Unleashing Creativity and Sharing Power
Learning Out Loud #5
Happy new financial year to all who are celebrating!
I’m finding that the boundaries between what I’ve been thinking about, what I’ve been doing for work and what I’ve been enjoying have been gradually dissolving in recent weeks. This is a good thing, and it forces me to find different ways to structure this newsletter.
I appreciate that how I spend my time is gradually becoming consistent with my aspiration and curiosity. Last year, I built the compass for this through a lot of reflection and support from my coach and peers. There were certainly times when this felt like navel-gazing - reflection without action. Now that I’ve moved from metaphorical and meteorological winter into spring, I am sowing seeds and can start to move with velocity (velocity = speed plus direction).
This newsletter is in six sections - feel free to skip ahead to what interests you the most.
The Artist’s Way
Facilitating in person
RESULTS UK Trustee Recruitment
Inquiry into Stepping Back
1. The Artist’s Way
I mentioned last time that I had started doing ‘The Artist’s Way’ - a 12 week journey to get unstuck creatively. I’m now approaching the halfway point and am seeing it slowly change my life. One of the core practices is ‘Morning Pages’ - a stream of consciousness handwriting exercise for 3 pages of A4 every morning (sometimes later in my case). There’s something about this which keeps me honest with myself. When I see the same wishes, blockers, frustrations and ideas cropping up again and again, I know I need to do something about it. Some ideas are beginning to emerge (look out for these!) and I’m expecting my journaling practice to hold me in integrity with my intentions.
I encourage anyone to try this: set aside 30-45 minutes, put away and silence electronic devices, maybe pour yourself a cup of your favourite hot drink, get out your favourite notebook and pen, and just write about whatever comes into your head. It doesn’t have to be clever or creative or even make sense. Keep on writing until you fill the pages. See how you feel. What has been released? What came up?
The part of the course that I’ve felt most resistance towards was a week of ‘reading deprivation’ - also stretching to podcasts, TV and news. The idea is to stop the constant influx of ideas, news and stories from outside, and to give time and headspace to create. I happened to be in the middle of a week where I was facilitating three days in a row so I was exhausted in the evenings and all I wanted to do was read or watch TV - something where I didn’t need to think. It was fascinating to see how I wanted to soothe myself like this. The upshot was that I got more sleep than normal, despite some early mornings. I might try this again on a quieter week where I have more energy and see what happens.
2. Reading fiction
I haven’t read a non-fiction book in several weeks now and have read six fiction books in that time - one poetry, three from Ursula le Guin and two from the Mistborn series from Brandon Sanderson. These latter books weight in at 650 and 760 pages and I read them in a week each (bingeing on either side of my reading deprivation!). My wife went from noting how nice it was for me to be quietly engrossed in a book instead of a screen, to having to tell me to close the book and sleep. I think it’s time to admit to myself that I’m a massive geek who loves reading fantasy and sci-fi, though I’ve suppressed this a bit over the years. It reminds me of when I was at primary school when the first couple of Harry Potter books came out and I would stay in the classroom to read at breaktimes rather than going out to play football.
Now I just need to hold back on buying the next book in the series while I catch up on sleep!
3. Facilitating in person
Another thing that has brought me joy is facilitating in person again. I was invited to facilitate the first ever in-person meeting of the Transformation Team for an INGO over three days. I indulged in buying some new marker pens and other supplies to celebrate. It felt liberating to be able to sense what was emerging in the moment, give space for building on breakthroughs and focus on the conversations that could happen far better in person. While virtual facilitation can be done really well, I don’t think Miro or Mural will ever beat a quick sketch on a flipchart or arranging a spectrum of sticky notes across a physical space. (Although I did get complaints about my handwriting!)
6. RESULTS UK trustee recruitment
One of the hats I wear is being Co-Chair of the RESULTS UK board, alongside Soha Sudtharalingam. We're excited to be recruiting for up to three new trustees to join us, including a treasurer. You can see details here.
We are particularly interested in applicants who have one or more of the following skills and experiences:
finance and accounting
senior leadership, especially managing change and growth
media and communications
personal or professional experience of the challenges faced by people in low and middle-income countries
The deadline for applications is Midday 25 April.
Please get in touch if you’d like to have a chat before applying and do share with anyone you think would be amazing for this.
5. Coaching offer
I have space for some coaching clients to start in April and May. I’m especially keen to work with people trying to make a dent in the big challenges the world is facing and who are going or considering a transition in their role(s).
I offer individual sessions for £75, but the best deal is three months of unlimited coaching for £350. That includes flexible scheduling, preparation, follow-up, exercises and email support.
If you or someone you know is interested, please get in touch or go straight here to sign up for a free coaching session. Even if you’re not considering it for yourself, you’re welcome to have a free session so you feel confident in recommending me to others.
6. Inquiry into stepping back
I’ve previously written about visions and creating the alternative. However, for a transition to that future to happen we also need to hospice the out-going system and enable people to jump across.
I love how this is represented in the Berkana Two Loops model (see below). I see myself in the emergent system, accompanying pioneers, connecting them into networks and holding the space for communities to form. However, I sense I also have a role to play in the dominant system.
I’m pondering writing a series of blog posts / newsletters on the theme of stepping back and down for people who have layers of privilege and power. This might be an organisational leader or founder trying to figure out how to step down or share power. It could be someone who has climbed a hierarchical ladder which they now want to subvert. Or more broadly, groups who have benefitted from structural power and privilege who are gradually losing (relative) status and control.
In the Nutmeg's Curse, Amitav Ghosh writes about the coming experience of people in the Global North…
One of the most important imponderables of the years ahead is whether or not the populations of the status quo powers will be willing, or psychologically able, to adjust to a downward shift in the their countries’ geopolitically standing. […]
Making lifestyle sacrifices will be much easier psychologically that adjusting to a significantly altered geopolitical order.
So, yes, I want to explore this at multiple levels - the global, the individual and various bits in the middle.
I have skin in the game here. This is a core inquiry for me - a straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied, white man. I embody pretty much everything above the line in the graphic below.
I’m cautious about centring the experience of people like me. We get enough attention. That said, I see (a) a lot of people quietly grappling with this, and (b) the wider demographic and cultural shifts underway. We know this can go badly. I want to live in an equitable future but to get there, there has to be a transition, and that can go better or worse.
Questions I’m starting with include:
When someone steps back or down, what are they stepping into?
What are the habits of thought and action that can move us from hierarchy to equity? How might we unlearn domination?
How do we address the trauma of people who are losing status (even if we believe the power shift to be justified)?
What is the relationship between the inner work of individual change and the outer work of structural transformation?
What is the role of people at the intersection of multiple forms of privilege in dismantling systems of oppression? How can we locate ourselves in the struggle and add to it in a healthy way?
I’d love to hear which parts of this resonate, what feels not quite right or unclear, what I should be reading and who I should be talking to.
Thanks for reading. I’ll leave you with one of my heroes from when I was a teenage drummer - the late, great Taylor Hawkins.
+1 to your inquiry of step up/step back, and questions of agency, power, identity, and responsibility. Lots of folks in this inquiry; I'd be eager to track.