We are delighted to feature Aerin Dunford as a special guest conversation starter on 11/14.  She has been an active participant in our conversations both online and on our Cafe calls, and brings a wonderful depth of group process/conversation hosting experience to our gatherings.

Please use this discussion thread to share anything that struck you about Aerin's talk and/or the conversations it inspired.  Everyone's voice matters: please share yours!  

Here is background info and some initial reflections from Aerin:

Aerin Dunford an U.S.-born upcycler, artist, urban farmer and yoga instructor. Since 2005 Aerin has been involved with the work of The Berkana Institute. Her work has been focused on engaging communities of people using participative processes and leadership, and fostering the conditions for deep connection and relationship. She is currently the Sharing Our Learning Director at Berkana. Aerin has a master’s degree in Organizational Management with a focus on leadership and change from SIT Graduate Institute. She lives in Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico.

From 2006 to 2008 Aerin was a co-steward of the trans-local learning community, the Berkana Exchange. During this time she helped host an international gathering of more than 30 people in Oaxaca, Mexico around themes of community resilience and a movement called the Now Activism. At the same time, in the spring of 2006, the roots of a people´s movement were beginning to take hold in the city of Oaxaca. Shortly after the meeting there was a brutal repression of a group of unionized teachers by the state government. As a result of this violent action, the people (teachers, farmers, merchants, people from all walks of life) "took" the city for a period of almost 6 months, demanding the resignation of the governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. During this time nearly all government offices and services were shut down. There was no garbage collection, no police, no health care services in the entire historical center of the town. At one point during the movement there were over 2000 barricades that were put up nightly by residents of neighborhoods and barrios. Aerin carefully followed the events of the APPO (Asemblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca) movement from the States after her return. When the movement was violently crushed by federal police forces on November 25, 2006 it slowly dissipated, the APPO became fractionalized and lost focus. Aerin returned to Oaxaca in early 2007 and 2008 to see how the movement had affected the society and its people. 

So, as an American now living in Mexico, after having been close to the movement here in 2006 here's what Aerin has to say about what she's seeing with the Occupy movement(s): 

"It has been interesting to watch this movement unfolding on my computer screen, far away from the plazas and sidewalks of Boston and New York (both places I've lived for a time). In the beginning, I didn't really understand. I was waiting for those involved in the protest to explain what alternative they were calling for. At an Art of Hosting training in NYC in late September organizers were working with participants to give people a chance to engage in participative, horizontal processes, and practice hosting these processes in real time together. On the last day of the gathering, in the midst of increasing media coverage about OWS, a few participants interrupted the scheduled agenda to propose a visit to Liberty Plaza as part of the gathering - to see participatory leadership in action. Many of the participants did chose to go on this learning journey and the hosts figured out how to adapt the experience into the larger framework of the gathering. 

After this happened, I was suddenly very interested in what was happen in the Occupy movement. People were beginning to notice that how they do things might just be as, if not more, important than the what. As I have watched this unfold it has brought to me many questions about what creates the conditions for a movement to be successful? How is success defined? What I saw in Oaxaca in 2006 was many, many people organized around a single demand: get the governor out of office. Period. Though the movement was strong in numbers, and the rallying call was clear and easy to identify with, I ultimately think that having just this one demand might have been the movement's downfall.

Protesting and marching are a very, very popular form of "resistance' here in Oaxaca. But after a while, when suddenly every organization, party and person is marching and striking, these actions lose all their potency. So, I have lots and lots of questions about what's next for the Occupy movement. Here are some of my  burning questions:

How do those involved in the Occupy movement find a dynamic balance between open, inclusive participatory processes and wise, clear action? 

How will the movement move from its divergent stage (where I'd say it is now) through the "groan zone" and into a convergent stage in which decisions are made and actions taken? How do we converge and still remain open and inclusive?

How much is this about protesting the old? How much is it about building the new? Are both needed?

Here's a great quote by Buckminster Fuller to get you thinking  ... "




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Thank you Aerin for your discussion piece. I too have been watching the Occupy Movement from my computer screen. I am so grateful that through this movement, issues are being named and not swept under the rug. I am grateful that mainstream America supports what Occupy represents. For so long, I was mystified at the lack of outrage, at the silence in the face of so much that is broken in our current systems and ways of living. Now,  just as I ache at the sacrifice of our youth in many unpopular wars, that their sacrifice that goes unnoticed, I worry that the heroes who bravely came forward to create this movement will also become scapegoats. I fully agree with the Buckminster Fuller quote above that we should spend our time creating a new reality.  That said, I feel we need time to grieve and experience the pain of what is wrong in the world now that it more out in the open, spoken instead of unspoken. We need to speak the truth we see and share the stories so that we can put them behind us. As an Open Space facilitator feeling the pull of many great opportunities to engage in the new work of a new economy, to enlist our corporations in the "new business of business" so that we can tap into the contributions of many people at all levels instead of just a few, it is heartening that now we have a shared platform from which to speak...a platform of new possibilities because it is becoming abundantly clear that our existing models no longer serve.  I'll be on tomorrow and look forward to hearing your starter presentation.

Hi Suzanne!

Great to meet you here and thanks for your comments. It's funny the way that new ideas can sort of sneak their way into your consciousness when you're least expecting it. After I wrote this little bio/description of my interest I came across an interesting post by Sharif Abdullah about this very topic of what is needed now - attention on the old (protest, demands, lobbying) or attention on the new. He has some SUPER interesting ideas that are now sending me into new realms of inquiry around this theme. So great to find such stimulating conversation here! Let me know what you think about this post (you might have to scroll down to the middle/end to find Sharif's comment) and I'll probably bring it up when we chat tomorrow as well.

Food for thought: Systems, institutions, governments change,

and yet the overall global economic global structure remains.

Submitting in hopelessness and through acquiescence  to 'what is,

rebelling and fighting against 'what is' or

trying to change'what is' might not be the most efficient and

joyful strategy for co-creating transformational systems.

Occupy seems to rippling out as transformational systems - modeling being the message

What it seems to me might just now be occurring in occupy is that individuals are gathering and living in co-organizing ways that are creating a new structure.


YES! I love it! Very well put.

Maira, if I have enough time tomorrow, I'd actually like to read what you've written here in my little 10 minute schpeel. Would that be okay with you?




I would be honored.

- Mair

Thanks Maira!  Yes I really agree with your last statement.  I imagine that we are involved in co-leading ourselves and finding our way toward processes to attend to the common good, our relationships and our communities.

   OCCUPY, You need a target. As it stands you are beginning to look like hippy urban campers that don't express any focused demands.

   A bum that asks for 5 dollars is likely to get it, where one just asking for help is lucky to get a buck! Capiche?

   Start with the head of the snake, the deliberately contrived corporate media!  This will let the air out of our delusional balloon.

   Sorry to skip the nicey-nicey, the 1% is laughing at you and does not feel threatened. Take away their microphone, attack all BS information they have concocted over the last 50yrs, and the truth will set us free.

As for effecting change in an immediate term...I find that simply mentioning the Occupy movement to people I meet every day (and responding to the ensuing conversation) is a way to enter, and hold, the space in a positive way.

Aerin - those were awesome questions/themes - would love to dive deeper into each. Also left with the gift of the new portal created by not having jobs or full time work; we are freely choosing this self-organizing pattern; cooperation is fundamental to our humanity (research based); welcome each other's gift; paradox and duality of creating the new while challenging the old; we create our own "heat" for the winter through our power.

What conversation or action is the "salt" of our harvest - moving from conversation to action?

I believe there is a fatal flaw in the movement, as OWS claims to speak for the 99%. But the 99% by accounts of all recent elections is 1/3 each conservative, independent and liberal. If that 99% focused on what we all agree on, in supermajority, we have an excellent chance of getting real change. What I see emerging is one to three things for a clear "elevator" pitch. I think an All American Election Integrity Act, an infrastructure fund administered by the States, and possibly Term limits. Then the following year the next three things rise to the top, etc. I have built a platform to winnow the ideas at www.aGREATER.US. My three choices are only mine. What are yours?

"OWS claims to speak for the 99%"

I think not.  It welcomes the rest of the 99%, which explains the persisting reluctance to make/speak demands.

Hi Aerin, great to hear your voice! Very inspiring conversation. We are in last minute preparations for the Art of Hosting Training in  Berlin which is end of the week and we are thinking about a learning visit to the Occupy Berlin Camp...however, I was a bit tired to engage in the conversation in the Café. I connected your question around: "How do we get in the space between process and action?" to this blog article I wrote last week on What is the next level of activism? Best from Berlin!


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