What Others Say

avatarWe invited Bob to help us examine our agency’s impact on the communities we serve. He did more than that. He helped us see that the real power of our work lies in connecting deeply with people as much as in connecting water lines, roads or services. Bob helped us remember how to listen to and learn from each other, accessing the knowledge we already have to create more healthy and resilient communities. From this initial work we’re exploring new roles as leaders of an organization committed to restoring relationships with tribal communities.

I had known of Bob’s work and reputation for some time, but only recently, in a moment of serendipity, found an opportunity to work with him. Throughout our retreat his open heart, thoughtful listening and skillful facilitation kept pushing us toward more discovery of what good community work might become in this place. We xplored new melody and harmony, experimented with chaos, and found our way toward resolution under his wise guidance. Along that path, we also had a lot of fun. Bob’s gentleness, humor and deft action as a facilitator kept the attention on the process and the people, rather than on him. When solutions were called for, his decades of experience with community groups helped us find them.



Steve Woodall, Director of Community Planning
Cherokee Nation -- Oklahoma, USA
avatarIt is has been an eye-opening experience to interact with Bob over the years in his short trips to Southern Africa.

Bob has been around the work we do at the eThekwini Municipality’s INK Area-based Management and Urban Renewal Programme as a friend, a co-learner, a coach and consultant. Through his multifaceted roles and relationships, he has helped us to navigate our landscape and made us feel that is in fact okay to have questions and not have all the answers.

Our practice is deeply embedded in co-creating with communities be they not-for profit community organisations, local business, Councillors and other government departments. Bob has been precise in identifying the need for internal practices and rhythms which provide a foundation to take our work to the next level. He has made these suggestions without prescribing, but rather encouraging us to find our own answers.

We have been honoured by his sharing of the Berkana experiences through insightful presentations and the depth of Bob’s view as a community development worker. The community of Inanda Ntuzuma and Kwa Mashu is now richer through his thoughtful, dynamic and easy manner in which he made the development practice easily understood by both ordinary people and professionals.

As a programme, we salute his tireless and continuous efforts to enable community to collectively create and hold a vision. Through Bob’s commitment to learning we are now able to appreciate the thread that connects various community learning centres in South East Asia, America, Africa and elsewhere.

Bob’s work has been overwhelmingly positive in the lives of many people he has met, and I hope he never stops giving in to what he has called `the energy of yes’.

Linda Mbonambi, Area Project Manager
Durban, South Africa
avatarThe Family Policy Council has had the opportunity to work with different members of the Berkana community since 1999. To this day, Meg Wheatley’s words continue to be present in our work as a foundational piece and have helped us evolve into a powerful community of practice working on behalf of families in Washington State. Teresa Posakony, Tenneson Woolf and Bob Stilger and the work of Berkana have helped us find language to express what we already know. They have helped us learn how vital it is to carve out the time for deep reflection so that wisdom can emerge. At other times Berkana has brought new frameworks, concepts and analysis into our community which have helped us deepen our work. Always, Berkana has created a space where it has been safe for people to have conversations allowing us to learn from our past and chart our course for the future. Berkana has also helped us connect with like minded people across the country and throughout the world. We know we are part of an expanding network of people working tirelessly to create healthy and resilient communities.

Bob Stilger enters our work as a wise friend who carries an abundance of expertise, compassion and respect. His presence invites and honors the contribution of every person. Highly skilled in organizational and human dynamics and knowledgeable about useful models, methods and technologies, he gives knowledge not as a consultant, but as a committed colleague. When it’s time for bold and deep conversation, Bob speaks the truth in a gentle way that fuels hope and powerful action.

Bob is genuinely excited about his work and all the possibilities every person has to offer – the world over. He believes you make the path by walking it and by noticing what is emerging – not by looking for predetermined outcomes. He allows space and makes room for leaders to share the baton for each person has something valuable to contribute. He is not afraid to talk about his own questions and models what authentic leadership looks like. I often find myself reflecting and learning long after my time spent in the room with Bob. To me that is success!

Laura Porter, Staff Director
Washington Family Policy Council -- Olympia, Washington, USA
avatarFrom when I was in Croatia working on creating Horizon, Bob was always a mentor and friend. Besides his deep wisdom and amazing guidance, Bob was simply one of the best people to work with. He just exerts caring to the point that he’s the only person I know that could call you a “name” and you’d thank him for doing it out of caring for you!

Ante Glavas
Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB), Weatherhead School of Management -- Cleveland, Ohio, USA
avatarBob is a thoughtful progressive thinker who strives to balance innovative thinking with the practical work of people and organizations in communities. Bob has a unique ability to pay attention to emergent themes within group conversations; this ability requires patience, trusting the process, adaptability, and being responsive to what and who is in the room. If you are interested in having a conversation that is framed with compassion, non-traditional notions, commitment to social justice, and integrates the human spirit you will want to be in contact with Bob.

Raquel Gutierrez, Ph.D.
One Tree Many Seeds Consulting -- Tempe, Arizona, USA
avatarI have worked closely with Bob since 2000, when I invited him to join the Berkana Institute at a time when we were going global and focusing on supporting younger leaders in many different countries, especially those in the Global South. Together with a few other colleagues, we developed several programs and initiatives, and discovered hundreds and thousands of leaders emerging from their communities filled with bold ideas and a deep desire to serve their communities. These people were not formally appointed leaders, but those who saw a need and were brave enough to step forward. They were leaders who knew they had to mobilize their communities, and not fall into the heroic leader trap. They were extremely committed, yet often lacked the tools and confidence to be as effective as possible.

Bob worked tirelessly with these people and communities. He was a mentor, coach, friend, learner, teacher and theoretician. He moved easily among these many roles, becoming a trusted friend and wise counselor to many people over the years. Bob has extraordinary levels of curiosity and caring. He wants to see with new eyes; he wants to understand what he is seeing; he wants to be able to bring others into his explorations; he wants to ensure that new ideas get translated into actions that work; he wants people to succeed in bringing their aspirations into reality. And his deepest motivation is to ensure that these new leaders, with their ideas and capacities, can make a difference in creating a future of richer possibilities.
Bob has a deepening commitment to understand how communities change and develop into healthy and resilient entities where all people are served and all can contribute. After working on the ground with people in many different cultures and countries, Bob used his experience to develop his theory of “Enspirited Leadership” for his doctorate and subsequent work and publications. I believe this is a major contribution to the field of leadership—complex, wholistic, culturally sensitive and well-grounded in experience. It also demonstrates Bob’s capacity to develop a coherent theory from his work, even while fully engaged in the work. This is a skill rare in most academics and consultants. People either do, or think. Bob has demonstrated an outstanding capability to do both.


Margaret Wheatley
Margaret Wheatley -- Sundance, Utah, USA
avatarBob became an important partner to our work in Pioneers of Change. He often challenged our age limitation in the network of pioneers. When we described what it meant to be a pioneer to us, he noted that he felt the same way too. Each member of pioneers of change made these five commitments: Be yourself, Do what matters, Join with others, Start now and Never stop asking questions. This was the credo with which we each did our world changing work in many different organisations and settings, and often Bob was right there with us. Bob has an ability to join in as a respectful and quiet listener who then brings perspective, language and models to what is going on, and what we are grappling with. The fact that he had 20-30 odd years of additional experience than us never seemed to be a challenge. He had a capacity for tuning into the value we offered with our younger perspective. And because of his commitment to finding new ways of working, living and being he never felt above us, but joined with us in our inquiries and offered incredible value to us in our questioning.
When I moved back to Zimbabwe I was driven by a sense of the wealth and wisdom that were abundant in rural Zimbabwe among my indigenous Shona family even while being painfully absent in their own self-perception. Frequently they were more aware of what they did not have and what they were missing. Kufunda for me was to be a bridge into helping people shift into appreciation for all their resources and gifts and to find ways to build on those, creating more value for themselves and others.
I was excited, enthused - very much a young pioneer come home to pioneer my way into creating something new. People did not really understand me or my intentions and so after a few months I hit a wall. And Bob was there to help me - once again to listen and support, to add perspective and voice to what I was going through, to ask questions, to offer gentle and respectful advice. And so during the first three years of Kufunda's life, many friends and particularly Bob became mentor and anchor from afar as I did the work on the ground that was needed to do to give birth to the images and dreams that resided within me.


Marianne Knuth
Reos Partners -- Harare, Zimbabwe
avatarBob was tasked to do something quite difficult: to defuse long-held tensions and perceptions, to supplant old habits and to establish new ways of seeing, thinking and doing for a diverse roomful of 200 know-it-all strangers. And he had to do it in the space of seven hours. As the organizers and reputation-holders for this particular event, we found ourselves anxious but hopeful as the day began, and astounded and energized by the time it was over.

The secret to our success: The attendees, Bob, and two ten-foot sections of rope. You’ll have to ask Bob to explain how the rope helped to untie knots rather than create them.

According to the Tao Te Ching “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: ‘we did it ourselves.’” That’s Bob’s approach in a nutshell.

Jon Ford
St. Luke's Health Initiatives -- Phoenix, Arizona, USA
avatarThe Berkana Institute has helped us connect with a whole community of like-minded workers in different parts of the world who see many of the same possibilities we do to build healthy and resilient communities. We know there are others who are also working in communities to help people see and build on their strengths as they envision a better world for themselves and their families. Bob's way of being in the world – his deep curiosity and mischievous habit of challenging our thinking with a good question, has helped our work beyond measure. He showed us the basics and connected us to like-minded folk in different parts of the world, then stepped back to let the work unfold. A kind and generous soul. Thank you!

Valmae Rose
National Disability Services -- Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
avatarIt is has been an eye-opening experience to interact with Bob Stilger from The Berkana Institute over the years in his short trips to Southern Africa. Bob has been around the work we do at the eThekwini Municipality’s INK Area-based Management and Urban Renewal Programme as a friend, a co-learner, a coach and consultant. Through his multifaceted roles and relationships, he has helped us to navigate our landscape and made us feel that is in fact okay to have questions and not have all the answers. Our practice is deeply embedded in co-creating with communities be they not-for profit community organisations, local business, Councillors and other government departments. Bob has been precise in identifying the need for internal practices and rhythms which provide a foundation to take our work to the next level. He has made these suggestions without prescribing, but rather encouraging us to find our own answers. We have been honoured by his sharing of the Berkana experiences through insightful presentations and the depth of Bob’s view as a community development worker. The community of Inanda Ntuzuma and Kwa Mashu is now richer through his thoughtful, dynamic and easy manner in which he made the development practice easily understood by both ordinary people and professionals. As a programme, we salute his tireless and continuous efforts to enable community to collectively create and hold a vision. Through Bob’s commitment to learning we are now able to appreciate the thread that connects various community learning centres in South East Asia, America, Africa and elsewhere. Bob’s work has been overwhelmingly positive in the lives of many people he has met, and I hope he never stops giving in to what he has called `the energy of yes’.

Linda Mbonambi, Area Project Manager
INK Area, Durban, South Africa
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Comments

  1. Thank you Bob for being a one-of-a-kind sparring partner -for more than 10 years now, but most especially for supporting Alycia and I in surfacing patterns in our inquiry about what it takes to truly collaborate – beyond cooperation and just working together. We feel collaboration is essential to building resilience.

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