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Homework Diner in Asheville

HwkDiner

Feed your brain: Homework Diner program offers families dinner and academic support.

Such a beautiful offering and community collaboration. Yes!!

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Asheville Youth Voices & Leadership

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 2.39.15 PMOur youth deserve dignity and respect as they ARE our leaders. The premier issue of the Word on The Street/ La Voz de Los Jovenes teen magazine just came out. I’ve met some of these youth and they are AMAZING. These are the voices of leadership we need to be listening to NOW. Read. Learn. Share what touches your mind or heart.

This is Asheville.

Our youth deserve dignity and respect and one way we can show that to them is by being real with the conditions they are facing right now, recognizing that some youth do not have access to some opportunities as fairly as others do. We must face how opportunities do or don’t prepare youth to navigate the world. We can shift that narrative that is playing out and create a new reality… This is Asheville.

 

Footage for the film, Beneath the Veneer, a documentary currently in production about opportunity, success and inequity in America?

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Wiser Together: Partnering Across Generations

This article originally appeared in Fieldnotes

BY JUANITA BROWN & ASHLEY COOPER

Tucked away in the small Appalachian community of Burnsville, North Carolina, is a family farm and a place of meeting that has recently become the new home base for Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, Co-Founders of the World Café. Together with Ashley Cooper, a young educator, community organizer, and Executive Director of TEDxNextGenerationAsheville, they are collaborating with Juanita’s 90-year-old mother and younger members from the nearby community to deepen the legacy of the farm for future generations.

In these “notes from the field,” Ashley and Juanita tell a story that will also be featured in the Innovation Marketplace at the upcoming Summer Institute.

Together for Life from Juanita Brown on Vimeo.

FIELDNOTES: It looks like you’ve made quite a radical change in your life, Juanita. How did you come to be living in the Appalachian mountains?

Juanita: In the early 1970s my parents, Millie and Harold Cowan, civil liberties pioneers from Florida, bought a broken-down 90-acre farm in one of the poorest counties of North Carolina, near Asheville. For the next four decades they worked with others in the community to create a special and welcoming environment for people from all walks of life. After my dad passed away, David and I brought my mom back to the farm and spent the summer here. Late one night, I had an “illumination” in which I felt completely embraced by the love and care that my mom and dad had invested here. In that moment, I realized that we could never sell this farm in our lifetimes—and that David and I had a unique opportunity to discover what wanted to unfold here.

In a purely intuitive leap, we left our home of 35 years in California to “listen the future into being,” and to embody here the principles of multi-generational collaboration that we’d been exploring in our global work with the World Café community. As you know, we’ve co-hosted many multi-generational dialogues since helping to organize the first multi-gen learning program at the Shambhala Institute in 2004. Our farm project is providing a place based learning field for us to deepen into the principles and practices of intergenerational hosting and partnerships. We see this field as having implications for community resilience and for organizations across sectors that are seeking to engage the wisdom and expertise of all of their members in addressing critical challenges.

FN: And what is the path that brought you into this collaboration, Ashley?

Ashley: Growing up in Georgia, the Appalachian mountains have always been my “heart home.” The West Coast swept me away for many years, but my return was inevitable. The timing fortuitously aligned with Juanita and David’s decision to move to the region. They have been colleagues, friends, mentors, and co-inspiritors over the years. I embraced the opportunity to learn and co-create with them while at the same time being adopted by a new “grandmother,” Millie!

The nature of this project and this place drew me in—the intergenerational partnerships and the shared dedication to processes of engagement grounded in principles that nourish life, justice, learning and the common good. It is a unique opportunity to be part of a group of passionate people, as we move between our roles as learners, teachers, friends, mentors, and family. At the core, we are living the practice of mutual partnerships where appreciation and respect for each other’s contributions is based on recognizing that each of us has unique gifts to offer, whatever our age or stage of life.

FN: Why is multi-generational collaboration and partnership so important to you both?

Juanita: I have always been fascinated by large-scale systems change and what might enable whole societies to shift into more life-affirming patterns. Over the years I had the great good fortune to have older corporate and community leaders take me under their professional and personal wings as I engaged with this work.

I began to think abut the challenges we face at every level of system today. I realized that there is a huge untapped large-scale social change potential in the wisdom, experience, and perspective of younger leaders as well as children. I began to ask myself: How can we honor and use the unique contributions and gifts that reside in all of us, as a single generation, alive and awake together—whatever our age or stage of life?

Ashley: Young children are my key teachers. I learn from their honest perception of the world, bright curiosity, and playful ways of engaging life. They keep me attuned —reminding me to be in the present moment and inviting me to enthusiastically engage my whole self in the process of living.

At the same time, I’ve been greatly influenced by many older leaders and colleagues in the fields of education, process arts, conversational leadership and therapy. Relationships that bridge the lifespan have provided a strong foundation for my life and work. Youngers shake up my field of vision and invite me to see things from a totally different angle. Elders have acknowledged the value of my contributions and enabled me to stretch into the unknown edges of my capacities with greater confidence as I learn from their experiences, stories and insights.

At this time of global challenge to our common future it seems irresponsible to believe that we can make wise decisions without listening to contributions from all members of the circle of life. The wisdom of multiple generations is desperately needed. I also find life more personally exciting and fun when I am partnering across generations!

If intergenerational collaborations provide such potential for large-scale social change, why don’t we see more of it?

Juanita: Collaboration between generations has traditionally looked like grandparents reading to small children, a one-way power dynamic between professional mentors and their younger colleagues, and awkward attempts to manage a next-generation workforce. There are also strong beliefs, held by many, that “youngers are to be seen not heard,” or even that the final decision should always be made by the oldest person in the room. These cultural and societal norms and habits seem to shape so much of our thinking.

Ashley: I can relate to this personally. A colleague once said to me, “I’m older than you, I’m supposed to be wiser than you.” Not everyone will say something that direct, but I often feel that tone of a response, and sometimes it even has more of a dismissive edge. The challenge seems to be our willingness to be humble and genuinely recognize when we are learning. If new understanding is igniting inside of me because of something another person is doing or saying, I am learning from them. They are contributing to my knowing and influencing my actions and decisions. This is a precious gift and we have the opportunity to step beyond traditional boundaries and be open to learn from whoever has the wisdom of the moment to share, regardless of their age or background.

FN: Can you describe how you see your vision for the farm unfolding?

Juanita: We aren’t approaching the visioning process in the traditional manner of creating our preferred picture of the future and driving towards it. More, we are together “listening the future into being.” We are experiencing each of the four seasons and asking ourselves questions such as: What is the story of this farm and its role in the local community?  How are we relating to the land and how is the land relating to us?  How can we honor and deepen the legacy of my parents and of those who came before? Assuming the farm has its own voice, what is it saying to us?  Sensing into the whole, what are the minimum, elegant, next steps?

Ashley: In addition to our own listening and imagining, we are inviting people who visit the farm to share their images of possibility and creative inspirations for this place. We are committed to collective intelligence informing our actions and we trust that this intuitive and collaborative approach will yield paths forward that none of us could have imagined on our own. For example, the local members of our team whose families have lived for generations in this mountain culture have helped us “see” different aspects of this place and its possibilities.

FN: What does this look like right now? How are you spending your days on the farm, Juanita?

Juanita: I´m experiencing the skills and wisdom emanating from the younger members of our team.  For example, Justin, age 22, has a unique capacity to find unexpected and innovative solutions to dilemmas related to renovating our 100-year-old barn while keeping its unique character. Not only am I thrilled to learn from him, but the other young carpenter he is working with will often turn to him and ask for his insight. At the same time, when I, as the elder, ask directly for his opinion, I notice that he will sometimes hesitate as I am breaking one of the unspoken cultural rules about relationships between the generations.

Ashley, as a ¨GiGi¨(girl geek!) has become my technical mentor, I am mentoring her in the next stages of her community organizing work, and we are partnering together on this farm project. Another of our team, Thomas Arthur, contributed the short video and photos about the project which accompanies this article, which I could never have imagined! For me, what is unique about these collaborations is that we are each ¨giving it all we´ve got¨ within the context of the cultural and historical factors that have shaped each of our lives.

FN: What have you been learning so far that may have broader organizational, community and societal, implications?

Ashley: We’re discovering that co-mentoring is a more useful construct than traditional mentoring, eldering, or teaching. By being open to fresh perspectives and actively learning from one another’s life experiences and skills, we are accessing leverage points that far exceed our individual capacities.

Juanita: Organizations of all types are facing critical issues as Baby Boomers, now in their 50s and 60s, enter their older years in a world that is dramatically different than the one they have been operating in. Doing it the way we’ve always done it is no longer an option. Younger employees deserve to be considered equal contributors to innovative solutions rather than needing to “wait their turn.” If organizations are to thrive in these uncertain and turbulent times, these new perspectives and redefined partnerships between generations in the workplace are sorely needed.

Elders can enter the legacy stage of their lives by forming alliances with younger leaders around the crucial challenges that not only organizations but also communities are facing today. This will require a new paradigm for all generations and we want to be part of the movement that is responding to this opportunity!

We’d love to hear your reflections and experiences with intergenerational collaboration and learning—in your organizations and in your communities.
Feel free to be in touch with us at:
Ashley: Ashley@easilyamazed.com
Juanita: Juanita@conversationalleadership.com


Juanita BrownAshley Cooper and Samantha Tan will be presenting a Skills and Lenses for Innovation session on Multi-Generational Leadership: Shaping Tomorrow Together at the Innovation Marketplace during the ALIA Summer Institute in Columbus in June.

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Good Being is Contagious

“Good being is contagious.”

~ Brandon Leonard, Youth Mentor

I met Brandon at workshop during a mentoring conference. His bright spirit and
compassionate perspective was the highlight of the workshop. This comment rocked my world!

Photo by carf from a powerful story that is part of their Children At Risk Foundation. This organization is an incredible example of using social media to invite involvement for a meaningful cause. I just stumbled upon them because they have very moving pictures that are all under a creative commons copyright. I’m in awe as I look more into this rabbit hole of goodness I’ve just discovered. It’s true, good being is contagious.
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Letting Go, Passing Away and Coming Together

A few nights ago while I was at the coast in LaPush, sinking into a powerful place during a time of deep change, learning from the raging winds, enormous waves, wisdom of the land, and lessons of community, I had a powerful dream. While I was writing the dream the next morning, I felt my friend, Finn Voldtofte, very strongly and very close. Since being together at the gathering on Bowen Island, Finn has been mentoring me and I believe many others in a process of letting go. Prior to being connected to a resperator and being held in sleep, Finn knew that the work he was doing was soul work, having to do with setting himself free at a soul level. He asked that all people assisting him in this difficult time set him completely free. This invitation created a wave of collective intention that very palpably ran through Finn’s vaste local and global community. I sense that we have all been on a deep journey as we hold this space with and for Finn and as we ourselves surrender to letting go and setting free. This dream touches many places in my own life and development (such that I’m a little embarrassed to be sharing it here). I think that it also touches on themes emerging at a global and universal level too. I am very grateful to Finn who has been mentoring me and helping me to deepen my sense and understanding of this process in so many ways.

Dec. 20 Last night’s dream:

There is a small child, maybe 2. She keeps coming to me and telling me exactly what she needs. She’s very connected. Very clear about what needs to happen. Very strong willed. Not pushy, not aggressive but very assertive. She is clear as to what must happen and I am her confident and the adult that can help her with her needs. She has been preparing the ground with this one particular woman. The time comes that she is ready to go to the woman and surrender… to be given over to, fully adopted and cared for by this woman. She is ready to be born anew, arriving as a child with a mother… being a part of a unit, connected to a family.

She comes to the woman… more as an infant than a toddler. The woman is aware of the divinity that this child embodies and knows the high task of companioning her through this passage. There are 4 of us surrounded around the small body of this child and yet energetically, there a HUGE expanse of presence between us. The child is in a deep sleep, coma-like. It is clear that she is going through intense struggle. It is unclear as to whether her life will survive. There is some fear within the adults… to see this innocent child in such a state helplessness, tinkering so close to the edge of death. And yet, she is there with a huge amount of presence.

There are two adults on each side, one below at her feet and me above her head. Her arms are crossed upon her chest. My hands rest upon her hands, my legs cradling her head and shoulders. The other women are showing up powerfully. The woman who is the new mother is across from me. She is actually not below at the feet but is holding the child. I feel now that the child is in both of our laps with her head resting in my lap, my hands upon her hands and heart and she is really cradled by her new mother. The other two women are essential in holding the container together… in creating a dense space where time stands still and we hold our full attention, being together. Holding space. Letting go. Supporting. Encouraging. Granting permission. Breathing.

I feel some of the fear of the other women. This child seems so vulnerable and in such ‘bad shape’. I reassure them that the child who had been guiding me up until this point was extremely powerful… filled with a huge amount of determination and understanding. She walked consciously to this point and it is our opportunity to be with her consciously, accepting and surrendering to the letting go that is happening now.

Yesterday I found out that Finn passed away a couple of nights ago. I feel so blessed to have been able to know, connect with, learn from and love such an inspiring human. We met at an Evolutionary Salon where I was touched on a non-personal level by his wisdom and experience. He continually guided and invited deep connection with the presence of the magic in the middle, not through instruction and lecture, but experientially in the ways he engaged with himself and the group. I also had the opportunity to learn from him and with him through facilitating together on the final day. After the salon we connected some online.

It was at the gathering on Bowen and the time since then, however, that it became (and is becoming) clear to me what a profound teacher he is to me. Now isn’t the time for putting this part into words, but I want to honor it.

I breathe deeply as tears well in my eyes… A seagull flies above the trees out my window… My heart and soul honor with deep grace and gratitude the life of Finn… A huge grin leaps upon my face… My heart and soul celebrate the life that continues to thrive as the being that was Finn continues to inspire, guide and love.

I give thanks to Finn and to Martin Ehrensvärd and Tina Ranløv, Finn’s close friend and wife, who have not only showed up in unimaginably powerful ways but who also continue to share the wisdom and growth with this broader community. I leave you with words from Tina as she shared the news of Finn’s passing and invites each of us into a calling:

It has been and it is to me a lifegiving process and I feel in me and the people close around me a call from life to grow, to share, to evolve, to come together, to ask for help.

c20
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