Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mindful Media

By John Esterle

Recently, I was fortunate to attend Images and Voices of Hope's annual Summit. The people, the setting, and what transpired left me feeling, in a word, hopeful! Corny, I know, but there it is.

I'm honored IVOH has posted some closing reflections I shared at the end of the summit, which can also be read below. I hope they, and Lois Fiore's thoughtful summary, capture some of the flavor of this rich, distinctive event.

John Esterle's remarks at the end of Images & Voices of Hope Summit

September 18, 2011

I want to thank the Brahma Kumaris for hosting us here. I think place is really important in terms of the kinds of dialogues we are able to have, and Peace Village is certainly a wonderful place and space for this dialogue to happen. I want to process the time we had together at the Summit. I am really appreciating all the different paths into our dialogue from panels, to speakers, to small group conversations -- poetry, music, and story. I think all of these things are really important to providing multiple pathways into our inquiry into “how are we doing with all this and how do we move forward?”

The issue of time is a little on my mind, because I did get up early enough this morning for meditation with Sister Gayatri on “ time.” So thinking about our time here, time is always present in different ways. It manifested here in several ways. For example you showed adaptability in changing the program because of time. There‘s always a tension around time, how much we can fit into the limited time we have together. There’s tension about how much we can pack in and to what degree we can be expansive.

So I have appreciated your ability to adapt and change, while also appreciating holding firm to the “traffic control” (the music that plays for 1 minute on the hour to signal a pause for reflection). I think polarities are a theme and a paradox that has been present in the room. These times are calling us to be adaptive and responsive, while also asking us what we stand for -- what are the things around which we won’t adapt or compromise, but will hold true to. This shows up in the discipline of stopping every hour for reflection. This discipline also shows up in different ways like with Sonali when she recounted her story and said, “this is what I stand for now. I’m not going to stand down. This is what I stand for.”

I think we‘re in times that call us to do both of these things. That both were modeled here in different ways is important. It is also important that this is such an eclectic group. It brings together both journalists, who we think of as coming from a more objective evidence-based place, and also very expansive thinkers talking about consciousness.

One thing that stuck out for me is how much we talked about mind or thinking. We talked about changing patterns in thinking and behavior and in critical thinking as it applies to how we are looking at the world. We talked about the importance of stepping back and reflecting on our minds and our thoughts. This theme of “we are thinking about our thinking,” is called meta-cognition.

I think there is more awareness coming from both spiritual inquires and secular inquires into the importance of thinking about our thinking and thinking about our biases. So it’s a hopeful thing that there is more thinking about our thinking and how it relates to how we are with each other. At the same time, there’s a polarity that we talked about: that we are moving away from being a fact based society. We seem to have a public that is more uninformed in many ways all the time. To me it is the best of times and the worst of times.

So where do we go with that? We talked about cognitive dissonance. Why is it that when people are presented with evidence that runs contrary to what they’re saying, that they don’t let that evidence in? I think that’s a really important question as we think about story and how we craft our stories.

We talked about “heart” a lot and the broken heartedness of the times, asking how do we live with our hearts broken open? How do we live in the place of that vulnerability? Mark (Nepo) talked about heart as the place where we hold paradox. So words like “passion” were very prevalent throughout our time together.

Both the mind and the heart pieces lead us to the story piece. How do we tell different stories that engage both our hearts and minds? I was struck by several things around our stories. Often when we talk about telling stories, we talk about the telling part. When we are entrepreneurial, we ask how do we reach a broader audience? A key part of this is listening. How do we listen in a way that creates compelling stories?

We saw evidence of that with Phillip (Martin) and Kael (Alford), James (Lerager) and Daniel (Heimpel), when they were really going deep with their reporting and journalism on specific issue. So I think a really important inquiry for us is, “How do we become better listeners?” The foundational piece of dialogue in my mind is learning to listen. How do we exercise that muscle, and how do we call attention to that?

Within the element of story there was also a lot of talk about transparency and trust. Transparency came up in different ways, about our biases, our aims. How do we make our thinking and our reasoning about things more visible? I think we all have our biases and part of the wonder of dialogue is that it’s a great way, if it’s constructed right, for us to surface our biases and explore them in different ways.

The part that I thought about a lot in the context of cognitive dissonance, was what Mark said about the king who was cutting off peoples’ heads. In Mark’s story he described how year after year, the one guy was making his argument over and over to the King – that he shouldn’t continue to cut people’s heads off-- but he wasn’t getting anywhere. What eventually changed the king’s mind was that they had been in relationship.

I think the importance of relationship in going forward can’t be overstated. That’s my own bias; I’m very relational. I think we need to explicitly raise the value of relationships. I was noticing when people explained how they came to the summit they said, “well a friend invited me or a friend of a friend invited me.” As we think about how we broaden the hope we’ve talked about here, I think we do this in relationship. That’s very important for me. This summit is about images and voice of hope and I kept thinking, “It’s people of hope."

We are in dark times in many ways. We’ve talked in some conversations about resilience. When we think about how we are going to move through this time, our relationships are huge; they are our anchors in pretty stormy waters. But I think it’s also though relationships that we are able to move to different places with people and maybe move to a place where they’re looking at things in a different way.

In Liz Heron’s piece what stood out for me was what she’s seeing as next steps, and what she’s seeing as a trend on the horizon. She said it was the movement from online to offline engagement, which we heard about from many. We are still in the beginning stages of this; we are still figuring out the social media landscape and our own personal relationships. There are problems there, but it is good to remember that we are kind of new and in the early stages of this process.

So with that I want to read one short piece. I just started reading a book called Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit, published in 2004, and it resonates a lot with the impetus behind Images & Voices of Hope. Solnit suggests that we can take a different frame and perspective on where we are at this time, one that gives us hope in the dark. I’d like to share this one passage:

“Cause and effect assumes history marches forward. But history is not an army. It is a crab scuttling sideways, a drip of soft water wearing away stone, an earthquake breaking centuries of tension. Sometimes one person inspires a movement, or her words do decades later. Sometimes a few passionate people change the world, sometimes they start a mass movement and millions do. Sometimes those millions are stirred by the same outrage or the same ideal and change comes upon us like a change of weather. All that these transformations have in common is that they begin in the imagination and hope. To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet the future on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet, it is the opposite of fear. For to live is to risk.”

I think for me to live is to risk, to love is to risk and I can risk those things when I am hand-in-hand literally and figuratively with other people. So, this is why I think this summit and gatherings like this are so important. If we move forward with intention around process and relationship, about how we are thinking, about how we are empathizing with others, then in the midst of what do seem like dark times, we’re going to be ok. And I think we’ll be more than okay, in the words of Kemy Joseph and of Sekou Andrews, “we’ll be awesome!”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

System Failure, System Frozen

By Edd Conboy

Note: This is the follow up segment to Edd's previous post System Failure, System Reboot. In these powerful stories, Edd humanizes the ways that our mental health and criminal justices systems often fall short - for precisely the people in the most critical need.

Update on Roxanne: Since the posting of the first installment, the hospital official, who intervened on Roxanne’s behalf to ensure that there would be an effective treatment plan for her going forward, was able to schedule a hearing before a judge to name a guardian for Roxanne. An attorney was engaged by the hospital to represent her. Subsequently, the judge appointed a guardian, and now he is in the process of finding a suitable nursing home for her that can manage her medications and other needs. Just to give you an indication of how far Roxanne has come: She has HIV. A high viral load count is usually measured in the thousands. 10,000 copies/mL is considered high. Roxanne’s viral load was 23,000,000 copies/mL. Her white blood cell count was negligible. Today with medication her viral load count is negligible, and her white blood cell count is near normal.

* * *

The writer, Christopher Hitchens, once said that one of his highest aspirations was to, at least one time, write or talk about the North Korean regime, and the culture it has spawned, without using the descriptor “Kafkaesque”. He failed continually. So, it appears that, when I describe some of the systems failures in our prison system, I will probably suffer the same fate.

As with the previous posting involving Roxanne’s experiences with the health system here in Philadelphia, I will attempt to crystalize the implications of “systems thinking” as it pertains to the prison/mental health system here in Philadelphia (and perhaps nationally) with the experiences of one individual.

In this case let’s call her Tiffany.

Tiffany is a homeless, transgendered person in the early stages of transitioning. This means that, although she is anatomically male (for the most part), she identifies herself as female, and has been living as a female for a number of years. Like many people in her situation, she has had the unshakeable felt sense for most of her life that she is in “the wrong body”, but for a number of reasons – mostly financial – she was unable to change that significantly. Tiffany is also diagnosed with Bi-polar Disorder, and needs medication to control that condition. She has been living outdoors in Philadelphia for several years.

A year and a half ago Tiffany was in the ER at a local hospital trying to get medication to control her mood swings when she was involved in what appeared to be a mild altercation with the security guards. Since she has no medical insurance, Tiffany is a regular visitor to that hospital, and well known to the staff there. For reasons still unclear, this time the security officials decided to have her arrested and charged with felony assault, even though there were no significant injuries to anyone during the altercation.

Since Tiffany was unable to post the $4,000 bail, she was remanded into custody and taken to the county jail.

When most of us hear “county jail”, what do we think of? Perhaps a several story building downtown near the courthouse. Few of us would envision a 25-acre complex comprising six separate “major correctional facilities” in the farthest corner of the city limits. A facility that is extremely inaccessible by public transportation, meaning extremely inaccessible to poor people. This may be the first questionable “systems thought” in this scenario: Why so inaccessible? What are the implications of this decision? Who made it in the first place?

At this point in the narrative the specter of Franz Kafka may begin to emerge. Since Tiffany is in possession of a penis, she is considered male by the correctional authorities. Fair enough. However, since she identifies as a female, if assigned to the general population, she is at risk of being sexually assaulted by other inmates. The solution to this problem is clear to the officials: “administrative segregation” for her own protection. This is, of course, a euphemism for solitary confinement.

So for several months Tiffany was held in solitary confinement without proper medication before she was scheduled for her first court appearance. Once she was in court the judge found her not competent to stand trial. She was returned to administrative segregation. Her condition began to deteriorate markedly.

It is well documented in the research that one of the most powerful coercive tools available to the state is its capacity to confine an individual for varying lengths of time with virtually no human contact. Many modern societies consider it a form of torture. Tiffany was in this situation for the better part of a year.

So, now “the system” is faced with another dilemma: they have an inmate who is charged with, but not convicted of, a serious crime. She is unable to stand trial, and no small reason for that is due to her isolation within that very system. The solution that the decision-maker made was to house Tiffany in a psychiatric prison facility outside the city. In this facility she is given medication to sedate her, but very little else. Since she no longer has access to hormone therapy, her beard has returned, and of course she is not allowed to have razor blades. In addition the staff (including social workers) continue to refer to her with male pronouns further alienating her. She receives no therapy or medication for her Bi-polar disorder. And every sixty days there is a competency hearing. Every sixty days she is found not competent to stand trial.

Finally, in a large part because of the decision to isolate Tiffany, her mental state has deteriorated to such an extent that, even if she were released, and she were able to afford surgery, she would not do well enough in a psychiatric assessment to be cleared for any such surgery. This means that the most likely outcome is that Tiffany will spend the rest of her life trapped in a body that is alien to her psyche.

At every turn in this narrative – from the decision to charge her with a felony, to isolating her in the county prison facility rather than housing her with other transgendered inmates, to transferring her to a psychiatric prison hospital ­– “decision were made”. Yet, it is difficult to determine who made them, what was the thinking behind them, and if there were other alternatives available. At every turn, unlike the previous scenario with Roxanne, the system appeared to do the thinking without any discernable human intervention.

From my perspective (and perhaps this is one shared by other members of the Whitman community) the key factor missing in this scenario that showed up just in time in the previous installment is the emotional one. At one crucial moment a human being literally “felt for Roxanne” and made a different decision. That health professional’s critical thinking changed dramatically when that interplay between emotional clarity and critical thinking was able to lead her to effective action.

So far, perhaps because of the different context of the penal system from the health system, no such individual with similar authority to intervene has spoken up on behalf of Tiffany.

But at times even Kafka wasn’t all that Kafkaesque.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

PEAK Philanthropy: A Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid for Foundation Giving

By CJ Callen

Abraham Maslow has hit the big time in the world of business – whether you are talking about the industries of articulate, design or hospitality. Recently, I was moved to read Chip Conley’s PEAK: How Great Companies Get their Mojo from Maslow.

This is a great and heartfelt exploration of how Conley translated Maslow into his business context: building and running a hotel business called JDV Hospitality. The book is a powerful reminder of the primacy of relationships. In it, Conley introduces the concept of the “relationship truths” and creates pyramids for each of his company’s key stakeholders (employee, customer, investor) that surface motivations on the three tiers of the “transformation pyramid: survival, success and transformation.

The book was inspiring; Maslow is not without his critics but still there is something in his theory that demands attention. Reading Conley’s book sparked my own playful inquiry into the implications of Maslow theory. I began to wonder: although the title mention “companies” can we substitute “nonprofits” or “foundations”?

I think so.

What might that look like for a foundation? What might it look like for The Whitman Institute with our decidedly different take on the work, i.e., our focus on process and explicit investment in relationship building?

It sounded like a challenging and fun task to try to build a relationship pyramid for a foundation in general and TWI specifically. Granted, all foundations are not alike but there are some common characteristics that are inherent in the nature of the beast that I can use as guides. With that disclaimer, I quickly moved on.

To start, I decided to sort foundation stakeholders into three primary categories: (1) donor or donor proxy (trustee or board member), (2) NGOs (grantees and grant seekers), and (3) the community served. This single pyramid is designed to capture the hierarchy of needs of foundations’ core relationships. As for developing the distinct pyramids for each of the three primary stakeholders, that will be even more challenging (and enlightening) and will need to come later.

Here is how I see the “foundation way” -

As you can see from the diagrams, there is much that we at TWI have in common with our foundation colleagues in terms of the primary relationships that drive our success. However, if you probe deeper into the “why” and “how” of each tier you will find some notable differences. For instance, if I were to draw a pyramid of the TWI tier one, you will find mention of the cooperative way that board and staff members work together, our primacy on creating trust between the board and staff and on lifting multiple and diverse voices in service to our mission. Each time I drill down into the different tiers, I gain greater insight into what lies at the heart of our foundation. What is the interplay between its different primary stakeholders that drives us forward and helps us serve with grace, humility and integrity? I enjoy the opportunity afforded by TWI’s particular application of the hierarchy to model a different way of serving as a foundation trustee.

I invite all my foundation colleagues to join me into this playful inquiry: identify your primary stakeholders and create relationship pyramids for each that captures their baseline motivation for each, need for recognition of their talents and dreams and the “top of the pyramid” inspiration that helps them find deeper meaning in their work. Is this the beginning of some kind of relationships audit? Not quite. All I know is that as I struggle to work on each stakeholder pyramid, I am uncovering basic relationship truths about our work and basic truths about TWI.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Trends in Philanthropy?

By John Esterle

Paul Connolly has contributed a thoughtful post examining what he calls the humanistic and technocratic approaches to philanthropy. He makes the case that rather than argue which approach leads to better results, funders might be wise to consider adopting a balanced perspective that combines the strengths of each. Certainly, he argues, there is a need for more dialogue within philanthropy about these different approaches as the "dynamic ying yang-style tension between them is rich territory that has not been fully mined."

A central question for TWI has always been how does the interplay of thinking and feeling, cognition and emotion, affect our decisions and actions. So, it resonates when Connolly states that "philanthropy must heed a growing body of research across the neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics fields that confirm the importance of synthesizing logic and instinct, head and heart, linearity and serendipity."
I also like that he ends his reflection with a call that "to advance as a field, more oxymoronic thinking and action is required -- including rigorous values, poignant data, strategic intuition, deliberate improvisation, soulful strategy, rational exuberance, and immeasurable outcomes." We often talk about how dialogue can help us to creatively explore paradoxes, or polarities, or tensions. I think oxymoronic thinking can be added to the list.

Dialogue can also help us cultivate empathy, something that
Grantmakers for Effective Organizations describes in their new report as "the missing link" in philanthropy. I often talk about the idea that building relationships should be seen as a measure of impact within philanthropy, so I admire GEO for prominently raising the importance of empathy and the need for funders to build relationships with grantees. It may seem a no-brainer to some to talk about the importance of empathy and relationships, but as GEO points out:
  • "Many of the grantmakers we talked to in our research for this publication acknowledged that their organizations are works in progress when it comes to connecting with people outside their office walls in deeper and more authentic ways."
  • "The bottom line: When it comes to operating with a high level of empathy, philanthropy plainly isn't there yet. Few foundations are truly empathic in the way they operate, and when they are it is often by chance."

If you check out their
"What We Are Reading" page, you'll see that The Compton Foundation is one foundation that is engaging in the questions and processes that both Connolly and GEO highlight. You'll also see that they mention Cynthia Chavez and Hugh Vasquez's article about The Conversation Lab, a continuing experiment we're involved with that also resonates with GEO's report. If you scroll to the end, you'll find Fire by Judy Brown, a poem that Compton finds inspiring -- as do we at TWI. Indeed, I read the poem at the opening of our last retreat.

There are lots of sparks of conversation right now about doing philanthropy differently. This is not a new development, but it does seem to be a trend that is gathering momentum. Perhaps with more dialogue, more oxymoronic thinking, more empathy, we can build and expand the relationships that will turn those sparks into flames.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wiser Together: Partnering Across Generations

By Juanita Brown and Ashley Cooper

Tucked away in the small Appalachian community of Burnsville, North Carolina, is a family farm and a place of meeting that has recently become the new home base for Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, Co-Founders of the World Café. Together with Ashley Cooper, a young educator, community organizer, and Executive Director of TEDxNextGenerationAsheville, they are collaborating with Juanita’s 90-year-old mother and younger members from the nearby community to deepen the legacy of the farm for future generations.

In these “notes from the field,” Ashley and Juanita tell a story that was also featured in the Innovation Marketplace at the 2011 Summer Institute.

FIELDNOTES: It looks like you’ve made quite a radical change in your life, Juanita. How did you come to be living in the Appalachian mountains?

Juanita: In the early 1970s my parents, Millie and Harold Cowan, civil liberties pioneers from Florida, bought a broken-down 90-acre farm in one of the poorest counties of North Carolina, near Asheville. For the next four decades they worked with others in the community to create a special and welcoming environment for people from all walks of life. After my dad passed away, David and I brought my mom back to the farm and spent the summer here. Late one night, I had an “illumination” in which I felt completely embraced by the love and care that my mom and dad had invested here. In that moment, I realized that we could never sell this farm in our lifetimes—and that David and I had a unique opportunity to discover what wanted to unfold here.

In a purely intuitive leap, we left our home of 35 years in California to “listen the future into being,” and to embody here the principles of multi-generational collaboration that we’d been exploring in our global work with the World Café community. As you know, we’ve co-hosted many multi-generational dialogues since helping to organize the first multi-gen learning program at the Shambhala Institute in 2004. Our farm project is providing a place based learning field for us to deepen into the principles and practices of intergenerational hosting and partnerships. We see this field as having implications for community resilience and for organizations across sectors that are seeking to engage the wisdom and expertise of all of their members in addressing critical challenges

FN: And what is the path that brought you into this collaboration, Ashley?

Ashley: Growing up in Georgia, the Appalachian mountains have always been my “heart home.” The West Coast swept me away for many years, but my return was inevitable. The timing fortuitously aligned with Juanita and David’s decision to move to the region. They have been colleagues, friends, mentors, and co-inspiritors over the years. I embraced the opportunity to learn and co-create with them while at the same time being adopted by a new “grandmother,” Millie!

The nature of this project and this place drew me in—the intergenerational partnerships and the shared dedication to processes of engagement grounded in principles that nourish life, justice, learning and the common good. It is a unique opportunity to be part of a group of passionate people, as we move between our roles aslearners, teachers, friends, mentors, and family. At the core, we are living the practice of mutual partnerships where appreciation and respect for each other’s contributions is based on recognizing that each of us has unique gifts to offer, whatever our age or stage of life.

FN: Why is multi-generational collaboration and partnership so important to you both?

Juanita: I have always been fascinated by large-scale systems change and what might enable whole societies to shift into more life-affirming patterns. Over the years I had the great good fortune to have older corporate and community leaders take me under their professional and personal wings as I engaged with this work.

I began to think abut the challenges we face at every level of system today. I realized that there is a huge untapped large-scale social change potential in the wisdom, experience, and perspective of younger leaders as well as children. I began to ask myself: How can we honor and use the unique contributions and gifts that reside in all of us, as a single generation, alive and awake together—whatever our age or stage of life?

Ashley: Young children are my key teachers. I learn from their honest perception of the world, bright curiosity, and playful ways of engaging life. They keep me attuned —reminding me to be in the present moment and inviting me to enthusiastically engage my whole self in the process of living.

At the same time, I’ve been greatly influenced by many older leaders and colleagues in the fields of education, process arts, conversational leadership and therapy. Relationships that bridge the lifespan have provided a strong foundation for my life and work. Youngers shake up my field of vision and invite me to see things from a totally different angle. Elders have acknowledged the value of my contributions and enabled me to stretch into the unknown edges of my capacities with greater confidence as I learn from their experiences, stories and insights.

At this time of global challenge to our common future it seems irresponsible to believe that we can make wise decisions without listening to contributions from all members of the circle of life. The wisdom of multiple generations is desperately needed. I also find life more personally exciting and fun when I am partnering across generations!

If intergenerational collaborations provide such potential for large-scale social change, why don’t we see more of it?

Juanita: Collaboration between generations has traditionally looked like grandparents reading to small children, a one-way power dynamic between professional mentors and their younger colleagues, and awkward attempts to manage a next-generation workforce. There are also strong beliefs, held by many, that “youngers are to be seen not heard,” or even that the final decision should always be made by the oldest person in the room. These cultural and societal norms and habits seem to shape so much of our thinking.

Ashley: I can relate to this personally. A colleague once said to me, “I’m older than you, I’m supposed to be wiser than you.” Not everyone will say something that direct, but I often feel that tone of a response, and sometimes it even has more of a dismissive edge. The challenge seems to be our willingness to be humble and genuinely recognize when we are learning. If new understanding is igniting inside of me because of something another person is doing or saying, I am learning from them. They are contributing to my knowing and influencing my actions and decisions. This is a precious gift and we have the opportunity to step beyond traditional boundaries and be open to learn from whoever has the wisdom of the moment to share, regardless of their age or background.

FN: Can you describe how you see your vision for the farm unfolding?

Juanita: We aren’t approaching the visioning process in the traditional manner of creating our preferred picture of the future and driving towards it. More, we are together “listening the future into being.” We are experiencing each of the four seasons and asking ourselves questions such as: What is the story of this farm and its role in the local community? How are we relating to the land and how is the land relating to us? How can we honor and deepen the legacy of my parents and of those who came before? Assuming the farm has its own voice, what is it saying to us? Sensing into the whole, what are the minimum, elegant, next steps?

Ashley: In addition to our own listening and imagining, we are inviting people who visit the farm to share their images of possibility and creative inspirations for this place. We are committed to collective intelligence informing our actions and we trust that this intuitive and collaborative approach will yield paths forward that none of us could have imagined on our own. For example, the local members of our team whose families have lived for generations in this mountain culture have helped us “see” different aspects of this place and its possibilities.

FN: What does this look like right now? How are you spending your days on the farm, Juanita?

Juanita: Each day as we work together, I’m experiencing the incredible skills of our local multi-generational team. Kenneth as the elder, along with the two youngers, Justin and Kenny,have the unique capacity to find unexpected and innovative solutions to dilemmas related to renovating our 100-year-old barn while keeping its special rustic character. In addition, when we were cleaning out my dad’s shop, I realized the range of knowledge held by people who’ve grown up in these mountains. While I’ve always respected the quality of their work, all of a sudden a whole new world opened to me. Even Justin, in his early 20s, has a range of expertise and a set of skills that I can only aspire to at some point in my life. And whereas earlier the younger members had been a bit quiet, when we entered a domain that allowed their life experience to really shine, they quickly became my teachers… helping me learn the use of unfamiliar farm implements and showing me key things related to animal care. And, I’ve done my very first baking with our own homegrown apples under the tutelage of Matilda, our 93-year-old next-door neighbor!

Ashley, as a ¨GiGi¨(girl geek!) has become my technical mentor, I am mentoring her in the next stages of her community organizing work, and we are partnering together on this farm project. Another of our team, Thomas Arthur, contributed the short video and photos about the project which accompanies this article, which I could never have imagined doing! For me, what is unique about these intergenerational collaborations is that we are each ¨giving it all we´ve got¨ within the context of the cultural and historical factors that have shaped each of our lives.

FN: What have you been learning so far that may have broader organizational, community and societal, implications?

Ashley: We’re discovering that co-mentoring is a more useful construct than traditional mentoring, eldering, or teaching. By being open to fresh perspectives and actively learning from one another’s life experiences and skills, we are accessing leverage points that far exceed our individual capacities.

Juanita: Organizations of all types are facing critical issues as Baby Boomers, now in their 50s and 60s, enter their older years in a world that is dramatically different than the one they have been operating in. Doing it the way we’ve always done it is no longer an option. Younger employees deserve to be considered equal contributors to innovative solutions rather than needing to “wait their turn.” If organizations are to thrive in these uncertain and turbulent times, these new perspectives and redefined partnerships between generations in the workplace are sorely needed.

Elders can enter the legacy stage of their lives by forming alliances with younger leaders around the crucial challenges that not only organizations but also communities are facing today. This will require a new paradigm for all generations and we want to be part of the movement that is responding to this opportunity!

We would like to express our appreciation to David Isaacs, Thomas Arthur and the diverse local team that is collaborating with us in this initial phase of our learning journey.

We’d also love to hear your reflections and experiences with intergenerational collaboration and learning—in your organizations and in your communities.

Feel free to be in touch with us at:Ashley: 
Juanita: Juanita Brown, Ashley Cooper and Samantha Tan presented a Skills and Lenses for Innovation session on Multi-Generational Leadership: Shaping Tomorrow Together at the Innovation Marketplace during the ALIA Summer Institute in Columbus last June.