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The Power of Collaboration

Whether you’re the CEO of a company, the super mom of a household, or the wide-eyed 7-year old in a room, you know the power of being in a group that plays well together!

Think of a time when you were working on a project or creating a family experience and the group was cooperating beautifully. I imagine ideas were sparking, people were curious about one another, everyone was contributing, it was fun to be together, and smiles were flashing from face to face. Isn’t it true that being able to do the dance of successful collaboration brings joy, inspiration and unimaginable opportunities into companies, families, classrooms, and groups of all types?

So what makes a group collaborate well? And how does collaboration connect with performance or individual happiness? A recent study led by Anita Williams Woolley from Carnegie Mellon University looked into what makes groups perform better, studying what they called the intelligence of groups. Her team recognized that in today’s world, such skills are critical. “More and more, people need to collaborate to solve problems,” she says.

The study found that a group’s intelligence is highly influenced by the quality of interactions between the individuals. Opportunities for equal participation, distributing turn-taking, and how socially sensitive the group members were proved to be the key factors in predicting a group’s intelligence. -source

This leads me to think about how we develop the skills for social sensitivity. How do we learn to better understand what other people are thinking and feeling in a moment? How do we become more graceful at allowing other people a chance to talk and genuinely valuing the contributions that they make?

One tool that I’ve been using lately and loving comes from The Center for Collaborative Awareness and is called The State of Grace Document. This is a collaboration process used to establish healthier, more resilient business and personal relationships. It is a practical way to learn more about the people you’re relating with, understanding what makes them tick. It gives you a window into their thoughts, feelings, habits and ways of interacting and allows you the opportunity to specifically desgin your relationship. I’ve found these practices potent for increasing social sensitivity.

Sedona, age 14, participated in the Milestones ProjectWise at Heart, and she notes that “people get angry at each other because they don’t understand each other.” So why not invest our energy in understanding one another better? Not only can it make us feel happier and more connected, but as teams and families we can actually become more successful!

You can also watch this 3 minute video to learn more about The State of Grace Document, also called the “Blueprint of WE”.

Colorful puzzle piece image from LuMaxArt and all other images from Center for Collaborative Awareness

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Risk-taking and Creativity

“Fostering risk-taking and creativity in children can ensure that they learn the basics of economics and independence—and develop a mentality of innovation.”

How do you foster risk-taking and creativity in your own life and/or in the lives of children or other adults? Please share.

A couple of organizations focusing on entrepreneurship with youth referenced in this article:

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Baking Cookies for the Neighbors

When is the last time you baked cookies for a neighbor or cooked some extra dinner and took it to a friend who is struggling to find time to cook? Did you know that doing such activities for others is actually a way to increase the health and well-being of your own children and family? I read an inspiring newsletter this morning on social capital and the value of reaching out to our neighbors. While the newsletter was not intended strictly for parents, it reminded me of the 5 Protective Factors that parents need in order to parent effectively, even under stress, and to diminish the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. This is according to extensive research conducted by Strengthening Families. One of the protective factors is Social Connections. Parents need “friends, family members, neighbors and other members of a community who provide emotional support and concrete assistance to” them.

“Social connections build parents’ “social capital,” their network of others in the community—family, friends, neighbors, churches, etc.—whom they can call on for help solving problems. Friendships lead to mutual assistance in obtaining resources that all families need from time to time, including transportation, respite child care, and other tangible assistance as well as emotional support. Helping parents build constructive friendships and other positive connections can reduce their isolation, which is a consistent risk factor in child abuse and neglect. Isolation is a problem in particular for family members who are in crisis or need intensive help, such as victims of domestic violence.” (source)

With that in mind, below are some ideas from the newsletter: Engage in Dough Diplomacy – Bake Cookies for a Neighbor from Center for a New American Dream

Taking action by supporting legislation or greening your home is important, but don’t forget that we can also take action in our social lives. New Dream has always believed that change begins with our everyday choices: investing in relationships builds happier people and a stronger community–and may be good for your health. Which is why we’re asking you to bring a neighbor some cookies.

Between the mid 1980′s and the 1990′s, Americans’ openness to making new friends declined by about a third. A 2000 Harvard study found that one-third of Americans no longer participate in social activities like inviting people to their home or visiting relatives. Reaching out to others doesn’t just add meaning to our lives–it’s part of what makes up social capital, the shared values and trust that keep a society together and running smoothly.

Luckily, it doesn’t take a lot of your own capital to simply bake some cookies (or any other treat) and share them with a neighbor you don’t know. Think of it as the most fun and delicious way to make the world into what you want it to be: an open, trusting place full of people who will wave to you on the sidewalk. As a family activity, making and sharing homemade goodies is a way to have more face-to-face time and less screen time. So go ahead–knock on that door and then tell us what happened and how it made you feel.

cookies photo by emilybean

This post originally appeared at Community of Mindful Parents.

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Children Keeping it Simple, Teaching Simplicity


A few inspiring comments from my teachers in simplicity, children.

  • I was participating in Seattle’s Martin Luther King, Jr., March and Rally this year with some of the faculty, students and parents from the school I work at. During the march one of our first graders looked up at me and said, “Oh, I know why you’re here today, Ashley.” “Why?” I asked. “Because this is all about friendship… and you’re the friendship teacher.”

    (fyi: I host Friendship Groups, a class that all the students in the class participate in just like math or reading. The aim is to help students deepen their ability to connect with and understand themselves and others. It’s all about friendship… with ourselves, others and the world around us!)

  • During Obama’s presidential inauguration Rev. Joseph Lowery was talking about love,
    “And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.”

    I looked in front of me as a Kindergartner was staring down at his little hands, shaping them into a heart. That image summed up where my hope for our future lies… in love.

  • After the inauguration we hosted an Open Space with the 3rd graders. One child’s closing remarks, “I learned that when everyone pitches in just a little bit, it can make a giant difference.”
  • Words of wisdom that a 2nd grader told me over lunch one day that I am practicing and trying to better embody, “Just listen until your mind gets deeper and then you’ll understand.”

I am so grateful for all the gifts that are bestowed upon me by these wise humans who are so willing to share their world.

heart photo by samantha celera

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Brains, Beauty, Love, Learning and Celebration

For the next three days I’ll be attending the Learning and the Brain Conference which is focusing on social brain research. It is very exciting to be learning more about the science and neurology that underscores much of the theoretical philosophies and intuitive knowings that are the foundations for much of my work and inspiration. I hope to learn more about mirror neurons, theory of mind, emotional regulation, memory and wisdom, and promoting social and emotional intelligence.

The last couple of days I’ve been hanging out with the remarkable Amy Lenzo. Amy has created an enticing world over at the Beauty Dialogues. I greatly appreciate Amy’s willingness to recognize the beauty and potential not only in the physical world around her, but also in the human world. She has been a pivotal supporter in encouraging many creative hearts to find their voice of expression and share it with the world. I am very grateful to have benefited so much from her recognition of and encouragement towards Easily Amazed finding ways to grow into all it can be! Thanks, girl!

Over the next few days I will be paying attention to how beauty and allurement fit into this world of social and emotional brain research. Brian Swimme suggests that love begins as allurement and attraction. We know that attraction and allurement between a baby and its parent propel the relationship between them and this relationship fundamentally shapes the development of the child. As Mary Gordon so aptly states, “Love grows brains.”

And we can never have too much love in our world. On Sunday, my friend Tracy Davis, took me to the incredibly inspiring and healing Glide Memorial Church, a place that is actively promoting the forces of love, celebration, inclusion and equality in a spiritually and culturally uplifting way. This was a beautiful expression of social, emotional and spiritual wisdom deep at play. I’ll leave you with a poem that is Glide’s Core Values:

The Ground We Stand On

Radically Inclusive
We welcome everyone. We value our differences.
We respect everyone.

Truth Telling
We each tell our story. We each speak our truth.
We listen.

Loving and Hopeful
We are all in recovery. We are a healing community.
We love unconditionally.

For the People
We break through barriers. We serve each other.
We change the world.

Celebration
We sing. We dance. We laugh together.
We celebrate life!

looking up at mom by dolanh

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A Long List of Links

Here’s a peek at my internet life over the last few weeks. These are all the tabs open in my browser right now. Some are pages I want to go back to, others I have yet to explore, some are open as references for current projects I am engaged in, and a few I just wanted to share with you! Enjoy and please do tell me if something catches your attention.

Happiness, Well-being, Inspiration

  • 10 Things Science Says will Make You Happy:
    #1 Savor Everyday Moments
    – Pause now and then to smell a rose or watch children at play. Study participants who took time to “savor” ordinary events that they normally hurried through, or to think back on pleasant moments from their day, “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression,” says psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.

  • Happiness Can Spread Among People Like a Contagion, Study Indicates:
    The study of more than 4,700 people who were followed over 20 years found that people who are happy or become happy boost the chances that someone they know will be happy. The power of happiness, moreover, can span another degree of separation, elevating the mood of that person’s husband, wife, brother, sister, friend or next-door neighbor.

    Experts praised the study as a landmark in the growing body of evidence documenting the influence of personal connections and the importance of positive emotions…. The implications are you can’t look at individuals as little entities devoid of their social context.”

    “For a long time, we measured the health of a country by looking at its gross domestic product,” said Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego who co-authored the study. “But our work shows that whether a friend’s friend is happy has more influence than a $5,000 raise. So at a time when we’re facing such economic difficulties, the message could be, ‘Hang in there. You still have your friends and family, and these are the people to rely on to be happy.’ “

    “Laughter and singing and smiling tune the group emotionally,” Seligman said. “They get them on the same wavelength so they can work together more effectively as group.”

  • Benefits of Busy Parents Practicing Self-Care:
    What is involved in self-care? It is useful to look at four dimensions of people’s lives in thinking about our range of needs, as well as some activities or techniques that may be readily available for replenishing ourselves. The group was asked to think about people’s intellectual, spiritual, emotional/social, and physical needs and to generate ways people might care for themselves with respect to those needs.

    The intellectual dimension is defined as the need to expand one’s mind. Spirituality includes uplifting or inspirational aspects of one’s life including those that relate to the core value system. The emotional/social aspect involves learning about oneself, especially through relating to others. The physical dimension is concerned with taking care of one’s body. According to Ms. Reeves, it is essential to renew ourselves in these four realms, and each person is responsible for self-renewal.

  • Would You Guys Just Knock It Off? 10 Steps to Peace in Your Household from the magazine Half Full: Science for Raising Happy Kids:
    Positive conflict resolution is pretty simple, but unless you are a lot smarter than me (entirely possible) you might need to reference this list a few times to get the hang of it.

    Each time we take kids through those 10 steps, they learn that they can solve problems in ways that make them feel competent and effective. They’ve increased their ability to cooperate, to empathize, and to build strong relationships. So conflict really is a good thing. And so are fights between friends. Why? Conflict provides the fuel for growth we all need to become healthy, happy, and resilient adults.

  • Imogen Heap kept a video blog, i-Blog, while working on her most recent album. I’m slowly making my way through her videos. I’ve fallen in love with her (I was a fan of her music… but now it’s grown to her person!). Her creativity and bubbling enthusiasm are highly contagious and inspirational for me!
  • 10-Minute Practices to Reconnect with Spirit.
    Roger Walsh, the author of Essential Spirituality, was a guest teacher at Integral Institute’s Integral Leadership seminars, where he presented the seven essential practices of the world’s great Wisdom Traditions. Here is a selection of the experiential exercises led by Roger at those seminars. Each clip is 10-15 minutes long, and is a quick and easy way to recontact the sacred dimensions of this and every moment. Just sit back, relax, and let the next eight minutes be devoted to your higher Self….Experiential exercises led by Roger Walsh
  • Danah Boyd shares a tip for how to deal with your email inbox while on vacation Warning: Email Sabbatical is Imminent:

    No email will be received by danah’s ornery INBOX between December 11 and January 19!

    For those who are unaware of my approach to vacation… I believe that email eradicates any benefits gained from taking a vacation by collecting mold and spitting it back out at you the moment you return. As such, I’ve trained my beloved INBOX to reject all email during vacation. I give it a little help in the form of a .procmail file that sends everything directly to /dev/null. The effect is very simple. You cannot put anything in my queue while I’m away (however lovingly you intend it) and I come home to a clean INBOX. Don’t worry… if you forget, you’ll get a nice note from my INBOX telling you to shove off, respect danah’s deeply needed vacation time, and try again after January 19.

Youth and Education Related

  • Mighty Writers 2008-2009. Students blog their thoughts about why their school, Arbor Heights, should be kept open (and not closed as has been proposed by Seattle Schools).
  • The Guiding Lights Weekend: A playful, experiential conference on the art of mentoring where you will learn concrete ways to motivate, mentor and inspire. The Guiding Lights Weekend is a place to reflect, clarify values, try new things and imagine possibilities. You might just find (or become) the mentor you’ve been waiting for. Join me January 30th and 31st.

    Experiential workshops. Participatory panels. Talking Circles. Big-Idea Presentations. Community conversations. Awards. Performances. A few surprises and a lot of fun!

Social Change, Taking Action, Leadership

  • The Girl Effect:The powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in their society.
  • Playing for Change: Playing for Change is a multi-media movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music.
  • Best Buy @15 Challenge: 15 teams will wil $10,000 to change their communities. Every week, a voter between the ages of 13 and 20 has the chance to win $500 for a school or organization of their choice and an IPod shuffle for themself!

    I learned about this from the team Richards Rwanda: helping girls in Rwanda get an education. Richards Rwanda was created by Jessica Markowitz when she was in the 6th grade, shes now in eight grade. My family hosted a man named Richard who told me about the genocide hat occurred in 1994. Many children lost their parents and could no longer afford school. Richards Rwanda is an all girl group supporting girls in Rwanda to go to school. We hope to build a school or learning center for the girls we are supporting and the next generations.

  • Charter for Compassion: By recognizing that the Golden Rule is fundamental to all world religions, the Charter for Compassion can inspire people to think differently about religion. This Charter is being created in a collaborative project by people from all over the world. It will be completed in 2009. Use this site to offer language you’d like to see included. Or inspire others by sharing your own story of compassion.
  • Is compassion catching on? Tracing the impact of a historic event: An article in ParentMap Magazine and a little self promotion! “I think it’s a slow process,” says Roots instructor Ashley Cooper. “We have to touch people’s willingness to put compassion into action. In my school community, people are talking more spontaneously about empathy and compassion. To me, that’s a great outcome.

    “But I think it’s really important that we move beyond the Dalai Lama. It was fabulous that he was here, but I really feel like it’s up to us as ‘normal people.’ What are we going to do to make something different happen?

    “I feel hopeful, and I feel like Seattle has that capacity,” Cooper says. “It’s a matter of: How much do people want to do these things that are important — and what are we each willing to do to start making a difference?”

  • Let’s Say Thanks In Support of Our Troops: This website gives you an opportunity to send a free printed postcard to U.S. military personnel stationed overseas showing your support and appreciation for their service to our country.
  • Light Up the Night for Equality: On December 20th, we ask that you join us again for a nation-wide demonstration that will make an impact on the private sector. Candlelight vigils will be held at commercial centers in cities across the country in remembrance of the rights that once were for 18,000 marriages, and in honor of the rights that one day will be again – for EVERYONE.
  • Diversitywork.org on A Framework for Transformation and Change: As simple as it may sound, the goal of social justice education is social justice and liberation. Liberation is defined in many ways: freedom, equality, fairness, equal access to resources, respectful treatment, living without the struggles, to name a few. Liberation means human kind will be closer to the achievement of unity. Our society must embark on a transformational process if we our to achieve this goal. Transformation means change, and this change will not come about from well-intentioned people simply wishing it so. Action has to be taken.
  • Project Implicit:
    It is well known that people don’t always ‘speak their minds’, and it is suspected that people don’t always ‘know their minds’. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology.

    This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods. This new method is called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT for short.

    We will ask you (optionally) to report your attitudes toward or beliefs about these topics, and provide some general information about yourself.

  • The Moment of Leadership by Michael Herman: Harrison Owens says, “If you are going to talk about Leadership you have to talk a lot about caring, responsibility, and the point where they cross — which I call Nexus of Caring.” Michael’s response: “I think what Harrison is calling Nexus of Caring, I would call the Moment of Leadership. The crossing of caring and responsibility that is the cause for motion. And it’s just that small, a moment. Like an invitation…The practice of doing something about the thing you care about. Beginning. The nexus of caring and responsibility. The moment of leadership.”
  • Change.gov: Building the community: A guide to comments:
    These online conversations are truly groundbreaking — no other transition team has ever opened these types of channels of communication with the American people. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and look forward to building this dialogue.

    We’ve read through the thousands of comments posted on Change.gov, and are excited by the volume of participation.

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Living with Radical Honesty

Living With Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton
Re-posted from Charity Focus

I learned that the primary cause of most human stress, the primary cause of most conflict between couples and the primary cause of most both psychological and physical illness is being trapped in your mind and removed from your experience. What keeps you trapped in your mind and removed from your experience is lying and we all lie […] all the time. We’re taught systematically to lie, to pretend, to maintain a pretense because we’re taught that who we are is our performance. Our schools teach us to lie, our parents teach us to lie. We’re all suffering from mistaken identity.

We think that who we are is our reputation, what the teacher thinks of us, what kind of grades we make, what kind of job we have. We’re constantly spinning our presentation of self, which is a constant process of lying and being trapped in the anticipation of imagining about what other people might think. Our actual identity is as a present tense noticing being. I’m someone sitting here talking on the telephone right now and you’re sitting there talking on the telephone and writing or doing whatever you’re doing. That’s your current identity and this is my current identity and when you start identifying with your current present-tense identity you discover all kinds of things about life that you can’t even see or notice when you’re trapped in the spin doctoring machine of your mind. So radical honesty is about delivering yourself from that constant worrisome preoccupation of, “Oh my god. How am I doing? How am I doing? How am I doing? How am I doing?” Then you can pay attention to what’s going on in your body and in the world and even pay attention to what’s going on in your mind. […]

Just look at what you notice in front of you right now, your environment, wherever you are in an office or wherever it is. Noticing is an entirely different function than thinking and what we do all the time is that we confuse thinking with noticing. When we think something we act as though it has the same validity as something that we see. I’ve got a bumper sticker on my truck that says, “Don’t believe everything you think.” It’s like your thinking just goes on and on and on and on.

–Brad Blanton, Center For Radical Honesty

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