Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How one group of war-affected Ugandans is co-creating the future they want

Evolutionize It founder, Christina Jordan, spoke at TedXChiangMai in Sept 2014 about a war-affected Ugandan community that is working together to co-create the future they want.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nurturing progress in marginalized communities

Sometime several years ago, after decades of working in diverse international development contexts, it finally dawned on me that everyone - even the poorest on the planet - must take responsibility for their own progress in life in order for progress to occur.

Don't get me wrong - this is not about assigning blame. Yes, there are often terrible and complex circumstances beyond any individual's control which can mitigate the ability of people to make things happen in their lives. There are certainly things that governments and organizations can and should do to improve those circumstances. In the end, however, it is people themselves who choose to seize opportunities and pull themselves ahead. If they don't choose to, then progress doesn't happen in spite of the best laid development plans.

A key to development, then, lies not just in nurturing opportunities for change to occur, but in encouraging people to act in the interest of their own progress.  In communities of very poor or marginalized people, creating opportunities is never quite enough. People need to feel and believe in their own possibility before they can make sense out of opportunities, and that's a process that can take a little time.

Just this morning I was talking with a friend about a community of Burmese refugees who live at a trash dump in Mae Sot (Thailand). I have been visiting them regularly over the past few months, which has led to the Piglets for Progress campaign (launching at startsomegood later this month). My friend - who has also visited the dump - wondered aloud whether the community actually wants to take responsibility for their own development. While I can't answer for them, of course, what I do know is that people living at the dump have spent the past 10-15 years feeling completely powerless and afraid of being chased away by Thai authorities.

In that kind of restrictive circumstance - with a long living memory of things often going very wrong - taking responsibility for one's own progress does not just come naturally. The fear of what might go wrong for undocumented immigrants is very valid, and serves as a powerfully discouraging force to try anything that might shake up the (intolerable) status quo.

To get beyond that, the people who find themselves in some of the worst human conditions that our planet has to offer need to feel and experience the potential of progress in baby steps in order to begin to believe in their own range of possibility.  For someone who intends to really help, that starts with asking - not telling them - what they can do, and listening for positivity that can be encouraged. Taking the time to listen and believe in people's truth about their own situation and potential is one of the simplest, yet most powerful tools that any development professional has to work with. If we want people to take responsibility for their own progress, we must first help them believe that they can.

Frankly, I never gave much thought to piglets, in a general sense. I will, however, make an impassioned and creative plea for them on the trash dump community's behalf at pigletsforprogress.org. Of course I hope - like they do - that the community will experience improved livelihoods and that the number of children going to school will increase. What I hope for the most, however, is that the piglet project will leave them with the living memory of a time when they identified something they thought they could do to take responsibility for their own progress, and experienced making it happen.

I'm betting that once they have a taste of possibility, they'll be hungry for more.... and maybe less afraid to pursue it.

Please support the Piglets for Progress campaign today at Startsomegood.com/pigletsforprogress

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Accelerating collective #socent impact? @ci2iglobal is born in the afterglow of #we_b

Below is a lyrical personal story of what recently happened when I invited some worldshaping women friends to Brussels in January 2012, to co-host an experimental co-creation lab for accelerating global social impact and innovation.

I compiled these images and wrote this story (without twitter handles or links) for a Pecha Kucha evening in Brussels on 25 January, which means I had only 20 seconds to speak about each image - that's  6 min 40 sec total to tell the whole story of what was an extremely transformative experience. It didn't go perfectly, but all in all, a great learning by doing experience I can highly recommend for sharpening your changemaker presentation and storytelling skills.

I would also share that collaging and then turning the story lyrical in the days following these events were both very intense, even catalytic ways, to distill and harvest what really happened for me. I have mindfully told this from a very personal perspective, because I can't say at all that the deep shift which happened for me is representative of what everyone at the #we_b event experienced.

I do know that the whole @ci2iglobal group, however, continues to be deeply moved by what we experienced together with the amazing #we_b participants, and in our debrief and planning session after the event (not to mention dancing together until 4 in the morning in between those!).

Enjoy the story ~ I'd love comments on how it makes you feel.

(You can click on each image to see a larger version, if you need to.)


This is a story about a mosaic 

of social entrepreneurs, changemakers and worldshapers. 
In my belief system, they are the living angels 
in which the hope of our planet currently lies. 

It’s a her-story.
that’s becoming 
a history of WE-stories.

It’s a story about accelerating the work of “changemakers” around the world.
And since I am one of them, it’s also my story. 

I first fell in love with the simple word “WE”
when I was using it to catalyze 
Webbed Empowerment 
in an East African warzone.

I'd been amazed when 
an organization “labelled” me 
a “leading changemaker” 
because of essentially personal passions 
I was pursuing.

But I became aware in those days 
that there were other people like me, 
who were driven to serve the world 
by something different inside. 

My passion for WE 
moved with later me to Brussels, 
where I’ve explored & found 
work for myself in the emerging 
global changemaker scene.

There’s lots of us now! 

At the start of this year (2012), I invited five friends 
- fellow women changemakers -
to gather from 3 continents at my home.

Each in unique ways they are my angels, and
We see eye to eye on many things.

our plan was to have a conversation
and to host a conversation 

about accelerating collective 
global changemaker impact and innovation. 

We invited a few people we knew
to join us for an experiment in Brussels. 
that we called in the invitation "#we_b."

We also committed ourselves 
to moving a conversation forward
around the world in the next 2 years. 

Worldchanging folks heard the call 
and gathered with us for this first ever WE_x co-creation lab. 

The inspiring space filled with awe inspiring people 

Their uniquely powerful energies 
humbled us 

as we bumbled through 
our group’s first time working together as a team

Round 1 of group introductions confirmed 
it would be a very exciting day

We were 20 changemakers
from 9 countries
with work on 5 continents

and unlimited passion in the room

into this pool of empowered people 
we unleashed systems thinking content
and co-creative processes
and personal reflection.

With ease the group sparked and taught each other
about how the changemaker space is emerging today, 
and explored what that could mean for each of us.

For 12 hours we conversed, we played, we ate, and made plans.
It was exhausting and exhilerating at the same time.

I learned so much. 

One framework that cut naturally across
many of our conversations was
the @Thrivable action spectrum, 
proposed by Jean who was there to share from Chicago 

Seeing our actions as changemakers 
through the lens of 

what we can control
what we can guide
and what we can nurture

was so grounding.

a collective sigh of relief
seemed to ripple through
this group of often 
over-committed over-achievers 

as we got this.

Christelle from Paris
provoked us to think about impact 
in terms of social risk and opportunity 

How might we invite 
new conversations with old system institutions and corporations,  
that re-frame the story of why social inclusion matters? 

What if 
creating social impact 
was valued in terms of 
reducing social risk? 

Bonnie from Chicago and Carolina from Buenos Aires
led discussions about scaling impact which left us wondering:

Must we all scale our impact?

Or can we find ways to work together 
to achieve the impacts we seek at scale? 

There is only so much each of us can do, 
to control, guide, & nurture 
the world’s current transformation.

But collectively

We are a new landscape 
that’s daring to emerge

and through modeling with clay we learned:

We each define the impact we seek to create in this lifetime,

We each bring our own dynamic to the landscape,

and We each determine the direction we face 
as we keep moving forward to serve 

Our group included changemakers 
at every stage of the European talent pipeline. 
we were students and start-ups,

consultants and thought leaders and 
directors from globally operating organizations

We’re still developing the basic language 
to talk about what we do,
and why we do what we do. 

Our simplest shared truth is that 
we exist as a real community of human beings 

who feel called to live our lives in service to the earth’s 
transformation today. 

It might sound to some of you
like our heads are in the clouds.

But as an angel who joined us reminded me, 
each of us sees something different in the clouds. 

and learning from what we all see
is the essence of the magic 
that tapping into our collective wisdom offers. 

The perspective we gain when we gather 
helps all of us to see how to reach higher

another nugget from her, and this frilly doodle 
that floated in from one of the many flipcharts
have given me a new appreciation for ginger lately

Did you know that ginger is a rhizome? 

I’m told it’s a unique biological concept, 
that needs no beginning or end to grow

the nodes grow where they are called to grow 
without any perceptible effort

like the conversation that #we_b became

So people left us inspired, 
some embarked on new paths of commitment and collaboration

The conversation moved online

with #we_b angels like @ladyniasan and others
organizing themselves to connect and 
to share all their many thoughts. 

But although this first #we_x lab was done
we knew, 
the real harvest was yet to come.

In the afterglow 
a warmth of women’s wisdom infused my Brussels home,
where we debriefed and distilled, 
seeking meaning in it all
for another 12 hours.

With a renewed sense of common purpose, 
but still without clarity on what we’d actually done, 
we pondered ci2i logo options and 
discussed and discussed and 
asked ourselves, 

again and again

Where does the #we_b conversation lead us? 

For me personally, clarity came
once everyone else had finally gone.

In the house all empty and reflective 
The silence started rumbling 

as an organized unjumbling
of the many thoughts in my head

began to crystalize 
and spill itself 
onto the screen. 

It was our ci2i group’s mosaic 
of content and tools and process and future plans. 
It that thing that drives me on this path.

Forming a clear picture
where there hadn’t been one before

of an approach - our collective approach - 
to nurturing the changemaker’s call 
to learn and become
who we are and what we can do
in this emerging new landscape 
we're co-creating. 

Working together to guide this discovery
in ourselves and in others, 
is a natural way forward 
my angels see eye to eye on 

and I love it 
since there is nothing else we can control. 

For each changemaker carries our own cross for change
and follows our own integrated personal and professional development path,
that leads us toward the kind of impact on this transformation that 
we are each here to make.

And every day, 
more and more brilliant and 
driven people 
are picking their up their own crosses for change
and pursuing journeys in service to the earth's renewal, 
toward humanity's higher good. 

Look around and see us everywhere, 
gathering in places like Brussels every day.

Are you one of us?

I’m glad they like ginger in Thailand,
since Chiang Mai is the next step in my own unique journey

Now preparing for new projects in the orient 
I feel oriented. 

#we_b was a powerful affirmation for me
of the the thriving existence of a global tribe 
to which I know I belong.

I can only wonder 
at what we’ll see 
at #we_c !!

===== end =======

Special gratitudes to @appliedwisdom, @bonniekoenig, @christellevh @carolinatocalli @nurturegirl and the #we_b participants for all the amazing inspiration.

Thanks to you as well for reading and commenting if you feel so inspired. Feel free to share.

Follow us collectively at @c2iglobal

I'm at @ChristinasWorld