Generating ideas, connections, and action


Listening for Change

For many of us, talking to others with opposing views requires skill. I was reminded of how important this is while listening to “39 Shots” a podcast episode from Criminal. It featured the story of Nelson Johnson, the founder of Beloved Community and who also happened to be a Creating Space V catalyst in 2004.


On the podcast, Nelson re-lives November 3, 1979 the day he and others from the Communist Workers Party were attacked by the KKK. Five people died because of the violence that happened that day. To the disappointment of some in the community, state courts acquitted the KKK members named in investigations. Twenty-five years later a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was organized.  The podcast also featured the restorative

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GUEST BLOG | Documenting Is Not Learning by Eugene Kim

This article was first published on Eugene Kim's blog, Faster Than 2.0.This is part two of a three-part essay on facilitating group learning. Part two of a three-part essay on facilitating group learning. See also part one, Getting real about experiments and learning.”


A few years ago, my friend and colleague, Rebecca Petzelwrote about a participatory art exhibit where the artist asked, “What is transformation?” One of the replies was, “Moving beyond documentation.”

I laugh every time I read this, but I also shake my head. How and why did documentation become so synonymous with learning (or worse, transformation)?

My mentor, Doug Engelbart, always said that the distinguishing characteristic of a high-performance group was its ability to learn and improve. One sign that a group was good at learning was its ongoing care and maintenance of what Doug described as a “dynamic knowledge repository.”

When people asked Doug what a “dynamic knowledge repository” looked like, he always described something digital. That made sense. Among the many things that made Doug a visionary was his recognition that digital technology had the ability to transform the speed at which we act and the quality of those actions. It’s something I still believe wholeheartedly.

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GUEST BLOG | A Simple Way for Nonprofit Leaders To Incorporate Mindfulness Into Their Daily Work by Beth Kanter

Yesterday, I had the honor of being a guest facilitator at a transformative leadership retreat with colleagues Heather McLeod Grant, Chris Block, Lance Fors, and David Havens. The retreat curriculum is built around a framework called “I-WE-IT” that covers mindsets and practical skills that today’s social change leaders of all generations need as we move towards more collective approaches.

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GUEST BLOG | Leadership for Audacious Change by Steve Waddell

Large systems change is audacious.  It is change that involves lots and lots of people and organizations – even global breadth.  It is change that is transformational rather than incremental;  it is about basic restructuring, rethinking and reimaging. 

Over the past few decades, I’ve been in working on understanding and advancing this type of change, in relationship with large systems change agents.  People like Peter Eigen at Transparency International, Georg Kell at the Global Compact, Otto Scharmer at the Presencing Institute, and Petra Kunkel at the Collective Leadership Institute.  What do these people and my experience suggest about leadership among audacious change agents?

Such people are attentive to their own life balance, well-being, and happiness.  Peter Eigen plays the saxophone; Otto Scharmer takes blocks of time off for his family; Petra has a home in Germany and South Africa, which enhances her relationship with those she’s working; I’ve found morning chanting in my Sokka Gaki Buddhist tradition indispensable. 

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Leadership and Imagination: A cool story, resources, and tools

Really, the only way to start this blog is with a story I heard from Irvans Augustin of Urban Impact Labs, at a convening of the Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunities Initiative funded by the Kresge Foundation. A group of organizers in Miami wanted to do something about transit problems.They looked at the lack of transit access in high-density neighborhoods where the FEC railroad line passed and didn’t stop. They brought together community organizations and identified a perfect underpass parking space for a pop-up train station adjacent to the FEC line that would be an ideal transit stop. They came up with a brand for a transit system, the Purple Line, a transit line that would provide equitable service to neighborhoods throughout the city. They then began to plan a train station opening at this location and with the social media buzz in people’s minds it became a real grand opening for a train station. Within a couple of months’ people started coming up and saying how cool that there would be a station in this location. For the weekend-long grand opening, 25 collaborating businesses organized the event with container cars, artists who decorated the parking lot with transit maps, train noises, local restaurants serving food and a DIY crosswalk. Thousands of people attended the Purple Line opening, and many expected a grand opening for an actual train station. Even a public official who thought it was a real train station opening showed up.

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Webinar : Successfully Transitioning Your Organization to a Network Mindset (Video & Slides)

Friday, June 10, 2016

10:00 -11:00 am Pacific | 1:00 - 2:00 pm Eastern


Working in networked ways is fundamentally different than traditional ways of working. Organizations can commit to a network approach yet not fully realize all the pieces and behaviors needed to make it actually work.

Carole Martin and Beth Tener will share their insights as coaches/facilitators with a wide range of social change network initiatives. They'll explore what they have been learning about which networks get traction and grow and which ones stumble, related to these themes:

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Recruitment Multipliers

I was invited to be part of a fishbowl conversation on leadership development at the Peace and Security Funder’ Group meeting in Portland by Dahnesh Medora, Building Community Portfolio Director at the Meyer Memorial Trust. I am a huge fan of Dahnesh and when I checked out the Meyer Memorial Trust website with its impressive, explicit commitment to equity, I was hooked. Fishbowls can be very cool and if you have not experienced one you may want to read Beth Kanter’s blog about how it works. It was a lively conversation that took my thinking in a new direction when we were talking about who leadership programs reach and the contradictions in recruiting one person who is often part of a group of people who are making things happen.

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Is Finding A Home Debatable?

What could possibly go wrong in a space that seeks to develop young people into the leaders of tomorrow? Seemingly, nothing.  Similar to a  leadership development program, Debate teams throughout the country train young people in the art of communication and allow many of them to gain confidence while developing their analytical abilities and skills of persuasion. Radiolab’s podcast episode “Debatable”1 explores what lurks beneath the surface and dives deep into how even within these people-building spaces, not everyone is truly welcome.


As Ryan Wash explains, the experience of people of color, specifically Black bodies, varies greatly. When Ryan, a queer black student, and others begin to debate how the structure of Debate is not welcoming to them, tensions increase.  These tensions culminate at the National Debate Tournament, where Wash argues repeatedly that though others have found a home in Debate, he is not welcome. The way Debate judges, trainers, and students mostly value one model of debate

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GUEST BLOG: Getting Real About “Experiments” and Learning By Eugene Kim

This article was first published on Eugene Kim's blog, Faster Than 2.0.This is part one of a three-part essay on facilitating group learning and an introduction to our upcoming webinar


Last year, I went to Cincinnati to visit my sister and her family. My older nephew, Elliott, who was eight at the time, asked if I could help him with his science experiment. He was supposed to pick a project, develop a hypothesis, and run some experiments to prove or disprove it.

Elliott explained to me that earlier that year, he had participated in a pinewood derby and had lost. He wanted to figure out how to make a car that would go faster. I asked him, “What do you think would make the car go faster?”

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WEBINAR VIDEO: Getting Real about Experimentation

May 26, 2016
1:00 -2:00 PM Pacific | 4:00 -5:00 PM Eastern

We've all heard the rhetoric. The future is uncertain and complex. We can’t do it alone, and collaboration is critical. The only way to succeed is to learn as quickly as possible through experimentation, which means getting comfortable with failure.


But what does this mean in practice? If this were easy, there wouldn’t be so many pundits telling everyone else to do it. 

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