Bob 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.
Bob 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.