I received an email from my friend Chris Corrigan in response to my previous blog as he was having trouble posting a comment. Hopefully I’ve fixed that problem and Chris can weigh back in directly as I truly value his contributions and how he stimulates my thinking. One of the questions Chris asked me is “.. what are the conversations that are alive and edgy in the communities of practice you are in? What is the living edge for C2D2 and IAF at the moment? I wonder how those of us around the world in these conversations can reach across our bounded communities and into, what, I wonder?”
There is a sense of discovery and newness in the AoH community – Chris refers to it as ‘wow…shiny!”, as for the first time people experience the power of co-creative engagement space. They contrast this to what they have known before and want to make distinctions, and ‘better than’, or ‘different than’, or ‘more than’, or ‘not that’ is often the result. Beyond my own personal experience, when I ‘listen in’ to the AoH Flickr photos and other retreat AoH Harvests, and tap into the energy of the videos, I get a sense of how profound it is for people to connect in their humanity with others in natural, conversational space around deep questions. This is all new to them, potent, juicy, ‘real’, and I do understand it and am glad for it. Simultaneously I am wary that it not lead to division and hair splitting. To feel comfortable calling myself a member of the AoH community, I need what we do to be about strengthening the ranks of people who understand the importance, necessity and power of co-creative engagement, rather than contributing to distinctions amongst practitioners about whether a ‘host’ is different and superior to a ‘facilitator”.
Chris asks where is the ‘living edge’ of this similar excitement in other communities of practice, and I’m glad to have a chance to provide some context here. For the International Association of Facilitators, it showed up a long time ago – well over 13 years ago for me anyway at the 1995 Denver conference, when Billie Alban and Barbara Bunker featured their research findings about the power and potential of large group, whole system interactive methods. There was a palpable sense of discovery, amazement, and possibility at that conference, when I first learned about and subsequently began to attend training programs in all these methods – taking Harrison Owen’s 6-day training on Open Space with Dell Spencer, the Dannemiller Tyson training on Real Time Strategic Change, later rebranded as Whole Scale Change, Future Search and The Conference Model from the Axelrods and Sandra Janoff, Appreciative Inquiry from Gervase Bushe, Dialogue from Glenna Gerard, and so on. The excitement for these methods also showed up at the same time in the OD Network field.
For the Dialogue and Deliberation community, an explosion of interest and excitement in these methods took place in 2002 with their first conference of the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD). A visit to the NCDD website is well worth it for the wealth of resources, materials, links, and connections to a huge community of communities – probably the largest intersecting gathering place of community and organizational interest from all avenues – practitioners, researchers, academics, community leaders, activitists. The Canadian Community for Dialogue and Deliberation (C2D2) is part of this phenomenal rise in interest, learning, application.
The Nexus for Change is another field where practitioners and the original founders of these methods are exploring what we know about whole systems and participative change and what were are learning so that each of us and all of us are more competent to act in these times.