Sheila T. Isakson considers herself to be a lifelong learner and change facilitator. After graduating from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Sheila began her career as a biologist, which led her to understand how systems work. She retired from teaching in 2006 as an associate professor of business, which has allowed her to carefully choose her projects.
While teaching biology at several colleges, she returned to the university to study business. She was able to transfer an understanding about how biological systems work, to concepts about how businesses, as organizational systems, become vibrant and grow. She asked herself the question: Why do I continue to teach in colleges and universities when there is so much learning that needs to happen in local communities and in business organizations? In response to that question, Sheila founded a consulting practice that focused on developing organizational leaders to oversee appropriate change in businesses and not-for-profit organizations. One tactic that she used to grow her consulting practice was to regularly meet with other consultants to create a referral network. This networking led to an invitation to teach university business courses including organizational behavior, strategic planning and research methodology. The balance between consulting and teaching enable Sheila to read articles that provided current information that benefited both her clients and students.
Another opportunity related to her consulting practice arouse in 1989 when a consultant colleague invited Sheila to participate in Open Space and subsequently to learn how to facilitate Open Space meeting. Sheila brought Open Space to the university environment and facilitated several meetings using Open Space Technology. Sheila continues to believe that Open Space is a natural way for people to have more effective meetings. The earth itself is an Open Space and collaboration emerges with Open Space Technology (OST)!!!
More recently Sheila has brought her skills to the the Community Transformation Project lead by Dr. Bob Pavlik at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. She is also proudly become a Milwaukee Riverkeeper and will be monitoring a stretch of the Kininicknic River through October with her husband Bill.
Sheila is interested in exploring the following question when she attends the MRCSE workshop:
- If change and continuity co-exist, how can one make informed decisions that ensure appropriate futures? ( I prefer to think about multiple futures rather than singular)
- What are the distinctions (similarities and differences) that characterize ways that various age cohorts focus on and participate in collaboration processes?
- What are the issues and opportunities: How can a "collaborative" increase the opportunities for creating futures that are sustainable and regenerative?
Sheila sees our intergenerational collaborative as an important vehicle for life long learning:
If one assumes that one of the results from exchange of information between and among people is learning, an intergenerational collaborative can perform the role of inviting continuous, lifelong learning that advances common understanding about what is sustainable and what is to be appreciated in the moment.
In preparation for the 2010 Summer Conference Wise Elders and Story Tellers are sharing their sources of inspiration in what often seems like troubled times and their gifts they share freely to others in the pursuit of a sustainable future. Sheila shared the following...
During troubled times, I find a place where I can watch water flow….even memories of favorite streams work. This is really meditation. Perhaps the flowing water is symbolic of searching for bridges over “troubled waters.” Perhaps the waters speak to me….Perhaps it is just a “reality check” that requires taking a “time out” to sort through what is troubling me.
These are the gifts I would give freely to others...
- Head- I believe that ignorance underlies anger. I have spent much of my life learning to analyze various relationships within complex systems. I am able to visualize the “big picture” and then explore new ways of “being” and “doing.”
- Heart- The key is to name and own my feeling or feelings. Expressing feelings across a continuum, i.e., joy underlies bliss…….. anger underlies anger. Sometimes expression of feelings is verbal and sometimes it is kinesthetic.
- Hand- Process facilitation across a continuum: Large System Change using Open Space Technology to preparing soil for planting and growing flowers and vegetables followed by sharing “fresh” vegetables or cooking for family and friends.