What do President Obama, the Rolling Stones and NewScoop YYC have in common?
They all went to Cuba for Spring Break!

This past holiday I travelled to Cuba with some family and friends. After booking our trip we discovered that President Obama was visiting Havana and the Rolling Stones were performing a free outdoor concert on Good Friday. Both signs that Cuba is a country in transition.

Two generous English-speaking tour guides took our small group beyond the resort town of Veradero to Matanzas and Havana. Cuban history provides a bit of a core sample of world history over the last 400 years: colonialism, independence, American expansionism, socialism, communism and now perhaps the beginnings of some hybrid blend.

It was into this possibility of change that I engaged our tour guides, Maria and Paul, with generative conversations. The question was, if you were to imagine it was 10 years from now and Cuba has become all that you could ever hope or dream, what would your country be like?

And this is where it gets weird and we land in the middle of a talk show conversation about generative journalism that occurred last month. Is Generative Journalism the Hans Christian Anderson of journalism or Prophetic Imagination? Walter Brueggemann, a rock star Old Testament Theologian (imagine Mick Jagger meets Moses) describes the task of prophetic imagination as bringing to expression, your hopes and yearnings for a possible future that have been suppressed and denied.

Revolution Square, Cuba 2016

Revolution Square, Cuba 2016 (photo Jim Arthurs)

Maria ‘s statement was that she hoped that there would be freedom of information. As I was in the process of writing this story, the announcement was circulating that Google is working to bring high-speed Internet to Cuba?! What lovely serendipity!

The conversation with Paul occurred, interestingly enough in Revolution Square. As I was asking his best imaginings of a future Cuba, his eyes lit up, his smile got large and he gave me a kiss on the cheek. It seemed to be a significant gift for him to even begin to contemplate such a possibility. He expressed his enjoyment of the possibility the question created even before he considered an answer.

His response began with statements about what he didn’t want to lose – what was good: the connections between people, the solidarity, the way friends and neighbours look after each other and enjoy each other. He didn’t want to lose the community and connection they now enjoy for changes that might come from increased wealth.

He went on to speak about the need for more housing – because currently many generations are forced to live in one small house – often including estranged partners or feuding family members.

My family saw the Rolling Stones with 700,000 other Cubans and tourists, albeit from the outer edge. The high point for me was the moment when Paul stopped, was fully present and I watched as a new possibility was born in his imagination – the possibility of something new, something different, something better. I watched as the energy of that filled him. As my son, who was watching this dialogue, said ”SCORE!”

This experience left me with an expanded and renewed appreciation of generative conversations as they put their foot in the door jamb, wedging open access to a new reality which will not be shut out again and with excitement about the value and potential inherent in doing this work.

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