Collaboration is crackling in the air.  Ben, Pia and I attended a conference in Seattle that called on attendees to imagine a national infrastructure for improving civic discourse.  More simply, how can we improve the ways in which we get more diverse voices together to talk about things that matter in a constructive and productive manner? 

After all, changes need to happen and we're struggling to get them going at a scale of meaningful impact.

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One realization rose to the surface in virtually every conversation regarding collaboration—relationships matter!  Erik Liu, a main welcome speaker for the NCDD conference, concluded by speaking of the need for an "infrastructure of the heart."  Leaders of currently successful multi-organizational collaborations shared, the most important thing they've learned to date is that quality of relationship is the key to coming together.

"All relationships are founded on One, the one with your Self" has been the tagline for my transformation work for many years.  The quality of the inner relationship we have with our own self dictates the quality of all our outer relationships, at every scale.  If you want to accelerate your collaborative effectiveness, look at your personal foundation—your relationship with your self. 

Imagine a collaborative venture with followers of Groucho Marx (no, not Karl), the guy who wouldn't belong to club that would have him as a member.  Sadly, we may have had an experience or two trying to collaborate with folks that are combative, argumentative, dictatorial or simply unhappy with anything proposed as a way to move forward.  That hypothetical person is a classic example of someone who neither likes, accepts nor trusts themselves.  Their inner foundation is shaky, at best—and it shakes everyone around them.  On the other side of that experience, the more grounded we are in accepting ourselves, the more clarity and ability we'll have to navigate those experiences with compassion and creativity.  We can count on these challenges to arise wherever we go.  We won't need to retaliate with control, so long as we strengthen our inner foundation through awareness, acceptance, compassion and clarity of purpose with ourselves.

We'll explore strengthening our personal foundations for collaboration this week along with how we might better support each other.  Trust and acceptance within, builds trust and acceptance without.

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C.A.: If we haven't changed to suit your taste yet, what makes you think that continuing to complain about that will do any good?  It is truly frustrating to read this kind of post from you over and over again, and I can't help but wonder what makes you think this is a valuable use of your time.  

As hosts of this space, I believe we have been extraordinarily tolerant of this continued judgmental behavior.  Once again (a couple of months ago, I tried this privately, as you may recall), I request that you stop telling us what you think we should or shouldn't do or read, what you think is wrong with us or what you believe is going on in our heads. I find it truly unpleasant, and my guess is that others do as well.  If you really think this place is worth spending your time at, add some positive energy that others might find attractive, rather than clogging up the space with continued complaint.  

Ironically, C.A., your tone is quite patriarchal.  You're passionate about women's studies and seem to have little use for New Age human potential, which is a bit of an oxymoron. 

New Age human potential is driven by the feminine principle.  It implores healthy, empathic connection and communication above brow beating others with ideas and ideals.  Patriarchy is tipped toward the head, judging and imposing it's views ahead of the quality of relationship.

It would seem most appropriate to have at least one woman's voice weigh in here.  I'm complete with this "discussion."

I had planned to make this call because I feel change is not going to happen without a focus on collaboration. If we can bring groups together, even diverse groups, and focus on what we have in common we may reach the tipping point in creating change.  I may need to review the threads here but is this push to collaborate building on Occupy as the center point? 

Your focus on the individual leader having a good self relationship is very important. I am building collaboration locally with Occupy, ACLU, Unitarian Universalists, Unity, and Capstone (local alternative learning center) to support Barbara Marx Hubbard and the Shift Network. The centering is around the co-creation of new systems aligned with a shift in human consciousness. We insist on each group holding to their unique identities, celebrating our diversity, while focusing on our commonalities. I just went for this without considering the need to do internal work, I guess because I have been doing that for some time. But I have seen organizer wannabes filled with suppressed internal issues fail like paper submarines. Sounds like a missed a vital discussion.

The conversation continues alive and well.  It's can be tough to slow down to get present when the house is burning.  But that's likely the action that will save the most lives.  I've seen too many well intentioned initiatives drive themselves off a cliff because they didn't understand the inner component.  I've been the culprit at the center of my fair share of failures, ignoring the small relational details that actually matter.

The West is burning, Greenland is melting, and we're having a conversation on being nice.

If we were in charge of the civil rights movement, Jim Crow would be alive and well.

I thought the conference topic was on building a national infrastructure.  Start creating the infrastructure, and behaviors will adjust to the infrastructure.

This topic reminds me of a power technique used by people who don't want to disturb the status quo: “intersect, entwine, and entangle.”  For good measure, tell the dissenter he has a problem with his “self.”

Richard, I would love to agree with you. 

However, when I look at the empirical evidence, I'm not reassured that national infrastructure is changing national behavior.  Infrastructure-wise, it appears that we, as a nation, peaked 50 years ago.  Since that time, self-interest driven by greed, fear and endemic insecurity, has been systematically tearing down our infrastructure.  Environment, transit, health care, food production, civic protections and rights...all these varying modes of infrastructures are being eroded at an accelerating cumulative individual attitudes.  

The West is burning, Greenland is melting, and we're having a conversation on being nice.

Yes.  We're having a conversation on being nice.  Actually, it needs to be deeper and more foundational than nice.  People need to value and accept themselves at their core in order to shift out of suspicion, fear and hostility toward others.  If we just build an infrastructure, that fear will manifest as greed and that infrastructure will be abused.

Jim Crow is alive and well.  He lives in the privatized prison system.  Infrastructure is a tool.  It's then up to us humans whether we use that tool constructively or destructively. That's an inner issue.

Richard, I completely agree that we need to be in action, that we need to figure out how to build more effective platforms for generative conversations and productive initiatives.  I also heard from most rooms I sat in at NCDD, that transforming relationships is what is going to produce a different outcome from decades of all kinds of actions.

We each have our personal dispositions and preferences. Some of us are more interested in the inner transformation, some of us are built for action—we're organizers, movers and shakers.  We need all types for healthy collaborations.  I think "nice" is the glue that keeps us together and makes us effective in the long run.

To think of oneself as better or worse than any other man quickly breaks the wine glass (a container for love).  Rumi.*

To me this affinity for holding love that Rumi speaks of, is the beginning of even seeing any value in collaboration at all.  If love for ourselves and others is not primary... being less important or too scary right now...  The work must be elsewhere** and direct (in person, not electronic).

This post is a result of what I perceive as obstructive relationship in the written dynamics of the Cafe's Forum.  It is 'real' world.  I'm thankful for seeing it challenging me... like ways of nature- storm, illness, decay... it all works somehow to create balance.  (can you see how to process seemingly paradoxical thoughts in last 2 paragraphs?) 

I declare my ownership for my role in society problems and I've got a lot of (inner) work ahead for this part.  There's also lots of outer work to do and my focus would be different than some might think... esp those who think solely in terms of 'me' versus 'them'***.  I have in varying degrees, greed, violence, self-centeredness, jealousy, lust, dishonesty, etc., etc., etc., etc., and I see these are the cause of society problems... as they are my primary obstacles to compassion, kindness, love, and hence obstacles to living in harmony with all of nature.

Although I can't speak for you, I 'know' we have common humanity in these attributes and struggle with them in varying ways and amounts.  But, I have no affinity to be in an isolated capsule- untouchable, trying ever to protect myself as I point-out what's wrong with others.... remaining ignorant or deluded of meaningful human connection or love?  I wonder if anyone else finds themselves here.

*Rumi is the most widely read poet on earth.  He was known to be a first century poet and Perfect Master- a state of realization and experiencing the Self as God, and therefore without duality or limitation.  Other well-known Perfect Master Poets were Hafiz and Kabir.

**It occurs to me that there will always be resistance, obstruction, denial, bad faith, bias, other agendas, etc., for infinite reasons.  It's a part of our natural world.  It begs our attention to what's really important in our existence.  It batters and wounds all parties.  It causes us all to suffer until we learn what is necessary (our connectedness?) to bring the next step to living harmoniously.  I wonder how we'll handle those people who don't yet have a sincere desire to be constructive and might only seek divisive or conflict driven company of others (including being heard or seen).

It might sound like too much... skill and 'heart' and intelligence and restraint and honesty, to describe our Cafe Stewards.  But they have my admiration, in the way Jitendra and Ben are leading and facilitating us... leading by example.  I'm purposely not calling out specifics.  But it is honestly inspiring to me in a very personal way.

***I wouldn't mind some time going into how actions would differ when derived from a focus of 'All Connected' versus 'We Against They" attitude.

Thank you, Dyck!  I like hearing that!  And I think this is an important statement/question:

Although I can't speak for you, I 'know' we have common humanity in these attributes and struggle with them in varying ways and amounts.  But, I have no affinity to be in an isolated capsule- untouchable, trying ever to protect myself as I point-out what's wrong with others.... remaining ignorant or deluded of meaningful human connection or love?  I wonder if anyone else finds themselves here.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." (Maslow)

 Sometimes I get the feeling I’ve fallen amongst a group of psycotherapists who see others as nails.

Certainly, you're describing me and the nature of this thread and this call. If seeing everyone as nails means seeing everyone as a human being with a relational limbic infrastructure that requires nurturing for healthy coexistence—yes again. Although, my intention is to bridge this to more effective organization, collaboration and action.

“… my intention is to bridge this to more effective organization, collaboration and action.”

It seems like “a bridge too far.” Can you give us any reason to hope this niceness project will be timely and relevant?

I've been working on this bridge in one form or another for about 40 years, proactively with others for the past 20.  In that time, the bridge has seen significant progress, particularly over the past 6 years with a spike over the past 2.  I'm not sure that hope is mine to give.  I can offer that there has been an exponential rise in self awareness and capacity to be in more generative relationships.

Hippies bequeathed us ripped bluejeans, but they also tossed in the consciousness movement as a party favor.  I would be arrogant to claim knowing how or when this messy human project will bring itself all together.  I only have my knowing of the human heart and spirit, our habit for pulling out victories at the last minute and my personal inner knowing that there is a far greater intelligence guiding this whole process.  I see us coming through, but I think we are still the arbiters of the cost.

We all have been through more than one would logically construe human's could take without losing hope.  But the simple fact that we're sharing this communication tells me that you have a powerful hope within you, Richard.  You're playing devil's advocate here, but I sense that your spirit is as strong as mine or anyone else'. Maybe you're just checking to see who else is here to stand shoulder to shoulder with you.  Though I may have put in significant naval gazing time in the past, my days are full of strategy and projects in action. I still begin my days with sitting meditation and have learned to keep it going with eyes open while working my agenda.

Speaking of bridges, I know you know that it takes more than truck and pile drivers, concrete and steel men to build one.  There are surveyors and engineers, planners and consultants, designers and visionaries—people who wouldn't know which end of a shovel to hold—and the people that taught all those skills.  There are families that support those women and men so they show up to do their part with some semblance of hospitable acumen to work together when unforeseen stuff inevitably happens.  Years ago, I was a builder with crews of men.  The toughest part of bringing a project in on time was keeping civility and discouraging alcohol—all in the domain of inner work.  I wish I knew then what I discovered later about building relational bridges.  I would have had happier, more effective crews AND made more money.  I also would have had more successful personal relationships. 

I am the poster child for the fact that enlightenment alone does not guarantee fulfilling or skillful relationships.  That was a long hard lesson, as well as how not building inner awareness severely limits range, capacity, effectiveness and agility in working together when stress is building.  I agree that armies can be very efficient.  Vertical power is most efficient but least empowering.  Horizontal power is most empowering, yet maddening for predicting "by, or even if, when."  Not sure how your model of an army distributes personal responsibility and decision-making.  I can imagine the democracy we seem to hold dear, when the going gets tough, the tough remain compassionate and step back from hostility and vengeance and into "what can WE do to fix this for the good of all?".  That's my plug for keeping the inner work growing while we keep our feet and hands moving.

I really appreciate your voice in this topic, Richard.  It's compelled me to think of a few things I had buried in the dust.  It's true that I am a specialist, and see nails everywhere that could use my hammer.  But I figure there are plenty of others to make a complete tool chest.  How can we do this together?


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