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This is our fourth conversation based on the model developed by Peter Block in Community: The Structure of Belonging, building on the "Dissent""Possibility" and "Ownership" conversations we hosted in May, June and July respectively.  Once again, we are delighted to welcome back co-hosts Eric and Elaine Hansen, who have worked extensively with Block, and are masters of this form.

The invitation conversation is considered to be the most important of the Six Conversations in this approach.  Unlike the other five, it is not one that is engaged in once the group has convened. Rather, it is quite literally the invitation to join the gathering itself, as well as a concept that can extend into our lives more generally as a way of engaging with one another. 

We explore this concept of "invitation as a way of being" by inviting YOU to join us aa fellow "steward" of Occupy Cafe.  You can think of this as both an actual invitation (it is!) and as an opportunity for experiential learning regarding this set of concepts in general.

There are five elements to this form of invitation, two of which relate to its content and three of which concern the way in which it is extended.  We offer the content elements--which consist of naming the possibility around which we are gathering and the hurdle (or price) that is required should you choose to accept the invitation-- for your consideration below [please note that this is a "working draft," and part of our goal here is to explore ways to refine it together]:

We wish to invite you to expand your participation into "stewardship" of the Cafe.  It is perfectly fine to say "no," of course (we won't hold it against you!).  Know, however, that you, and the unique gifts you have to offer this community, will be missed if you decline.  We would also like to extend this invitation in a more personal manner, so if you have any interest in exploring this possibility with us, please let us know and we will arrange for a one-one conversation.

The Possibility:
We are weaving a community of people aligned around a shared belief in the possibility that we can and must co-create a world that works for all. The community co-creates and stewards hospitable space in which we invite the world to engage in compassionate and appreciative dialogue to:

  • Learn more about the various dimensions of systemic transformation that might be possible
  • Foster meaningful connections that enhance the resilience and functionality of the broader network of change agents and those who wish to support them
  • Provide a laboratory for innovation that supports our ability to work together and to "be the change we wish to see in the world," including experimentation with new models of economic exchange, governance.

The Hurdle (required price/exchange):

  • Listen deeply and seek to understand before we react or respond
  • Tend to relationships, paying as much attention to how we engage with others as to what it is we engage about, with a core commitment to practicing nonviolence
  • Offer an exchange (of money, services, or both) in return for the value we receive and in support of the growth of this work.

As always, we invite you to begin the conversation right now on this forum, and to continue it here once our call is complete. We would like to start our discussion of "invitation as a way of being" by considering the core distinction it offers with approaches based on "mandate" or "persuasion:"  

  • Have you ever been offered a compelling and inspiring invitation, free from any hint of "mandate or persuasion?"  If so, what was this like for you?  
  • What might be possible in a future in which this becomes a more common form of engagement?

 

Photo by Maria Guimares via GroupWorksDeck.org

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Second Question:  What do you find compelling and inspiring about the above invitation?

I find it difficult to start with what is compelling and inspiring.  I have a difficulty with everything of value has a price.  THis is not the sort of world I am living into.  I feel the opposite.  What is of value is free.  Only when there is a choice, there is a transformation.  Only when you're free to say no, are you free to make a choice.  This freedom is the most important element in transformation.

"Everything of value has a price" is what we're letting go of.  Challenged by asking "what is compelling and inspiring" is an assumption.  Would like to know how more people could participate..

Still reeling from Magick's comments from last week re: men listening to women.  Attuned right now to Mankind work re: our shadow.  Paying attention to listening right now-to men and women.  Working on remembering... listening to conversations in OC and seeing what I can remember.

What is compelling and inspiring....invitation has its place in opening space of communication and understanding.  Possibilities-hurdle-how do we exist in the old while creating the new.  How do we build the boat while cruising down the river? How do we create this possibility?

I find the image of building the boat while floating down river, really expresses our conversation right now.  How do we create the ground we're standing on.

The invitation was dislocating around the [old paradigm asking]*

*[bracket indicate scribe's condensation of sharing]

 

Re the statement I made on the call that "everything of value has a price," I think it is important to understand that I am suggesting this in the context of a community coming together to co-create something new and powerful.  Clean air is valuable, but there is no cost for breathing it (although there certainly needs to be costs for polluting it!).  

At the same time, if we want to do something of value together, we must pay a "price" in some fashion.  Money may or may not be involved, and we are certainly interested here in the Cafe in new economic models that either move beyond money or transform the nature of it in some important ways, even as we have one foot in the "old economy" and hence make a request to all participants for a financial contribution.  

Money aside, being part of a community means making the choice to give up something else we might do with some of our time.  And if that community is going to accomplish something transformational, it also means choosing to show up in a way that supports that shift, e.g. being willing to suspend judgment, be curious and listen to understand.  That too, can be seen as a "price."

The concept of time as limited or rationed in some way is as much a product of this consumer society and the commodification of everything possible as money itself. As Block says below this is based on a culture of scarcity, which is artificially produced in order to give value to things which in abundance would have no measurable 'value'.

When we do something because we want to do it, (which I guess is what Block calls 'idealism') the frame in which it sits bears no relation to barter or coercion. It is an expression of creativity where the doing is not separate from the doer. It is love in motion. To me that is the only society worth trying to build.

The 'reality' that you are naming in saying 'we have one foot in the old economy' as the justification for 'price' we must pay, is the choice for cynicism that Block describes below, based on the old economic framework. We can choose to move to a different framework, co-creating community based on trust, 'faith in citizens’ desire and capacity to operate out of idealism.'

Anna

Its useful for me to contemplate the relationship you mention re time and money and the contrived culture of scarcity.

It's quite interesting that we can agree on so much at the macro level Anna--including our shared desire to see new economic models emerge and our beliefs in the essential need for an approach to the future based on abundance, not scarcity.  I am right there with you in believing that our sense of the scarcity of time, even more than money or resources, is what holds us back!  And yet I hear such resistance and criticism from you regarding what we are suggesting as a way of moving forward with the Cafe. Somehow in shifting from the general to the specific, we seem to go off the rails.

Am I correct in understanding that you believe that any enterprise that keeps "one foot in the old economy" (i.e. makes use of money) is not worth supporting?  And also that there is something unacceptable to you in the notion of an  invitation that also contains a "price," i.e. a request that certain conditions be met by those who choose to accept?

It strikes me that we may not have made a very clear distinction around what it might mean to be an Occupy Cafe "steward" or not, and that perhaps it might be useful to make that explicit.  This is still being thought through, and yesterday's conversation was a trial run for our first iteration.  Does it matter to you if we also identify the role of "guest?"  In other words, we still plan welcome anyone who is interested in participating in our dialogue, whether they choose to accept our invitation to become a steward or not.  As was stated in the naming of the "possibility:"

We are weaving a community of people aligned around a shared belief in the possibility that we can and must co-create a world that works for all. The community co-creates and stewards hospitable space in which we invite the world to engage in compassionate and appreciative dialogue ...

Stewardship, on the other hand, implies a desire and a willingness to step into shared ownership of the Cafe, and thus has a hurdle or "price."  We have a keen desire to expand the circle of people who take collective ownership of what occurs here, and we are happy to invite anyone who is interested to join us.  And we have some conditions as well.  Is it desirable (or even possible) to operate an enterprise in any other fashion, in the old economy or the new?  Consider the experience of the GAs, where one or more people with no real commitment or investment in the well being of the whole were able to disrupt the proceedings with ease.

Hi Ben,

I admire the work that you all are doing at OC. But that does not mean I will accept without criticism when I feel it needs it.

We are all tied in to 'the old economy', trapped into keeping it going, because we depend on it for our daily bread. What I am objecting to is giving a philosophic justification for this based on 'everything of value has a price' which is clearly not true, and appears to validate the way the old economy works. What would be preferable would be to say clearly (as you are now doing) the conditions you are setting for this invitation to join your organisation, based on your assessment of what would work. They are a choice you are making, for whatever reason, not because they are 'true', You need to take responsibility for setting this 'price', not laying it at the door of some incontrovertible truth maxim. (What Block wrote makes a lot of sense in context, but is confusing when lifted from there)

Why this is important is because even though we have one foot in the old economy, we need to know where we are headed.

As I said the workings of Occupy Cafe are to me not very transparent. This is the first I have heard of you asking for a financial donation. I have no idea what are the costs of keeping OC going, or how much time is involved. You say there are 7 members on the staff, no indication as to whether they are paid or volunteers. Maybe there are reasons why you do not want to make this public. However this background would be more of a basis for explaining the 'hurdle'.

With love Anna

Criticism is welcome, Anna--if you haven't noticed, we get it all the time!  We are also trying to model a culture where our first response to something that challenges us is to be curious and to seek to understand.  The fact that, in this case, a bit more context from me has apparently allowed you to accept the logic of a "price," where your initial response was to tell us we were "wrong," seems to validate this suggestion.  

I have a similar response to other objections you have raised to the language in the draft invitation.  It is valuable to me to learn that what I am writing is not getting a message across clearly.  But it is energetically much more generative for me to see those observations framed more along the lines of an inquiry--what do you mean by this?-- rather than an assumption that you do understand and advice to rephrase things in a particular way (e.g. the possibility statements about fostering connections and the laboratory for innovation).

This gets to back to my curiosity about resistance, which I think has relevance to the larger conversation as well.  I would have thought from all our previous interactions that you would have a decent sense of my/our commitment to the idea that we need systemic transformation.  Thus, when you heard a phrase that seemed inconsistent with that ("everything of value has a price"), you might have given us the benefit of the doubt.  Is this perhaps symptomatic of a larger challenge we are facing in coming together to create new, resilient structures that are alternatives to business as usual?  Why is it often hard for us to feel that we are "all on the same team?"

I'll address your observation about the "workings of the Cafe" in a separate reply below.

HI Ben,

I accept that I could have used a more positive approach, and that sometimed my criticism is impulsive. However it is also important to refine how much we are 'in tune'. There are many who would criticise capitalism but feel it can be reformed. Systemic transformation would cover many varieties of reformists and revolutionaries. Being on the same team does not imply that we always agree.

Being on the same team does not imply that we always agree.

It wouldn't be a very powerful or resilient team if we did!  

Thank you, Anna, for all your contributions here.  I appreciate your concerns, including the one about "reform."  The question of just what we mean by systemic transformation is a juicy one.  It's actually not entirely clear that we need to agree on what that means either.  A conversation for another day though, perhaps.  I have a whole piece that's forming in my head around the caterpillar/butterfly metamorphosis that digs into this.

Pulled this GroupWorks card to start my day... speaks to our conversation nicely!

i love your mind... i can feel the popin all the way here in Wake Forest, NC

Anna writes:

[T]he workings of Occupy Cafe are to me not very transparent. This is the first I have heard of you asking for a financial donation. I have no idea what are the costs of keeping OC going, or how much time is involved. You say there are 7 members on the staff, no indication as to whether they are paid or volunteers. Maybe there are reasons why you do not want to make this public. However this background would be more of a basis for explaining the 'hurdle'.

Our lack of transparency is simply the product of our not having made the time to update information on the site as our vision and our team have evolved, rather than any desire to keep things private.  We have been requesting (and receiving a modest level of) financial contributions since the start of the Cafe, but only via our calls and emails following up with those participants.

Our core team has not received any compensation to date, and collectively has put in more than a thousand hours of work to bring the Cafe to this point.  Indeed, our expenses have exceeded our revenues by a few thousand dollars, due to the considerable cost of bringing the Cafe onto the ground for the Occupy National Gathering.  

That said, we do envision the Cafe as ultimately having some paid staff, some of whom might be members of the core team.  We are also considering offering some services--specifically training/teaching via what we are tentatively calling the "learning center"-- for a fee, and also using the Cafe to promote outside work that we do for money when it is relevant to what we are showcasing here.

It is certainly important that we be transparent about these activities, and it is our intention to make all this information available as we move forward.

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