Archive | Social Impact RSS feed for this section

2017 Reflections and an Invitation

humanityMy sense is that 2017 will (continue to) test our humanity and our devotion to freedom for all on this planet. Here in the United States, a question seems to be around how much do we truly believe in a democracy, in some version of this radical experiment of a government for and by the people? What are we willing to do do make it happen? How do we make it happen when the people are so diverse?

I feel the core challenge of this year will be to our sense of humanity. How far are we willing to go to support the health and well-being of other people and this living planet? How much violence targeted at specific people or groups of people will we tolerate? When is enough enough? When will enough of us unite to create realities that are more compassionate and considerate of the well-being of all living on this planet? What will motivate us to organize in ways that are effective at protecting people who are being violated and harmed? How creative can we be in this process?

I believe that we are actively controlling how long it will be before the human race is extinct. And some races are at threat of becoming extinct faster than others. I think we have some critical choices to make this year that will have broad future implications… that will influence the kind of suffering that our future generations will have to endure or not. Your children, grandchildren, and the children and grandchildren of people you don’t know.

Some Miriam-Webster definitions:

humanity
1: the quality or state of being humane
2: the quality or state of being human

humane
1: marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals
2: characterized by or tending to broad humanistic culture

As I was sensing into 2017, three phrases spoke to me.

Spiritually Guided - As I see it, we are in way over our heads. The challenges that we face are immense and the complexities are so intricate. While our logic will be pivotal for wise action, I believe that we need to be sourcing our guidance from that which is beyond logic. For me, that is a spiritual source. I believe that my actions and those who I am acting with will best serve if we are being spiritually guided.

Wiser Together - The wisdom of lone leaders does not get us to a place of collective liberation. Nor does the wisdom of lone cultures. Now is the time for groups of diverse people who are able to be wise together. Groups of people that can listen deeply, learn from each other, and act together. Groups that are stronger and wiser because of their differences and are able to work and learn from and with one another.

Fluid Communication - The more effective we are at communicating with each other, at passing important information and fine-tuning our interactions so that we can work well, live well, and speak well to each other… the more we will be capable of collectively achieving. This also helps us to be informed about what is really needed and what is and isn’t working.

An Invitation

IMG_0684

This year is going to require all of us to be taking the best care of ourselves as we are able and to be supporting one another and the neighbors that we don’t yet know in taking care of themselves as well. It will also require, as in the definition of humane above, that we tend to the broad humanistic culture.

If there is kindness in your heart that is able to feel compassion, empathy and consideration for humans and animals, please don’t look away this year. Please see the other humans on the planet with you, as much as is possible. And when your heart feels moved, step towards them. Stand up for their right to a quality life, the right for their culture to exist, the right for them to experience freedoms or support that you experience. Let’s flow together with whatever 2017 brings us, with love, courage, creativity and compassion.

Read full story Comments { 1 }

Indigenous Peoples – Keepers of the Library of How to Be Here on This Mother Earth

A very powerful account of the significance of what has already happened in this Indigenous peoples led movement, history that has been made. So much has been accomplished. So much to learn from this moment… and to apply to the other areas where resistance and courage in the name of peace and Life is needed. How prayer and nonviolent direct action and profound stepping in to support and stand up for one another and for the life of Mother Earth, how together we can create change and impact. And how the struggle is no where near over… we are just beginning in this long process of waking up from the deep slumber we as a collective peoples have been in… and we are so fortunate that there are Indigenous leaders showing us ways forward. Keep your eyes open… the leaders are alive now and showing the way. They are living amongst the people.

From Pat McCabe on Facebook:

I can’t help but notice… For the first time in the history of the planet that I am aware of, there was an international outcry, first, on behalf of the rights of indigenous peoples, who are the keepers of the library of how to be here on this Mother Earth, and who need their place on earth with its accompanying water, food, mountains, animals, etc., in order to keep being who they are, and to keep making their relationship, with this critical knowledge. Second, the international outcry rose to meet the tactics of the extraction industry with truth, outrage, grief, protest, donations and finally, with prayer. For the first time in ?the history of the United States, a.k.a. Turtle Island, all of the indigenous peoples banded together bringing their deepest ceremonies, on behalf of their neighbors, and on behalf of Water, and on behalf of Life for ALL. Then, indigenous communities from around the world, also came to support this prayer. Then, peoples from all nations worldwide came to join this prayer. Then, as if that? weren’t enough, ?entities such as the entire city of Los Angeles, as an official entity, sent their official seal of support, not only on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, but in support of all of the activities that were opposing the petroleum pipeline, and for the protection of water, far outside of their immediate concern. Then, 500+ multi-faith clergy showed up, for the first time ever, at the request of an Indigenous, spiritual, and government leader, Chairman Archembault, to put themselves on the line, their physical being endangered on behalf of Indigenous Peoples rights, yes, but also on behalf of Water and Life, and yes, against the extraction industry, and corporate and government interests. AND, as if that were not history making enough, these clergy from all different faiths, were trained in non-violence action, made ready for other actions, conceivably. AND, THEN, they participated in a ceremony in which they BURNED THE DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY, renouncing it, as sacred law, renouncing it as “God’s will” and saying outright it was WRONG. (For those of you unclear on what this doctrine is, in a nutshell, it came from the Vatican, the Pope, in which it was decreed as a kind of divine law that any peoples on any part of the Earth that were “discovered” and who were not “of the one true faith” were humanus animalus I think was the term, meaning they were a form of animal, and therefore had no soul, and therefore could not possess, own, land and who could rightly, with divine blessing, be taken into perpetual servitude, aka, slavery. The Pope has been approached probably every year for the last 50 years by indigenous peoples worldwide, asking for the Vatican to rescind this doctrine, and acknowledge its error and falsehood. So, far, has not happened, although the current Pope did meet with Indigenous peoples this spring, and promised to continue the conversation. What may not be known, is that many governments worldwide, including the US government have based their relationships with indigenous peoples and their rights on this doctrine. But I digress…) After the 500+ clergy from the full-spectrum of faiths, turned their back on their institutional rhetoric on behalf of Indigenous peoples’ rights, Water, and Life, U.S. VETERANS showed up! They showed up, saying that they were sworn to protect and uphold the safety, the Constitution, and U.S. citizens, against enemies foreign and domestic. This means they were calling the petroleum Corporations as well as North Dakota law-enforcement, as well as a sleeping U.S. Government, “domestic enemies” that needed to be stopped. How freaking huge is that?!?! Under death threats, and deep scrutiny by their peers, in an unprecedented, shall I say again, historic act, they came to protect Indigenous peoples- what?!?!- as well as the thousands of “non-indigenous” peoples fighting this petroleum corporation that is all but government sanctioned. They could have stopped there and still they would have stunned the world, but no, they took it a HUGE step further, they surprised the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Sioux nations by getting down on one knee, and attempted to name all the harms committed by U.S. Armed forces on the original peoples of this part of the Earth, even including the destruction of their languages, the stealing of their children, and more. And… they asked for forgiveness… I don’t think there is another place on the Earth where this has happened. EVER. They also called upon the treaties to be acknowledged and upheld by the U.S. Military- as well as the U.S. Government. AND THEN… when law enforcement from eight states would not allow the Dakota people to attend to their ancestors’ disturbed burial sites, repelling the people in full-riot gear, with gallon-canisters of pepper spray and rubber bullets, one morning, hundreds of women made their way to the frontline, and this militia, parted, allowing the Women’s Nation to approach the water to pray. The sheriffs, police, military, national guard, hired guns, etc., FULLY ACKNOWLEDGED THE AUTHORITY OF THE LIFE-BRINGER LIFE-BEARER. And all of this doesn’t even address the fact that native youth in South Dakota and North Dakota had devastating suicide rates, the reasons systemic, and now they can know that their people and their ways were instrumental in showing the entire world that there is no such thing as “inevitable.” It was their people that woke a sleeping giant. No one will ever forget who the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota nations are ever again. This changes everything, for not only other Indigenous peoples, worldwide, but for humanity at large. For humanity at large because, what has taken place could not have been possible without all races stepping out of their comfort zone, creating an unprecedented interracial collaboration, and human solidarity that withstood gale force storms of every nature.
Once again it has been proven, and in our time, at this critical moment, that nonviolence is the way that creates, deep, lasting, widespread, inclusive, change on this Holy Mother Earth. In the lineage of Gandhi, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., these events will also be noted. These events are the proof, and guidance, that we needed in order to understand how to move forward in the face of overwhelming odds of brute force and economic and political power. Oh, and it is definitely worthy of mention, that after the brutal attacks that took place on the front lines, 700 people, native and non-native (it is hard to explain how huge even this interracial unifying is in the part of the world known as North Dakota) walked from Mandan to the municipal legal complex, encircled it by joining hands, and let law enforcement know that they forgave them. I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I witness very often.

So have a little patience friends, we’re moving as fast as we can… And quite honestly, from where I sit, it looks to be downright miraculously fast??

Read full story Comments { 0 }

From My Perspective…

From my perspective…

BubblesThe majority of us live in bubbles.

We mostly connect with people who are like us. Our contact with folks who are different primarily comes through media — television, movies, books, social media — or through interactions that revolve around commerce — at a store, restaurant, service station. There are a few anomalies within our bubbles, but mostly we gather with people like us. We’ve been living in this way since we were born. Some of us have expanded or diversified our bubbles and others hop between different bubbles.

Most of us hold preconceived ideas about what folks who live in different bubbles are like. We develop these ideas from the personal experiences we have with people who are different. Our ideas of others are also shaped by what we’ve been taught by our parents, in schools, through the media and from our peers. These preconceived ideas can become dangerous and lead to stereotypes, discrimination, hatred, and ultimately violence. On top of all of that, people in some bubbles are granted access to things that people in other bubbles are denied, such as healthcare, healthy food, jobs, housing, quality education, etc.

I think that there are many people who are living so deeply inside our own bubbles, intentionally or unintentionally, that we are missing a lot of what is happening at this time in history. We are blind to life in other bubbles. We can’t see the ways we are affecting each other. And the bigger picture is absent to us. There are also plenty who straight-up hate people in other bubbles. This intentional and accidental ignorance keeps us from working towards a future that is good for all of us. I believe it is fueling a divisiveness that is present and growing.

politicsMeanwhile… from a systemic perspective… there are individuals with the power to make decisions that impact the lives of the masses (most of the bubbles). As I understand it, in the United States, we have a government system that says, ‘the people’ can influence those decisions by electing leadership and providing input to how the elected officials govern.

I believe that if our system worked well, we would live in a country where ALL the people living on and contributing to this land and its people would be treated with dignity and respect. We would have leadership that represented our most shared values. Everyone would be able to live as their authentic self, free to contribute their gifts and be fairly rewarded for their contributions. Everyone would be able to express their love and culture with pride. And when there is conflict or violence in the system, we would be able to address it in just and humane ways.

I don’t believe our system works well, and yet I am still living under its dominance. Therefore, I believe in voting and in doing everything I can to influence the leadership that has the ability to make decisions that impact the masses. I want for our country’s leadership to be as intelligent, compassionate, honest, and just as possible. I want for that leadership to genuinely strive to serve all of the people living on and contributing to this land and its people, not just a select few.

I am currently deeply troubled by our governing systems and especially alert to the political climate we are in right now. I pray that the kind-hearted, compassionate and courageous people (the masses from many different bubbles) will find the collective strength to influence the decisions that influence our lives. This includes the lives of people that are inside our own bubbles and people in other bubbles. From the long view, I believe that it will be the compassion and actions of these good people that will shift the political climate and demand movement towards a system or systems that work better for all, towards leadership that leads effectively and compassionately.

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 12.59.59 AM

Given all this, I attended a Trump rally on September 12th in Asheville, NC in efforts to better understand the folks that feel that Trump would make a good president of this country. I also wanted to feel the tone of his rally’s now, beyond clips and soundbites. I watched a full rally during the primaries in March and was extremely alarmed by what I saw. In the 6 months since then, I perceive that there has been an escalation of violence and hatred felt by many across the country. The divides between people are growing extreme. And I believe that Trump and his rallies have contributed to this escalation.

People asked me to share about my experience at the rally. I’m not accustomed to political commentary. I didn’t imagine it was going to be so hard to write or that I’d need to use so many words!

My perceptions of the rally sit within the context of all these other beliefs I’ve just shared. I can only see through my bubble, wrapped in the filters of my identity and all the lenses I wear, some consciously and many unconsciously.

Here are a few components of my bubble that feel relevant to how I perceived this rally:

  • Me-Me-Me-1-ssvq0pI come from, grew up in, and live in a middle class household. I was raised by two working parents in a divorced home. During my childhood, we didn’t live luxuriously, but our basic needs were more than taken care of. We had money for leisure. At college age, some of my family experienced financial wealth. People close to me have and currently do live in poverty, but I have never had that experience myself.
  • I have been fortunate in my ability to find work since I was 15 years old. People who live in bubbles similar to mine, hired me and gave me opportunities. I have also been able to take professional and entrepreneurial risks because I had financial support from family. Access to generational wealth and connections have provided me with opportunities.
  • I am White. I come from 2 generations of White family members on both sides who have been able to access quality education, take out loans to buy homes, cars and businesses. They have been able to purchase houses in the neighborhoods they want to live in (I think*). While all of these folks faced obstacles, as a whole, if they worked hard they were able to achieve their dreams and/or some prosperity. Many of these opportunities that my family experienced, Southerners with White skin, were privileges not available to others whose family members have also been in the United states for 2 generations, but whose skin is Black or Brown. *It is possible my grandparents experienced religious discrimination that I am not aware of.
  • I am Jewish. Since childhood, I felt culturally Jewish more than religiously Jewish. Woven into my cultural identity is a sense of responsibility to work towards making the world a better place and to do so by questioning the way things are, and fiercely standing up for truth and justice. I was taught to root for the underdog, stand up for those that are being mistreated, and don’t turn away when I see people doing horrible things to themselves or others. I feel these attributes are sourced in my Jewish roots.
  • I am disillusioned by our government. I do not understand our government structures and how dishonest, corrupt and ineffective they are in serving the people. 
    I would prefer that we strip the system down and start over as I can’t see a legitimate way out of the mess we are currently in, using a system that is rooted in so much systemic and structural bias, discrimination, and ineffectiveness.

SeeTheWorld

What are the lenses you wear or bubbles you live in that influence how you perceive this political climate, this election season, the presidential candidates, the potential impact of their policies and their respective followers? What will influence how you read my words?

 

My experience of the rally

To begin with, I must note that I felt safe wearing my White skin to the Trump Rally. When I was discerning whether or not to attend, I spoke to a handful of friends of Color who said that they wished they could go for similar reasons. However, they did not feel safe going with their Black or Brown skin. I knew that I could blend in and potentially avoid conflict thanks to my Whiteness. My friends did not have the same disguise and feared for their own safety if they attended this rally. This is the climate that has been cultivated around Trump. This is precisely the climate that I fear intensifying if he becomes president.

As a whole, very little surprised me. The room was packed with 6000 or so, predominantly White, of varying ages, people. The tone was definitely a rally — from the stage, lots of energy was put into stirring people up and not too much was substantially said. Trump’s comments were rather straightforward and polished compared to what I’ve experienced in the past. It definitely felt like he is trying to speak to people in the middle now, no longer stirring up his base with extreme statements, but softening, offering a more mild and compassionate story with the tone of, we got this together and I can lead us ALL there. The crowd broke into chant at the expected moments, he mentions the US and the room erupts chanting USA. Mentions Mexico and “Build the Wall” fills the room. Trump asks, “Who’s going to build it?” and the room yells “MEXICO” and goes wild. Mentions Hillary’s name and people shout a litany of sexist comments and swear words. When a protester is escorted out, they heckle with derogatory slurs. Trump pauses for the spectacles and makes comments about what bad people Hillary the protesters are and the good people that he and his supporters are.

While Trump’s words were not as piercingly discriminatory this time, his crowd was a different story. There was definitely hate palpable in the room. While I didn’t perceive directly any physical violence around me, it was very clear that the energy in the room was hot and I am certain that if the right provocation happened, if Trump had made more extreme comments, or someone around me had spoken descent, many folks in the room were ready to let that aggression out. The clips you see from media all happened here too (including a violent assault by a Trump supporter towards 3 protesters inside the rally and a  Trump supporter who supposedly punched a 69 year old protester on oxygen outside the rally. Both of these I did not see personally, but have since seen video and news accounts of).

jobsgraphic

There was also another group of people. These are the ones who touched my heart in the most empathic ways. I felt that there were a lot of working class people who are genuinely scared about the lack of jobs that they and their children have access to. They are worried about their future and looking for hope. Every time that Trump made a promise that “I will create jobs for you”, I felt a genuine cheer of relief and gratitude from the crowd, a desperate, we need this. It felt like Trump was representing this father-protector persona with his many ways of saying “I will take care of you and protect you.” He repeated many times about how he cares about people and will take care of them. On an energetic level, it felt to me like a room full of all ages and all genders, collapsing in his arms, giving him their worry, fear, and turning over a trust that “He will make this all better for us and our children.” I felt sighs of relief expressed in wild cheers when he addressed the room as “Hard working American patriots.” A sense of yes, this is us! I perceived it as people saying, “He sees us and recognizes how hard we are actually working. He will make life better and less hard for us.” One way he addressed the young people present was, “Your parents are trying to work hard to save your country and make it better for you.” My sadness, however, is that I do not feel him genuinely making these promises to ALL Americans.

It is possible that he will create opportunities for this White, homogeneous group. For those inside that bubble who are unable or unwilling to empathize with folks in different bubbles who are Latin American, Latinos, Muslim American or Muslims, I can understand voting for him. Trump could make their world better and they don’t feel a responsibility to people in different bubbles. And yes, Trump might provide those folks with a sense of safety and security, and since they only care about the well-being of people in their own bubble, they may not be concerned with the lives of innocent people such as the family members of terrorists who Trump says he will have killed or using illegal torture techniques with his expanded and modernized military.

So as far as Trump’s supporters and the tone of the rally… I felt hate and violence in the room and I felt fear, desperation, and hope in the room. I also felt a lot of people whose presence was pretty neutral. I didn’t feel much life or passion from them in any direction.

Some of the core things I heard Trump speak to were:

    • Insulting Hillary Clinton prolifically, saying that she is a corrupt politician, all she cares about is representing people with money, and she’s running a hate campaign filled with bigotry, no policy and no solutions.
    • Building up people’s egos by telling them how smart and accomplished they are, “Anyone in here xenophobic? I didn’t think so. You are lawyers, doctors, teachers. You all were at the top of your class, the smartest in your class. You are everyone. And above all you are Americans.”
    • Assuring people that he loves them, cares about them and will take care of them by providing them with jobs, education, and security. He will change foreign policy, defeat the Islamic State and protect the 2nd amendment. He guarantees them that he will make their lives better.
    • Proving that African Americans are voting for him and they love him. The conditions that inner city communities are currently facing are such a mess, so just give him a chance and trust that it can’t get worse and he can fix it. “What do you have to lose?” 3 or 4 African Americans shared their support for Trump from the podium. To me, it felt like they were hired help, paid well for an easy gig, traveling around and saying 2 sentences from stage and that’s it. I also wondered who he was talking to when he kept promoting his Black supporters — is he really trying to get the Black vote? It also felt like he’s trying to convince White folks that he really does support and care about Black people. It didn’t feel authentic to me.
    • Calling out that the liberal establishment has disrespected their voters, they have taken them for granted — saying they will do things for votes and then not doing those things.
    • Assuring folks that he has very extensive and detailed plans for everything, just read his website.
    • Painting a picture that:
      • Every American deserves to be treated with dignity and respect
      • He will restore honesty in the government
      • Under him, our country can actually “start working together as 1 people, under 1 God, supporting 1 country.”

I wish I could believe him with this last one. Instead, I perceive that his definition of the word “American” is the many people in that room that he called the real Americans… it’s only people in certain bubbles.

Leaving the rally, we had to walk the gauntlet through a confronting sea of anti-Trump protesters. There was a thin line for us to walk through as the crowd chanted “Love trumps Hate” and many people yelled at us. To be honest, there was nothing that I experienced leaving the rally that made me stop and pause and listen to what the protesters were saying. No signs caught my attention, nobody did or said anything that made me want to feel them as a human. In my role of trying to empathize with being a Trump supporter, I found myself more inclined to stick with my decision to vote for Trump as the experience he offered seemed much more civil than the experience from the protesters outside.

I have since read many accounts of what happened in the streets before, during and after the rally. You’ll have to research that yourself or let me know if you want some links.

In the end, I still feel that a vote for Trump promotes a future that puts the lives of many Black and Brown people at serious risk and could strip many Americans of freedoms of safety and speech. There is much more I could say, but I have to stop trying to assign words to my complex and impassioned internal experiences. I’ll end this with a prayer.

prayer

I pray for systems of governance and power that are built upon compassion, justice, and collaboration. I have faith in human beings. I pray that we can take care of each other and make life better for ourselves, one another and future generations. I know that there are leaders walking this Earth right now who can lead us. They are fierce protectors of that which is holy, sacred, and essential for life. They are courageous and willing to face their enemies and move towards solutions. They are paying attention to and in relationship with the most vulnerable amongst us. They are leading the way out of oppression and are wildly innovative. They are divinely guided. May we recognize and follow their leadership.

Read full story Comments { 2 }

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.

Read full story Comments { 0 }

On Thursday, February 24, national scientists and leading developers of serious games and gaming technologies will convene at Gaming the Future: Connecting Innovation & Education, a national press conference and interactive science exhibition in Asheville, North Carolina. Hosted by ABSCI, a North Carolina-based sustainable communities initiative, Gaming the Future will take place at Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa from 9:00 AM until noon.

Gaming the Future is a nexus of cutting edge games, science, technology, art and design that highlights the best in the growing field of science-based games. Through formal presentations and interactive exhibits, the event will spotlight international organizations and companies that are using the power of games to raise awareness about the effects of global change.

Learn more.

Read full story Comments { 0 }