Guest Post — Co-hosting a National Conference on Healthy Community

Guest post by Annabel Membrillo JimenezGlobal Steward Vibrancy Ins

A group of colleagues and I recently co-hosted a national gathering of Anthroposophical initiatives in Mexico, working directly with the choosing of human agreements, for the individual and the community, deeply informed from the ecosynomic view of social three-folding. This is part of a larger Global Initiative supported by the Institute for Strategic Clarity and its co-investors in universities, communities, and organizations in 12 countries. The gathering was a continuum of the 2016 gathering exploring social three-folding. In the attached 7-page briefing of the gathering (click here), I explore:

  • the story behind the manifestation
  • the inspiration for the design
  • why it was ecosynomics
  • how it was anthroposophical
  • the flow of the experience
  • the organizing team nurturing the experience

 

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A Common Object-ive Is Not a Deeper Shared Purpose — How to Know the Difference

A common object-ive is completely subject-ive.

My colleagues and I find that most people who tell us that, in their group, they have a common objective they are all working towards are actually working at cross purposes, at best.  What most people call a common object-ive is completely subjective–they are actually working on their own subjective understanding of what the means and ends are.  This common object-ive is not a deeper shared purpose, and here is why the difference between a common object-ive and a deeper shared purpose matters.

To co-host collaboration, we start with uncovering, understanding, and naming the deeper shared purpose that pulls a group of people together and guides their interactions.  We are trying to find out why these people come together to work together towards something they hold together.  A common object-ive does not answer this question.

When most people say they have a common objective, they are actually saying that they are each working on something that influences the same distant object.  Group A works on building schools in poor regions, so that kids can go to school.  Group B trains bilingual teachers, so that kids from different cultures can have access to a basic education.  Group C provides free lunches as incentive to parents to let their kids go to school.  All three groups are working on a common object-ive of giving kids an education.  When the leaders of Groups A, B, and C came together, they told us that they were clearly working on the same object-ive, educating children.  And, it was clear that they were not working on a shared deeper purpose, as they were not working on these three seemingly interrelated dimensions of access to education together, as they were often not even working in the same regions of the country.  Yes, there were schools, with no teachers or students.  Or yes there were teachers, with no schools or students.  And, there were students, with no schools or teachers.  The three groups were not working on the same, deeper, shared purpose.  Working apart, from different perspectives, in different areas, towards a common object.

Seeing parts and a common object does not make a system of interrelated parts towards a common purpose.  Moving different parts at a common object is not leveraging a system of interrelated parts towards a shift in systemic behavior.  By a deeper shared purpose, we mean working together towards leveraging a system of interrelated parts to shift a systemic behavior–showing up in the same place, in a coordinated fashion, to provide schools and teachers and students with access to an education.  This coordination requires a different kind of theory of change, one that we have called a theory of impact resilience.

How do you know whether you have (1) a common object-ive or (2) a deeper shared purpose?  I suggest you immediately have three pieces of evidence you can use to triangulate to determine which you have.

  1. Language.  Start with the language of what the groups holds to be common.
    • If it is a common object-ive, it might sound like, “We work on X to get Y–building schools to educate kids.  We do W to get Z–developing bi-lingual pedagogy to give bi-lingual children access to schooling.”  Each is working on a means to what looks like a common object.  No mention of working in a coordinated way with other means to that same ends, as a system.  For similar examples, see our Guatemala project.
    • If it is a deeper shared purpose, it might sound like, “We are working with the groups that develop all of the required dimensions of the educational system for kids in this region, all of which are necessary to provide equitable access.  We are trying to figure out together how to shift our work, together, to get a different outcome for these children, in the same place at the same time.”  For similar examples, see our Guatemala project.
  2. Experience.  Describe what it is like to work within this group.
    • If it is a common object-ive, we find that most groups describe an experience of competition amongst the different members trying to achieve the common object-ive or low levels of co-operation amongst the members–often competing to get funding from the same sources.  These often feel like the inner to middle circle of the vibrancy experience, tiring and an endless struggle.
    • If it is a deeper shared purpose, we find groups usually describing an experience of collaboration amongst the different members, inviting and inspiring each member to make their best unique contribution.  This is often described as the outer circle of the vibrancy experience, invigorating and life-giving.
  3. Expectations.  Observe what the group and the members of the group expect of each other’s contributions to the group.
    • If it is a common object-ive, we find that most groups either (a) do not have clear expectations of what you could or should contribute, or (b) see the contributions as interchangeable–if you won’t do it, we can find someone else who can.
    • If it is a deeper shared purpose, we see that most groups are very clear on why you are specifically invited to make your unique contribution to the group–you are needed and your contribution is unique and critical–you are not interchangeable with anyone else.

As you look at your own group’s “common goal,” here are three guiding questions, which frame the process we call the harmonic vibrancy move process.

  1. Do you have a shared unifying objective for the whole system?  We call this the deeper shared purpose.
  2. Do you have a shared unified theory of how all the parts fit together and influence the dynamics of the whole and how to shift the dynamics of the whole?  We call this the systemic view of why the different voices are required.
  3. Do you have a unified theory of intervention for each perspective’s best contribution to collaboratively and collectively shifting that behavior efficiently?  We called this systemic leverage.

Guest post — What Does It Mean to Be a High-Vibrancy School?

Guest post by Annabel Membrillo Jimenez and Jennifer Berman, members of the emerging global Vibrancy community

Do you know a school where something special happening is happening?  Do you feel inspired and fully engaged in the interactions you have with teachers, staff, and students?  Are students fully seen for who they are?  Is their inner potential unleashed?  Does the school re-define what it means to be an outstanding school in service to students and the future?  If you have answered yes to these questions, then you most likely know a high-vibrancy school.

So how do you know if your school or any other school really is a high-vibrancy school? After working with several high-vibrancy schools, we have noticed a few common characteristics.  The schools we have worked with are a mix of public, private, urban, and rural schools with socioeconomic and racial diversity, but in each school you can feel and see a set of core agreements that drive decision making, structures and behavior.

INNOVATIVE LEADERSHIP STRUCTURES IN ALL LEVELS

  • School leaders explore and implement innovative leadership structures and engage in transformation from a place of abundance and possibility.
  • School leaders feel ownership of and responsibility for student and whole-community development.  Department/group leadership supports evolving practices.  There is a culture of respect and support for leaders at all levels (principals, teachers, staff, and parents).
  • Leadership can come from anyone. Actions, ideas and proposals flow from every conversation, including those with students.

A DEEP SHARED PURPOSE WITH CLEAR STRATEGIES

  • Schools are centered on student development.  The whole community (internal and external) supports each child in realizing his/her full potential and development.
  • Schools are mission-driven, with a vision that evolves over time as needed– i.e., explicitly supporting children to be active, engaged human beings with supportive programming and structures.
  • Clear pathways exist to achieve that vision, including structures to help assess what is working, what is not, and what new solutions exist.
  • There is evidence of extraordinary results (success indicators coming from tangible results in the school and larger community).
  • There is a strong emphasis on stakeholder development and a deep shared purpose embraced by the wider community. 

 PERMANENT EVOLVING CULTURES/COMMUNITY

  • There is a strong culture of learning, collaboration, trust, respect, and transparency among students, parents, faculty and staff.
  • High value is placed on community engagement in the life and structures of the school. The school community is engaged in transformation at all levels (personal, group, school, external community).
  • Leadership and others have a high level of awareness of what is happening within the community.

INNOVATIVE EDUCATION MODELS AND EVOLVING CURRICULUM

  • There are continuously evolving education models that meet the needs of students and creatively support students to achieve their highest potential.
  • Stakeholders think systemically about what factors influence children’s growth and education.
  • Alliances with groups outside the school leverage whole child development.
  • Every event with the students is clearly related to the curricula and there is a shared understanding of its educational value (class, festivals, community and parent engagement)

Are you one of these schools or do you know one of these schools? If so, share your story with us. Most likely, you are already looking for other like-minded colleagues with whom you can share and explore.  We would love to help you find each other, so that together we can help co-design the next generation of schools that this world needs.

Help Us Find Amazing K-12 Schools

Do you know an amazing school?  We, at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, are looking for “high vibrancy” K-12 schools.

By K-12. we mean kindergarten through 12th grade, from ages 4-5 to 17-18 years old.  Primary and secondary education.

By “high vibrancy,” we mean a school community that is energy enhancing, where people experience a high level of vibrancy, every day, where the school achieves surprisingly amazing results on a sustainable basis.

The Institute for Strategic Clarity is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and education organization committed to understanding and sharing what drives high vibrancy, abundance-based agreements, so that everyone everywhere can choose such agreements every day.

If you know of such a school, we would love to know about them.  We want to (1) understand what makes them amazing, (2) support them in understanding this as well, and (3) connect them with leaders from other schools who have also figured out how to live this way every day.

What can you do?  Take a brief survey (click here) to describe the school and why you think it is amazing.  We would like to thank you for identifying the schools by offering you a free electronic version of my recent book on abundance-based agreements Ecosynomics — you get to choose which version you prefer of the e-book or audiobook.

What we will do.  Based on what you share with us, we would like to contact the amazing schools, get to know them, and invite them to meet others like them.

Mindful Leadership

Ritchie-Dunham, James L. 2014. Mindful Leadership. In Amanda Ie, Christelle T. Ngnoumen, and Ellen J. Langer (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Mindfulness, Volume I, First Edition. John Wiley & Sons: Chichester.

Leaders face great uncertainty in addressing social change.  Langer’s approach to mindfulness suggests three leverage points leaders can use to embrace this uncertainty.  We use the case study method to show how these mindfulness insights were applied in four case studies of leadership.   We use the mindfulness lens to diagnose each leadership situation and suggest a mindfulness solution.  We translate the mindfulness solution into organization practices, which we use to resolve the four cases.  These include the importance of new perspectives in an electric company, new categories in a school board, new information in a textile company, and the use of all three in a statewide project.  Click on the article title or here to access the article.

Guest post — The “UMAns” and Their Movement as a Group (Universidad de Medio Ambiente)

Guest post — Annabel Membrillo, regional steward Vibrancy Mexico

UMA is the University of the Environment in Mexico (http://www.umamexico.com).

When visiting Casa UMA in Valle de Bravo, I had the opportunity of experiencing UMA live and in full detail during the master’s degree graduation ceremony. During this experience, I also had the opportunity of observing a variety of dynamics, as well as interviewing and speaking to a few people, including the founding partners. This collective has a very particular way of living, which I believe demonstrates how inspiration can take a person along unknown yet interesting paths, which are only obvious and visible along the way.

UMA is still a start-up and has been running for just a few years. UMA’s core focus is active research, where questions are more important than answers, and the search for truth becomes relevant because not everything is black or white. The search for an answer to what we want to maintain and what we want to change is always present. This basic difference is the motor that has driven UMA from day one.

Below are several details and evidence of its evolution:

  • The growth of students vs staff – It started with 15 students in the Environmental Entrepreneurship Program (PEA) in 2010, and in 2014 it has over 100 students (70 master’s students, 30 technical certification students and 17 UMA High School students). However, the number of people working within UMA has grown from 6-7 to 18, aside from the network of professors and students that grows every year.
  • The growth of its programs – they began in 2010 with PEA (Environmental Entrepreneurship Program) and in 2014 they now have 6 master’s programs (Environmental Law and Public Policy, Socio-Environmental Business Administration, Architecture, Design and Sustainable Construction), a Technical Certification in Sustainability, 3 UMA High School groups, Consulting, UMA events and Environmental Education UMA A.C.
  • The growth of infrastructure – It began in 2007 with a small office and the first program (PEA) started in 2009. At the time, the space for programs was somewhere else. In 2014 they are in Casa UMA, a cozy space where they have been able to incubate the second part of their evolution. Today they are about to begin a new journey with the construction of the UMA Campus which will be open at the end of 2014.
  • Incubations of economical/social/environmental projects – 89% of alumni projects are in some stage of development and/or implementation.

In the timeline below (Figure 1) we can identify certain important events and moments within this collective’s evolution. These events have been divided into 2 classifications:

  1. The first one is the events related to operations and daily UMA activities. Here we can see the events and activities related with the Academic evolution that involves creating and strengthening the programs offered as a University; and we also see the activities related with Project evolution that refers to environmental service consulting and other consulting services that are accomplished with organizations.
  2. The second classification is related to strengthening the physical basis and infrastructure, as well as strengthening the structure and organization in order to carry out UMA activities.

UMA Timeline

Figure 1. UMA Timeline

 

One of the reasons it was interesting to further explore the agreements that the UMA lives was that the results of the harmonic vibrancy survey showed that it could be a group with different and innovative practices. Several results that stand out are the following:

  • The fifteen people that answered the survey selected “always” for the item, “I understand clearly what we are as a group and why we do what we do.”
  • The average standard deviation of all the survey’s answers is relatively low (0.31), which shows shared agreements between people within the collective. We can observe the general results in the graph in Figure 2.
  • The average of the group’s degree of efficiency was of 4.27, where everyone answered excellent and above average.
  • In the ranking of the group, only one person answered that it was an average group, 6 answered that it was one of the best and 8 the best. The dimension that appears with high agreement is “The Group” and “Group Health.”

UMA Survey Results

Figure 2. UMA Survey Results

These results indicate that this group could have innovative practices of a mid-high level of harmonic vibrancy. After gathering the evidence, what I can share regarding the UMA practices today (there will certainly be others radically different in several years since evolution is the rule with this group), is captured in the agreements evidence map in Figure 3.

UMA Agreements Map

Figure 3. UMA Agreements Map

Next, I will provide an overview of what these agreements look like in UMA’s main practices:

  • An Organizational Philosophy with Zero Dogmas (Levels of Reality) – They are observers, researchers and critical actors of what happens around them, they ask, they seek for each person to live the experience and find their own answers. Questions are a fundamental part of their culture. For example, they develop questions such as the following: what is the middle point between a systemic vision and a reductionist vision because both are valid and necessary, what is the balance between rules and inspiration, what is the proper moment and audience with whom to use horizontal vs. circular organization charts within the same organization at the same time of evolution. Questions such as these may seem strange coming from an Environmental University where they are expected to support new alternative trends, and it may seem to some observers that they are “betraying” evolution. However, seeing it with an open mind, this essence may be perceived as having the capacity to subtly generate spaces for people to find their own answers and develop their full potential.
  • Inspiring and Sharing Global Goal with a Powerful Sense of Group (Group) “To drive a regenerative, sustainable and ethical future by preparing agents of change that are capable of promoting initiatives that will transform social-environmental systems” – Many of these people are there because they know that they are building cathedrals, they know that each part contributes although they cannot see the full picture; they require stability, certain structure and clear guidance on how things work, what they have to do and how to do it. Others are there because deep within them they truly share UMA’s core focus and what it implies regarding uncertainty, risk, patience, tolerance and bravery. They can become part of other types of structures with much more freedom and ability to explore. Both groups are necessary and what is most fascinating is that the initial “strategy” is the same for both groups; as people and groups ask for more or less structure the dialogue begins to take shape around what to do and how to do it.
  • Integrative Co-Design or Sociocracy (Group and Source of Creativity) “None of us knows as much as all of us” – It is clear that co-design is highly important because it allows for various voices and perspectives and imagining something bigger than what one can imagine on one’s own. However, it is also clear that there are situations or decisions that must be done individually but they will be communicated or will guide the team. It means asking oneself constant questions such as: What must be co-designed? Who needs to be there? When must it be done? And so on. It is a live process. In some spaces, it is already clear and in others it emerges as the group grows. Those who study or work in UMA are barely naming this practice as their own; however, having known them for several years, this practice has been consistent. There has always been a thoughtful and conscious invitation for people with different perspectives and voices in designing the UMA that lives in the present.
  • Establishing Dialogue Processes (Group, Relationship with the Other)
    • Within UMA, the U process is carried out in each program, generating profound dialogues between all the participants and those who work with UMA. These spaces still have to be strengthened for the operations and staff areas so they can emerge naturally and organically from within; these are steps that are already being identified for the following years.
    • Outside UMA they are involved in processes that allow for this dialogue to be generated within the community, a very beautiful example is the design and construction of the next UMA building which they describe in the following way: “The construction of a building that shows how architectural intervention becomes a means of regeneration for their community and basin.” The projects surrounding the UMA Campus are Housing with the community, Edible forests, a Path system for non-motorized transportation and a project of Social-based construction in Acatitlan.
  • Permanent Learning Community (Group, Source of Creativity and Levels of Reality)
    • Evaluate in order to grade vs evaluate to redesign; this is a practice that is constantly seeking to create awareness in order to avoid falling into judgment of self or others and instead channeling energy towards growth and evolution.
    • A space that is open to creativity – the objective is set and there is total freedom regarding how to achieve it. This provides a great sense of freedom but also of uncertainty and being overwhelmed by the responsibility; if you “fall” you are 100% responsible for your own fall. However, all this is seen as an opportunity to learn and grow both individually and as an organization.
  • Humanity (Individual, Relationship with the Other) – people are UMA’s most important motor; if people do well, UMA functions well. In evolution, a balance is constantly sought between people’s quality of life and the results. People and their quality of life are taken into account. As with all things, there are ups and downs and matters to resolve as a result of the growth in UMA’s ecosystem.

There are still many things that need to be improved before UMA can evolve into the third circle. It is still a collective that falls into the second circle, where evolution depends on the vision of their leaders. They are still in the process of understanding how to find a balance between efficient and flexible operations and freedom and continuous creativity, there are very distinct differences between the experience in spaces made for design and creativity (academia and consulting) and operation and logistics spaces (staff), it is still in the process of financial stabilization, etc. Leaders and other emerging co-hosts are aware of this, they are observing and seeking more questions and answers; part of this evolution will most likely depend on the increasing awareness of their co-hosts.

I don’t know if the reader will be immensely curious as to the direction this is heading and as to what it will look like in the future; what I do know is that I for one, am very curious. I perceive that UMA has the potential of becoming a point of reference for organizations on how to design and evolve start-up structures with live and free processes that create possibilities in the world (possibility-light), while staying grounded and putting forth all the potential in the earthly world (things-matter). This first attempt to understand the practices and agreements that they have generated throughout time may shed some light for those entrepreneurs who are willing to live this experience through a different lens.

Guest post — Ecosynomics: Improving Schools Strengthening Communities

Guest blog by Carol Gorelick

On April 16, 2014 I presented Harmonic Vibrancy/Ecosynomics at the STIA+ Conference, with an example from my ABC Connects work. ABC Connects began as a three year, Kellogg Foundation funded, action-learning project. The ABC Connects pilot used the Community School Based Learning Model as the framework to work with disadvantaged schools and communities in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and Detroit, Michigan U.S. A.

My approach was to set the stage for a new view of scarcity and abundance in the context of poverty in underserved and disadvantaged communities.  I began by asking the participants to identify their own feelings of scarcity (fear) and abundance (happiness). Then I described the situation in South Africa showing some slides, including the entrance to the Pefferville school building.  I went on to describe Detroit, including a picture of the Barbara Jordan School. (Click here for the PowerPoint presentation and here for the video of the talk.)

I asked: WHICH COMMUNITY REPRESENTS SCARCITY? WHICH ABUNDANCE?  The answer is obvious.  BUT/AND.  The answer was not so obvious when I showed pictures of children in a Detroit school and a video clip of a 9th grade South African boy, giving a passionate speech to his peers, at a community school event.  The presentation ended with the following questions:

  • WHY don’t all seeds get to fully grow and blossom?
  • WHY can’t all kids reach their full potential?
  • WHAT IF schools in need become sites of community empowerment?
  • WHAT IF all schools and communities were functioning at high vibrancy?

Carol Gorelick is co-founder and Executive Director of ABC Connects, working in the U.S. and South Africa to develop school-community partnerships that strengthen schools and build communities.  Having worked in large global companies, a consultancy, and taught at Pace University and the University of Cape Town in MBA and Executive MBA programs, Carol bridges the worlds of practice, capacity building, and research. She is founding board member of STIA+ and a former elected trustee of the Society for Organizational Learning and co-chair of the Executive Committee.

Guest post — Finding Ways to Invite Others into the Vibrancy Work

Guest blog by Christoph Hinske, ISC Senior Fellow

Just today, while accompanying my daughter in her first day in kindergarten, I had an experience of how to invite others into our work. I met another parent, and we had a 10-minute conversation. He asked me what I do for work. I reflected right away on a conversation I had the day before in one of our “global vibrancy network circles” on how to best frame our “work” for specific target groups.

The father I was talking to works as a state-certified assessor and instructor for future teachers in German schools. Thus, I told him that I am working as a freelancing assessor of organizations, currently focusing on finding abundant educational forms. His eyes lightened up.

When explaining what I do, I did not use the term abundant, but used my hands, and asked him if he knows schools that, when he enters the building, he feels either “yuck“ or “yeah.” I reinforced these words by rising my left or right hand and doing a body gesture (scarce/ abundant). He was very convinced that he had had both experiences, giving me several examples of each. I went on, mentioning that we are working globally to identify the “yeah-schools.” I also shared that we have started to find them in many didactical traditions, cultures, and countries. I actually did not say much more nor did I use any specific wording or knowledge. He was thrilled.

As he was leaving the kindergarten a little later, he passed by and asked me to contact him if we want to search for schools in Germany, as he would be happy to be part of this project. I told him I would love to do so, and that we are currently setting up the structures to invite people like him to participate. He smiled.

I gained four key insights from this brief experience today:

  1. We are on the edge of redefining what “good education” looks like, independent from educational approaches.
  2. The importance of the reflective space that I have with the global vibrancy network.
  3. The importance of searching for the possibility to “give target-group-specific elevator speeches“ and share our work. People are thrilled to contribute to our work.
  4. The power of our work since we are addressing a pain that nobody else is having a “pain killer’ for… we might have one.

Note from Jim:  Please share stories with me about experiences you have had with sharing the work of Vibrancy and how you engaged others in it.