Backyard Stewardship


Well, it’s official. I’ve been fingerprinted. I’ll be getting a badge and a handbook.

But mostly I’ll just be doing here in my own backyard what I’ve been helping others do around in lots of other places. I’m the new volunteer steward for the Ronan Park Nature Trail that runs along the Chicago River just north of here.

So I’m doing what I suggest to all my clients, posting invitations online, in newsletters, and in the Park… convening gatherings, in this case to work on and enjoy the Trail… and beginning to document what happens in simple blog, an open public record.

Please join us if/when you’re in the neighborhood!

opening space for appreciative inquiry — and peace — in nepal and its government

romy shovelton emailed today, from her farm in wales, asking about mixing open space and appreciative inquiry. it turns out i have a pretty good story of such mixing, from grassroots to new national government, that i’d been meaning to update here.

on my third visit to nepal, i helped convene and facilitate a third open space event there, this one a first national summit for peaceful development. the first two meetings were a classroom presentation/demonstration of open space technology, for about 20 students and faculty at kathmandu college. the second was a city-wide event, organized on the success and with the skills gained in the first session, looking at the 20-year future of kathmandu.

at this second event, i made a point of having side conversations with as many of the 40 participants as i could, suggesting that we might do 4 days the following year, two days of open space, followed by two days of ost training. this was a model we’d used elsewhere and i thought it could give the depth of experience needed to accomplish the things that were being discussed for the next 20 years in kathmandu.

when i contacted my colleagues about returning for a third visit, they began organizing the event we’d discussed the previous year, with some important changes. it was to be four days, but it would be national in scope. it would be held in open space, but it would be based also on AI principles and the 4-D process. it would include training, as well, on both ost and ai.

i never would have believed it was possible, but my nepali colleagues never thought otherwise. so we did four one-day open space events, one on each of the four D’s, the first one shortened by opening speeches, the last one shortened by a grand closing ceremony that included gifts and acknowledgements and official thank yous in addition to the usual comments in a circle. the middle days opened with ost training observations and closed with evening sessions on how to do AI. we also started a blog that they used for several years.

since then they have had second, third and fourth national summits, sometimes in open space, sometimes with appreciative inquiry facilitated by ai originator, david cooperrider.

along the way, in the midst of the sometimes violent maoist resistance, a 6000(?)-year old landmark gate was destroyed in an explosion that also destroyed part of one of the organizers’ homes. the village where this happened was devastated by the loss, but this organizer emailed me almost immediately, saying that they were planning an open space to talk about rebuilding gate. i don’t know if that event ever formally happened, but having it there as a possibility in such a moment is surely worth something.

and now, after a fifth summit event just held in january, this one also in open space, and run totally on their own, without outside facilitators or consultants, they are planning a sixth national summit — this one for the 601 members of the soon-to-be-elected “constituent assembly” that is the budding solution to more than a decade of political, sometimes armed, in-fighting, and the governmental structure that will replace the ages-old nepali monarchy. the sixth summit will seek to infuse the new government with open space and appreciative inquiry.

Inviting Education

I woke up this morning thinking about public schools, career path, and teaching… specifically, brain rolled around with the possibility of getting certified to teach school, while body rolled around with the possibility of breakfast. (This isn’t exactly new, I’ve been an educator at heart since my Outward Bound days, nearly two decades ago.) But then this comes in the morning emails:

Dear Friends,

I’ve decided to offer myself as a candidate for the Waters LSC as a community representative. I have been at Waters since 1991 when I enrolled my son Jamal here. I was elected as President of the first LSC and held that position for 5 years. I went back to school (NEIU) and received a interdisciplinary degree in Education, Ecology and Neighborhood Studies.

We partnered with the Center for City Schools at National Louis University and began an intense and well supported period of professional development for our teachers. That first LSC learned that education could be an amazing, rich, challenging, and joyous experience for children. It all depends on how a school teaches and what its philosophy of education is.

Parents were invited to workshops to let them experience what this educational vision was about: collaboration, sharing, valuing each voice, going beyond text books to original works and sources, opening the doors of our school and its classrooms to allow the community in, and the students out into the world.

We learned that the arts, real work, and world experiences, could be combined with the core disciplines of literacy, math and science, to give kids a rich, multifaceted education. We were a local, poor, low-scoring, no-special programs school that decided that our kids were an amazing gift, capable of great achievement.

The 1990s were an amazing time of partnering, support, experimentation and growth. Our scores rose steadily. But our school paid more attention to other more meaningfull assessments: student writing, problem solving, ability to work with others, recognition of “other intelligences”, and projects, projects, projects.

Since 2000 our schools have been under a barage of mandates to test, to teach to the test, to reduce student assessment to a series of data points. We need, as a community, to educate our selves about what is “best practice” in education, and support it in our school. We have to produce a countervailing pressure in order to protect our kids, teachers and administrators.

I am known at Waters mostly for my work in ecology. But, the ecology program was an outgrowth, a sprout and flowering of the ideas planted in 1991. It is what every parent wants for their child: the best, most rich learning experiences in a caring and safe community.

Let us hold on to this vision and learn together.

Mr. Lucky
(Pete Leki)

I’m inspired and wondering again, fully awake and a little bit hungry, for something other than breakfast. Maybe I should have been more specific last week in updating Inviting Leadership. Inviting Community might should have been Inviting Education.

Progress Reported

An old client recently shared some thoughts on their progress since we ran an executive leadership summit together, in open space:

…we have indeed leveraged open space a couple of times since and most recently with the 120 odd manufacturing managers to great successes… Our journey has been interesting… although we are grappling with the same issues we have taken many of the principles to heart… Our learning is that the solutions are time consuming and need to be debated and internalised. We have kicked off numerous such discussion with integrated solutions… but the work is still nascent… not everyone is yet at the same stage…

Time consuming, yes. Need to be debated, ongoing. Integrated solutions AND still just getting started. This, to me, is the great learning in Open Space: Organization as Conversation. So many people simply talking to each other is the real lifeblood of all those org charts, spreadsheets and plans. So Open Space works because it lets us invite new focus and energy in the big conversation that already is the organization.

turning up the volume on inviting leadership

i woke up the other morning thinking about “those special interests.” pretty scary, eh? specifically, thinking that obama’s frequent promises to do something about “those special interests” should be traded in for promises he can actually keep: he should be promising to “turn up the volume” of ordinary voices in Washington.

this he can prove. this he has demonstrated. in stadium rallies. literally, a million donors. an active community blogosphere. person-to-person phonebanking and door-to-door campaigning instead of robo-calling. the marvel of his campaign is that he’s got so many people involved. his “solution” doesn’t need to be invented… it needs only to be repeated.

he doesn’t need to change the system, he needs only to keep inviting more and more ordinary american voices into the system — and we will change that system. it’s an additive process, an inviting leader inviting more and more leadership, that addresses problems without attacking them directly.

this is how inviting leadership works. it adds and invites more and more of what is good and working, brings more and more people into the conversation. that is enough. their new energy, new ideas, and new connections immediately move the system in ways that naturally (even if slowly) replace and resolve the old ways and problems.

“turning up the volume” on what’s good and working seems a stronger position than “battling the special interests” and “changing the system” — in this election, and in every organization and leadership situation i can remember. they say people resist change, but who doesn’t like to be invited? this is, i think, why this campaign is working.

an inviting campaign

earlier this evening i saw an army veteran named cheryl, in tacoma, washington, post on the obama community blogsite a request for help in writing her own iraq story, in support of the story senator obama told in the debate last week.

i was impressed that she posted her phone number, and challenged by her obvious determination to get her story into writing. i paused… and then called this perfect stranger. i left a message, hung up, and wondered what would happen next.

in the meantime, i wondered who she was. clicked on her profile page. noticed that i didn’t have a profile, so started to fill that in. some minutes later, the phone rang.

we’ve had a bit of a chat now, and she’s got a bit of a line on the start of her story. we’re looking forward to chatting again tomorrow or the next day about what she comes up with — because she’s determined to get her story out.

THIS is what i think is so remarkable about this campaign, that people can connect in these simple ways. that people are so determined to give to this movement, willing to ask for help, and willing to offer to strangers.

this is why i think the deepest structure of this campaign is different. it is already supporting the way so many of us wish our government could be: of the people, by the people, and for each other.

i don’t think of it as supporting a candidate as much as being a member of a community, same as i am an active member in other LARGE communities. this one just happens to have as its purpose the future of the united states government.

Pulsation and Practice in Organization

chris corrigan’s been out tuning the bass notes, the buzz or the spirit, in organization. i would tune his story a bit and say the buzz, the bass note, is pulsation. i think he’s right, it’s not culture. but it’s also not deeper than culture. it’s before culture.

i agree that it rises not from organization purpose, but purpose does matter. the buzz in organization arises out of personal purpose, and desire, in the context of organization. but it’s not personal purpose. and it is not spirit.

its the connection, the pulsation, the spark across the gap, between purpose — what i want — and spirit — all that is. the bass note is not the purpose, the driving force, but it’s not the deeper field of spirit either. it’s the mutuality of the two, together and distinct.

open space works because it invites people to spark across the gap, to renew the pulsation, between the personal and organizational, between solid and spirit, between purpose and passion, between learning and contributing, between what they want and what they are willing to do about it.

the bass note is not any of these things… it’s the space and the movement, the sound AND the silence between them, together AND distinct.

so, to make open space the operating system in any organization is (simply!) to refine of the annual strategic planning meeting into the pulse of (each of) the people. that’s why it takes practice, especially personal practice.

finally, it’s not that leaders *should* do this practice. it’s simply that those who do practice invitation, opening space, are easily and immediately recognized as leaders.

Inviting Leadership Practice in Organization

My understanding of Inviting Leadership has been evolving and unfolding for at least 10 years now, but it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve come to call it that in my teaching.

Here are my cryptic notes about teaching it now, after Jill turned my old teaching model upside down. She did that just before we went to India and Nepal for a month, so this newest approach was cooked while travelling and retreating in those places.

Maybe you can appreciate the order and flow of the pattern, even in these brief notes. Maybe you can see how the parts inform and support and each other:

Day One – Inviting Practice: Embodying Well-Being

-pulsation: simple morning somatics practice, renewing and refining
-density: intro to levels and layers of energy and awareness
-mutuality: intro to holding two states/positions at once
-resting and integrating: how the learning sinks in
-text: somatics exercises (selected)

Day Two – Inviting Leadership: Opening Invitations, Hosting Action

-living in the middle of order and chaos (survey of personal and spiritual practice)
-holding space for multiple states (learning/contributing, passion/responsibility, facilitator/group, etc.)
-working in open space (planning, facilitating, harvesting, sustaining)
-mechanisms for supporting all kinds of meeting and modalities (hybrids and others)
-text: inviting guide (18 pages)

Day Three – Inviting Organization: Evolution at Work

-evolution at work (opening everything)
-opportunities for evolution (new dimensions, levels)
-implications of evolution (new structures, sensations)
-leadership in evolution (body, ground, results)
-text: inviting organization paper (15 pages)

And if this is all too cryptic, suffice it to say that in these three days we move from moving bodies (observable), to moving meetings (meaningful), to moving whole organizations (powerful). What we do as bodies on day one, is extended into meeting groups on day two, and leveraged into ripples throughout whole systems on day three. If you’re curious what it all means, give me a call — or host a three-day!

Inviting Connections

Chris Corrigan shared this from an Art of Hosting conversation, linking back to the four-seasons view of Inviting Leadership Practice that we’ve developed over the last few years…

This reminds me of the “four karmas” in Buddhism, which describe how one acts skillfully, as an expression of compassion and in accord with the natural order. The correspondence isn’t exact, but I can see the same general direction flowing through your four categories. Which makes sense if we are talking about the same reality. There’s only one, after all!

The first karma is “pacifying” which is also about opening a space or portal of awareness, and taming the ground by clearing away any negative energies. There is no distinction between inner and outer in this sense. Or you could say, it is all inner. Or all outer. So opening and clearing one’s mind is expressed in how one relates to the environment or situation, and vice-versa. Pacifying is represented as a circle.

Then comes “enriching” which is a square, reminiscent of a square hearth or the foundation of a house. So something about cultivating the earth, drawing out the richness, generating something or letting something emerge and develop.

Third is “magnetizing” which is represented by an open half-circle, which invites possibility, play, communication, wealth, power. This is karma of leadership.

Fourth is about action. If the frame of reference is how you work with obstacles, this one is called “destroying.” i.e., you don’t cut until you have first worked with the other three. If it’s about how you take action in the world, this one is about accomplishment. This is a triangle.

I think it’s cool to see how aligned these patterns are.

In a related Shambhala system, there’s also a post-action piece, which is the letting go after the stroke or the cut. Opening up again, which is suggested by your arrow in the middle. Coming back to wide open space and wide open mind.

Easy to imagine the first one as a circle, an “oh!” that is Opening. The second as the square piece of paper that is posted as Invitation. The third, half circle, as the bowl space of Hosting. And the fourth, the triangle, as the spear of Action. Leading back to “oh!” and Opening. Nice.

Inviting Guide — Updated

I’ve just posted an updated edition of my Inviting Guide for the practice of Open Space Technology. This version makes some relatively minor refinements throughout, but also includes a new piece on writing the theme of an event.

If it weren’t for the long coaching conversation I had over lunch today, I might be worried that I’ve just about written myself out of a job. I think this new version is pretty good… AND I’m grateful there are still people around who would rather pay me to meet and eat and work with them than to wing it from the text. There’s more to practice than pixels!

Inviting the World We Want

Two years ago I worked with Phil Cubeta and some others to create something we called The Giving Conference. Since then, at least two Omidyar Network member conferences, something called Recent Changes Camp, staff meetings in Rio de Janeiro, and a bunch of other things have happened as results. Now there are conferences trying to happen in Thailand and Chicago.

Phil offered the following in the Thailand planning thread. This is why my facilitation of Open Space Technology is morphing into a larger practice of Inviting Leadership.

…the secret to a good open space is the invitation and also the invitation list. “Whoever comes are the right people,” but be sure to invite the right people. Go for broke would be my suggestion. Go for significant potential funders, political leaders, media, civic leaders, nonprofit professionals, thought leaders, moral leaders and religious leaders. Ask yourself who can convene these networks. Go to those “mavens” and enlist their support in not only emailing or writing the key people, but actively and personally inviting them.

The real work of open space is in networking networks together. That has to be done as the pre-work before the invitation goes out. In fact, the invitation will be drafted and redrafted, negotiated if you will, by each of the co-conveners as they insert phrases of important to their networks.

Michael Herman and I did this together three years ago for the Open Space on Giving. Our invitation was ultimately gibberish, because so many people pulled it in so many directions as a precondition of their inviting their networks. But the revision process led to their buy-in; and their personal invitation, not the words used, but their willingness to invite people over the phone, is what got the key players there. So treat the words as flypaper. Get key mavens stuck in the glue. The more they struggle with the the words the more involved they become, until the exact words no longer matter.

Phil and I worked by email two years ago, and lots of phone time. We traded 37 different drafts, many of them major revisions, of the invitation. We went round and round with words, but around a core purpose: Giving. And that is what’s been sustained and sustaining everything since then, that core purpose, in so many different languages. It’s just great to see so many ripples from something so simple as one short “invitation.”

Body, Soul, Spirit?

Doug asked me the other day about how I sort out body, soul and spirit. Here’s an answer I didn’t know I had until he asked:

in practical terms, i can find the edge of “me” that is my skin. everything inside is body.

then there is another layer, the energy of me. there are many layers, flexing and moving and shape-shifting all the time, but taken as a 3-D stack, they have a finite edge. everything inside of that edge is the space that i sense as “me” — and “mine.” i think of soul as this energy space, that extends sometimes quite far, and through time, and is ever changing its shape… but always i am making some story about how/why it is mine and what i think it should be or do.

beyond that edge, there is a wispier thing yet, a space that i find if i let attention follow the sound of the tingsha bells… and this space is bigger than my energy space, bigger than my story, boundless even. the bells are an invitation to relax into that, to relax the edges and efforts that are “me.” this space seems to be the ‘water’ we all swim in… and i’m inclinded to guess, swims through all of us, too. so this vast third space, all of stuff, all of space, all of awareness, all of everything beyond all of “me”, is what i think people are talking about when they say spirit.

sometimes we say, about open space meetings or other peak moments, that “spirit shows up”, i think that this means that some critical mass of people in the gropu, for some criticitacl mass of time in the event, relaxed their bodies and souls, their physical tissues and the stories and edges they each usually make around “me” and for some noticeable time, in some noticeable way, they were noticing that there is someting beyond those edges of “me” and noticing that they were all swimming in it, spirit, togetehr… so it’s not really spirit showing up… as them showing up and relaxing out into IT.

this might be another way to think about the gift of invitation, and open space. a chance to relax. “i’ve been invited,” we can think to ourselves, “they’ve asked me to join just as i am.” body rests just a little, on whatever ground we already have. story, and the efforts of mind that make it, rest a bit, too. we return from pushing to pulsing. breathe. now we can tap all of the vastness beyond our little isolated “me” selves, the whole soup of possibilities, in the direction of the next good thing.

maybe it’s only that we relax our little individual stories into the soul, the energy, the pulse of the organization, the spirit of the team, but even that is often quite something, to find and really feel the wave of organization, community, and fellowship carrying and supporting us as we go about our everyday work.

Inviting Leadership, Rediscovered


the festival i’ve been writing about comes right after my wedding and honeymoon. as i get back to work, doing and teaching inviting leadership, i can’t even remember the names of some of these practices that i’ve been working on and writing about for… how many years now? as one guy said to me, “now that’s a successful honeymoon.”

i purposely did not look up my last drafts on the practices so that i could discover them freshly, in the course of this new work. here is what i found myself doing as i opened space. more importantly, it’s what i found myself explaining in a short 1.5-hour workshop, without the luxury of a three-day retreat nor a depth of open space experience in the group:

  • opening heart (as the mainstream label and basic mechanism, and then) the practice work being about appreciating and embracing and such.
  • inviting attention – the practice work is about focusing and articulating and listening and sharing, vision and story.
  • supporting exchange – the practice work being about movement, connection, flow, conversation, marketplaces, gifts and offerings.
  • making good – on promise and promises, the practice being about taking actions and getting results that honor the care, invitations and support we’ve been given, and what of those we’ve pledged to others.

the image above comes from the morning workshop we did for leaders, on the last day of the festival. this latest language seems crude enough to travel, and still true enough to capture all the subtleties of deep practice. feels like progress.

Translating Open Space

Raffi Aftandelian and friends are translating on of my recent articles into Russian, for a collection. Not surprisingly, translating what we’ve called the “four practices of open space” and “inviting leadership” has been rather challenging. This from a proposed translator’s note seemed to have some merit on its own…

…there is a certain poetry in open space, a poetry that i have practiced capturing for almost ten years now in how i write. it means that words are often chosen for the specific reason that they mean many things at once. and like poetry, sometimes they are even chosen for the way they sound. so this makes translation very challenging, because these different meanings are intended to be read and heard and considered simultaneously, together. there is meaning in each interpretation and also some implication of having them both be true at the same time.

it is this holding of two states at once, distinct and together, that gives open space it’s texture and power. people are aware of themselves as individuals, and of the group as a whole. they are aware learning (taking in) and contributing (giving out), at the same time. open space is a dance of opposites, spirit and productivity. this is difficult to capture once in any language, and more challenging still to translate into another. in the end, we might say that open space is its own langauge, a language of movement, and the best way to really understand it is to do it. and be it. together.

New Open Space Technology Articles

Tomorrow we start messing with the deployment of family cars, in preparation for the wedding on the 24th. Might be getting close to the end of productivity and posting here.

I leave you with two new gems that I’ve just finished polishing. Not all new, but both significantly expanded from their last editions.

Open Space Technology: Inviting Leadership Practice – reviews the basics of Open Space, considers its evolution, and points to its dissolving into the ongoing practice of Inviting Leadership.

Open Space Technology: An Inviting Guide – a short guide for Inviting Leaders, with new meeting/event planning worksheet and notes on sustaining action after the big meeting.

Slow blogging ahead…

Cutting Through

Somebody called today with a situation, an opening, a “better-than-zero” chance to propose a plan to take an old bureaucratic program to a new level using Open Space Technology. What to do?

I referred him back to the four questions from the Inviting Philanthropy post two days ago, re-framed a little bit into the context of him going to his boss and boss’s boss to inquire:

  • What do you want (to see in the world, or in the program)?
  • What do we already have (what’s working, what to keep and grow)?
  • What do you need (to have, or see, or show, to support a shift)?
  • What are you willing to do (approve, support) if you get what you need?

I suggested he make his own list. Run through it with his boss, adding the boss’s list to this. Then take it higher up to check their list against the chief. If nothing else, these four questions cut through a lot of potential crap. And saves my buddy from busting it on a proposal that goes nowhere.

Meanwhile, I see these four could be the very active punchline to the Inviting Leadership story that Corrigan and I are cooking:

  • Embracing Heart: What do we really want? Do something that matters.
  • Inviting Focus: What do we have to work with? Find a place to start from.
  • Supporting Flow: What do you need? Ask and offer the things that make the difference.
  • Making Good: What will you do? Got what you needed. Good. Use it. Do something.

My favorite place of action just now, by the way, is a new blogging project for Chicago Conservation Corps. Oh yes, and wedding planning… T: -1 weekend and counting. Blogged our organic wedding cake bakery today over there at C3. Yum!

Opening Space for No Mind

No Mind Festival, that is. Last week we put together a nice little design for a series of Spaces to be opened as part of the No Mind Festival in Angsbacka, Sweden next month, for 600-1000 participants. Registration is open to all!

The first week of the Festival, July 7-13, is the tenth annual, with a theme of “Celebrating Life”. This year they’ve asked me to run the second week mostly in Open Space, July 15-21. The theme for the week is “Living Our Gifts.”

The (rough draft) design is rather unique and runs like this…

On the evening of the first full day of the conference, we’ll do the first of four openings, setting the agenda for each of three breakout sessions the following day. The first three rounds of this will be on three sub-themes that are still being crafted, each articulated along the lines of “Inviting _____ “.

The last of the four sessions, will be a sort of Open Space on Open Space, the theme of which will be “Inviting Leadership”. This theme will let us do some brief teaching and noticing about what Open Space is, how it works, and invite people to consider the implications and possibilities for using it elsewhere, after the Festival. The nature of Inviting Leadership also generalizes away from Open Space, so to include all the other methods and views and approaches that will percolate around the Open Space sessions all week.

In making the distinction between the Open Space sessions and the pre-determined sessions, we thought about it in terms of viscosity. The pre-planned sessions are a little bit thicker, more viscous. The OS sessions, a bit more fluid. This helped us find the edges of each, with the pre-planned structures ultimately containing the OS sessions, like oil caps the water underneath it in a bottle.

Because the whole of the Festival runs on the contributions of 150 volunteers, willing invitees, we articulated the edge between the OS and other sessions in terms of time: the Invited festival is everything already invited and established, the Inviting festval is the OS part, the fresh, growing, edge of the invitation, where the structure is still taking shape.

Unity ’08 Needs to Champion Community Congresses

It sounds like something called Unity ’08 could be the first internet political party, nominating a presidential ticket through an entirely online process. Its leaders are for real. Peggy Noonan and Margaret Carlson commenting today on the venture in WSJ and Bloomberg.

Noonan thinks they’re missing the mark. Yes, she says on polarization, no on it being Dems and Reps. I think she’s absolutely right on calling the split as being between People and Politicians. I think they missed another point as well.

The internet is cool, and helpful, but it’s not the innovation we really need in politics. If we’re going to organize the people, well enough to run the joint (the country), and really take it away from Washington, then we’re going to need real conversation. Buzz beyond the hard drives. The Pols meet face to face, and so must We the People.

This brings me back to what we were talking about at the Practice Retreat in Vancouver a few weeks ago. One of our participants was asking about how Open Space could be used in political campaigns. She wanted to use it to run the campaign, but I thought the real power was to run the district or state or country that way. Here’s how…

First, we need to blow up the notion that candidates need to get elected to before they can do anything to change the world. They’re spending big money and talking to tons of people. That is the game. If they are running, they’re already in.

Next, they are putting out all kinds of information and messages. One of those messages needs to be: “Come meet with your neighbors, fellow constituents, to discuss a theme like Democracy in Action: Issues and Opportunities for Ordinary People, Elected Officials, and the Future of America.”

When the vols go out knocking on doors, they distribute this invitation, the message being: we’re not waiting, we’re going to start changing things right now. This is not business as usual. In this day and age, that is already a point won for this candidate! People don’t have to show up to the event to get the message.

When the people show up for an all-day convesation on this, lots of remarkable conversations happen. People take notes, which get posted to the candidate’s website. Clearly not conducting business as usual. People get connected. Energized. Some of them pass out more invitations to the next event. Others just go do some of the things they got to talking about with their neighbors. This is not your father’s town hall meeting… this is We the People, talking to We the People, about what We the People.

News of that goes on the website, as well. Suddenly, the candidate is at the center of a whole new movement, linking people and government. If that doesn’t guarantee some free media coverage on the 10 o’clock news, I’d be surprised. Momentum builds. I think we should give it a name harkening back to the First Continental Congress… call them something like Community Congresses.

Now who wants to pull the plug on that when the election comes? Even if that guy loses, the person who wins is going to have to answer to the organization that this candidate has built. Win or lose, that candidate has changed the game. Win or lose, that candidate IS the political leader of that district.

Now where is one of those candidates so that we can give this a proper demonstration? Granted, it probably works better in a district or statewide contest, but that could include races for US House and Senate.

Inviting Leadership

…or maybe less. Still tinkering with language for expressing the essence of what Chris and I have been calling the Four Practices of Open Space, or Four Practices of Inviting Leadership. Here’s where I’m settling out today:

1. Embracing Heart… is about opening to the heart of issues, the passion in people, and the depth of what is really going on in an organization, a situation or a body. It’s a willingness to take things in and feel them deeply, as opposed to holding them away for detached analysis and objective study. It’s about feeling into the pulse of things, the flow of things, and connecting with that pulse and flow, giving and receiving. It’s being in touch with what we love, what we want, and why we do what we do. And being willing to embrace others, as well. It’s a willingness to acknowledge, appreciate and embrace what is really happening, to cut the crap and deal with core issues. It’s as much a being, warmth and opening, as a doing. If this practice was a sound, it might be “Aaahhh…”, the sound of satisfying.

2. Inviting Focus… is about calling, being called and calling attention, seeing clearly and being able to articulate where we’ve been, where we are, what needs to come next, what is trying to emerge, what people are needing and wanting to create. It’s about bringing people and ideas together, inviting and allowing new patterns to emerge, new things to happen, next steps to be taken, within the bounds of a history, a culture, a purpose or process. It’s about the fine line and leading edge, between what we know and have, and what we need, to explore, address, or resolve. This practice acknowledges choice, that everybody has it, already… and invites conscious choosing. It’s about naming issues and opportunities, choices and challenges, boundaries and resources, dates and times, meeting places and purposes. Being an inviting focus must have something to do with the intensity of our inquiry into how things are, where they are heading, and how they might be shaped. The sound of this practice might be “Hmmm…”, the beginning of a question.

3. Supporting Flow… is about holding space, opening space, for people and information to move, to connect, to exchange, unfold and emerge. It’s about letting go, in the sense of letting things go forward, move and develop. This practice builds and maintains structures — rules, tools, technologies and processes — that open and hold space for moving, connecting, and exchanging. It tests boundaries, stretches limits, and cuts through delays and red tape — but it goes beyond problem-solving. It wants to create whole new ways of working, where everything moves freer, faster and easier, together. Everything depends on and from everything else, like the movement of people, prices and goods in a marketplace. This practice supports the spaces, conference rooms, church basements, weblogs, email listserves, off-site meetings, working lunches, team coffee breaks that make it possible to keep work moving and get things done. The sound here might be silence, the sound of space.

4. Making Good… is about showing up, making deliveries, return on investment, learning and contributing, making good on promise and promises, the care, openings and assistance that others give us, and that which we have pledged to them. It wants to make a real difference, do something that counts, which is different from something that we can count. It’s not about the data, it’s about the doing — the little things that make us powerful as people and organizations. There is no way to account for how many promises are kept in an organization, but everyone knows and talks about promises broken, and promise wasted. This practice is about grounding and lightness, a felt sense of traction, ease and power. It’s about claiming power, acknowledging our responsibility, and take care of what we love, taking the steps that make good on what is. “Oh!” …the sound of realizing.

Note that this is the first post in a new category, Inviting Leadership. Previous work on this topic has been most but not all of what I’ve been calling Practice.