|Sheila Isakson's Reflections|
|Written by Website Adminstrator Adminstrator|
|Wednesday, 09 September 2009 21:25|
Submitted by Sheila T. Isakson
The Midwest Regional Collaborative for Sustainability Education is a newly emerging community of practice exploring holistic systems-based sustainability education practices, which are expressed both formally and informally. A diverse group of participants gathered at
I was one of the invited “wise elders” and, in this role, I was an active participant for three days prior to facilitating a full, one-day meeting using Open Space Technology. You are invited to visit my profile as a wise-elder and to visit the Open Space World Community to learn more about my work.
As a participant during the first three days, I observed the usual passive confusion characterized by complaining and griping about what was and what was not working. Because I knew that the transformative learning techniques that guided these days were setting the stage for Open Space, I knew that some fascinating possibilities were bubbling underneath the surface and were self-organizing already and would emerge in the Open Space on Thursday. As the days continued, another “wise elder” (Frank Montano) contributed stories, flute and guitar music and his wisdom from time-to-time. I realized that the flute music could really add to the quality of the Open Space that I was to facilitate on Thursday. Open Space is a place where self-organization based on deep listening and deep learning happens. Open Space Technology (OST) includes the tools that enable a powerful alignment of personal passion, prior experiences, like-minded colleagues, and sometimes even resources needed to collaborate and complete the work. When I stepped into the circle on Thursday morning and said: “Welcome to Open Space!,” I understood that this Open Space was going to be very special.
I briefly described how Open Space Technology was first introduced in 1985 by Harrison Owen and had been used around the world in more than 100 countries. The actual process that I introduced was a simple invitation to accept responsibility for having a conversation about something the participants believed was a worthy topic for discussion. I explained that we were not asking for lectures on the topic, only that the individual was willing to convene the conversation and afterwards, to post a written summary of the main points from the discussion. After describing the four principles and one law by which we would behave together, each individual was invited to write their name and topic on a piece of paper. Then each individual was asked to speak into the microphone and announce their name and the topic. After each announcement, the “topic convenor” was asked to grab a post-it-note from a poster on the "marketplace" section of the wall. I believe that I may have said at least ten times, “You are responsible for your own learning. If there is something you still need, please post a topic.” It was obvious when no more topics were going to be posted…Did this mean that there would be no more complaining and griping? We self-organized for the day and the conversations in open space began. As I visited various break-out spaces, it was clear that the conversations were vibrant and certainly relevant to the aim and purpose of this conference. Summaries of each session were posted on the bulletin board. (Read the 2009 proceedings.)
In preparation for the closing circle, I asked fellow wise elder, Frank Montano, to play either his flute or guitar. As the circle filled, it was clear that Frank’s music was a wonderful component of our “sustainability learning community.” When I believed that the circle was filled, I rang the bells and we began the process of closing this open space. Some of the stories that people shared were very moving, others were unable to speak and tears flowed from some. One important statement came from another wise elder, John Ikerd, who said: “Perhaps we are taking notice that this is what a sustainability learning community is like.” What a compliment to all of us! We closed the Open Space by first looking around the circle and acknowledging individuals who helped us learn and then turned to face the world we were about to re-enter. I invited everyone to take the inner peace that had been tapped out into the world and invite others into emerging open spaces.
When I reflect about this day, I remember how much chaos there was in the beginning of the conference. I believe that many individuals came from conflicts and frustrating situations. I believe that everyone who needed to heal, found what was needed. The organizers can be very satisfied that most of us do see the world differently, really care and are beginning to believe in each other as the way to support a sustainable global environment. I am honored to have been invited to participate and to give from my experiences in the role of wise elder. (You can also read the proceedings from the MRCSE Open Space here.)
|Last Updated on Monday, 10 May 2010 21:48|