NewStories Action-Learning Cohorts

One of the key ways NewStories helps others learn is through creating learning cohorts, designed for specific communities or for specific purposes.  This is a service we provide, but on the website it fits as part of our learning lab ecology.  We have been moving in this direction for several years now and our first real pilot in this area was launched in 2016 in Japan where we worked with other partners to bring together a learning cohort of the leading facilitators of social innovation in Japan.

In 2017 we were invited to build a learning cohort of community leaders within Cherokee Nation and soon we’ll be sharing news about a local learning cohort within a regional health district as well as one linking communities dealing with homelessness.

These learning cohorts are our first step towards creating a School for the Possible Now which helps participants learn more about how to act now to create the lives and communities we yearn for.

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Japan, and indeed the entire world, are in a period of major transition. NewStories has provided some of the leadership to convene a new learning cohort based in Japan and stretching to the US to explore, understand and deepen this transition. Many of us in this cohort believe that the world we have known is falling away and a new world – a new story – is being born. Living more lightly on the planet and in relationships which are more respectful and reciprocal are two characteristics of this new story, as are orienting towards happiness rather than consumption and embracing differences rather than pushing them away. We see people in communities across Japan and the US giving birth to these new stories of new possibilities.

Over the last five and a half years, Japan members of this cohort have stepped forward in Japan as facilitators of social innovation, working primarily at the community level, and drawing together citizens, NPOs, businesses, institutions and government. We have worked across the disaster area and throughout Japan to bring people together in seminars and future sessions, design meetings and workshops, conferences and intimate gatherings to ask what is possible now? Our work has often been local – that is where we believe change happens – and we have known that the time would come when it was necessary and possible to weave these local initiatives together into a wider web of change. That time is now.

Our interest is in finding a new way to co-create collective impact. This is one of the popular phrases of our time and we wonder, what does it really mean to have collective impact in a time when we cannot see the future? What does it mean to have collective impact when we do not have a particular outcome or output firmly in mind, but are listening together for a future to emerge? When it comes to communities our belief – and our experience – is that collective impact is discovered and co-created from within rather than imposed from the outside. But what are the values, principles, practices, and beliefs that support this emergence? How can they be made more visible? How can this kind of emergent work be evaluated? How can others be invited to see and try these approaches?

We still looking for an funding to support this work. We’ve submitted a proposal to the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnerships as one possible partner. Please feel free to review our CGP Project Description.


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In 2016, as part of our Culture of Health Listening Tour with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we had the opportunity to work in the Cherokee Nation in eastern Oklahoma.  We were touched by the commitment and persistence of local people who were dedicating themselves to building better lives for their friends and neighbors.  After the tour, we stayed in touch with friends in the Community Outreach Office of the Nation and kept talking about what could help people do even better work.  An idea gradually evolved.

In the spring of 2017 we will convene a two day kick-off gathering of community leaders to help them explore together the challenges and opportunities they are facing and to offer different tools and strategies for finding their way forward.  In the early summer of 2017 we will meeting again as part of the annual Cherokee Community Leaders Conference to further explore what sort of learning cohort would be beneficial.

Following the leader’s conference we’ll be looking for funding and support to continue this work.


Interested?  How might we work together?  Contact us at