Thursday, August 24, 2006

Beyond Invisibility; Seeing Greatness

I believe human beings have 5 basic needs: (1) Water (2) Food (3) Protection from the Elements (4) A sense of purpose (5) Love. Without the first 3 our bodies ultimately break down. Without the last two our minds and spirits eventually break down.

Over millenia we have evolved all manner of ingenious means to satisfy the first three needs. It is only recently that we have started collectively waking up to our need for a sense of purpose and our need for love. And not a moment too soon: when individuals feel no purpose or feel cut off from love they have a huge impact on us all: crime, substance abuse, violence, war, fear, psychosomatic illness.

It IS our responsibility to be in support of other peoples need for a purpose and for love; by serving them, not only do we serve ourselves but we also serve the systems of interlinked communities to which we belong.

Every person we move into the vicinity of in life is a potential teacher. Everyone has the potential to catalyse the latent greatness in me into full expression.

Yet I am usually closed to this opportunity. "I got my own shit to deal with, so I'm not interested in yours.(!)"

I might believe that I have it all together, that I am the big man and that people do what I say. I might believe that I choose my time and my place for being a friend, being a boss, being a dad, and that I am open to new people only in a context of my choosing, for example "down the pub, meeting friends of a friend" or at a "networking event".

And yet, compartmentalising like that serves what purpose? What am I choosing? I might think I have control over my relationships or control over my life. I might believe that control will get me to what I want. That is a dilusion. I am choosing a closed down sort of life, where I am open to new experience some of the time - because I have a plan to stick to.

What am I missing? What's it going to take to be available to opportunity?

Openness. Being open to other people. It is like an invitation: "Open for business". Some people decide to spend time and connect; others do not. Some will, some won't; so what?

Openness is, however, not enough on it's own. Just to be open is like saying "It's not my responsibility", and expecting to do none of the work. The other attitude and practice that is required is to be positive; to actually choose to see the beauty and greatness in people.

Perspectives on Stone Soup

Depending on where you stand, you'll see the STONE SOUP movement differently; we'll all have different perspectives on this project, based on our experience and our agendae. Here I offer you some of the views that I have explored:

Community Leadership Incubator:

Homeless leaders and "mainstream" leaders will meet regularly in order to grow and support each others' growth as leaders. The place that they will calibrate themselves as leaders will be in "the community". The means by which they shall practice their leadership will be through their own, co-created community projects. The learning and growth process will be supported at an individual and group level with (volunteer) professional leadership coaching, experiential workshops and publication of our learning.

Community Project Incubator:

Homeless leaders and "mainstream" leaders co-create and co-lead community projects. The connection between idea and real change is a (volunteer) Resource Panel, comprised of highly placed individuals, who network the idea out and network the necessary resources back.

A Cause-driven Social Network:

Some of us express our values through "helping the needy", others through "pushing our limits", others through "growing the profession of coaching", yet others through "pushing my agenda". However, the cause around which we all stand is "See greatness and be rewarded with greatness!". This is actually all there is to it; when we have one clear stake, there is room for all of our ideologies, all of our approaches and and all of us - we become the accepted ingredients in the soup. Given that, we can focus our creative energies on powerful relationships and opportunities to synergise with other initiatives. The only way to make this high impact and easy, at the same time, is through social networking. Social networking is simply a series of connected, diverse conversations and referrals that lead to mutual benefit, in this case delivery of a community project.

An Experimental Application of the "Circle of Courage":

The Website "The Reclaiming Youth Network" describes the Circle of Courage thus:
"The Circle of Courage is a model of positive youth development first described in the book Reclaiming Youth at Risk, co-authored by Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg, and Steve Van Bockern. The model integrates Native American philosophies of child-rearing, the heritage of early pioneers in education and youth work, and contemporary resilience research. The Circle of Courage is based in four universal growth needs of all children: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity."

We believe that this framework of values is potentially the bedrock of any learning community, be it focused around a common practice or a geographic community. We will take an introspective view on designing STONE SOUP's own attitudes and behaviours around these values. We shall take a servant leader view on developing and supporting, mutually, the attitudes and behaviours of individuals inside the circle, and we shall take a systems view on integrating these values into our connections and impact in the wider community.

A later blog shall go into more detail; for now I just wish to say we are very excited about the possibilities for this model, because it is simple enough to get intuitively, it covers a broad enough range of key emotional intelligence attributes to have novel and lasting impacts on people, and we haven't found anyone yet applying this wisdom outside of school or youth work.

A LeaderBy Example:

We dare to know that when you see greatness you'll be rewarded with greatness and we are prepared to face the political storm (especially in Calgary) and wrath of the "Haves", in working closely with a "problem group"; "the homeless".
We are proving that you can make something out of apparently nothing, a zero financial investment but a big investment of our time, energy, expertise.

We are walking our thought leadership talk of the Circle of Courage: proving that there is room for service of other people's mastery, independence, generosity and belonging. We are proving that there is another way to do projects; the content comes from the inside out, rather than the experts bringing the content in.

As far as we can make out, STONE SOUP is the first homeless leadership initiative that focuses on creative, community building processes; the first to elevate the homeless leader beyond advocacy or protest-driven activism. I intend no disrespect towards the fine work of homeless-led advocacy groups around the world; they are doing absolutely necessary work to bring dignity and human rights to an overlooked segment of society. And we aim higher than necessary human rights or rehabilitation; we will be working with future world leaders to help realise their biggest ambitions. We advocate an appreciative, opportunity driven approach, rather than a problem solving approach.

A Vehicle ofCorporate Social Responsibility:

At time of writing we have no sponsors yet. However, research among various local (Calgary) NPOs and corporations, STONE SOUP is a focused, powerful and differentiated idea. In other words it is attractive to people working in corporate social responsibility.

We seek contributions of meeting space, inside experts, members of the Resourcing Panel, bursaries, wardrobe allowances, food and refreshments, affordable accommodation, website, graphic design and PR support - all these things will be opportunities for businesses, government and NPOs to get involved, in return for publicity, learning and a warm feeling. We are aiming to be entirely staffed with volunteers and we aim to integrate our activities with existing activities or sources of materials wherever possible; micro-funding might be the only financing some of the community projects might need - this too is an opportunity for sponsorship.

Call +1(403)6070264 to discuss the opportunity.

A Publisher of Newly Applied Knowledge:

It is difficult to find published work about leadership development amongst people experiencing homelessness. It is also almost impossible to find professional coaches who have worked en masse with a marginalised population outside the US prison system. We are excited about the opportunity to stretch and redefine the definitions of professionalism and effective coaching in the context of leaders who are in survival mode (e.g. having a planning horizon, often, of 1-2 hours). We shall not only share all our learning internally, but we shall also publish our work, for the sake of public education about seeing greatness and for the sake of growing the profession of coaching.


We're making soup!

There is an old legend from Europe, which tells of how the intention of one man, an outsider, engaged the passion of a starving village and united them in a magical feast, created from apparently nothing, just a pebble.

Today the lessons of that story are being applied towards providing opportunities for leaders from marginalised and from "mainstream" populations and for communities seeking betterment. The World will learn from this that when we choose to see greatness and beauty, we will be rewarded with greatness and beauty.

Every week, more volunteers are contributing delicious ingredients to the STONE SOUP that is cooking in Calgary, Alberta. A movement is starting to happen, volunteer driven, socially entrepreneurial, community centric, leadership focused and social-networking-dependent. The name of the movement is STONE SOUP....