviours and actions contribute to the outcomes. A mix of physical and movement exercises, brief dialogues, and guided explorations modeled the approach toward mixing methods within a well-planned workshop. A handout summarizing the assembled collection of best-known LS methods (Matchmaker) is also available online.

 

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Liz worked dozens of stories and examples into an engaging learning experience. References to organizational studies (Edgar Schein’s Org Culture and Humble Inquiry), complexity theory (Kaufmann and Snowden, Chaos,-Complexity-Bifurcation), and organizational development (Harrison Owen’s Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry) were integrated and sprinkled throughout the session, allowing for connecting the ready-to-use LS methods to larger theoretical constructs from which most of these were originally developed.

 

ABOUT THE HOST

LizLS Seattle

Liz Rykert is the President of Meta Strategies which she founded in 1997. It is a strategy group working in complex organizational change and technology. Meta Strategies delivers on: Change work including innovation, culture change, large system transformation, coaching and facilitation; Web work including strategy, online community, website design and programming; and Network strategy, development, visualization.  She is an active practitioner and coach of methods such as Liberating Structures. She practices Developmental Evaluation on the often uncertain and emergent qualities of projects she works on. Liz has a knack for uncovering new ideas and bringing them to life for the benefit of everyone.

Coincident with the recent DwD, a Plexus Institute newsletter just recounted an extraordinary story of Liz’ role in organizing support for Syrian refugees in Canada. The following post is referenced from this newsletter (otherwise not available online):

Grass Root Groups Welcome Refugees to Canada

When Liz Rykert was working as a consultant a hospital in Oswego, New York, she and colleagues visited the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, which preserves the memories of nearly 1,000 European refugees rescued from the Nazis in World War II and housed in what was then the Fort Ontario Army barracks. She also learned of the work of Ruth Gruber, the woman whose book Haven describes the harrowing work of getting the refugees from war zones to a military ship for transport to the U.S. and safety. 

Rykert and her husband, John Sewell, who had accompanied her, thought of what refugees endure: dangers and hardships, loss of their worldly goods and comforts, fear of the future, and endless struggle to stay alive keep their children safe. Rykert recalls her husband saying: “We have to do something about Syrian refugees, being displaced by the millions, taking terrible risks.” His reaction was no surprise. Sewell, a life-long activist for progressive causes , was first elected to Toronto City Council in 1969. As Toronto’s Mayor from 1978-1980, he helped facilitate the city’s response to refugees from Vietnam, a grass roots initiative led by Operation Lifeline. Nearly two-thirds of the 60,000 who arrived in Canada settled in the Toronto area.

Rykert and Sewell are part of a group of 21 friends and neighbors sponsoring a refugee family who fled their home in Aleppo, Syrian, fearing for their lives. The family spent two years in emergency quarters in Turkey before their arrival in Canada in March of this year. Omer Suleyman, a cook, his wife, Aliye El Huseyin, a nurse, and their three children, daughters Esra, 13, and Marem, 8, and son Suleyman, 6, are now in an apartment in Toronto, adjusting to new and very different lives. A Toronto Globe and Mail story by Ian Brown describes the family, the sponsors, and their experiences. 

As of last February 8,527 Syrian refugees had private Canadian sponsors, an unusual system unmatched elsewhere in the world. Sewell says some 10,000 private groups like the ones he and Rykert helped form have organized to welcome refugees and many are frustrated with national and international bureaucracies that have delayed arrival of their families. Immigrations officials, observing the doors closing to refugees across the world, have been surprised to find Canadian citizens impatient for more to arrive.

The citizen sponsorship groups commit to paying all their family’s expenses for a full year. Sewell explains the groups collect money (his collected some $45,000 and members don’t know amounts of individual contributions), make connections, arrangements, and help meet individual needs. Some sponsors take classes in how to help without smothering, and how to help foster eventual independence. “It’s a brilliant system,” Sewell said. “We find them places to live, find doctors, get their kids into schools, parents into ESL classes, and a network of people gets them into society, all at small expense to the government, which does pay for healthcare.” Rykert explains the groups introduce newcomers to others who speak Arabic, find banks and other businesses where someone speaks Arabic, locate mosques and grocery stores that sell halal meat and other foods they need, find tutors for children who have missed years of schooling, and free language classes for all. While Suleyman and his wife were anxious to find jobs immediately, their sponsors encouraged them to focus on their new language for the sake of more success later.

The couple says many newcomers suffer from dental problems that result from the often-chaotic lives and erratic diets of refugee existence. Canadian health care doesn’t cover dentistry, so they found a friendly dentist who discounts rates treating their family. Sewell recently took the Suleyman youngsters on a downtown outing, where they were delighted with their first escalator ride.

Sponsors benefit a much as the families they help, Sewell observes. “This is extraordinary community building,” he said. “We have gotten to know our neighbors in more ways than we’d have thought. You think you know your neighbors until you start something like this. This expresses the best about being Canadian. We do this.” For the last 120 years, Sewell said, Canada has had immigrants and refugees equaling about one percent of the population annually. “That means we are very adaptable, and very accepting of new people and different cultures,” he said. “That has been our history.”

 

 

 

 

Systemic Constellations | Where’s the Money?

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Where’s the Money? Exploring for Clues.

Does the collective field have anything to tell us about where the money is?

Diana Claire Douglas joined us from Ottawa to share a brief (3 hour) orientation to Systemic Constellation Work, based on Bert Hellinger’s well-established practice for engaging families, organizations, and all types of social systems within the “knowing field” – a multi-dimensional field that is always present and has also evolved over the last 30 plus years. Systemic constellations consider issues, questions and propositions from a very broad, human and universal systemic perspective. It is used for diagnosing and resolving issues, making decisions, experiencing other ways of knowing, gathering collective intelligence, testing propositions, and creating new processes, services and products − for individuals, families, organizations and larger systems such as cities. For participants, the engagement process is highly experiential, felt, and mostly-nonverbal. The constellation process accesses information and energy that is beyond our mental conceptions through participants representing the elements, reporting their bodymind experiences with no interpretation, finding their place in the field, and allowing movements to emerge from the field as the representatives interact. -In the June DwD session 22 participants engaged in an experiential “experiment’ around the intention of discovering the sources and flow of money as a systemic cultural issue shared among people self-selecting to be in the field.

Stitched Panorama

Photos by Codrin Talaba

Systemic Constellation Work is a systemic perspective that embraces families and collectives as living systems, with an inner stance of the facilitator being in relation to the “Knowing Field.” SCW holds an extensive body of knowledge including premises, principles and themes based on the understanding that living systems are guided by principles of balance, internal order and exchange. This supports an experiential process and practice that allows for embodied energy and information to be made visible.

After a series of individual and paired constellation exercises that located the sources of money issues within family constellations, a large group process proceeded and evolved into configurations like those in the photographs. In asking the question “Where’s the money?” in two ways “Where’s the money out of need?” and “Where’s the money in the flow?,” the group generated about a dozen different elements to be represented in the field (yang money, alchemical goddess of money, new paradigm money, power, love, sex, purpose, past, future). These were randomly selected by participants and then represented in locations and relationships in a physical mapping of the field.

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The process is quite dynamic, as particpants move in relationship to re revelation of inquiries within the field. The attitude of response is one of “knowing” and is felt as a response from the representation of an identity or issue in the field (people represented the four dimensions of past, future, above and below – but also selected power,  mystery, “yang money,” love, and the new paradigm of money).    Background presentation on Systemic Constellation Work (1Mb PDF).

Reflection from Diana Claire Douglas, as facilitator:

For many months now, I have been hearing “where’s the money?” from almost every individual or group involved with (social) innovation. The DwD group seemed a wonderful opportunity to explore what the Knowing Field could show us about where the money is while introducing the systemic constellation work process.

The first three partner exercises allowed participants to experience what it means to be a representative in the knowing field, through exploring their own relationship with money and the impact of knowing why they wanted money. This was working at the personal and family system level. We moved to working at the collective level when doing the whole-group process. The original question “where’s the money?” became two questions: “where’s the money out of need/fear?” and “where’s the money in the flow?” There were a few surprises while we were doing the process: although both yang and yin money were named as elements to be in the constellation, no one chose to represent yin money, so it was not in the field; and in the middle of the constellation an apparent street person lay down across the outside of the window behind the Past.

The process is dynamic, as the representatives move in relationship to each other, revealing what is missing in the field, what is blocking the energy flow, and what needs to be seen, acknowledged and healed before there is flow in the system. This constellation ended when the Past and Future could see each other, when Love and Sex connected, when missing elements (Patriarchy and Family) were added, when Yang money felt it encompassed the whole field, and when almost all the elements were connected in a line from the Past to the Future.
In the short time we had to constellate such a big issue, we saw many movements and elements coming into alignment with each other…each of these planting a seed in our personal consciousness and the collective consciousness that will eventually emerge and show impact in the world. Afterwards, participants often report being more aware of the shifts they saw happening during the constellation — their perception had opened in a new way — and thus are tuned into what is emerging.

Some have called this work “action inquiry in the causal field!”  And I believe there are several further constellations that could be done emerging from this first constellation asking “where’s the money?” For example: what would happen if we did a constellation just with Yin money and did not have Yang money represented? What might we see when both Yin and Yang money are represented in the same process? What would happen if we explored the “who” of Who-has-the-money? New-paradigm money was not able to connect with Who-has-the-money until a missing element was added (patriarchy). As this element was put at the feet of Power, we could use a constellation to unpack the relationship between New-paradigm money, Power, and Patriarchy.

 

About Diana

DCDheadshotDiana Claire Douglas is a systemic  facilitator, coach and trainer (family, organizational, and social issues), social architect, artist, published author, and explorer of the depths. She is founder of Knowing Field Designs Aligning human systems with Life. She is internationally certified as an Organizational Constellation Work facilitator through the Bert Hellinger Institute of the Netherlands. She is the lead facilitator for systemic constellation work for Integral City and The Hague Centre for Global Governance, Innovation and Emergence, where SCW is used regularly for decision-making, designing creative projects, and team building. She has facilitated constellations at international conferences including INFOSYON conference in Amsterdam, Integral Theory Conference (ITC 2015) in California, and Integral European Conference 2016 in Hungary.  See more at The Knowing Field Issues 19, 22, 26, 27, 28.

The Art & Practice of Regenerative Leadership

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Michael Jones and Michelle Holiday presented an exploration of regenerative leadership based on their living systems model on Sept 9. Engaging nearly 40 participants in a close circle, Michelle started off with a cycle of connections and engagement. The context was set to explore questions of engaged leadership, including:

  • What new ways of thinking and seeing are needed within the many participatory organizing structures that are emerging?
  • How can we integrate living systems principles as we explore the leadership that is needed now in our organizations and communities?
  • What are our new practice grounds – spaces and times of shared learning, renewal and relationship that deepen our connection with both people and place?

Whowillplay

 

 

 

Michael and Michelle drew from their own experience in community and strategic dialogue work, as well as from their recent article published in the current issue of The Spanda Journal, Living Systems Theory and the Practice of Stewarding Change.

Michelle presented a core case story of their developmental work with the Montreal museum organization now known as Espace pour la Vie (Space for Life), a project which combined the Botanical Gardens, Planetarium, Biodome and Insectarium into a new biosciences museum group. As an evolving living system organization, the results of the journey are impressively real in the growing value the new combined museums have to the regional and scientific communities.

Michael Jones shared his stories, dialogue and music over the course of the evening, including insights from the four-step model in his book, The Soul of Place. The two revealed their combined four timeless patterns that shape all living, creative, expressive systems. We worked in small groups to find and share how these four patterns emerged in our own leadership work in the context of regenerative living organizations.

Patterns

Michelle’s four patterns were drawn from years of study and development of living, biological systems. The nature of life “itself” is represented by four classic patterns that describe any non-mechanical system:

1. The parts, components, divergent members of a living context.

2. Their relationships with one another, how they connect and create new patterns.

3. Their convergence as a whole system, a unitary holon with its own wholeness of identity and distinct form.

4. The self-integration of life as an animating force that imbues a living system with its vitality.

 

Underlying the four patterns is a deep connection with place. Any living system is rooted in and nourished by the place where it grows, and we and our organizations and communities are no exception. Michael presented his four patterns from The Soul of Place, and through his stories of relationship with place, music and practice, and his own life, he showed how his four patterns connect neatly to the living system:

1. Homecoming, or the pattern of return of individuals to a place of recognition or home.

2. Belonging, the making of relationships among ourselves.

3. Regenerativity, the creative practice of leadership and acknowledgement of one’s role and source, form a place.

4. Carnival, transformative celebration, the expression of shared vitality (life) and possibility.

We explored the areas of practice offering the most fertile soil for these new possibilities to take root. A series of questions prompted exercises to reflect in small groups on possible applications and starting points.

What are (or could be) your practices for sensing and supporting what life calls for? What practice grounds are needed?

What do you feel called to steward? what could that look like, given the 4 patterns we explored?

Where do you see regenerative leadership coming ever more vibrantly to life? What is being done? How are the patterns present and cultivated?

What kind of greenhouse or Solarium do we need to create to cultivate regenerative leadership in ourselves and our communities?

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The four phases of the evening’s session are described in Patricia Kambitsch’s sketch of the dialogue. Here the imagery moves from left to right, from the participant’s experiences in “feeling most alive” to the discussion of patterns and relationships in living systems (creating conditions for life to thrive) to the sets of patterns, and final dialogue.

About the Hosts

Michael Jones 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.

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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.

Michelle Holliday is a facilitator, organizational consultant, researcher and writer. Her work centers around “thrivability” — a set of perspectives, intentions and practices based on a view of organizations as living systems. To this end, she brings people together and helps them discover ways they can feel more alive, connect more meaningfully with each other, and serve life more powerfully through their work. This generally takes the form of designing and hosting transformative events, as well as delivering talks and workshops. Michelle also writes regularly, including a forthcoming book, The Age of Thrivability. Her research is summarized in a slideshow called Humanity 4.0, as well as in a TEDx presentation.

Don Officer on Living & Dying through Change & Transformation

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Something about August reminds us of those unseen tipping points that mark the change of seasons in the year, in our lives, in our organizations and ultimately cultures. The fruits of summer need shorter days and colder nights to ripen. All are harbingers of harvests but likewise endings soon enough to come. So it was timely that Vanessa Reid opened up a conversation to the 30 or so DwD participants in the Lambert Room on Wednesday, August 12 around the perpetual mystery and wisdom of transitions.

Such conversations take courage. Everything about our culture is designed to downplay two obvious, but annoying details. First, we all change through our lives and experiences. With the passage of years we can do less or fewer of some things and more of others. These slow but inexorable alterations do not usually comply with expectations. If that weren’t annoying enough, the many parts of the world around us move along on their own cycles and rhythms. Vanessa gave us a framework for that, a systems approach called panarchy.

Panarchy is a philosophical and methodological approach with a history some of you will recognize. In human terms we feel the perpetual tension between stability and disturbance in every aspect of life. This personal aspect was Vanessa’s focus at the DwD session. Relating her own experiences as a daughter, an agent for social change and institutional steward Vanessa illustrated how she came to appreciate panarchy from the inside out. As the invitation explains she has been immersed in creating  (and sometimes extinguishing we discovered) broadly aligned cultures. All this she accomplished while immersing herself in some very extended, old yet highly contended global cultures from India to Jerusalem to Greece.

The evening was designed to be interactive. Conversing as individuals in a circle, sometimes in twos or threes, participants pondered aloud their own cycles of growth, transformation and death or disappearance in their lives. Throughout the session process shifts between expression and reflection were felt and consolidated. Living in our hard driving high-energy compulsorily optimistic culture, we feel a powerful resistance to accepting personal or social decline’s inevitable consequences as we, along with our personal cocoons, are overtaken by the power of change from without as well as within.

Some of these ideas did indeed sink in during our three hours together. Closing thoughts from the circle reminded the whole group of the ambivalences that big changes intermingled with tenacious continuances visit on everyone. Vanessa is a living model for acceptance of panarchy’s swirling curves as it describes its sideways figure eight of infinity. Perpetuity is of course not always a consolation when we must give up something or a person dear and meaningful to us. Consciousness does not always let matters go gently into that good night. Moving on is nonetheless active and dynamic. Awareness of the call to close is step one.

Donald Officer