“Enjoy serendipity, discovery, emergent social learning, into a never ending journey towards understanding complexity. Make the emergent learning and spiralling of discoveries a social purpose, a learning to learn process, a metacognition…” *
Being part of Creating the Future is always an adventure. As a living laboratory, our work is about pushing boundaries and exploring what is possible, all to answer these two questions:
1) What really creates positive social change?
2) How can social change efforts infuse those effective frameworks into all their work?
We know the answers to both those questions will be found in research, and in developing effective approaches that don’t yet exist. We know the answer to #2 will require teaching those new approaches, and engaging a new conversation about social change work – and life itself.
We also know the answer will require that changemakers see what those new approaches look like in action – to move beyond imagining what it might take, to actually see it in real life.
And so, Creating the Future’s board voted last month that from now on, every internal meeting at Creating the Future will be held via a live-stream with concurrent text chat, so anyone anywhere can not only watch, but also participate, right then in real time. Our board meetings, R&D team meetings, internal training sessions, planning meetings, branding meetings, fundraising / resource development meetings – EVERYTHING we gather to discuss – will be open and participatory, for all the world to see AND be part of.
Some people call this transparency, but for us, it’s more than that. “Transparent” suggests a barrier that is see-through – a glass door vs. a wooden door.
“Openly engaging and participatory,” on the other hand, means there is no door. “Open” is about inviting people in, and their feeling perfectly natural stepping in, because the line between “in” and “out” has vanished. “Open and engaged” is about not having to reach out to the community / focus outward on the community, because there is no “out” or “in,” there’s just “all of us together.”
What We Expected (And What We’re Learning So Far)
The board brainstormed what this open engagement could make possible – for our mission, for those who participate, for those who just watch. So far, in just the 2 weeks of our beta-testing, we have already blown those expectations out of the water. Here’s just a sampling of what we’re experiencing.
More People, Deeper Engagement
We’ve been surprised at who has been “in the room” with us – sometimes folks we didn’t know cared, other times people we’ve never even met. Yet there they are, participating as a natural part of the meeting. Without opening up our internal meetings, we never would have a) known these people were interested, nor b) had them get so involved so quickly.
Example: Kim Tso not only watched the meetings, but used these sessions to practice her new skill of graphic note-taking, sharing her notes after the sessions. She has since offered to have that note-taking be one of the actual Google-hangout screens, to share those notes in real time during the meetings. NONE of this would have happened if we’d met on our own behind closed doors.
Co-creation and Shared Learning
In all these meetings so far, participation has created a richer and more layered result than if it were just the few people who might normally be in a closed-door branding or resource development meeting. Questions have prodded us to clarify our thinking and explore different possibilities. Ideas have been shared. The soup has become much richer by everyone bringing what they have to the pot.
People who are watching are learning not just how to be more open, but the content itself of whatever we are working on.
A consultant told us, “I never get to see how other consultants do their work with actual clients. I’m now thinking about new ways to work with my own clients.”
A social entrepreneur watching our branding session with Zach Braiker told us, “His questions about language immediately made me think about the language at my own web site.”
And university professors are already planning to make our board meetings assigned viewing in their classes.
All that benefit, while we do the same work we were going to do anyway.
Proprietary (Mine) vs. Shared (Ours)
If the social change arena is serious about knocking down silos, that demolition must start with each of us, as individuals and as orgs. However one of the preconditions for each of us to act in a way that is more interconnected than independent is that we need examples of what that might look like in practice.
The need for those examples becomes even more clear when we consider that virtually all the examples we currently see in our day-to-day lives focus on individuals and organizations building strong independent efforts, vs. the “us” focus of community working together.
Even in these first 2 weeks of beta testing, we know that we are already serving as an example, so that people can see and feel what it would be like to open up, to knock down the “me” walls and to become the “we” of community.
As we continue this grand experiment into a new way of “being the behaviors we want to see in the world,” we hope you’ll check in to see what we’re up to. Join one of our meetings – watch and listen, or maybe even participate (You can subscribe to be notified of upcoming meetings here). Let us know…
- What are you noticing, realizing, observing?
- What is standing out for you?
- What are you learning?
- And how we can do this better, so that the result is more learning for you – whatever it is you are learning?
Being a living laboratory means every action is an opportunity to learn (which also means there is never failure, there is just learning!). Thanks for being part of the adventure with us!
* Many thanks to Giorgio Bertini for these words of encouragement, as he shared his wishes for Creating the Future’s journey into open engagement.