Flying off in Search of Better Community Conversations

Lemlem Haile seated in a butterfly sculpture in Cincinnati

Lemlem Haile counted out her air miles, phoned the airline and booked herself a flight to Cincinnati, to participate in Peter Block’s A Small Group Intensive on July 30.(Getting there on Butterfly wings not being on option?)

The value of our coming together can be measured by whether or not we are able to have a conversation we have not had before. A conversation is an action.

In her personal and professional life, Lemlem is curious about how to support communities in having conversations that will enable them to become connected, proactive and resilient.  She had heard Peter at a Calgary Tamarack conference and recognized his work with the 6 Conversations as an empowering framework. The brief summary below is from the A Small Group website.

One: The Invitation Conversation  – What is the invitation we can make to support people to participate and own the relationships, tasks, and process that lead to success?

Two: The Possibility Conversation is one that focuses on what we want our future to be as opposed to problem solving the past.

Three: The Ownership Conversation begins with the question, “how have I contributed to creating the current reality?” Confusion, blame and waiting for someone else to change are a defence against ownership and personal power.

Four: The Dissent Conversation is allowing people the space to say “no”. If we cannot say “no” then our “yes” has no meaning.

Five: The Commitment Conversation is about individuals making promises to their peers about their contribution to the success of the whole organization? It is a promise for the sake of a larger purpose, not for the sake of personal return.

Six: The Gifts Conversation – What are the gifts and assets we bring to the enterprise? Rather than focus on our deficiencies and weaknesses, which will most likely not go away, focus on the gifts we bring and capitalize on those.

Walking the Talk:  The importance of Connection

Lemlem and I both laughed.  The question, Peter asked me when I phoned him for an interview about An Other Kingdom was, ‘Did I know Lemlem from Calgary?’  Apparently the first question he asked Lemlem was, ‘Did she know NewScoop and Sarah?’.  Certainly, as Peter goes about his work of being a mentor and a guide in community development he is enabling all of us to live more deeply into the possibility of our relationships.

Are these the kind of stories your organization has to share?
Newscoop

FullSizeRenderLemlem noticed during the workshop there were frequent opportunities to connect, through the processes of welcome and ending, through conversations in small and large groups and through music as people gathered after coffee breaks.   Peter believes the biggest crisis of our culture is that we are isolated and feel terribly alone.

Lemlem’s Three Takeaways from A Small Group 

  • The importance of recognizing gifts from other.  A consistent feature of Peter’s facilitation is always to leave space at the end of gathering for folk to say what gifts they have received from their conversation partners. It is important to acknowledge the goodness that has been given and received.
  • The discovery of using a different lens for seeing communities.  Rather than looking for what is wrong, where are the problems, what’s broken, instead ask what is abundant, what are the assets in the community, what are the gifts and talents people want to share.
  • Finally the importance of equal power positions in community conversations. There is no helping – no giving advice; these behaviours give one person more power that another. In functioning communities everyone is powerful.

Join Lemlem Haile, Derek Cook, NewScoop YYC and other friends and colleagues on   September 12 as  we engage with Peter Block, John McKnight and Walter Brueggemann around An Other Kingdom.

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