11 suggestions to make conferences a space for great conversations

fieldsofconversationIt seems to me that too many conferences are designed to only transmit information – hence the default choice of presentations followed by Q&A. Of course transmitting information definitely has it’s place, but when you’ve got a room full of knowledgeable, enthusiastic and skilful people, is it really the best use of their time?

Is it not better to try and create the conditions for dialogue, where people can connect with each other more deeply, in ways that are open and inquiring? And perhaps, if you’ve given enough time, some of those really powerful, creative conversations where new ideas and new projects are born, might happen.

Of course, most conferences and seminars do aim to have engaging conversations between participants, and between participants and the main speakers. But unless you’re very lucky not many great conversations will happen unless the schedule is intentionally, and carefully, designed, to encourage and support not just an exchange of information or opinions, but deeper dialogue.

The four fields of conversation from the Presencing Institute, above, are helpful to distinguish between different sorts of conversation. So often the traditional Q&A session after presentations gets stuck in the second field – debate: talking tough – with people just wanting to get their ‘point’ across, rather than having any true spirit of enquiry. While coffee breaks – often said to the best part of a conference – languish in level one.

Here are eleven suggestions based on my experience that you might consider when designing an event for dialogue (in no particular order):

Continue reading “11 suggestions to make conferences a space for great conversations”

Shifting from Me to We will increase personal and social wellbeing…

…in a climate-disrupted world, argues Bob Doppelt in Transformational Resilience

Walking along the Water of Leith a couple of years ago, Dave Key, Margaret Kerr and I wondered if we were the only people who were fearful of what a society affected by climate change might be like – how would people individually and collectively respond to what was likely to be a challenging situation? It seemed to us that questioning the “one more push and we’ll crack climate change” orthodoxy was rarely welcome, perhaps because it opened up all kinds of personal fears and dissonance.

That conversation came vividly to mind as I read Transformational Resilience, where Doppelt writes:

it seems difficult to see how the rise in global temperatures will be limited to the 1.5° threshold. To the contrary, as of now, temperatures seem likely to rise by at least 2°C, and possibly much higher.

and that the negative impact of climate change on society and natural systems:

will be indisputably traumatic and exceedingly stressful, producing significant effects on the human mind and body.

He argues that this will lead to:

unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicides, and other mental health problems for individuals worldwide. These woes will, in turn, produce a boatload of psycho-social-spiritual maladies, such as increased interpersonal aggression, crime, violence, hopelessness, and more, that undermine the safety, security, and health of people all around the planet.

He then draws on his experience as both a consulting psychologist and environmental scientist to explain that:

traumatized individuals and groups exist in a fear-based self-protective survival mode that turns their focus inward, inhibits their ability to learn, and can all but eliminate their concern for the welfare of others or the natural environment. This will make it even more difficult to motivate people to slash their greenhouse gas emissions, prepare for climate impacts, and do their part to reduce climate impacts to a manageable level.

So far, so depressing.

However, Doppelt offers hope, presenting a range of evidence that: Continue reading “Shifting from Me to We will increase personal and social wellbeing…”

A Review of A Wholehearted Approach to Change –

For five weeks I spent two inspiring hours every Wednesday evening with staff and volunteers of the RADIAL Project at the Glasgow School of Art. Project coordinator Eilidh Sinclair has written a review of the programme.

The course took us on a journey. By introducing us to the theory and models, which attempt to explain change, we were then able to apply these and devise coping strategies for our own work/practice/life. In doing so we are able to look at the world through different eyes, from a different lens, and ultimately effect change within ourselves and others around us.

“I thought this was a great workshop and exactly the type of strategic thinking we all need to integrate into our work if we want to bring about real change.”

Source: A Wholehearted Approach to Change – The Review | R A D I A L

Sound good? I’d love to do something similar with other groups and organisations.

“I’m compassionate, they’re selfish” Why this misconception matters so much 

As this spiral gathers energy, people are left tragically and needlessly less civically engaged and more socially alienated. Your misperceptions of others, in other words, may hold you back in helping to mount collective responses to the major challenges that confront UK society today like child poverty, care for the elderly and climate change.

Source: Values, voting and volunteering | Common Cause

Do you know what the world is to me?

I’ve just finished reading A World of Becoming by political theorist William E Connolly. I’m very grateful to whoever recommended the book – if I could remember who you were, I’d thank you!

I’ve found the book illuminating and re-assuring as Connolly explores some complex relationships between systems theory, philosophy and spirituality. That said, it is so rich, so dense, so multilayered, so exact and so nuanced, I believe I’ll need to return several times to not just ‘make sense’ of it, but to also tune in to the feel of it, the intuition of it.

But in the meantime, I feel moved to share the postlude which resonates strongly with me…

~

Do you know what the world is to me?

A colossus of diverse energies, without beginning or end, with each flowing over, through, and around others, generating new currents and eddies.

A play of waves, forces, and perceptions on different scales of complexity, endurance, and time, with some swelling as others subside, with perhaps long cycles of repetition, but none that simply repeats those preceding.

You and I are drops in the sea of flows, feelings, and surges, my friend. So, if you die before you wake, well I pray your God your soul to take.

And Yahweh, Hesiod, Jesus, Moses, Sankara, and Buddha? They send out ripples of passion that persist, sometimes flowing into each other, before melting into larger waves.

And that mosquito buzzing around, sensing you as heat, movement, and food? Are you a god to it? A demon?

It, too, perceives, hopes and acts, living long and intensely on its temporal scale and briefly on yours. It too makes a difference, as when it alters your DNA while feeding, or deposits a virus.

As does the the yeast fermenting into the dough.

And those bursts of laughter, bouts of sensual heat, workers’ movements, consumption habits, hurricanes, geological formations, climate patterns, contending gods, electrical fields, spiritual upheavals, civilizational times, species changes, and planetary rotations–they, too, participate in this veritable monster of energies, making a difference before melting down, to be drawn again into new currents, and again.

And the monster itself? It never completes itself, always rolling out and rolling in, with no outside or end-times, like a Möbius strip or Möbius current, never simply repeating, eternally evolving, and dissipating.

A monster that feeds on its own excretions, that knows no joy, existential resentment, weariness, or horror, even as it houses all these, and more.

Many strive and connect to others in such a world, seeking to amplify existential gratitude for the world as they comprehend it.

Others resent either this world or the different account of it they embrace.

That is the world to me. And you, my friend and rival?

What is it to you?

Climate Change Public Conversations Series

Talking Climate Change

 

A research project, managed by ClimateXchange for the Scottish Government, to develop and pilot a framework for a Climate Change Public Conversations Series.

The framework will include materials and a guide for community groups and others to run conversations about climate change with the public.

The Conversations Series will explore public knowledge of, attitudes towards and engagement with:

  • climate change;
  • policies to address climate change; and
  • the future transition to a sustainable low carbon society.

I’m working on this project as an associate of Surefoot. Very interesting!

More: ClimateXChange :: Climate Change Public Conversations Series

Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer

Erich Fromm (1900-1980) was a social psychologist and humanist philosopher who concluded that love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.

A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet “for sale”, who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity.

[via the ever excellent SENScot Bulletin]

Some field notes on Natural Change Hungary

Natural Change Hungary at Kisújbánya – September 2105.
Natural Change Hungary at Kisújbánya – September 2105.

It was an honour and a joy to co-facilitate a week-long Natural Change course in Hungary in September. Dave has already written about this:

A few weeks ago, Richard, Osbert, Rob and I spent a week leading a Natural Change course in the forests of southern Hungary. The course was part of a project organised by the Pandora Association in Hungary, with partners from Romania, Italy, Spain, Liechtenstein, Germany and the Czech Republic. It was funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme. There were 22 participants from the partner nations and the course took place at Kisújbánya, in a vast area of woodland about three hours drive due south of Budapest.

More…

Don’t give me that middle class bull$h!t

In the absence of men we could trust to guide us from boyhood to adulthood, we initiated ourselves. And that was only ever going to end badly

Despite having been hunted all my life and in turn hunted others for what I needed, I had never actually hunted a living creature for food.

Environmentalism, tree hugging and all that middle class, hippie crap. Yes, I suppose I am middle class, but it’s not, absolutely not, a middle class thing. Read Casper Walsh who believes that by taking a life he saved his own.