Kufunda Village

A learning village learning our way into healthy and vibrant communities of the future


Leave a comment

Who Will Speak for Wolf?

By Maaianne Knuth

I read recently in a beautiful book by Jay Griffith (Wild – An Elemental Journey) about how in the councils of many native tribes there is a practice of speaking for the other. One tribe arrived to new lands, in which wolves were plentiful, and they decided to ensure that they would honour the original inhabitants of this land, by ensuring that someone would always advocate for the rights of Wolf in their councils. Before a council the question would be asked – ‘Who Will Speak for Wolf?’

It reminded me of what we are playing with at Kufunda, also inspired by a native american tribe. To have a council of the generations. In it there are five circles, that meet on their own and then bring their wisdom back to the whole:

  1. There is the circle of the 0-13 year olds, these are the Learners
  2. There is the circle of the 14-26 year olds, these are the Seekers
  3. There is the circle of the 27-39 year olds these are the Apprentices
  4. There is the circle of the 40-52 year olds these are the Teachers
  5. There is the circle of the 53 – Up these are the Elders

From this basic model, which a friend of the village Carole shared with us last year, came the idea to host three times a year an intergenerational council, where each village member’s voice could be heard, and where space was created for the different ages to find and express their unique voice.

Our first one was this December past. At first we had a very complex design. Complex when you consider the participation of 6 year olds. And so we simplified, simplified, simplified until what was left was a simple process that turned out to be incredibly rich. We only designed the first day, wanting to work with emergence. And knowing the overall themes: Day 1: Appreciation of What Is, Day 2: Dreaming What Can Be

Day one began with collective dance (fun!), then a walk-about walking the land together to really see what is here, what is new, what is in need of attention. What a gift it was to walk together. In looking and seeing we were actually in a process of Loving this Land, of Loving the place we Live. I think the land and the place felt seen, felt honoured, felt acknowledged.

After this in our generational circles we drew and shared those things we most appreciate and love about this place – inspired from our walk.

picture of loveOpen space before lunch allowed some to prepare our meal, others to play maths games with Lucy, others to prepare for the next day. After lunch the generational circles continued with a verbal expression of what the painting had been – What is it here, that we love? We shared it in a fishbowl, with people from each circle present as speakers.

By the end of the day everyone was alight. So simple, so profound. The children were integrated, the land was present, the atmosphere was of delight. Here we are. This is who we are. And this is what we love about ourselves and our community.

The power of giving each circle its space and voice was amazing to me. The youngest organising themselves and really engaging. The texture and gift of each generation becoming so clear to us all.

The second day followed a similar pattern. It was hosted by several young people who stepped up during the open space to volunteer to design and host day two. There was collective time to explore our dreams and also generational time. The sharing at the end was in song and dance.

dancing intergen

The Apprentice Age group sharing an expression through dance

The power of dreaming from a place of appreciation is one we have discovered earlier in 2013, perhaps actually since our inception. This gathering was a reminder of this.

But back to my first question – Who Will Speak for Wolf?

Reading this piece about speaking for Wolf, or the Trees, or the Salmon…. I thought perhaps this is what comes next. Perhaps we add, even if it is a broad broad category – a council voice that will speak for the Land.

Who will speak for the Land? Who will speak for Wolf.

What a beautiful expansion of something that already feels very expanded. In December it feels like we continued a journey from 25 people with formal roles at Kufunda more deeply into becoming an alive village of 84 people of all ages who all feel they belong, in some way or another.

And now
Also,
The Land

I will speak for Wolf

Yes, I will speak for Wolf


Leave a comment

Spreading the Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that Matter

stephenThe Way we work has become more of an explicit focus, after dear friends during last January’s Learning Festival asked us to share and teach the collaborative and co-creative way that is core to the way of Kufunda.

And so sharing the Art of Hosting (AoH) has been a big part of 2013. Five Art of Hosting workshops took place here last year; a local practitioners network has sprung up, significant in the way people are helping each other host events, gatherings, and change processes.

Specifically:

With the network of Human Rights Organizations:

khaya-ostA project of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, invited us to do a training workshop for their network of Human Rights Organizations. in April. The participants were drawn largely from people who had participated in a two year Learning Series – a joint initiative working at the nexus between Human Rights and Conflict Transformation. After a week of companionship, deepening into conversations that matter, and experiencing the power of meaningful conversation, there was a sense that this is an important key for real shift to occur in this country. And that Kufunda Village could have a distinct role to offer in the realization of this shift, if we choose to.

Art of Hosting with Trust Africa:

Two weeks later we hosted an open enrollment Art of Hosting workshop with Trust Africa. This time the participants were artists, activists, NGO leaders. The impact was the same – a deep resonance, strong relationships and excitement at the possibility that we can craft a new world into being through how we are with ourselves, and each other. At the end of the workshop, a community of practitioners was formed. This group has been meeting monthly since then.

cafeCommunity of Practitioners

In total, five Art of Hosting sessions have been held in 2013. Some were by request, like the one for Lawyers for Human Rights, some were for our own internal programmes, and one was an open enrollment one.

The community of Art of Hosting practitioners is going strong, meeting regularly and co-hosting events for each others projects. An example is the stakeholder gathering for the Book Café. This event supported the stakeholders in shifting their space into becoming a Community Arts Centre.

Another example is co-hosting a stakeholder gathering for the Newlands Urban Renewal Project. Co-hosting a community clean-up campaign and more recently a dialogue between artists and aids activists on how to use the arts to create more awareness on AIDS.

Hopefully this is only the beginning of a network of community dialogues about what is possible, as we connect in community around what really matters to us.

Remembering… Conversation

Leave a comment

Talking-Listening

April was a month of deeply immersing ourselves into the Art of Hosting and Harvesting Meaningful Conversations. In several gatherings of good people, we reconnected with what it means to enter into the river of meaningful connection and conversation. And we realised that it is a Practice, that requires dedication and commitment.

It requires among presence; “Can I be truly here – in this conversation, with you? Can I listen to you from a deeper place?” Curiosity is helpful, and noticing when I am projectig my ideas unto you; noticing when I am judging. For some of us the listening part may be easier. How then with her opposite, but equally important part: Can I show up and be myself? Not who I think you want me to be? In Zimbabwe, through culture and politics we have become so good as showing up how we think the other would prefer us to be. We self-censor exquisitely.

Life can be very boring with so many self-censored people. And it was a breath of fresh air to spend days together in conversations about what really mattered to us. All of us. Community workers, activists, artists, professionals. Where it was okay to show our heart, to be intimate, to be honest. It was deeply nourishing and invigorating.

One of our simplest and most profound insights was that to show up fully and authentically for other people in our conversations is in fact a radical act.

If we were all to commit to this deeply personal, but also awake and courageous practice, in this country – in this world – that alone could probably shift the political impasse that we are living through.

An inquiry on the Kufunda rocks into how to find the balance between chaos and order, without resorting to control.

An inquiry on the Kufunda rocks into how to find the balance between chaos and order, without resorting to control.


Leave a comment

How We Gather

kufunda AOPL 2013 028I am in the middle of what seems like a new learning. A deepening of what I have already known, to the extent that it feels like an entirely new discovery.

This is my re-discovery: How we gather affects our outcomes. How well prepared. How clear on intention. How open or closed. How speedy or slow. How connected or disconnected. How attached to outcomes, or open to what will emerge. Joy, contentment, tiredness, irritation, overwhelm. Either of these, or combinations thereof, will follow depending on how we come together.

It is utterly astounding to me to realise just how deeply true this is. How much is affected by the attention and care we place on the act of coming together, preparing a meeting, opening, holding, closing. In our eagerness for results, and in the busy world we live in, it seems that these are often seen as frills. We don’t have time to fully tend to the preparation, or to the full life of a process – and yet without it, we loose so much of what could be possible.

I am learning in particular that as we learn to gather from a place of open-heartedness, perhaps even Love, we not only become wiser in our deepened connection, we also physiologically somehow become able to revitalise and energise ourselves and each other.

For me – it has thus become an imperative, that I do everything I can to help shape each encounter, and each gathering, to foster such a connection. I feel clumsy in my attempt at describing this, but it feels that what I am learning and re-learning is what it takes, quite literally, to shift the consciousness of an encounter, a meeting, a process…

********

At Kufunda Learning Village we had fallen into the rut of our weekly meetings having become very task oriented. They were the least inspired place of our village (mostly), and several issues were being discussed with only a few voices repeating themselves. There was little collective wisdom at play, and oftentimes we left our weekly Village Circle feeling drained and tired, although we might have managed to tick off many items on our to-do list.

One day – after one too many such meetings – I decided, no more. I could not sit through one more lacklustre meeting. And so I experimented with a practice called inscaping that friends of mine from Organization Unbound have highlighted in their work. Inscaping, in brief, involves “drawing upon the inner experiences of members during the normal course of work to shape and guide the organisation.” Inner experiences include intuitions, ideas, curiosities, aspirations, fears, values, biographies, etc.

The specific exercise during this first meeting was about checking in with each other in smaller groups around our inner experience of our work, using this broader definition of inner. Before we did so, we each wrote down our assumptions about how the others in our group were experiencing their work. By the end of this simple check-in, the atmosphere in the room had palpably shifted. I think primarily the act of bringing a wider sense of our work experience into our dialogue was the main cause. But also taking time to consider how we thought our work mate was doing was part of a more full opening up to other.

I found myself happily surprised at the sharing of the two of my colleagues that I was connecting with. During the every day humdrum, we seldom take the time, I realised, to share from a more emotive, intuitive, reflective place around our work. We took the exercise one step further, and so as we came back together as a whole group, we passed a talking piece and shared something personal about ourselves that we hadn’t shared at work before. People I have worked with for ten years, became more nuanced to me, and I felt my heart open as people shared beautiful, sometimes challenging, stories about what was going on in their life right now. (See the bottom of this post for a detailed description of both exercises)

Then we spent about 15 minutes going through our typical to-do list. Not only did we manage to complete it much faster than normal, the quality of our thinking together was also palpably heightened. There was something in our field that enabled us to cut through things more cleanly and clearly. At the end we all remarked on how energising and in fact deeply nourishing this meeting had been. Almost all of us had come in tired and left feeling invigorated. Inspired even. And with a revitalised connection.

As I look back on it now, I think what this did, and what subsequent encounters have done, is activate a wider intelligence and a wider resource, as this fuller, deeper part of us was allowed into the meeting. Furthermore, the conversation was activating a more intimate connection between us, which – I think – allowed for information to flow more easily and for thinking to become more coherent, even as differences were raised. It’s almost like there was a stronger field built between us allowing for this flow of ideas and energy to occur. I left that afternoon feeling excited at the realisation that not only do we have access to this collective intelligence, if we tend to the field from which it rises, but also to collective energy.

Over the past two weeks I have had several more such experiences. Our Village Council (the Kufunda Leadership Circle), which does good and important but oftentimes tiring work, began its last meeting with a deeper check in. And then before getting down to business, we spent time reflecting on the purpose of our group and the extent to which we felt we were achieving it. By the end, we had identified some important systemic challenges in how we had been working together. We slowed way down to be in this more quiet reflection – and ended up spending most of the meeting on this. The last 15-20 minutes were spent on critical issues once more – and again they moved clearly and cleanly, and again we were rejuvenated by our time together.

I think this way of connecting is common to the Art of Hosting work, and so in some ways it has been a part of our village for years. What I am realising is how easy it is to speed up, even when we use our practices – circle, talking pieces, powerful questions, etc. As we return to the artistry of thinking together, I am recognising more nuances and subtleties in what it means and takes to bring the deeper intelligence that is always present to the fore.

INSCAPING EXERCISES

The exercises that we tried are described in more detail below. They are part of a 1-hour self-guided session on inscaping that is designed for 2 or more people who work in the same organization or network to do together. If you’d like to try out the entire session, contact Tana at tana@organizationunbound.org.

EXERCISE #1

1) Get into pairs.

2) On a piece of paper, take 5 minutes to silently jot down some notes on how you are experiencing your work right now: Excitements, frustrations, hopes, curiosities, intuitions, preoccupations, etc.

3) Now on the same paper take 2 minutes to silently jot down some notes on how you think the person you paired up with might have answered this question. Just make your best guess.

4) Take a few minutes to share what you wrote with each other.

5) Then bring the whole group back together for a 5 minute debrief:

Did anything surprise you?
To what degree were you previously aware of each other’s experiences?
What emerged from asking these more experientially-based questions?

EXERCISE #2

1) There are many ways to share more of yourself at work beyond your work role or professional persona. Take a few minutes to reflect silently and jot down some notes on ONE of the following questions. Each person may choose whichever question he/she likes. (If there are more than 5 people split into 2 groups)

Is there something that is going on in your outside life that is particularly influencing your work right now (positively or negatively)
Is there anything about yourself that you would like to share that you don’t normally share at work? (think deep and broad, like values that you hold dear or something in life you feel grateful for)

2) Now go around the circle and hear from everyone.


1 Comment

Appreciative Feedback Triads

By Warren Nilsson from Organization Unbound

 

The most catalytic organizational practice I’ve encountered lately is humblingly simple.

It involves nothing more than pausing in the middle of a meeting or discussion and going around the room to hear from each person how they are actually experiencing the issue at hand – right now, in the moment. It seems like an obvious thing to do, but in my own work in organizations it has been rare enough.

I like to think of this practice as ‘sounding’. Boats take soundings, whether by lead line or echo, to discover the depth and contour of what lies below the water’s surface. The intention of ‘sounding’ as an organizational practice is similar: to obtain a quick reading of the emotions, intuitions, ideas, confusions, and curiosities that lie below the surface of a given conversation.

Recently Kufunda Learning Village was trying to put together a new finance team. In the organizing meeting, there was clear agreement on the need for such a team and on the basic functions the team would perform, but when the time came for people to volunteer, no one responded.

It would have been easy for everyone to react to this standstill by projecting all sorts of negative constructions onto the group. “People don’t care enough to do this.” “There is a lack of leadership here.” “Lots of talk, no action.” Etc. . . Instead, we realized that we didn’t actually know why people weren’t volunteering, so we simply went around the room to each person in turn and asked everyone to say something about how they were feeling.

The whole process took ten minutes and it transformed the conversation. It turned out that there were all sorts of motivations and emotions at work. Some people felt they were currently overcommitted but could see themselves volunteering in the future. Some were considering serving now, but hadn’t made up their minds and needed affirmation from the group that they would actually be welcome on the team. Some were really interested, but wondered if they had enough experience; they wanted permission to join the team as learners not as experts. Still others didn’t want to serve formally, but wanted to support the team and hoped to attend meetings. As we heard from everyone, frustrations lessened and courage and compassion increased. In the end a number of people volunteered. The resulting team, which included several people who had not taken on broad leadership roles before, has turned out to be very dexterous and effective, and team members’ strengths complement each other extraordinarily well.

Sounding is important because in general people are very poor at reading and understanding each other’s inner lives. Most of us might think we are among the exceptions – that our powers of psychological insight are remarkably keen – but I think this is a grand delusion. We are experts not at comprehending each other but at projecting our own perspectives, desires, and insecurities out onto the world. We are gifted and unapologetic fantasists, and we have three choices. We can continue deceiving ourselves that we understand perfectly what other people are experiencing. We can work very hard for a very long time to train ourselves to become more realistically empathetic. Or we can simply ask.

Here are the rules of sounding as best I can figure them out so far:

  • Focus on a specific work issue or question. (Sounding is different from general check-ins or check-outs, both of which can be very helpful.)
  • Go systematically around the room and ask everyone to speak. (Don’t just open up the floor.)
  • Do it in the middle of a conversation. (Sounding is most useful in the heat of the moment, which is also when we are most likely to forget to do it. A good time for sounding is when things are particularly difficult/stuck/heavy or when they are suspiciously easy and convergent.)
  • Share feelings, intuitions, struggles, half-formed ideas, etc., not just opinions. (Sounding is not about restating or defending your position. It is about expressing how you are experiencing something.)

These are just rules-in-progress for me. Perhaps they don’t hold for all situations. Perhaps they can be adapted. But as I try to put them into practice, the results always seem to be helpful.

Sounding is a specific example of the general practice of “inscaping,” surfacing the inner experiences of organization members and using those experiences to shape and guide the organization’s work. The more I observe and experiment with inscaping practices, the more I am convinced they the hold the key to releasing common organizational blocks and to transforming organizations into vital and creative expressions of their deepest aspirations.


Leave a comment

Oneness

By Warren Nilsson from Organization Unbound

I’m seeing it again. The tilt toward everything.

Most people say it is impossible. That community is always closed. That we only know where we belong when we know whom and what we have barred. In a review of several books on community participation, Malcolm Payne argues that community identity is necessarily formed through a definition of inclusion and exclusion, of who belongs and who does not. Social Identity Theory agrees with him. It tells us that as soon as humans are placed into groups of any kind (even random groups in a lab), they immediately begin to exaggerate their differences with other groups and to compare those other groups unfavorably with their own.

I imagine this description is probably a fair one of most human experience. But is it an ironclad sociological law or is it simply the history of who we have been so far?

In my years of studying and working with Santropol Roulant in Montreal, the most profound thing I observed was that the organization quietly acted as if it were for everyone, as if everyone in the world somehow belonged, even people who had never heard of the place.

This unbounded acceptance wasn’t true in form, of course. There was an explicit definition of membership (i.e., who could vote at the annual general meeting), though that definition was broad and gentle. And the organization didn’t have an unlimited number of staff or client or volunteer slots. But I always sensed that there was a deeper kind of intention at work. Anyone who walked in the door had a place there, if only for a moment. There was no questioning of anyone’s fundamental connection to the organization, their right to be there, to take part. (This seemed to me to be true even in the rare event that someone was asked to leave. Something like, “You still belong here. You just need to belong from farther away.”) The underlying identity of the organization was radically whole.

I think this is one of the reasons that people often told me they didn’t feel sharp divisions and cliques at the Roulant. New arrivals told me this. Staff who had been there for years told me this. People always sounded slightly surprised when they said it. When the fundamental pulse that defines who we are includes, literally, everyone, then smaller group identities, though they may exist, seem to lose their weight.

Now here at Kufunda Village in Zimbabwe, I see a similar intention. In a previous post, Tana wrote about how welcoming it is here. That welcome appears to come from the superficially absurd belief that everyone everywhere is somehow a Kufundee.

The belief is imperfect. Holding the intention can be difficult, especially in the face of economic instability and hardship. People here can struggle with their own sense of belonging in a daily, lived way. But no one is excluded by definition. What it means to be a Kufundee does not fundamentally rest on what it means not to be a Kufundee.

Such a stance might seem impractical, but in the few (the very few) places I have seen it at work, it strikes me as anything but. When we lean, however falteringly, toward oneness, our normal organizational divisions (the ones we think of as “internal”) dampen. Our sense of expectancy (Who might walk in the door today?) grows. We become more creative. We become braver. We make room for the parts of ourselves that we normally exclude from the work we do. And strangely, by throwing our doors permanently open, we may become safer, due to the webs of care, support, and attention we create.

I think we also become more deeply in touch with what the true purpose of our organizations really is. On the surface, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) in British Columbia is a narrowly defined organization with a sliver of a constituency: adults with developmental disabilities. But PLAN is one of the wisest organizations I know at recognizing the universal call inside of its particular mission. Founded by parents, PLAN began its life with a rights-based, advocacy approach to its work. But the founders soon began asking themselves deeper questions: What is it we really want to create for our children? What is a good life?

These questions not only energized PLAN. They also caused it to recognize that the root of what they were seeking belonged to everyone. A good life for someone with a developmental disability is no different from a good life for anyone else. We all seek the things PLAN began to focus on: relationships, security, home, contribution. Thus, even though PLAN’s direct work continues to be focused on people with developmental disabilities, the organization has become very attuned to the core yearnings of everyone who crosses its path. It is a rich place not just for “the people at the center,” but for staff, board members, funders, interested politicians, and visitors. PLAN’s understanding of its own universal nature eventually became so embedded that some of the founders started an offshoot project, Philia, which focuses on ways of developing meaningful citizenship for anyone who is marginalized (and I imagine that, in the end, we are all marginalized in one way or another).

PLAN’s history shows us two roads for any identity-based organization to go down. The first involves sharply defending what makes us different. The second asks us to go far enough into the identity in question that we can find the essential human yearnings underneath.

PLAN’s history shows us two roads for any identity-based organization to go down. The first involves sharply defending what makes us different. The second asks us to go far enough into the identity in question that we can find the essential human yearnings underneath. The first approach is shallow, and it fractures the world. It causes us to continually focus on the dispiriting question: “Who is this work not for?” The second is deep and it connects us all. It answers that dispiriting question with an uplifting commitment: “There is no one this work is not for.”

All social purpose organizations seek the same essential things for the people they work with: health, respect, participation, growth, freedom, creativity, connection, meaning. Working from this common understanding – knowing that everyone belongs to the work we do – does do not diminish the honor and pride we can take in the different social categories and cultural traditions of our experience. It increases our reverence for and delight in them, knowing that they are the many-colored and brilliant manifestations of the one human heart.

I am writing this outdoors during a rapid dusk. I have carried our little wicker couch out into the clearing in front of the cottage. The first rain in six months is coming soon, maybe tonight. The light is heavy in the sky. It flexes and shifts like a tendon.

It is a strange light to me. It seems different than the light I have seen at home. It cuts the atmosphere at a new angle. It refracts through the red Zimbabwean dust. Still, I think it is the same light. I think I will begin to recognize it if I can sit here long enough.


Leave a comment

That’s How The Light Gets In

by Tana and Warren from <a title=”Organization Unbound” href=”http://www.organizationunbound.org&#8221; target=”_blank”>Organization Unbound</a>

One of the things we’ve gotten used to in meetings at Kufunda is ants

Also millipedes. Also sitting on rocks. Dogs. Five-year olds. The occasional bat. Weird little crabbish things that dash about randomly in a panic. Straw. Wind. A careening traffic of odors – of bodies, blossoms, life.

Tana’s last post was about reclaiming our meetings so that they become more vibrant and meaningful. One of the ways this happens at Kufunda is by making sure that all the meetings have cracks in them. They are not sealed off from other people, nature, or the regular life of the village. One common meeting place is a circle of rocks just in front of the office. Here everything passes by or wanders in. Voices join voices – people talking about lunch preparation, shouts about who is catching the next ride into town or about why the internet isn’t working.

Another meeting place is called the <em>dare </em>(dah-ray). It is a beautiful round building, nestled in the boulders a little away from the main part of the village. You come to it after a surprising vaulted curve in the path. The walls of the building only go halfway up. Everything from outside feels inside too. Trees lean in. The big stones piled on top of each other frame whatever it is we are working on.

At the recent Powers of Place gathering at Kufunda, Glenna Gerard, one of the conveners, described place as a co-facilitator, not just a location or backdrop, but something that thinks and creates with us. One of the ways that place seems to do this is by disturbing us. When place is very present, it jars us out of our normally narrow work focus. It reminds us that we are larger than these rooms. That whatever designs, problems, projects we’re working on are not small and abstract. They are dense, tissued. They breathe and sweat.The intelligence of a meeting is increased when the context is part of it. Here at Kufunda it is hard to forget that. But how do we connect to this contextual intelligence in more traditional organizational environments where meeting spaces can be far-removed fromnature and the hum of human interaction

(Blog title from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”)