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.

25 January 2016

Listening that Enables Emerging Possibilities

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Creativity & Innovation, Leadership

I recently participated in an on-line course presented by MIT and Otto Scharmer about creating transformative change (amazingly, with about 40,000 other people around the world). The course explores frameworks for how we personally and collectively can address the challenges of our time and change systems that are “creating results nobody wants.” The heart of our leadership challenge is how to take existing situations where the dynamics are an ‘ego-system’ (e.g., each person or organization looks out for their interests) to a ‘eco-system’ where each participant focuses on the well-being of all.

His Theory U proposes that “the quality of results that we create in any kind of social system is a function of the quality of awareness, attention, or consciousness that people in the system operate from.” One of the core skills to practice to make this shift is in how we listen.

04 January 2016

Finding New Ways to “See Systems”

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Collaboration, Racial Equity

The imperative to work for change at a deeper more systemic level is arising in many areas, such as addressing the systemic roots of racial inequalities, or making large scale system transitions away from fossil fuels. Many recognize that we need to get beyond quick fixes and shift deeply ingrained patterns if we are to create a future different than the past.Yet, many of traditional ways we approach change, and how social change work is funded and organized, focus on breaking things down into discrete manageable parts and projects that can be funded in a grant cycle. We busy ourselves working on projects within the bounds of what seems possible, while knowing deep down that the challenges our communities and the earth face call for a deeper level of transformative change – a change of larger systems.

16 December 2015

Connecting a University and its Community around Earth Day

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Facilitation, Networks

I have written previously about collaborations with Madeline Snow. She and I are both enthusiastic fans of ways to design and facilitate meetings that are more engaging and participatory than traditional meetings. So when Madeline called to share an opportunity to experiment with these techniques for a new initiative she and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell) were planning, I barely got the details and said “yes, I’m in.”

20 September 2015

The Meaning in Meetings

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Facilitation

A few weeks ago, in the small talk before a meeting started, I was talking with a woman about our respective work. In reference to my work as a facilitator she said, “ugh, I couldn’t stand all those meetings!” I understand her reaction, particularly if you are used to the rather boring and tedious way many traditional meetings are run. It made me think of the story of the stonecutters all three doing the same job, one irritated and bored who saw his job as hammering rock, the second was a bit more motivated seeing how his stone cutting work was one part of creating a wall, while the third, who was most inspired, said “I’m building a cathedral!” The same work, imbued with a larger sense of purpose and meaning, created an inspired attitude to the work.

27 May 2015

Building a Shared Understanding of How Systems Work

Written by Beth Tener, Posted in Collaboration, Strategy

Kick-Off Gathering of United Way Collective Impact Initiative

I’ve just returned from the kick-off gathering of a collective impact initiative with the United Way of Greater New Bedford. A series of three community gatherings for input (as described in this blog) and other meetings with stakeholders led us to focus of how can we help families thrive, with a focus in one neighborhood. We just kicked off a “Catalyst Team,” which included about 25 people representing many facets of the community and various roles/perspectives about the challenges families face in the neighborhood. For example, participants included neighborhood residents and leaders, as well as people from the school system, police, immigrant assistance, the city’s economic development department, social service agencies, housing authority, local businesses, health care, the local leadership development program, and more.

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