social change

Do we compete for the creative powers of the world? (that is: democratizing consciousness and why you should care)

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::Do we compete for the creative energies of re-imagining the world?::

The world is in dire need of a new imagination. Literally, we need to see things anew and re-imagine everything, because now more than any other time in recent history do we need to come up with solutions to some of our pressing problems that require leaps of creativity, boldness, and imagine-ation. This creativity though is hampered by some of the very structural causes of the problems we need to solve. Our institutions, structures, and social norms work on our cognition of our surrounding reality in such way that the world shows up as ‘finished’ to us: best we can do is to adapt and navigate our systems – much rarer are messages that ask us to truly re-think the pillars of our societal structures. By definition, though, the world is not completely ‘finished’ as there is also a part that is ‘unfinished’: there is an aspect of the world which is not given and that must be actualized by the individual free-willed initiative. Like a skilled poet who left his best artwork missing a final line -not that she overlook the finale, rather she is inviting you to co-create the end with your own creativity. Put it another way, we can consider the realms of freedom as outlined in these two territories. Everything which seems ‘finished’ can be seen as the realm of the constraints that we must deal with and creatively adapt to; this territory of the ‘finished’ in a dialectic dance outlines the rest that is out of it, which is the territory of the ‘unfinished’. Like an ever-changing shore line, the finished world draws the boundary of the unfinished: everything beyond that line is what is open for our creative power of imagination. The boundaries of our constraints delineate where our freedom begins. In this space of freedom comes the power of our consciousness to bring about genuine creativity into the world, to create things anew, to challenge the old structures by creating new ones or by assigning new meanings to the preformed, culturally given meanings we were taught. (I borrow this idea of finished vs unfinished from a beautiful book called The Metamorphosis of the Given).

::My thesis::
In this piece I argue that if any type of hegemony is creating divisions on the fundamental equality and oneness of the people of the world then this perception also influences the perceived access to the creative powers to re-imagine the world in novel ways, bringing into existence realities that were never seen before.

To explain this, let me go farther back. For the last few thousands of years as humankind we have been widely distributed into very diverse societies, tribes, ways to organize our lives as collectives of people, and most often different groups have been in competition over political, military, and economic supremacy. We have seen throughout history how when a group dominates over another a type of cultural hegemony takes place.

Fast forward until some two centuries ago. Marx and Engels in The Capital postulate that a minority of people was oppressing a majority by possession of capital and profiting over the hard work of the “proletariat” (the working class). By the virtue of these imbalances, a very unequal and unjust societal system was in place and class warfare was all about re-balancing that and achieving a supremacy of the working class via radical redistribution of wealth.
The current economic systems appears to be built in such a way that allows only to a limited number of people to have a greater freedom to pursue their passions, aspirations, and to use their most creative energies. Imagine for a moment to plot Maslow’s pyramid of human needs on a chart and to write beside the different levels of such a pyramid what would be the corresponding jobs linked to such satisfaction of needs in the global economy. What jobs satisfy the needs at each of the levels? Now I wish to invite you to accept two ideas as working premises for this argument:
1) The economic system is shifting and more and more people in ‘privileged’ economies are using the freedom to pursue jobs and careers that satisfy their deepest aspirations and unlock their creativity;
2) The current economic system is built in a way that allows only to certain people such freedom to unlock their creative energies. A lot of others are either dealing with more pressing needs or forced to contribute to the world economy’s equivalent of the Maslow pyramid by necessity, forced by economic structures that shape the world today.
A person’s creative work is still relying on a ton of less exciting jobs which lay out the structural conditions upon which that one job was made possible.

Now, whether it was distribution of wealth, military oppression, or market forces creating divisions between nations or within societies, my argument is that these hegemonies have also affected the redistribution of the creative energies to redesign the world. When you look at any type of cultural supremacy, it is first and foremost a domination of the imagination, of language, of cultural identity, which affects both the perception of the ‘given’ and the feeling of entitlement for bringing about the ‘not given’ into the world. I have recently visited a few countries in Africa and was quite amazed at how much the education system in countries like Zimbabwe and Uganda is still shaped by the British blueprint. There are systems that culturally shape us which can give a biased perception of who we are as a people and may re-define our history (think about how many movies people the world over watch every day and get shaped in their worldview by how Hollywood sees the world). Historical footprints are another example that comes in handy. Some nations are still constructing their identity as a young independent country and thus need to find their rightful place in the world, also in terms of what unique gifts they can bring. But when the people of a nation have been oppressed for years, or centuries, this history affects their self-perception when we come together to re-imagine our common destiny as a human species. If people have been serving a king for centuries, have not possessed their own land, and have been told to shut up for too long, they have learned a different narrative about a man’s life purpose, what is happiness, what can a man contribute to change his society. It is likely that such a legacy of being dominated has shaped a worldview influenced by fatalism and historic determinism (narratives such as: ‘things are never going to change’, ‘society changes by forces beyond my control’, etc.)
And by analogy you could extend this reasoning to a large number of situations. Countries, ethnic groups, have been competing for power and maybe this has affected the creative powers as well.
It has long been held -and more philosophy is shifting towards this tenet- that our consciousness creates reality. (Building on this book by the late Willis Harman, I outline some examples of such a shift in thinking). After studying the human brain for decades, Nobel laureate Roger Sperry argued that one of the fundamental flaws in our scientific thinking was the dismissal of consciousness as a causal reality. In its easiest expressions, we can see how thought generates action, how a vision, a dream, an aspiration takes place in the world of our imagination before being manifested in the external reality. I believe that this has always been true, but it is only recently that we are becoming aware of the processes by which we make our imagination and our consciousness work to create our reality.
If (better say when) humankind wakes up to this realization, a few exciting things will happen -and some of them are surfacing already now in the global dialogue.
– People who have been oppressed by a perception of unfair treatments will realize their immense power. Whether it is market injustice, unfair wealth distribution, oppression from a totalitarian regime, people will realize that any of such systems, even the most despicable and unbearable ones, are resting upon a sense of legitimacy given by the oppressed. This legitimacy is resting in a thought, and consciousness can change thought at thought-speed. One day a million people wake up and say “we don’t agree to be oppressed anymore”. The source of revolutions resides in the human mind for it is just a thought – and regimes have understood that and try and control that thought more than anything else.
– The source of authority will progressively shift from external to internal. Obedience will carry a newer meaning as obedience to inner truth much more than obedience to any external authority.

To wrap it up, if it is indeed true that we might be competing for these creative powers, it is important for me to open up that conversation. If we are indeed shifting towards the realization that our consciousness creates reality, then this may be an incredibly important factor that can empower people in shaping their destiny -as individuals, and as collectives. I deeply care about these creative forces to shape the world being democratized as much as possible. Would this enlightenment be only a matter for a handful of white men who could take a year off, travel to India, go to spiritual retreats, and the like? While a lot of people are still working from a worldview that doesn’t allow them to recognize that they have the power to change their life conditions for the better? It is a bleak scenario in which this disparity would only create another form of supremacy, equally detestable.
It is my wish that these creative powers, that this awareness and recognition of our most precious sources of creativity, be democratized and made accessible to all, for the benefit of a real re-distribution of our true wealth which begins from a democracy of access to our consciousness and its powers.


Leadership journey in the Deep End

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No matter at which stage of my life I have been, I have always been longing for exploring my purpose and going deep into conversations around my role in the world.
Over the past five years I have been immersed in an incredible environment where stimulating conversations happened all the time. Lucky to be around the MSLS community, people who connect with their purpose and push you on those conversations. I have also learned a lot via co-organizing the Leadership Thread of the MSLS course.

The majority of the world’s population is young. Everywhere I ask, it seems that the educational system needs to adapt fast enough to meet the expectations of this generation to be conscious citizens of the world. Education shall be seen a service to give back to society (Schumacher posited in Small is Beautiful, 1973). All this has made me desire to call for a leadership course that would provide an opportunity for youngsters to have a potentially “transformational” experience to deeply investigate their purpose and their contribution onto the world.

Pro-Action cafe poster
What is sketched from here on is my reflections and notes after the Pro-Action Cafe’ in Copenhagen during the Art of Hosting Learning Village (Dec 2-4, 2011, See my previous post). This is the idea that I brought forward:
“Leadership in the Deep End: A theory U shaped course for youngsters. An individual and collective journey of exploration and connection to the source”.

::What is the Quest behind the question?::
I need to explore “what is needed in the world?” From which source am I operating? I am working from (within) the desire of making inner revolutions happen. (I need to bring more clarity around the intention). Eve Ensler argues: when we give away what we need the most you heal the broken part in ourselves. I have experienced a slow but substantial inner change over the last seven years and I feel ready for the next steps. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity when I was younger to expand my zone of “proximal development” through drama, music, literature and meaningful conversations with friends. All this showed me a doorway to something to aspire to. And lately the environment in which I have been has challenged me gently and decisively to always connect with my purpose and being intentional about how I show up in the world and intend to make a positive contribution. Out of gratitude towards what life has given to me, and out of desire to give back. My own “fire” and passion arises from a desire: I have seen the potential of personal transformation in a relatively short time and I really LOVE to be outsmarted by the people I can help coach / mentor. I have faith in the courage and craving for life of this generation (except for my neighbors upstairs who are wasting their time with a loud party with tasteless music, but alas) and believe they are longing for meaning and positive change in the world.

::What is missing?::
I need to explore more who is this course for. Who is the ideal audience for it? I envision the young.
But wait a minute. Transition from what to what? Martin Luther King puts it in his beautiful rhetoric

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

At what developmental stage are they at? At what level of experience?* Perhaps it is possible to assess at what level or stage are people at by the beginning of the course and plan intentionally with them to stretch them onto a further developmental level.
At whichever point of the spectrum you are the idea would be to broaden the scope of that awareness to reach out towards a positive contribution to the world. The journey shall create some conditions for inner revolutions around the fire happen. A revolution at the personal level that is mirrored by a community revolution.

What are some conditions for inner revolutions and community revolutions to happen? A few that I can think of for now: Trust in the entire group to share deep feelings; Connection with the sense of what’s sacred and trusting oneself;

(*on this I am grateful to Barrett Brown who recommended to me the article “Seven transformations of Leadership” on HBR (opens pdf here) This article posits that it’s possible to assess at what developmental stage are people at.)

::What next steps will I take?::
Connect. There are many amazing courses and leadership journeys already happening out there. One example is Embercombe – I need to connect with them and experience the Journey (Note: I wrote this on my journal in December, but now that I type I have actually gone to Embercombe myself for a leadership journey and was quite fantastic).
– Connect with people who are comfortable with being in nature. I need to reach out to people who are experienced, skilled, rooted in paths of self-development (not necessarily leadership courses).
– It’s time for it! People are ready for it and to deepen their personal leadership journeys. I got the recommendation to consider the masculine and the feminine component of leadership alike, to go beyond labels…
– I was recommended to tap into the power of storytelling skills through the stages of the leadership journey (couldn’t agree more!) And to
– Connect with rituals and ceremonies. Not replicating any but creating meaningful rituals for the group.

::What am I grateful for?::
At the end of the dialogues I felt gratitude towards all the participants for questioning my motivation! It is always a bliss to go deeper into my purpose and question it. I feel gratitude for sitting down with me and sharing their perspectives and wisdom. I also feel grateful for the invitation that has come from some to create this leadership journey together.
Lastly I feel grateful for giving me a sense of support through the simple act of witnessing. Your listening really gave me the strong conviction that the times are ready for this journey and that there is a need out there for such inner revolutions to happen.

Lastly. Please consider this blog post an open invitation for all to create this course together! It is of crucial importance that this idea go out and be co-owned and created by all. You are invited and most welcome in designing this journey.

Open Future Festival, July 2011 – Harvest

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I have been lucky enough to co-host a wonderful festival at the end of this July in Mundekulla, Sweden based on Art of Hosting dialogue style. The aim was to gather around people from the southern part of Sweden and provide an opportunity to share and voice their dreams in new ways, and connecting existing efforts and initiatives. This below is the way my colleagues and I have captured the essence of the conversations and the entire wonderful experience.

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Open Future Festival 2011 Harvest on Prezi

Invite people to something meaningful

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I have been to two trainings of the Art of Hosting, and both were absolutely fantastic. In short? It’s about hosting meaningful conversations as a pre-condition to make positive desirable big change happen. The last one was in Århus and someone called for a dojo where to continue practicing the skills and the spirit of the Art of Hosting. Below some reflections from this experience.

Train to Århus, Thursday evening
I am expecting much from the dojo of practitioners in Århus. Thank you T. for making the space for this to happen, and calling it. “Invite people to something meaningful”, as one of my mentors say.

Saturday morning, 11am.
I am writing from a café where there is good music and good cappuccino, and I sat to have some time to write down my impressions from yesterday. I feel very grateful for what happened yesterday. I knew from the beginning that it was a valuable use of time, a way to recharge my energy, to pause and reconnect to my energy. Thank you all.
Arrived at the hostel on Thursday night, the place was okay, a guy was snoring like hell but I managed to sleep decently nevertheless and got outside in time to reach T’s place some half an hour in advance.

D. and M. are hosting the conversation, we start around the same table with an unfolded sheet of paper and markers. D. gives us an overview of the aim of the dojo and a debrief of the last one. In essence is a place for peer-learning, not for teaching; a place to ask high-level questions, but not to practice new methods. We share a reflection about the uniqueness of the Scandinavian context, where many forerunners are practicing new ways of conversations and we seemed to be on the verge of bringing many other people to the next level. We go on with M. asking why we have come here. I have come to recharge my energy, because I trust the circle of conveners, because I want to stop and reflect. Before lunch we collect the questions we have come here with that we’d like to explore and put them in the circle.

#1 How to facilitate the emerging knowledge.
#2 When does the facilitator need to restructure patterns in order to be fully present in the process?
#3 “Have you been fully present, acting from the spirit and skillfully at the same time?” What made it happen?

#1 How to facilitate the emerging knowledge.
Of utmost importance for the facilitator is his consciousness, allowing people to see things. The Facilitator should be conscious of the structure of the process, and will have expectations about some new knowledge to emerge. His expectations may influence the dynamic of the group.

Train back to Copenhagen, Sunday morning.
#2 When do we need to restructure patterns as facilitators to help the dynamics ?
That is to say: when we are there in the fire as facilitators, when do we need to do things differently, restructure our own mental models, or behavioral patterns, in order to be fully present? I have been waiting for this question for a while –it has been with me and gave partial answers every now and then. This weekend I found some answers. The first is that you can and you have to be present, without fear of being judged because is not an attack to your ego. The real ego comes in when you want to be liked by everybody. The second sounds like a paradox to me: exactly by being fully present and giving “personal” examples you achieve the detachment that is necessary to make it objective “It’s not about me”. Example of TM sharing his personal stories with a school of leaders some years ago. Some of the students found him way too hippy and challenged him personally. Half the class left the room. He stood there, continued, and had an amazing workshop with the other half that stayed.
Here an emerging theme from the conversation with C., T. and B. was that we should recognize the line between what is internal (happening in the facilitator) and what is external (happening in the group).

Thinking back about my questions on the way here, I believe they have been addressed mostly. Such a sense of gratitude! And so many wonderful and meaningful conversations, and gems I bring back with me.

@eccemarco: In a nice cafe’ in #Århus – after a great day with Art of Hosting #AoH practitioners. Profound sense of #gratitude for you all.

On the way back, continued reading “Getting to Maybe” -how the world is changed. Wonderful collection of stories and some high-level reflections about social change and the business of big innovations. The book so far is highly recommendable! Some gems so far:

– Social change works in the gray area of the “emergence” when it comes to planning. It’s not a planning that is totally inspired by the present (forecasting) because the social change business acknowledges that there is something that needs big, transformational changes, of a kind that the forecasting can’t address. It’s a planning that can’t be totally informed by a grand or clear picture of the future either, because the social systems are so complex that is like this wild horse you have to enter into a relationship with and play with what is possible and what is emerging;

– As a guiding light for any social innovation (almost needless to say, but still): the purpose. What is motivating you, where is the flame of this need? Interesting particularly now for me as I am giving my free time to many projects and I may have to prioritize my efforts and energies.

bridging cultures in an increasingly crowded room

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Imagine our world. Increasingly interconnected and packed.

“Our modern civilization could be compared to a common room in which we are doomed to live together, but which does not change the fact that each of us is a different being. More than that, as we become more numerous, and the conforming pressure of of the present civilization increases, we seem to be ever more irritated by others’ dissimilarities, feeling an ever greater urge to defend our individuality against all that may tend to dissolve it in some cosmopolitan sauce – or even against anything that is simply different”

Vaclav Havel – “A revolution in the human mind” 1996, speech before the Latin American Parliament.

This simple metaphor was used by Vaclav Havel to explain the reaffirmation of national and local identities in often violent expressions. I was struck by the simple metaphor that explained (and predicted) the radicalization of some local identities.

I am living in a city in the south of Sweden that is facing challenges with integration amongst cultures. As I am quite enjoying my life here and feeling extremely lucky to be doing a job that I love, I also felt at times that the connection with the community was still missing (as in my other post). This town represents for me a small-scale reproduction of some common challenges of the northern Europe: many people from other countries have been moving here in the recent years to settle and have a better life, and there are significant cultural gaps that need to be bridged.

In the last months I have been reflecting a lot about how do these challenges and hopes relate to me personally and found a close connection in many ways to this topic.

Long story short: I have been witnessing discouraging examples of how a place / community / country can become over time closed minded and unwelcoming to the strangers. I learned from that experience that simply accepting the presence of the “other” and his diversity in a community is not enough to get real integration. We need to reach out and build bridges. Intentionally, with our compassion, getting rid of our fears, accepting the possibility that after meeting “the other” we may change our look at the world – with all the comfort that this gives us. I found in this a strong motivation to explore what’s happening in Karlskrona about social cohesion and integration between different cultures.

The “why”
Only three years ago, had I had inspiration for an initiative (volunteering, a new work or whatever) I wouldn’t have talked much about my motivation. Like those things that are too big to talk about, I would have rationalize it or -even worse- taken it for granted. New explorations in leadership have moved the focus of attention from the process to the source as the most powerful leverage point. Focusing on the “why”, on the inner source of motivation and continuously checking in with that motivation is a key aspect in modern theories of leadership – I compare it with taking care of your fireplace.

I had some beautiful chats so far with Augusto Cuginotti and Kiara Nagel (thank you both!) to check-in with my motivation and explore my quest behind this. From Augusto I got the suggestion to explore my commitment and to look at the “big picture”, ie how this challenge on the small scale is relevant in the world today. From Kiara I got the advice to be ready for some push back, and be ready to carry on when that happens – because there will be some push back.
My passion starts from the belief that intentional transformational change can and does happen, and we have to be compassionate, caring, skillful and graceful to make it happen.

What is happening for now is a round of exploratory interviews with people who have a stake in the issue of integration. I am keeping the conversation very open, exploring how comfortable people here feel in talking about it.

The game of social change is on.