convincement book

I have to admit to not really knowing much about the Quaker movement apart from the porridge and the numerous meeting rooms I have visited around the country.

I managed to pick up (in a charity shop in Whitby for £1) an interesting book called ‘ A great Convincement’ by Monica Ventress who chronicles the story of the Quakers in North East Yorkshire (a place I do know a lot about).

Apart from discovering that I was unknowingly an Anabaptist, I just love this description of the emergence of the Gurteen knowledge cafe (the thought that David Gurteen might be a time-lord and had gone back to the 1600s as an experiment did cross my mind):

An essential of the sectarian position was that the sermon should be followed by discussion: that worship was not a matter of passively hearing the Word preached by a learned minister, but in participation by the congregation after a gifted member had opened up a subject for discussion. As time went on the practice of interrupting the parson in his pulpit, became a common occurrence. Disrupting services had been made a secular offence by an Act of Parliament in Mary’s reign (1553-1558). The Quakers always claimed a legal right to speak after the sermon was over.

The book goes on to detail the numerous penalties and imprisonments of people who interrupted services, held or attended Quaker gatherings and is genuinely shocking that these practices were seen as so threatening at the time.

I was then reminded of a Quaker based method called the Clearness Committee’ and is described in Joanna Macy’s wonderful book “Coming back to life” which explains how to seek clarity in important decisions, especially around marriage.

After the focus person summarizes the issue, members of the committee (ideally five or six trusted individuals) assist her by asking questions rather than giving advice or problem solving. Honest, caring queries, arising out of prayerful silence, help the focus person see herself and her situation in a new light and unblock her inner wisdom and authority.

A more complete and detailed explanation of the method can be found here where they explain that:

Behind the Clearness Committee is a simple but crucial conviction: each of us has an inner teacher, a voice of truth, that offers the guidance and power we need to deal with our problems. But that inner voice is often garbled by various kinds of inward and outward interference.

I am really looking forward to giving this approach a try at my next problem solving workshop and/or community building masterclass.

Finally in looking to see what was on the internet about this method I came across this really interesting and very relevant slide pack on the use of dialogue by the Quakers on Slideshare by Thomas J Neuville in the U.S.

I am particularly interested to discover the origins of slide 12 and its relationship to cynefin and theory U.

When people are organised in groups, and their knowledge is sought, incorporated and built upon during planning and implementation, then they are more likely to sustain activities after project completion

…long term sustainability was only guaranteed when local institutions were strong…

…projects failed when there had been no focus on institutional development and local participation”

Jules Pretty as quoted from Agri-Culture – Reconnecting People, Land and Nature

We use stories to:

  • build maps of the world we experience so we can make decisions about how to act.

  • make decisions about what to believe in what we see and hear.

  • playfully simulate possible outcomes before we commit to a course of action.

  • condense experience into packages that re-expand in the minds of listeners.

Cynthia Kurtz – Working with Stories

Your warm but complex embrace

Here is a recent keynote by Dave Snowden giving a thorough overview and introduction to  cynefin and sensemaker, which is packed full of thought provoking insights.

Highly recommended and lasting just over an hour my three favourite quotes are:

(In a complex system) Manage the evolutionary potential of a moment in time and adjust as you go. Manage beneficial coherence within attractors within boundaries.

There is an opportunity between free market capitalism and state planning for locally contextualised initiatives that can emerge at significantly lower cost than either of the other mechanisms.

(In a complex system) measure Vector not Velocity; success is right direction not order; otherwise an unachievable end point is always going to fail.

I had not heard this ‘Vector not Velocity’ before but it reminded me of a story from Nick Owen’s book ‘The Salmon of Knowledge’ about the wise fool:

The wise fool takes the whole context into consideration and looks at every issue from every conceivable angle. Ask him, ‘Which is better, a fast horse or a slow one?’ He will say, it depends. ‘it depends whether you and your horse are going in the right direction

Save the World – A Community workers Masterclass

The RiPPLE Project

Building a community around the local support of COPD in Coventry

Over the years I have worked with many communities, enabling them to make sense of their different perspectives on today, the past and their shared futures, and in doing so, map their narrative landscape.

I have helped them experience their shared Ideality and the benefits they hope to achieve, map their resources and model their current system.

I have begun to catalyse creative and inventive ideas, plotted on cynefin to make sense of complexity and then assessed against their benefits.

I have facilitated problem solving, peer reviewed feedback and storyboarding of these ideas to nurture them into viable, inspiring experiments and projects that gain maximum buy-in.

I have shown them how to use a Kanban to open up their action planning and how to avoid damaging target setting but instead measure the impact of their actions so that they can get “less stories like that and more stories like this”.

During the course of this I have studied Theory U, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), Participatory Narrative Inquiry (PNI), Cognitive Edge, TRIZ and the work of Steve Denning, Joanna Macey and the Tales2Sustain storyworkers to name just a few of the giants upon whose shoulders we must stand.

I now feel the time is right to give back and share this joined-up, ‘best of the best’, portfolio of knowledge and understanding in the hope that it can be focussed on building local communities resilient, adaptable and sustainable in the face of Austerity, cut backs and 360 degree threats to the environment.

I have therefore set up, as an experiment, the first of what I hope will be many, ‘Change the World, one community at a time’ masterclasses on eventbrite.

This first event will be held in central Peterborough on 15th September. Early bird tickets are available until 15th of August for only £89 for a full day.

If you are interested, and I hope you are, please sign up as soon as possible, and come and join us to share what you know, gain what you need to know and perhaps even learn some things you didn’t even know you needed to know.