|Communities of Practice|
It means setting aside our fears about not being able to predict or control outcomes. Building healthy and resilient communities requires us to find our courage, reach out to each other, and make a new path forward.
At The Berkana Institute we talk about hosting the conversations that matter and building communities of practice which support people in acting and learning together. We use a variety of conversational methods — circle, world cafe, open space, appreciative inquiry, artistic expression — to help groups open up the knowledge they already have. We use communities of practice as a form of engagement which goes beyond loose affiliation to committed work together. My work at here builds on the learning, values, principles and beliefs of The Berkana Institute. Often I work with others who are part of this same, broad field. I can work with your organization in a number of different ways:
Almost all of my work begins with hosting the conversations that matter within organizations and communinities. In our hyper-busy lives, we rarely take time to really listen to each other. When we do, we discover how much we have in common and how much we collectively know. There is a kind of magic that happens when we begin to access our collective wisdom. We see more of the whole picture, we develop insights that can guide our actions, we find courage to move forward. It all begins by being in a place where it is safe to speak the truth and where we are really listening to each other.
Sometimes the role of conversation host blends with that of being a speaker. I look for opportunities to speak about what I’ve seen in communities and organizations around the world and about what we are learning together that helps to build healthy and resilient communities. I like to be able to share a few insights, host a group into deeper conversation, use my experience as a base to call out patterns in the conversation. I’m a story-teller and I’ve had access to a wide array of incredible people doing important work in the world.
Conversation and sharing ideas are, of course, just the beginning of the work. If we want different results, we have to make some new commitments to each other. We have to enter into a relationship with each other which has a clear focus on action and on learning. We call this a community of practice. Communities of practice exist at different scale, linking people within a particular community or organization and linking people from different communities and organization. For communities of practice to really work, communities and organizations have to consciously commit themselves to new frameworks for action which are explicit, visible and transparent to all involved. Literally, we make the path by walking it and there are a lot of stumbles as well as leaps of faith along the way. The engagements I like best are the ones that allow me to work with a group over time.
Facilitation is similar to hosting. For me the difference is that facilitation often works with the questions and needs that some one, usually a governmental agency or some other decision making body, brings to a group of people. Facilitation is almost always advisory, telling someone what others think they ought to do. There is a partial sharing of decision making power, but almost always facilitation means working with a group of people to make their views, priorities and concerns known to those who have power.
Often those who are in positions of structural authority need someone from outside their organization who can talk with them about transformational change. I help leaders think through their own dilemmas, connect them with others with similar issues, and work with them to find new approaches and ideas.
Time that I spend as a conversation host, speaker, consultant, facilitator and coach provides most of my income. I’m look forward to having a conversation with you about how I might be of service.