For everyone who couldn’t make it or who wants to re-listen, here is the link to the recording (as above!), and here are the slides. Please feel free to share them with folks you trust.
We really really appreciated people showing up and engaging with us. And it’s exciting that so many of you are interested in this topic - we had just over 440 people sign up to the session.
Coming up in this post:
A few things we want to make super clear:
What Happens Now?
Part of the purpose of the call was to reach out more widely to find people that what we are saying rings true for. We’re not asking you to agree with us, but we are interested in moving forward with those who do feel similarly to us.
We want to try and lay out clearly what we are suggesting/offering to those who are actively interested in what we’re talking about.
The question of “Leadership” came up on the call - people understand that word in very different ways, and there is a lot of complex stuff attached to it. Miki Kashtan talks about leadership as “caring for the whole” - a principle that we try to follow. We are entering this exploration as facilitators, mediators and trainers, trying to make the abilities and experience that we have to offer as useful as we can. We are therefore taking some kind of lead in 2 ways:
1) Laying out why co-creating a Movement Like We’ve Never Known is so important to us.
2) Creating spaces where we can guide and facilitate the processes that could bring about powerful collective leadership and collaboration in building this much deeper and wider kind of Movement
So, these are the 3 practical actions we are seeing right now. You might want to:
We could also hold a follow up call potentially, for people who are interested and want to engage more/ask questions/explore how to create a Movement Like We’ve Never Known. Please let us know in this form if you would want that and would try to come along.
Where This Came From - Acknowledging Our Sources, Inspirations & Influences, + How to Learn More:
All of Paul and Ama’s perspectives are deeply rooted in and massively woven from the work of others. We also acknowledge that lots of what we are saying has almost certainly be known, said and practiced by others around the world before us that we sadly do not know of and have not been able to learn from directly.
We want to acknowledge the many influences and inspirations that we have drawn from directly, or adapted ideas from, much more fully than we made space for on the call. We feel a particular importance of doing so when these influences and inspirations come from more intensely oppressed and marginalised people and communities. In no particular order…
Kurdish Freedom Movement
An incredibly powerful Movement in the world right now that is bringing to life and putting into practice anarchist ideas of radical democracy, feminism and ecology, exploring how to dismantle patriarchy in ourselves, our communities and society. It is a living reality for millions of people right now, and is constantly inspiring to us. Dilar dirik's ‘Kurdish Women's Movement: History, Theory, and Practice’ is a good place to start. And look out for ‘Worth Fighting For: Bringing the Rojava Revolution Home’ by Jenni Keasden and Natalia Szarek, forthcoming from Active Distribution.
The Civil Rights Movement
We try to ongoingly learn from this movement and the thousands and thousands of people who made it, with courage, wisdom and Love beyond words. Two people who we have quoted directly, and who inspire and inform us deeply, are Bernice Johnson Reagon and Martin Luther King Jr.
Fred Hampton & The Black Panther Party
We are very inspired by what we know of Fred Hampton’s leadership and vision in working for liberation, empowerment and systemic transformation for Black communities in the USA, and we particularly want to learn from the work to build coalitions and collaboration across differences that lead to the Rainbow Coalition.
These are a few among the many movements that we find inspiration, hope and learning. Others include: Indian Farmers Strike, Zapatistas, The Uprising of which Boudica was a leader (around the year 60 A.D.), the MST in Brazil, the Indian Independence Movement, and so many more in the past, present and future who strive for a World that works for all.
Restorative Circles & Dialogical Systems - these areas of work are a huge and central inspiration and influence on our thinking and work in general, and those influences were woven through many of the different things we spoke about on the call. We have learned about them from Dominic Barter, who has been at the centre of the development of this work around conflict, restorative justice and the collaborative development of social systems. As we understand it, these areas of work began in and grew from favela and other highly marginalised and oppressed communities in Brazil with whom Dominic collaborates. Some specific ideas we drew from this work include the idea of setting up “Fight Rooms” - intentional spaces for engaging with painful conflict - a concept originally named by students in the peripheries of São Paulo, and the focus on, way of understanding and way of developing social or organisational systems that we referred to as “Living Systems” that can create social conditions that support the ways we want to act together. Another fundamental principle that is deeply woven into our perspective that we heard from Dominic is that of conflict having the potential to join us together with more power to collaborate in transforming the conditions that brought us into conflict - this was the root of our understanding that conflict can organise or disorganise collective power, depending how we engage with it. Also things like shifting the question “can we make change happen (or not?)” to the question ‘what support, or collective power, do we need in order to bring about the change we want?’. The classroom metaphor Paul used as a way of making sense of how power is organised or disorganised, and the idea that we’re likely to inherit the implicit social systems from the dominant systems in our societies - including implicit punitive systems for handling conflict and justice - have come to us directly from Dominic. As we understand it, this work has been developed by people who experience oppression and violence much more intensely than we do. We really want to honour that development and the gifts it has brought us. You can find out more about Restorative Circles and Dialogical Systems and contact Dominic Barter, as well as offer support for the work if it’s been of value to you, here email@example.com
Convergent Facilitation, was developed by Miki Kashtan from the principles of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), and it’s a major influence on our work in loads of ways. One specific element that Ama drew from it was the way of gathering constructive principles that we can hear within concerns - the concerns people have about a movement potentially containing key signals of what people would want or need to trust in or take part in a movement. Miki’s formulation of 5 organisational systems is a major root of the 7 Living Systems approach (with the Dialogical Systems work) and her influence shows up directly in the definition of leadership above and her very strong focus on connecting with and being moved by Vision. Loads of other elements and principles of our work around collaboration, dialogue, conflict, power, etc. are drawn directly from her work. You can find out more about her work here and here
Sarah Peyton has formulated and works with an approach to what she calls “Unconscious Contracts” or “Sacred Vows” - the commitments we might make to always or never do something to avoid bringing suffering to ourselves or others. They are a kind of fixed, not fully conscious rule we have given ourselves, normally as a reaction to experiencing pain or trauma without enough support, doing our best to survive and be ok. Paul wondered whether a lot of us - especially with strong Left-Wing or Anarchist beliefs, have something like this in relation to being powerful - to stop us causing harm by being powerful, and to stop us getting harmed because we are powerful - and to stay away from hope or vision because it hurts too much to have our hopes dashed or live so far from the World we might dream of. Sarah has formulated some simple ways of making those
Marshall Rosenberg & Nonviolent Communication - NVC
A profoundly important root of the work of Dominic Barter, Miki Kashtan and Sarah Peyton, and of Paul and Ama, is Nonviolent Communication (NVC) which was developed by Marshall Rosenberg in partnership with many others including many from marginalised and oppressed communities, particularly in the USA. As an exploration of what supports collaboration, healing and transformation for people, relationships, groups and communities, it’s at the core of everything we do, including all of our facilitation and mediation work. One specific element of this work that we drew on was the understanding that needs or values that connect us are living within everything we do or want - this is at the core of the way we are making sense of concerns that come up around building a movement.
Donella Meadows has been a massive influence for us in her articulation of Leverage Points - Places to Intervene in a System and systems and how they move and change generally. We’re also inspired by what she said about the importance of vision.
And there are many other influences that we won’t list here.
A very large chunk of what we said was either brought together and/or applied to this context by Paul, or came directly from Paul thinking about this kind of stuff. Ama brought a few key elements of what we spoke about, and has been a constant team mate with Paul in exploring and believing in this, bringing her insight and passion to the development of it all. Paul has also been engaged in a deep, ongoing exploration of movement building with Zahra Dalilah & Natalia Szarek, and their wisdom and experience are also present here.
Phew, that’s the end. Here’s the link to the form again, hope to connect more soon.
All good wishes,
Paul and Ama
In 2020 we ran Living Systems for Thriving Groups - a live, 9 session online programme, designed to support a large number of groups, organisations and projects in working on developing their living systems - the 3 dimensional, continuously evolving and changing social systems that are at work in every group. Sometimes they're explicit (i.e. we've talked about them) and sometimes they're implicit (just doing things the way we're used to doing them).
Since then, we've had ambitions to bring to work to an even larger audience - to support more people in thinking about their systems, their ways of working together, and help them shape them in such a way that they work better for everyone.
Finally, we realised that dream :)
In our new, totally free(!!) on demand online course, you can tune in whenever suits you and work at your own pace. Listen to workshop recordings, read essays, and investigate further resources on the 7 systems in:
Living Systems for Thriving Groups
In many situations, responding to conflict arising in our groups can be tricky. As facilitators, we often have the possibility to greatly influence the course of those moments. What to do and how to do it can be a question on many a facilitator's minds. In fact, it's one we heard often during "Facilitating for Collaborative Groups".
Because conflict has so much potential for growth, learning and transformation, but also for pain, hurt and disconnection, we're wanting to go on an exploration together of how conflict lives in each of us and how we might respond to it as facilitators. In this 5 session course in May, we will explore amongst other things:
Facilitating Collaborative Groups is back. After a popular first round, we’re running this online series of drop in sessions on facilitating group meetings again.
What we’re sharing here and why
We’re sharing here an announcement made by one of our funders, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust about the origins of the Rowntree endowment and its roots in unspeakable suffering and oppression in the forms of slavery, colonialism and white supremacy.
We’re sharing this here…
The session is on: Monday, 28th of March 7 - 9pm BST
Meetings are at the heart of our groups and organisations. They are spaces where we discuss issues and get creative, where we can put our values into practice, build stronger connections with each other and make decisions that align with our shared purpose.
How to be a great meeting participant
You may not be the designated facilitator for a meeting, but everyone has a role to play in making sure the meeting is effective. If you would like to know how best to support the facilitator, and to support the group to move forward effectively, collaboratively and stay on purpose, then this session is for you. In the session we’ll explore what makes a great meeting participant and share some top tips for how to support the meeting facilitator.
Who is the session for?
This session is for people working in groups to create social, climate, ecological or economic change. It's for people who want to support their group to make great decisions, benefit from the wisdom of all their members, and have lasting impacts with the work they have chosen to do.
Cost: There is a sliding fee scale of £5 - £20 for the session. Please pay what you can, and if this cost is prohibitive please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to make the session as accessible as we can. If you have the means and would like to pay more, we welcome additional donations. If you’re coming on behalf of an organisation that has funding, please ask your organisation to pay for your participation, at the top end of the sliding scale.
Deadline for signing up: 7pm Sunday 27th March 2022
If you have any questions about the session, please contact us email@example.com
Where we’re coming from
Navigate has been working with groups for over 15 years. Many things have changed in those years, and some things have stayed the same. Again and again, we’ve encountered tension and conflict in groups, and oftentimes this conflict has roots at a systemic level. Unclear ways of making decisions, information that hasn’t been shared, people going above and beyond what they have time and energy for, in order to keep the group going - all resulting in frustration and hurt, as well as less effectiveness in achieving a group’s purpose.
For years, we’ve been supporting groups to develop their systems and ways of working together, using an approach that we call “Living Systems”. It’s hugely influenced by the work of Dominic Barter, and also Miki Kashtan, Donella Meadows, Frederic Laloux and others.
By “Living Systems” we mean more than just procedures or policies - it’s what is lived in the organisation, and so it’s ever changing. It’s the ongoing ways of handling things like making decisions, engaging with conflict, or organising support. These may be clearly agreed and spoken about, or just the way things happen.
Where we’re going
As we’ve tried to reach more groups with this work, we saw that some materials and resources would be useful - something people could refer to and that didn’t depend on us to be present for it.
And so we’ve begun: this guide to Living Systems is a first attempt at writing down our approach to working with systems. There will likely be further versions in the future. If you like, you can send us feedback on it at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve also begun working on an on-demand online course, based off the training we ran in autumn 2020 ‘Living Systems for Thriving Groups’. There will be videos, resources, reflection questions and templates to support you to work with your group on systems - all at your own pace. More on that in early 2022.
Share your systems with us
One thing we’d like your help with: something we often hear when doing this work is that examples would be really helpful - examples of systems that are up and running and functioning. If you - through work with us or independently - have a system that you’ve articulated in some way (be it written down, as a flowchart, as picture or another way) that you’d be up for us sharing with the world, please send it (preferably as a link) to: email@example.com