New Directions Blog

Creativity, Collaboration, and Networks

This blog shares ideas, stories, and insights about using creativity, collaboration, and networks to promote sustainability. Unless otherwise noted, blogs are written by Beth Tener.

17 April 2014

The Art of Participatory Leadership

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Facilitation, Leadership

Reflections from the Art of Participatory Leadership Gathering April 2014 in Saco, Maine

I had the opportunity to participate in a gathering called The Art of Participatory Leadership, which is defined as "an intensive 3-day event where you experience and practice a set of simple, yet powerful, processes for building community, facilitating powerful conversations, building strong partnerships, and leading change." While I have experienced several of the approaches before, such as World Café, what I discovered was that when a group is together for several days in this kind of generative space there is a fundamentally different quality and impact of the experience. In contrast, the typical way that meetings are structured (e.g., a tight agenda focused on efficiently reaching desired outcomes) feels like a constraining straightjacket in terms of how much creativity, connection and innovation is actually possible within any group.

15 April 2014

Invest in the Field

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Leadership, Networks

One of the potential benefits of working in a network is the capacity to learn together quicker. Harold Jarche calls this “social learning” – the idea that learning and work happen as interconnected groups (e.g., networks.) In times of rapid change, we need information and feedback about innovations and what works and doesn’t to flow easily and quickly. When many people are connected together in bigger networks, the potential for this learning  and sharing amplifies. For this to work, it takes people adopting an ethic of sharing their learning, essentially investing in the field.  

07 April 2014

Lighting the Spark of Intrinsic Motivation

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Facilitation, Leadership

This experience may be familiar to you: I attend a meeting and walk in feeling I have a full plate and do not want to take anything more on. As we get deeper into the conversations and explore an area of mutual interest and what can be done, an excitement builds about possible work we can do together. An idea emerges that I get enthused about and before I know it, I find myself volunteering to take on some action items. Even though I am busy, I was motivated to somehow find time to devote to it. This choice to commit came from my intrinsic motivation, not from a boss telling me I have to do this. 

19 March 2014

Roles in the Transition from Old to New

Written by Peggy Holman, Posted in Leadership, Strategy

We are pleased to share this guest blog post by Peggy Holman, which originally appeared as a guest blog on Jesse Lyn Stoner's blog

Like a great wave, cultural stories carry us along, creating a coherent view of our world. For example, the phrase the “American Dream” evokes a story that has inspired generations to believe that no matter who they are, by working hard, they have the opportunity to succeed.

When such a narrative peaks and starts to decline, no longer living up to its promise, a new wave of possibilities begins to churn. Small, even invisible at first, some stories catch on and a new narrative wave forms as the old one dissipates.

As a new story grows strong enough to compete with the old story, some of us feel confused, betrayed, depressed, or lost. Others are elated and inspired.  You may find your own or others’ actions disconcerting, frustrating, mysterious, or just plain nutty.

24 February 2014

Networks for Systems Change - Five Stories

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Networks, Strategy

The scale of complex systems we are working to change is much larger than one organization. Collaborative networks are emerging as a new way to organize work at a larger scale and create collective impact. We have found the best way to learn about these approaches is to explore stories of leading examples, as they represent a different approach to strategy and structuring collective work. We call these "firestarter" stories, that can inspire and spark ideas for designing an approach that works in your context. This blog offers links to five stories of collaborative networks focused on goals such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building local food systems, and advancing urban sustainability.

I extend my appreciation and thanks to those who took the time to write up (and fund) these stories. It is a valuable contribution to the field to share the thinking, strategies, experiences, and learnings that arise in doing this work. Sharing these stories can inform and enhance the work of others far afield from your work. Case in point: The Monitor Institute case study of RE-AMP directly informed the systems mapping and network approach of Energy Action Network and the network approach and governance structure of VT Farm to Plate Network.   

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