Collaboration. Many see it as essential to bringing forth the world we desire, yet it remains elusive at the scale we need.  Join us for a week-long exploration of the challenges and opportunities we are experiencing in pursuit of this "holy grail" of systemic transformation.

We are beginning our inquiry here on the forum, and then continuing with our regular Monday Cafe Call on October 22:

Register for our Monday Vital Conversation Series
8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT

Note: this theme will also inform our Tuesday "Connect2012" and Thursday "Occupy Heart" calls.

Occupy Cafe stewards Jitendra Darling and Ben Roberts will be the "conversation starters" for the Monday call, drawing on their experience of collaboratively bringing forth Occupy Cafe, as well as ideas that have been "in the air" at the recent conference of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation and the Bioneers intensive on "Catalyzing a Resilient Communities Network."

Here is the framing we used in our three breakouts during the Cafe Call:

  • Describe a time when you experienced powerful and effective collaboration
  • Imagine it is two years from now and you have been part of a collaborative initiative that has had transformational impact. What inspired, or perhaps compelled you to participate and what made this collaboration so effective?
  • What assumptions do we need to test or challenge in thinking about collaboration?

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I believe that sharing stories of what has worked well is one way to launch conversations that are potentially generative, C.A. Can you tell us about a time when you experienced the kind of "conclusive action" you are yearning for?

when I drop my critical thinking mode to listen actively, and adopt open source thinking to realise commonalities, it just means suspending judgement for a while until a comprehensive understanding is reached which makes collaberation possible. We are all taught critical thinking at school - but it places us in a sort of judo defense position  where we block incoming ideas if they don't immediately fit our current views

I am on a steering group for a transition town, if we listen to groups that we wish to involve and withold judgement it becomes self evident after open communication where we can work together to mutual benefit. It is the same within the steering group itself we all have our own goals and agendas and stumbling blocks - but if we listen to one another with an appreciation of pros and cons and an open mind it becomes apparent where we can assist one another.. If we use critical thinking we are just looking for the flaws in ideas and defending own stance, which tends to raise blocks to productivity.  In open source communication that suspends judgement till a common understanding is reached, then two minds combine to check for benefits / flaws / blocks.  I hope this is helpful I have another meeting on monday so sorry will not be able to attend

Thank you, Gael. You'll be with us in spirit on tomorrow's call! In my opinion as well, being judgmental is one of the main obstacles to dialogue that produces collaboration. Compassionate communication principles (NVC) treat judging another person as a form of violence.

I'm delighted that, for the most part, we have a culture here in the Cafe where listening and curiosity have replaced judgment.

I mean no offense or disrespect C.A. but to be truthful I find I've been assuming that you are a man.  Do you mind telling your gender so that I might better resolve my confusion and 'hear' what you're intending to say?

I live in Poland and my experience may be of some value for you. Between 1980 and 1989 I experienced collaboration known globally as "Solidarity" movement. Whatever one can think about it after quarter of century it was powerful enough to become the last and decisive factor leading to the fall of Soviet empire.

The momentum of this power seemed to be huge and when Poland became free state it bore fruit in the form of countless local collective initiatives by people believing in our ability to create just, common "sacred" local economies, learning from the experience of erroneous, communist understanding of the collective.

After 4, maximum 5 years the momentum burned out. All economically profitable initiatives were taken over by dehumanized global corporations, all socially profitable were drained - active participants became blinded by the prospect of wealth and left.

Within my experience this was first type of collaboration - collaboration to fight, as history demonstrates very often leading to the victory and useless afterwards .

The second type, collaboration to create, has been tested in Poland afterwards. On the basis of former experience, NGO’s structures and budgets, and interaction with global ecological and transitional trends many people tried to modernize and adapt traditional local economies to fit global marketplace.  

After ten years everybody gave up. There is now a meaningless and powerless green party, there are highly formalized NGO’s frozen in initial state and missing any dynamics. The second type of collaboration was a great failure. System dynamics, economy of scale proved to be irresistible.

To present full spectrum I must mention the level of heart and spirituality. There is also the institution of Roman Catholic Church, statistically representing 80% of population and demonstrating all the shortcomings of an institution, fighting hopelessly to restore traditional power over souls.

To describe my experience with third type of collaboration (as non-native speaker) I checked the meaning of the word “collaborate” in wiktionary:  

“To work together with others to achieve a common goal.”

There are many examples of successful, traditional collaboration, rooted in human nature, following the given goal. On condition that the goal fits the system dynamics (economy of scale) there is multitude of examples of spectacular successes – spontaneous creative, collaborative work evolving to become corporation climbing high in the market hierarchy of wealth, accelerating economic growth but offering no change.  

Therefore the third type of collaboration is for me the collaboration to change the common goal.

This type of collaboration I tested in global social networking, disappointed by the state of affairs in my country.

To shift the system dynamics to new level by the power of human mind is an entrancing idea. There is a web site “Global Mindshift”. The discussion which fascinated me had a long but powerful title:

"Designing the Global-Brain-Application Seed" -- Designing a collec....

Over 30 people actively collaborated, motivated by the vision of the process that could have been globally inseminated. Never after had I met such dynamic, vivid discussion vibrating with ideas.

It continued as private discussion on ning and ended dominated by the spiritual approach, representing belief in higher, absolute consciousness which cannot be questioned by any conscious human effort. The Global Mindshift site is the example of social networking loss of dynamics, almost dead now.

Is there any other kind of collaboration? (ps: I am sorry for the length of my post, I failed to make it shorter. Maybe my experience in collaboration is too rich:-)

I find this very thought provoking, Pawel. The distinctions between types of collaboration seem valuable as a frame. What i see as possible now is that small scale collaboration that is designed to be a demonstration of alternatives to the corporate-dominated neo-liberal economic and political models are still emerging and can be powerful when paired with a New Story that re-inspires us collectively. The latter is a form of your third form--changing the common goal. Perhaps it is also one version of what C.A. seeks when he speaks of "common understanding."

From Great Transition Stories:

The Global Brain - Peter Russell's award-winning video is based on a live audio-visual presentation in 1983. He explores the idea that the Earth is an integrated, self-regulating living organism and asks what function humanity might have for this planetary being. It suggests that we stand on the threshold of a major leap in evolution, as significant as the emergence of life itself, and the essence of this leap is inner spiritual evolution. Moreover, Peter Russell maintains that it is only through such a shift in consciousness that we will be able to manage successfully the global crisis now facing us.

I believe in external source of evolutionary impulse igniting cosmic evolution from emptiness. I believe one can be taught to experience cosmic microwave background radiation (or maybe other form of energy or radiation remaining pure, non-structured and flowing through the Universe).

I do not believe the essence of evolutionary leap must be inner spiritual evolution. I do not believe somewhere above there is the absolute space we must individually enter to become members of “We space”. I do not believe an individual can control the process of evolution – his nature is only a temporary feedback loop, feeding back into the evolved and evolving structures of energy and information.

I do not mind if I am right or wrong in my beliefs. My worry is the absence of any space where other versions of transition stories can be discussed, tested, approved or discarded.

There Is No Alternative” – the phrase coined by neo-liberal economists and politicians is now present in the space of human development discussions. My experience with 3rd type of collaboration made me very sensitive and so far I did not find any sustaining alternative.

And what if Peter Russell and all the spiritual establishment are wrong?

On the other hand as far as I know small scale local economies you propose to pair with new stories (if you can find more than one above) statistically are on the decline side (I did not invent the information, I read it somewhere, sorry I could not find the source quickly now).

we have also found many ideas bubbling up from surprising sources, like long buried local knowledge and that has much to do with the accepting non udgemental principles, folk need to feel safe to volunteer and cpontribute ideas.

The times when I have experienced the most powerful, magical collaborations have been with my Art of Hosting mates. It is always interesting to be aware of the tension as the messiness exists and joy as creativity emerges from the mess. I wonder if the understanding of the purpose/inevitability of the messiness makes us more patient for the results.
I think it is the magic of this collaborative planning process that makes me enjoy the design work so much!

All brilliant.  Could there arise a more fitting demonstration than this space of the rich challenges we face.  Enthusiastically and grudgingly we stretch our realities to capture, in our imaginations, viable prospects of working together toward at least one goal in common—a peaceful and thriving coexistence on our mother Earth. 

Every day, in every way, we're getting better and better...

Jittendra, I have just finished writing the post addressed to Ben. Fortunately it fits perfectly as reply to your post above.


Ben, this is the answer expressing my thoughts after having read your feedback (“the power of dialogue” thread) for the concept of “universal meaning”. I quote Dave Pollard, non-active member of Café, who also uses Group Works Deck – like you. But contrary to you he sees our human future in dark colors, he is more active in Dark Mountain network.

The quote below (from his recent blog post about Group Works, the card he refers to is “Naming”) reflects IMHO the state of “global mind”. There are three basic ways to "name" the future:  

  • Magical - bright
  • Rational – dark
  • Spiritual - escapist

I think there is fourth way, still blocked, barred, obstructed by traditional approach to understanding of the spirit and spirit of the understanding.

“The audiences that I have met are, at heart, believers in one form or another of what I have called ‘magical thinking’. They believe that the crises we face today can be resolved by education or persuasion or activism or prayer or innovation or greater consciousness or a million small acts of intelligence and kindness, or some combination of the above. And that through this resolution we will be able, somehow, to continue to live the privileged, resource-exhausting, extravagant life that we have come to see as the only way to live, and perhaps even allow the 90% of humans who can now only dream of such a life (and probably do, as they see it depicted in the ubiquitous global media) to share in it as well.

I wonder why I do not challenge this belief, which, I can see in the eyes of many I meet these days, is becoming ever more tenuous, more doubtful. Magical thinking continues now, I suspect, not because people really believe it, but because they want to believe it, they cannot bear to not believe it. I should, if I am a believer in taking my own medicine, be “naming” this doubt, this foolish magical thinking. As the “Naming” card in the Group Works deck says: “Call it out, stating directly what is perceived. Naming functions to birth things not yet recognized by the group, sometimes things that are taboo… to name can be to transform.”

Awaiting your feedback after today's call,   



Weekly Cafe Calls

Regular Calls are no longer being held.  Below is the schedule that was maintained from the Fall of 2011 through Jan 10, 2013.

"Vital Conversations" 

8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT 

Tuesdays (except 10/16)
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1-3p PDT | 4-6p EDT | 8-10p GMT

"Occupy Heart" 

3-5p PDT | 6-8p EDT | 10p-12a GMT

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