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Connectivity and conversation

I’m writing this blog from the Rydges hotel in Rotorua, where I’m perched in this lovely open restaurant concentrating on a keynote I’m about to give to the School Support Services Hui here.  The work of preparing for this presentation has brought me to think quite a lot about communities and how we find them and how we build them.

I had resisted doing another keynote here in this season of speaking at multiple conferences. After all, a ninety-minute talk about transformation gets overly ironic after a while. Here we get back into questions about information and transformation, about knowledge and capacity. I think learning about adult development and transformation is potentially vital information to help people craft a map of their own lives and move more deliberately toward some desired future. And at the same time, talking for 90 minutes about transformation is hardly going to help anyone begin to transform. The best that can happen is a tiny beginning—and then the question is, what have we begun? Where is the community which supports this emerging transformation into the future?

The reason I’m so excited about this particular hui and this particular keynote is that from the very beginning, the organisers here were interested in deep exploration instead of a touch of this and a dash of that.  And so we have crafted this day together, building together on what our hopes might be for the people here, how we might all become a community of thinkers all trying to do this difficult thing of changing the way we think, work, teach, be in the world. And the big hope of this website is that we will all collaborate in becoming a community of thinkers together here too.

See, I believe the issues we face will never be solved by great minds thinking alone. We need minds and hearts and experience and theory and practice and passion from all of us working together, each of us pushing the thinking of the group a little, each of us contributing what we can to make us all bigger, to make us all a little more able to handle the complexities of the problems which face our world, to make us all a little safer as we are supported in our risktaking by the gathering community around us. That’s why I’m hoping that long after I’m done talking today, after the planes and cars have taken us away from this lovely hotel, we’ll meet again here on this blogspace, and we’ll talk together and learn from and alongside each other. And we’ll shift thinking and shift practice and shift schools and schooling. And ultimately, we’ll shift communities and environments and ecosystems. I do not think big because I am so idealistic and optimistic. I think big because thinking big is the only option available to us anymore.  We are on the threshold of a new world. A leader, facing a perilous time, once said,
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present.  The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.  As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”
Abraham Lincoln could not at that time have imagined what the storms the present would bring when he talked to the US Congress in 1862. Neither do we know what these storms might bring. But we do know that the increase in both connectivity and mutual peril in our world is bigger than any one person, community, or nation. And it is only in this gathering space—in huis like this one today, in virtual communities like shiftingthinking.org—that we will be able to reach beyond our individual limitations and really “think anew and act anew”. Come, readers, and think with us. Let’s build a new set of ideas and practices and connections to move us beyond this stormy present.

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  1. | #1

    Just thinking about the “connectivity” part of this posting, and all Jennifer and the groups’ comments above ….Josie Roberts and I are working our way towards a series of blog postings about books and articles we’ve been reading to help us think about what it (might) mean to be self-generating network for learning and change . This morning I’m looking at the “acknowledgements” page of one of these books, The Hidden Connections by Fritjof Capra. In it, he says:

    For the past twenty-five years, I have practiced a style of research that relies heavily on dialogues and discussions with individuals and small groups of friends and colleagues. Most of my insights and ideas originated and were further refined in those intellectual encounters. The ideas presented in this book are no exception

    (He goes on to give specific acknowledgements, and needless to say his “friends and colleagues” are an astounding who’s who list of the leading thinkers across a range of fields as diverse as microbiology, cognitive linguistics, social theory, ecodesign, complexity theory, and so on..)

    My point is, we aren’t alone in our efforts to think together, push one another’s ideas, introduce new insights from our own experience, and keep courageously building spaces that allow us to do this. Keep these comments coming! :)

  2. | #2

    Hi everyone – your conversation has inspired my second haiku of the morning:

    Gaze at our navels
    Or gazing out the window
    gives space for new thoughts

    (PS.I invite you to keep working through your ideas by joining in the HAIKU CHALLENGE!)

  3. THinkers united
    | #3

    @devil’s advocate
    I wonder if you can ‘get’ people to change- really you can only chnage yourself and create a different space so that others begin to make shifts in thinking and practice.Maybe the ‘navel- gazing’ is an action and a critical part of the process as the ‘opposite’ of navel gazing is rushing into action which maybe heading in the wrong direction. Is it just surface change we want is or is it deep change that will lead to a different ‘learning’ or our students. We may be in danger of doing ‘same old’ without the thinking and talk…

  4. THinkers united
    | #4

    We have been thinking about how to be ‘fish out of water’ as Jennifer talks us through ‘transitions’- endings, the neutral zone and new beginnings.We are wondering do you ever come out of each ‘phase’ because of the range of learnings we need to do/we are doing…

  5. devil’s advocate
    | #5

    There were some really interesting ‘debates’ about what we would be prepared to give up to achieve the schooling we dream of. I tend to think that we do far too much navel gazing and that keeps us stuck in the neutral zone. When is it too long to be in the neutral zone? How do you get people to ‘want’ to change? That is the neverending question we ask as advisers. Yet, we didn’t really address this today.

  6. Table a
    | #6

    Thank you Jennifer, for sharing with us today. As President Obama said in his inauguration speech, “Can we do it? Yes we can. Change is not about the future, change needs to happen now.” As our table have discussed rituals, symbols and metaphors, we have been challenged to start making those changes now. Changes for us, changes for schools, changes for teachers, and hopefully changes for young people now.

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