Resilience and Revival: Bob Stilger’s Posts from Japan #55 – May 14, 2014

In April I was one of the keynote speakers for the STIA+ conference in Seattle.  The video of my presentation, at the left, arrived today in time for it to be a present for my 65th birthday! 

I’m back in Japan with new learnings, both from visits to communities struck by disaster in the US and by continuing work here in Japan.

Finding my own resilience….

Since my life stretches across the Pacific Rim, my birthDAY starts in Japan and ends a little more than 40 hours later on the West Coast.  I’ve been somewhat cranky and ill at ease for much of that time.  Not entirely sure why, but likely because I am in one of those periods where I have to do what I suggest to others.  You know, embrace ambiguity and uncertainty, surrender, be patient, etc. Sometimes I hate it,  Yes, it is necessary — but it doesn’t mean I have to like it!

For the last several days, I’ve felt like some clarity was just beyond my reach.  I think it started on Friday when a friend in Tokyo challenged me on the working title for the book I’ve almost finished.  He said Calling Communities Back to Life is too wordy. Call itResilience and Revival instead.  Something went “click” in my head.  I spent the next two days leading workshops introducing Future Systems and Future Centers and Future Sessions — some of the same things I talk about in the video above.  By the way the slides I’m referring to, but that can’t be seen in the video, I just uploaded to SlideShark — English Version日本語   I talked about some of the same themes a couple of weeks ago in a webinar for the upcoming ALiA Summer Institute.  So I’ve been thinking about this stuff for some time.  Why have I been on edge?

Yesterday afternoon I was with colleagues from ETIC, an NPO I have written about a number of times before.  They’re the folks who have made it possible for hundreds of people to receive small stipends while volunteering 3-12 months as “right arms” to business and community leaders in the disaster area.  We were talking about what’s coming next.

Resilience and Revival
I still don’t know exactly how to talk about this.  That’s part of my uneasiness.  So I spent the end of my birthDAY on the other end of the Pacific Rim walking from my host families home in Kyoto to the grounds of the tomb of the Emperor Meiji, nearby.  Walking, pausing, meditating, letting my mind wander.

When disaster hits; when systems fall apart, there’s a first long phase.  It is hard and amazing and grief filled and exciting all at the same time.  Stuff has to happen immediately.  Everyone does their best.  Usually purpose is pretty darn clear.  It is a time that calls on our resilience.  And, for the most part, all the work that goes on just gets us to the starting line.  It just gets us to a new beginning. If we want to use the opportunity to create new transformative change.  Maybe this first phase is a phase of resilience.

What comes next is the long haul.  Maybe it is the work of revival or maybe it is perseverance.  I’m not sure, but it is a new period.  It took three years to get to the starting line in Tohoku.  When I visited Cedar Rapids, devastated by a flood in 2008, it seemed like they too were at that new starting line.  What’s next?  How do we get there?  How do we do the work of transformation for the rest of our lives?

What I think I’ve been trying to talk about at STIA+ and in the webinar and in the workshops I was giving over the weekend is how to begin thinking about the many dimensions of this long term work.  Have a listen to the video and a look at the images in the PPT slides and see what you think. And please let me know.

So, I have been dancing around in this territory for a while. And it feels like there is so much more to understand.

One part that stands out for me is that if we actually want to create a different future, we damn well better get serious about our own learning. It’s time to step up.  We have to become better practitioners and we need to learn different skills, tools and insights.  That’s what we were talking about at ETIC and that’s what I’ve been talking about with several universities in the US.

A little clarity is beginning to emerge.  Only a little.  Some of it on my walk today.

  1. This is practitioner based learning. If you’re not in a working in a system to help it transform, you can’t get a ticket in.  Find your place of practice.  Then we can welcome you.
  2. It has to be a new style of learning community where we apply all that we’ve been learning about learning — face-to-face and virtual which build the intimacy and trust of cohorts, without some of their restrictions.  They must be fluid, but rigorous.
  3. This community must open space for three kinds of learning:
    • Space where we can learn from our own experience.  Pause, look, reflect, learn.
    • Space where we can learn from each other’s experience:  listen, ask, ponder, dialog
    • Space where we can learn from beyond our immediate system — the stuff we must know if we are to succeed.
  4. We need to spend time getting clear about what this essential learning is from beyond the immediate system.  I think it includes things like this:
    • Personal Mastery
    • Design Thinking
    • Systems Thinking
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Dialog and Social Process
    • Reflective Practices
    • Project Management
    • Leadership
    • Ways of Seeing the World Whole

This feels important.  Very important.  I think it is what I am supposed to be concentrating on now in Japan and the US and elsewhere now that I’m 65!

Thanks for being with me


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