For the past two months, together with over 25,000 others, I was part of an experimental global learning community hosted by Otto Scharmer and his team at MIT. Called the U.Lab, it was a six week experiential journey down and up the U, as in Theory U, bringing to life Scharmer’s most recent book, Leading from the Emerging Future (2013). In addition to deep listening practice, “tweeting impressions,” reading, posting and responding to reflections, contributing to “wordle” summaries, and hosting a weekly face to face learning “hub” in my local library, I viewed several hours of video presentations by Otto and interviews with guest faculty, including his mentor, Peter Senge.
In the final week, and last segment of Peter’s interview, he said a few things that deeply resonate with me and give affirmation to my work:
“Well, I think a lot of the most important leadership will come from people in their 20s, and actually people 10 years earlier.”
“And, again, it’s a real tragedy when people are so busy, trying to get it done, that they’re not paying attention to the relational space they create. Because this relational space they create is what will determine what gets done.”
One morning last week, while sitting with my dear old Peggy dog, I tuned into one of Krista Tippett’s podcasts from her wonderful On Being website. Titled “The Inner Life of Rebellion,” it featured Quaker elder, educator and activist Parker Palmer, and journalist entrepreneur, Courtney Martin, in a cross generational conversation about the inner work of resilient, sustainable social change. Listening, I was particularly struck by their genuine respect for each other, and to their mutual commitment to creating relational, cross-generation spaces in which to share and witness the stories that have potential to transform us and our world.
During and since, it’s been my heart’s delight to be in several of these spaces, from the evening where fourteen of us gathered to consider how we might work together “unusually” (and I had the sudden, somewhat daunting realization that for the first time I was the oldest in the room!), to the sorta-surprise morning birthday party at the Duchess for one of our younger friends who left family abroad to make family and life here, to the monthly community of practice meeting I co-founded from the Leading in Emergence learning labs. Intended as a “practice field,” a safe space to allow our alumnae to prototype the new behaviours, mindsets and cross boundary collaborative cultures (Leading from the Emerging Future, 246), I participated, again as the oldest in the room, in a thoughtfully hosted conversation on how safe space is created within government and with its constituents.
I look ahead, with the energy and promise of our lengthening days, to knowing I will soon, again, have the honour of cohosting two such spaces. In early June, together with Marg Sanders, we’ll be gathering with twenty women for our third annual Inside Outside Leadership weekend, this year focusing on transitions. And in late September, I’ll be co-facilitating a Peerspirit Circle Practicum with Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea, and Beth Sanders. As Christina and Ann are actively transitioning out of this teaching work, it may well be their final training, as they pass the torch to others of us in The Circle Way community.
If you are yearning to sit in, or are keen to polish your skills in convening such rich spaces, please click on the above links for details and registration. I’d love to have you join us and welcome you to take your place.