As a drama theorist, Augusto Boal’s work went way beyond theatre. He helped people find more new ways to switch on openness, both as individuals and as a collective. His work was surprising, shocking, and delightful for participants—and all of the above in how profoundly effective it’s proven to be as a pathway to optimism and action.
In our latest edition of INSIDE THE OUTSIDE, Tim and Tuesday answer the question: what do you do, anyway? We know it's systems change, but what does that work look like? After an incredible week of sessions, talks, and client meetings—particularly with visionary people seeking to reimagine the sport system in Nova Scotia—we recap to shed light on the process.
We can be territorial, especially when we’re unsure—even more so when it comes to cracking open commonly-held beliefs about equity and the status quo. At AoH, we get really, really good at saying ‘I Don’t Know.’ All the best revelations begin there.
In this second episode of INSIDE THE OUTSIDE, Tim and Tuesday reflect on how they create the conditions for optimal trust inside a room full of collaborators—so people sharing in the work of systems change can trust in each other, in the process, and in the path to action.
Think of how kids play, learn, and integrate new information. As we explore and push the boundaries of what's familiar, we endure (and perpetrate!) countless bumps, scrapes, and meltdowns. This is the formative glue of long-term learning. Without challenging days, we’d lack the context to capitalize on our best days. And without a playful spirit, the most serious blocks might break our best efforts apart.
What if all the most pervasive challenges we face in our communities, organizations, and movements are less about external shortfalls and more about what we're missing, person to person? How can we switch on the full potential of what we already have? Welcome to big-hearted systems change, folks.
The BALLE fellowship is a cohort of rural-minded creative leaders who collaborate to act local, prioritize equity, regenerate nature, shift capital, co-create policy, and cultivate connection. Together with participants, the facilitation team rolls up our sleeves and shares our work once more.
The day we joined forces to launch The Outside, equity was foremost in our minds. Not only as a 'nice-to-do' for morality, but as a 'need-to-do' for the effectiveness of our communities, organizations, and movements. In this vlog, we talk about why equity-by-design is such an integral part to the systems change work we do.
Treated with care, the heat of friction can cure how we live together—not a ‘cure’ as the word refers to the eradication of disease, but the kind of curing that makes things solid, resilient, and fully-formed. Preservation, flavouring, osmosis. The kind of cure that requires patience.
How do we not mistake a bigger cage for freedom or transformation? How do we know it’s time for transformation? And how do we allow ourselves to liquify enough to do it? How do we hold multiple truths and still move forward together? You sought the future: How do we focus on what we have not yet even imagined?
Sometimes, we forget—especially when we’re new to our audience—that we’re not just talking about equity and systems change. We are demonstrating it, whether we intend to or not. In the following conversation, Tim and I examine how we come across as representatives of what could be—should be—a better way of working towards a better world.
Often the differences between collaborators—different perspectives, backgrounds, ideologies and aspirations—become the focus of meetings rather than getting work done together. The Shared Work Model offers a way to think about collaborating and moving forward on the issues and challenges we care most about in our organizations, communities, and systems.
Tim and I often talk about holding both soulful and strategic elements in our work. Powerful revelations have to lead somewhere. Recently, the excellent ON BEING podcast featured an interview with poet David Whyte, and hit on something I see in our work—a need for vulnerability, poetic language, and the balance of left-brain, right-brain that moves us into new action.
We've been doing this for years—both together and as individuals—and it never ceases to be a shock and a delight when hands go up in a room that was once completely blocked and closed-off to the idea of doing things—and thinking about things—differently. This is the breakthrough that begins genuine, meaningful, much-needed progress. Here's how we try and set the stage to get hands in the air.
This is why we do the work we do—new leadership methods and tools, shifted mindsets, and a practice of equity animates a room. Even the rooms that might have once felt irrevocably blocked with a legacy of competing mandates or repeated patterns. When we contemplate fresh perspectives, bringing more voices 'in from the outside', it dawns on us that perhaps there's a way forward after all. These are the moments we live for.
It's our birthday! Why 'THE OUTSIDE'? As outsiders, we have the advantage—the clarity and calm—of not being entrenched. When overwhelmed by repeated patterns and blocks, fresh air helps. It's all about the fresh air. Watch our latest for the view from here.
I recently did a keynote for the Association of Municipal Administrators of Nova Scotia, talking about long-term change in highly complex systems (like municipalities!). As part of my prep, I interviewed Anna Karin Berglund from the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions and integrated some video of our conversation into the keynote. Some great reflections on how we can lead change in a more participatory way and in particular within municipal and government systems.
Tim recently partnered with Bravespace to deliver a live draw keynote for Education, Research, Development and Innovation (ERDI). I introduced Shared Work—a model created by Tuesday Ryan Hart that I have been part of developing. Shared work is seeking to bridge the work of social justice ad systems change by looking at how we can work together across difference over time.
Tuesday and I just did a webinar on Shared Work with Joshua Cubista @ Borderlands Restoration Leadership Institute, which explores how to take action in the midst of the increasing complexity of the 21st century. It explores shared work and the practice of leading systemic change within our personal lives, communities, organizations, and the world.
To me, alignment is something both bigger than and more foundational than being alike. Alignment asks: Are we going in the same general direction? Do our fundamental ideals allow us to do some good work together? Maybe we won’t do everything together, but when we’re aligned, we can see that there is something to do together.
In a webinar offered by Engage Nova Scotia and filmed at the HUB South Shore, my old friend and mentor, Toke Moeller explored the Art of Hosting: the method's radical common sense and impact, and how it's become its own movement. What can we learn from this as we work to accelerate change in Nova Scotia, and how might we use it to encourage young people to lead change within their communities?
The majority of meetings should be discussions that lead to decisions. Meetings are the linchpin of everything. If someone says you have an hour to investigate a company, I wouldn't look at the balance sheet. I'd watch their executive team in a meeting for an hour. If they are clear and focused and have the board on the edge of their seats, I'd say this is a good company worth investing in. —Patrick Lencioni
Change need not be a big deal. Not changing the entire system, shifting infrastructure, addressing oppression or “swallowing the ocean” as a colleague of mine says. But, rather, taking a sip, seeing a small impact that is entirely within our ability to make, getting started, seeing what happens, and moving from there.
When with new peoples, I continue to be mindful of asking ahead of time what to be aware of, inquiring about honorifics and titles, and generally stepping back and listening. And also, I have to be careful not to get too earnest and in my own head about this stuff. Folks are generally kind and while I may mess up—and someone will let me know and practice grace!—it’s best for me to go forward humble but unafraid.
We were literally doing something that had never been done before: bringing together governments’ employees who were aboriginal. Can you imagine the amount of goodwill in the space with people being together for the first time as a group? As they found themselves and each other? As they explored their own leadership? And from that goodwill, some really powerful learning and work was done.
What would it mean—how might we change our practice—if equity were not simply a longed for goal, but rather a return to a natural state? The idea feels edgy for me, but in a good way and definitely worth exploring. Here are some of our reflections on a short video blog:
Recently there has been an excellent exchange of resources on the Art of Hosting email list around how evaluation connects to the work of participatory leadership. I hope you find these resources and reflections as useful as I have. I have separated the content based on the person that contributed to make it a bit more accessible.
It does feel to me like the chaos has only increased over the lat 13 years: the number of ecological disasters, increased economic uncertainty, massive social unrest, the breakdown of trust between citizens and governments, corporate greed running rampant. That got me to thinking about why Nova Scotia is such a great place to be.