Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tolerance, Tribalism and Truth

What are your assumptions? Do you assume that every human who shows up on planet Earth deserves to live or do you believe that only certain people or certain types of people deserve life? This is a very important distinction from which flow either 1) tolerance, understanding, love and mutual support, or 2) intolerance, judgment, hatred and death.

Tolerance is "the ability or willingness to accept something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior with which one does not necessarily agree." Tolerance is an essential characteristic of pluralistic democracy and a necessity for peaceful co-existence of different peoples. Otherwise, we have varying forms of tribalism which each espouses that anyone not part of my tribe is not human and does not deserve to live. Tolerance doesn't require understanding, approval or love only acceptance of the right to exist. Can't we offer that to each other?
If you say that the only people who should live are Christians or whites or the wealthy or Americans or heterosexuals, you prescribe to tribalism. Tribalism was perhaps needed thousands of years ago but in this planetary, interconnected age it does not work and is a grave danger to world peace, sustainability and justice.
The profound question that gets raised is what is a human being and why on Earth are we here? Are we intelligent animals, consumers of production, citizens of the state, children of God, compassionate wise beings, a star's way of looking at a star, consciousness of consciousness of consciousness, or are we something else? Take utmost care; for from your truthful answer flow all your actions toward all people everywhere and in fact determine what kind of human being you are.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris: Love, Light or Terror?

Horror and sadness at the shocking deaths of those who died in the attacks in Paris yesterday. I grieve with their families and friends. Now the airwaves are full of reflections about terrorism and what to do about it. A few of my thoughts:

Terrorism depends on your point of view. For example, when the American revolutionaries were burning English churches, they were seen as terrorists by the English and as patriots by those wishing separation from the Crown. Who was right? If the revolution had been put down, the “patriots” would be terrorists to this day.

Terrorism can only be effective if those toward whom it is directed feel terrorized, and that depends entirely on them. How we respond to tragedy is up to each of us. For example, after 20 young Saudi men took down the twin towers and 3,000 people were killed, the mood in NYC and around the world was universal shock, sadness and even a welling up of a sense of the preciousness of life and its interdependence. Only later did the US government and the mass media help turn that into fear, anger, hatred and retaliation by launching an endless “War on Terror” which itself became endless terrorism. There were other responses possible.
Terrorists win if their enemies respond with institutionalized fear and violence. The US government created Homeland Security, a multi-billion dollar agency, and spent trillions of taxpayer and borrowed dollars attacking Afghanistan and then Iraq which had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. We have gone into massive debt, lost or traumatized thousands of our citizens in battle and given birth to ISIS. Who is winning the war on terror?

Terrorism arises because people feel powerless, disrespected, threatened, unseen and unheard. They then decide that their only option is to attack the evil system that is harming them and threatening their beliefs and way of life. Religiously motivated terrorists, whether Christian, Muslim or whatever, are some of the most zealous as they each believe that God is on their side and that they must destroy unbelievers. They are all equally mistaken, however, and should not be allowed to attack each other and draw others into their fanaticism of fear and hatred.

What are nonviolent options of the dominant system in responding to minority fears, anger and violence? The dominant system must engage in deep reflection asking itself several questions at this point: What is it in our behavior that has provoked such a violent response? What are the legitimate concerns of those who are responding in violence? How can dialogue take place that allows every party to express their concerns, fears and hopes? What options are available that honor everyone’s views and allow for a nonviolent, common solution? The dominant system must be willing to make changes, compromises and adjustments in behavior and policy. Needless to say, it is essential for the dominant system to do all that it can to protect the safety and wellbeing of all citizens during this process.  

What are responses that the dominant system must be careful to avoid in the midst of terrorist acts? Demonizing larger groups must be avoided. If the person who bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City is a Christian, all Christians must not be demonized. If the attackers in Paris were Muslim, and we are not yet certain, all Muslims must not be demonized. Exacerbating fear among the general population must be avoided. There must be voices of calm and reason during the mourning period that remind people to focus on living their daily lives in confidence and gratitude, reaching out to minority groups and disaffected people.

At times like these we must remember even greater threats to our shared humanity including environmental degradation and climate chaos, growing oligarchy and militarism and increasing human misery through systemic poverty, gender violence and cultural intolerance. How do we reinvent our societies and move toward a compassionate civilization for all?

There are no easy answers or magic solutions. We must do all that we can to listen to others, look within our own hearts and be willing to risk the status quo by creating something new out of the confrontation of differences. We must see that a common solution will be one that allows everyone to be who they are without doing harm to others.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Reflective Structural Revolutionary

Yesterday I saw an AARP video about a puppeteer. It was titled “It is enough to know who you are.” So I asked myself, who am I?
I am a revolutionary. I want everything to change. I want to reinvent society. I want to catalyze a compassionate civilization. I want to create utopia here on Earth. That’s who I am. I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to create a better world, first at the community project level, then at the national and global policy level, and more recently at the individual educational level. I love what I do. I know who I am. How do I bring all three levels together in my final chapter?

But I’m the type of revolutionary who lives within the structures of society, who got married, had kids, got remarried, has grandkids, is a citizen of a country and works within various organizations. I want to change structures from within, not from outside. I want to undermine and transform the system from within. That’s me – the trans-establishment, not the disestablishment or the establishment.

And so it goes, day after day, writing, teaching, training, facilitating, speaking and demonstrating how it can be done.

I love this Earth. I love my family. I love myself. I love human society. I love great nature. I am saddened and I weep as I experience social misery and environmental degradation. I am part of the movement of movements (moms) that will transform everything and create a compassionate civilization. 

And when my time is over, I will let go of this nondual non-self and become part of the endless revolution.

Writing the above makes me feel powerful and light and happy. I am an incarnation, appearing for a moment, to do a certain work, and then disappearing. That is the way it works. That is what is supposed to happen. It is not a mistake. Suffering, sickness, old age and death are not mistakes. They are part of the very essence of the sentient nondual non-self. Otherwise, how would we ever learn compassion and wisdom and how would we transform into what is needed next?

Ineffable mystery.

Gratitude upon gratitude.
Photo above: The Orion Nebula (Orion, my grandson's middle name)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Visionary Movemental Leadership

I gave the following presentation last week on 22 October 2015 in New York City at Horace Mann, an elite school dedicated to preparing students to live "great and giving lives." After the presentation there was a dinner and a workshop on follow up actions. Before my presentation, I met with members of some of the school's 60 clubs, and Karen Johnson gave an overview of social artistry training at the school. The presentation has four sections: the crises of our times, a vision of a new civilization, the movement of movements and innovative leadership methods. (The image above was used to promote the event.) 

Thank you, Karen. Great work, Social Artistry Team! Thanks to you and Dr. Tom Kelly, Head of School, for inviting me to be with you today. And good afternoon, students, parents, teachers and administrators of Horace Mann School. (show of hands for each of the four groups) Please introduce yourself to people around you – your name and what you hope will happen in the next hour and its follow up.

My name is Robertson Work. I have worked in international development for 45 years in 55 countries – first at the grassroots project level helping poor communities as part of an NGO, the Institute of Cultural Affairs, then at the global policy level with the UN Development Programme helping countries in the field of decentralized governance, and now at the individual educational level teaching innovative leadership at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service here in New York City.

I hope that in this session you and I can think together about what is happening in our world and what we are called to know, do and be today and in the years ahead. I have studied your website, been to the Dorr Nature Laboratory, visited the clubs and publications membership fair, had a campus site visit, and have just held a meeting with some of the club members.  I must confess that I am impressed with who you are, what you are doing here at Horace Mann and the huge potential you have for making a positive impact on the world.

You are committed to leading “great and giving lives.” You are committed to truth, the life of the mind, mature behavior, mutual respect, creating a secure and healthful environment and maintaining balance between individual achievement and a caring community. You are committed to sustainability, diversity and service to others. I salute you, your mission and your core values. And I believe that those to whom much is given, much is called forth. And to those driven by high aspirations, lives of great service are possible.

What is a global citizen? We are all Earthlings, evolving from the Earth, part of the Earth and stewards of the Earth. “I am a citizen of the world”, wrote Diogenes Laertius, Greek philosopher (AD 220).  “The world is my country, all [humankind] are my [sisters and brothers], and to do good is my religion”, wrote Thomas Paine, American revolutionary (AD 1776). I was born in a small town in Oklahoma, went around the Earth at 24 and fell in love with her and her Earthlings. Who has traveled to other countries? Who has lived in other countries? Who was born in another country? But I say to you, anyone in any circumstance can be a global citizen. Were any of you at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park recently? Check out the website:

Let’s begin with a few minutes of stillness and “seconds of silence” to relax and become fully present, here and now. (3 min. of mindfulness)

Turn to someone near you and share in one minute each what you are most concerned about in the world today. (3 min. of buzz) Okay, anyone: what did the other person say?

Let’s spend the next several minutes thinking together about our times of crisis and opportunity, a vision of a new civilization, the movement of movements that can take us there and the innovative leadership and sustaining practices that will be required. As I speak let your minds dialogue with what I am saying: what did he say? how did it make me feel? what did it remind me of? what does it mean to me? what is my decision about this? and what will I do about it?.

I.                    Our Times of Crisis and Opportunity
We are living in the most critical time in all of human history. Why do I say that? Never before in the past 5,000 years have we faced such colossal danger and such exhilarating possibility. We are on the brink of either mass extinction or a whole new way of being human on planet Earth. Which it will be depends on what you and I do with our lives. Thus our being together this afternoon.

A.      Climate Chaos and Degradation of Ecosystems
Climate chaos and degradation of ecosystems are upon us. We thought fossil fuels were a brilliant solution for our energy needs. It turns out that they have been destroying our life support systems of air, water, ice, soil, plants and animals. This is because of the release of carbon dioxide from the extraction and burning of coal, oil and natural gas. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere are warming the planet and melting the ice around the planet, causing sea levels to rise, flooding coastal areas and will submerge many islands. In addition global warming is causing mega-storms and wild fires, desertification and water shortages, collapse of food production, loss of biodiversity (the sixth extinction) and acidification of the oceans, and could result in human mass migrations and social and economic volatility. I remind you of this not to frighten you but to sound the alarm that we must and can change our ways right now.  

B.      Patriarchy and Misogyny
For thousands of years it has been understood that men are dominant and should control and lead women. This view is called patriarchy and has been strengthened by the world’s religions which predominately have male gods, male saviors and male priests. Some men fear and even hate women. This is called misogyny. The problems with these views are not only that they harm women but that they have kept women from exercising their rightful leadership in society at all levels. Without honoring women’s views, knowledge and wisdom, societies have become overly masculinized with the destruction of the natural world and the promotion of militarization, win-lose competition and a culture of violence. I remind you of this not to frighten you but to sound the alarm that we must and can change our ways right now.   

C.      Oligarchy, Plutocracy and Corporatocracy
Even though democracy has been around for over three hundred years, we see today that democratic elections and representation around the world have been greatly weakened by a few powerful people. Did you know, for example, that only 158 families have provided half of the money supporting presidential candidates for the 2016 US elections? When a few families control a country it is called an oligarchy. When a few wealthy people control a country it is called a plutocracy. Corporations are controlling elections, legislation and the mass media as a way to control society. This is called corporatocracy. One of the problems with this trend is that the needs, voices and wisdom of middle class and poor people are being ignored and they are suffering. I remind you of this not to worry or frighten you but to sound the alarm that we must and can change our ways right now.

D.     Systemic Poverty and Social Deprivation
2.5 billion people live on less than $2 per day. 2.6 billion lack access to sanitation. 1 billion have no access to safe water. 10 million preventable child deaths occur each year. We cannot escape old age, sickness and death, but we can relieve our suffering in so many ways. In the past 30 years income inequality has skyrocketed. One percent of the world’s population owns 50% of the world’s wealth. And in the US, the top one percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90%. The number of poor people has expanded and the middle class has been significantly weakened. Most people don’t have adequate income or access to quality education and health services. This is because the economic system based on accumulation and greed is designed to favor the wealthy. If you have money you can make money with money. If you don’t have money you have to work for wages that are often inadequate to support you and your family. One of the many problems with this situation is that the majority of people are suffering and do not see how they can sustain their lives. I remind you of this not to make you feel guilty but to sound the alarm that we must and can change our ways right now. 

E.      Prejudice, Nationalism and Militarism
People who are different are often looked down on and often harmed. This includes people of different races, ethnic groups, religions, economic classes and sexual orientations. This of course is called bias or prejudice. People in different countries are often feared and attacked with massive use of armaments. This is militarism. People think that their country is always right and is the only one that is important. This is called nationalism. These views are based on ignorance, fear and hatred. The problem with these views is that they cause many people to suffer. I remind you of this not to make you sad but to sound the alarm that we must and can change and help others change their views and behavior. 

F.       Command-and-Control Leadership
Today the dominant style of leadership is command-and-control. The leader is seen as superior and to be obeyed. He is usually male. Leadership is seen to be about strength, authority and control of others. One of the problems with this approach to leadership is that it does not seek or value the views, intelligence and participation of other people. It is therefore less intelligent and does not reflect the ideas and needs of other people and causes them harm. I remind you of this not to make you angry or depressed but to sound the alarm that we must and can change and help others change their views and behavior. 

II.                  A Vision of a New Civilization of Compassion
Yes, a global citizen needs to be clear on these crises, problems and challenges, but we also need to dream of a new world that is so attractive that it beckons us and motivates us to create it. What are your greatest hopes for the future? What is indeed possible? What is necessary? What would a new civilization of compassion look like? Remember, compassion is not only feeling someone else’s pain but is vowing to relieve their suffering.

Compassion in the first instance is not religious or even spiritual. It is a natural response of living beings who have empathy for each other and want to help each other. Parents are one of the best examples of compassion. A parent will do anything to help relieve the suffering of their children and to help them be happy. A compassionate civilization is the universalization of this quality of compassion directed toward all beings everywhere. Or it can be called love, or care, or being neighborly, or helpful.

What might a new civilization of compassion look like? It will be based on six principles: sustainability, equality, justice, participation, tolerance and nonviolence.

A.      Environmental Sustainability
The new civilization of compassion will embody environmental sustainability at its very core. As Naomi Klein says: “Climate change isn’t just a crisis. It’s a chance to build a better world.” People will realize that there can be no human life without healthy ecosystems of air, water, soil, plants and animals. We will keep the remaining fossil fuels in the ground. All energy will be from renewable sources such as sun, wind, water, geothermal and algae. We will protect the natural environment. The new economy will be 100% environmentally friendly. 

B.      Gender Equality
A compassionate civilization will embody gender equality in every facet of human society. Women will be leaders at every level of society. Women will be paid the same as men for the same work. The voices, views and wisdom of women will be honored and celebrated. Men will respect and protect the sovereignty of women’s bodies and minds. Gender and sexual orientation will be understood and accepted as taking a multiplicity of forms. 

C.      Participatory Governance
A compassionate civilization will embody participatory governance. The needs, voices, views and wisdom of all people will set the policy agendas for society through new processes and institutions of direct democracy. This will include face-to-face and online policy dialogue. 

D.     Socio-economic Justice
A compassionate civilization will embody socio-economic justice. Everyone will have meaningful engagement, adequate income and access to high quality education and health services.  

E.      Cultural Tolerance
A compassionate civilization will embody cultural tolerance. It will be understood and accepted that all people of every race, ethnic background, religion, economic class and nationality should be respected and free to exercise their rights as human beings. People will enjoy learning from others who have a different background and orientation to life.

F.       Innovative Leadership
A compassionate civilization will embody innovative leadership. Leadership will have evolved beyond the authoritative, bureaucratic and pragmatic to principled leadership honoring multiple perspectives. Leadership will be understood as an art of human behavior and interaction that can be practiced by anyone in any position. Leadership will be facilitative, participatory, inspiring, systemic and creative.
At this point you may be saying to yourself, but all this sounds utopian. Is it really possible to achieve? I would say to you that if we do not head for utopia we will be left in endless dystopia of environmental degradation and social misery. Let’s go for it!

III.                The Movement of Movements
How will we get from our current situation of crisis to a new civilization of compassion? Fortunately there are already many forces moving us in that direction. These are the many movements that each promote a particular vision. If they can work together, these movements will become a powerful movement of movements that will help humanity realize its full potential.

A.      Environmental, Climate and Green Energy Movements
There are the environmental, climate and green energy movements. The environmental movement is committed to protecting the natural environment. The climate movement is motivated to help us mitigate and adapt to climate chaos. The green energy movement is promoting the rapid transition to an energy system of 100% renewable energy from sun, wind, water, geothermal and algae. This includes networks and organizations such as, Greenpeace and Transition Towns.

B.      Women’s and LGBTQ Movements
We also have the women’s movement and the LGBTQ movement. The women’s movement promotes the rights, voice, leadership and protection of women. Women gained the right to vote only 95 years ago, and must be paid the same as men for the same work. The LGBTQ movement is concerned about the safety and freedom of LGBTQ youth and adults. Groups in these movements include the National Organization of Women (NOW) and International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and others.

C.      Direct Democracy and Decentralization Movements
Then there are the direct democracy movement and the decentralization movement. The direct democracy movement promotes the formation of new democratic processes and institutions that allow the views and needs of citizen to be the basis for policy formulation. The decentralization movement helps move power, decision making and service delivery beyond national and state capitals to towns and villages throughout a country.

D.     Labor Union and Post-Capitalism Movements
There are also the labor union movement and the post-capitalism movement. The labor movement helps workers organize into unions that can negotiate their salaries and benefits so that they are not taken advantage of by management. The post-capitalism movement is promoting the creation of a new economic system that values the wellbeing of all the people and all of nature over profits for a small elite.

E.      Human Rights and Peace Movements
We also have the human rights movement and the peace movement. The human rights movement is committed to realizing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for every women, man and child. The peace movement is working hard to promote nonviolence, diplomacy and negotiation, to stop wars and to delegitimize war as an acceptable manner for resolving conflict. As written on the Horace Mann School peace poles: “May peace prevail in our hearts, in our communities, in our nations and on the Earth.”

F.       Group Facilitation and Social Artistry Movements
Finally there is the facilitation movement and the social artistry movement. The facilitation movement is promoting the power of group facilitation as a way to involve all of the people of an organization or community in its own decision making. This includes the IAF – the International Association of Facilitators, and the ToP Network – the Technology of Participation, created by the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). This week is International Facilitation Week celebrating the power of group facilitation. The social artistry movement trains educators and leaders in organizations and communities to enhance people’s creativity and passion in ways that create a world that works for all. This includes the work of the Jean Houston Foundation and the training that Karen, Woody and Denise and their team are doing here at Horace Mann. (Who has been part of any of their events?)

Of course there are many other movements as well. The point is that when these movements work together they are unstoppable. They can and will create a new civilization of compassion. The UN is among those at the forefront of this movement of movements. Last month the 193 countries of the UN launched 17 sustainable development goals for 2030. The UN has also just released a new series of action comics of superheroes who help achieve the goals. How are we each a super hero as a global citizen and world server at this time in history? Achieving these goals will take us a long way towards a new civilization of compassion. Many of your clubs are already working on one or more of these goals.

Which movement is your favorite? Which one are you already part of? Which one do you want to become part of?

IV.               Innovative Leadership and Self Sustenance
In order to move from our time of crisis towards a new civilization of compassion, we need to provide innovative leadership of the movement of movements and in government, corporations, NGOs, academia and media. There are many methods of effective and innovative leadership. I would like to share four that I have found to be particularly powerful. They are 1) integral systems thinking, 2) group facilitation and participatory planning, 3) social artistry and 4) mindfulness, ethics and servant-leadership.

A.      Integral Systems Thinking (4 Quadrants)
The innovative leader engages in integral systems thinking in four dimensions – the interior (consciousness) and exterior (the material world) and the individual and collective. By analyzing and planning within four quadrants at the intersection of these dimensions, the innovative leader is aware of and is addressing all aspects of any issue or situation.  She/he knows that every situation has an interior-individual dimension, an exterior-individual dimension, an interior-collective dimension and an exterior-collective dimension. The interior-individual dimension includes people’s mindsets, attitudes, values and assumptions which as a leader you must be aware of and help evolve. The exterior-individual dimension includes people’s behaviors, speech and interpersonal relations that need new skillful means. The interior-collective dimension includes culture, myths, symbols, rituals and norms that influence people some of which need to be transformed. The exterior-collective dimension includes systems, policies, institutions, organizations and communities that need to continually evolve. For example, in dealing with climate change the innovative leader must employ strategies to change individual mindsets and behavior as well as collective culture and systems. When at the UN I used integral systems thinking to help design new policies and programs.

B.      Group Facilitation and Participatory Planning (ToP)
The innovative leader uses group facilitation techniques and processes to enable people to engage in participatory conversations and planning. The facilitator asks question after question provoking the best thinking and cooperation of the group. For example, in the ToP (Technology of Participation) methodology, the innovative leader facilitates group conversations in a four part sequence called ORID: Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional. This allows the group to go from an objective appreciation (what do you notice?), to delve into their emotions and memory (how do you feel about it or what does it remind you of?), to telling a story or identifying the meaning (what is the significance?) and finally to making a decision concerning what actions are needed (what is your decision?). In participatory strategic planning the facilitator leads the group in 1) articulating their future Vision, 2) analyzing current Obstacles to the vision, 3) creating Strategies to deal with the obstacles and move toward the vision, and 4) deciding on Actions and a timeline for realizing the strategies. This week I am facilitating an online conversation on the power of facilitation using the ORID method. When I was in UNDP I used the participatory strategic planning method to develop policies and projects around the world. 

C.      Social Artistry (SA)
The innovative leader uses social artistry techniques and processes to enhance people’s creativity and commitment. The social artist enables people to become aware and involved in social change on four levels: sensory/physical, psychological/historical, mythic/symbolic and unitive/integral. At the sensory/physical level people deepen their awareness of the physical situation using their five senses. At the psychological/historical level people look at their memories, feelings and associations. At the mythic/symbolic level people explore the stories and symbols that give meaning to their lives and they also create new stories concerning new possibilities. And at the unitive/integral level people experience the sense of unity or at-oneness with the group or reality that they are dealing with. If the social artist can expand and deepen people’s awareness at these four levels, there is greater likelihood of achieving breakthrough, creative, inspiring and lasting change. When I was in UNDP I trained people in several countries in social artistry so that they could be more effective in decentralizing the MDGs in their countries by enhancing their human capacities.

D.     Mindfulness, Ethics and Servant Leadership
The innovative leader uses mindfulness exercises and ethical practices to call people to a profound sense of being servant-leaders. Mindfulness exercises include relaxation, meditation and contemplation. By enhancing and deepening their awareness, people gain detached-engagement, understanding, compassion and wisdom. Ethical study and practice help people live lives based on their deepest values and principles such as compassion, truth, justice, equality and understanding. Learning to be a servant-leader is a life long journey of letting go of ones ego and focusing ones energies on helping and serving others. In the words of Horace Mann School: living great and giving lives. I meditate daily and teach my NYU grad students in all four of the above leadership methods.

These four approaches to innovative leadership, among others, are needed to propel organizations, movements and the movement of movements toward the realization of a compassionate civilization. These innovative leadership methods can be learned, practiced and applied right here at Horace Mann, in the Bronx community, in New York City, in New York State, throughout the USA, and around the world.  

You at Horace Mann School are committed to truth, to service, to sustainability and to diversity. As such you can embrace the truth of our time of crisis and opportunity, the need to build a sustainable society that honors diversity and the necessity of leading great and giving lives of individual and collective service. You can embody this in your curriculum, your individual and institutional behavior and environment, your clubs and publications and in your action projects. You – students, parents, teachers, and administrators – are called to do much good in this suffering world as global citizens, world servers, and innovative leaders.

What you tell yourself about what you are doing is crucial. This reminds me of a story of three stone cutters somewhere in medieval Europe. A stranger asked one of them, what are you doing? The stonecutter said, I am chipping away at the stone. He asked the second stone cutter, what are you doing? The stonecutter said, I am feeding my family. Then the stranger asked the third stonecutter, what are you doing? He took a deep breath, looked up at the stranger, and said with dignity: sir, I am building a cathedral. What is your and my life about? What is your story? What motivates you to do what you do? Are you just doing a job or are you building a compassionate civilization?
As students you can commit yourself to create a better world right now and throughout your life. You can vow to be a global citizen. You can prepare yourself for a life of service as an innovative leader. You can develop the skills needed to create breakthroughs in society on behalf of the least, the last, and the lost. You can study and play hard and become a good human being who inspires others to be the best that they can be. Some of you will decide to spend your lives promoting environmental sustainability, or gender equality, or participatory governance, or socio-economic justice or cultural tolerance and understanding. Some of you will take on all of it!

As parents you can support your children in their self-realization of living great and giving lives. You can yourselves do all that you can to create a world that is sustainable, equitable, just, participatory, tolerant and peaceful. 

As teachers you can bring the exploration of these crises, visions, movements and leadership approaches into your curriculum. You can model for your students what it means to be an innovative leader who is building a better world. When you relate to your students as present and future innovative leaders, you can hold a vision of their doing remarkable things as global citizens and world servers.
As administrators you can continue to create an institution of excellence not only in scholarship but in service, sustainability and diversity.

What would Horace Mann himself say to us today? “Let us not be content to wait to see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things to happen.” And If any [person] seeks for greatness, let [her/]him forget greatness and ask for truth, and [she/]he will find both.

I would like to conclude with words of the English poet D.H. Lawrence written in 1916 yet for this very moment:
Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides [a new civilization, a new world, new leadership].
Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul,
I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,
Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.
What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm.
No, no, it is the three strange angels.
Admit them, admit them.
(“Song of a Man Who Has Come Through”)

Please repeat after me the powerful words of the paleontologist, theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

     The task before us now
     If we would not perish
     Is to shake off our ancient prejudices
     And to build the Earth

Let’s do it!

For further information:
Innovative Leadership Services:
A Compassionate Civilization:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Wake Up Time! ICAI Keynote in Nepal

The presentation below is my keynote given in Kathmandu, Nepal, at the ICA International 8th Global Conference on Human Development, 30 October 2012.

(Nepali music is playing/Earth banner is above and behind.)


Please relax your body and focus your mind on your breath, just sitting, just being, just enjoying this moment.

“I teach only suffering and the relief of suffering.” The man who said these words 2,500 years ago was born not far from here in Lumbini, Nepal. His name, Siddhartha Gautama of the Shakya clan. We know him as the Buddha, the one who woke up – the awakened one.

Suffering – 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 per day. 2.6 billion lack access to sanitation. 1 billion have no access to safe water. 10 million preventable child deaths occur each year. We cannot escape old age, sickness and death, but we can relieve our suffering in so many ways.

I am grateful to the great people and land of Nepal, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the roof top of the world, for welcoming and hosting us in this global human development conference. Thanks especially to Tatwaji for your vision and commitment to make this event a reality and for asking me to speak. The work of ICA Nepal that I have witnessed is impressive, including village development, model schools, a Masters curriculum on training and development, social artistry and business job training, HIV/AIDs mitigation, and much more. Thanks to Larry Philbrook for your consistent, energized leadership of ICAI. Thanks to the conference organizers, sponsors, theme leaders, sherpas and facilitators for your creative, hard work – especially Kushendra, Ishu, Juju, Nimesh and many others. 

Please turn to someone near you and share your name and what you hope to accomplish here this week.

My resume is simple: ICA – 21 years; United Nations Development Programme and New York University – 21 years; I began working on local projects of community, organizational and leadership development; then, global policy advice on decentralized governance; and now teaching and consulting on innovative leadership for sustainable human development.

This is my sixth time in Nepal, the first being 43 years ago when I traveled around the world with a few ICA colleagues and fell in love with planet Earth, her mountains, oceans and living beings. In Nepal I have witnessed a live goat sacrifice, meditated in ancient temples, flown by the face of Mt. Everest, travelled to the Eastern region, met with villagers on a hilltop, launched a UNDP project on Decentralized Approaches to HIV/AIDS Mitigation with Tatwa and Jan Sanders and, as a Fulbright specialist, designed with Tatwa, Kushendra and others a Masters curriculum on training and development. Nepal and I have changed since then. I now have two beautiful grandchildren. (photo)

This is my third time to address a global ICAI conference, first in Oaxtapec, Mexico, in 1988, the year we dissolved the collective structures of ICA’s core group of families; then in Lonavala, India during a plague. I wonder what will happen now and next?

And you are here! Let’s see the hands of the women. The men. The young ones. Who is the youngest? The elders. Who is oldest? Who is from an NGO? Government? Business? Academia? Media? Intergovernmental? Others? Who is here from – (mention each country, one by one, and ask people to raise their hands.) Who is with ICA? Other than ICA? Who came the longest journey here?

There are also virtual participants around the world who are online. Who are some of them? From where?

Our space is here, and now is our time. These are indeed the times!

What has brought us to this moment? Scientists tell us that around 14 billion years ago there was a great flaring forth of time, space and energy, coalescing in atoms, light and dark matter, evolving into galaxies and stars, then into planets and finally into plants and animals. And here we are today on our gorgeous planet Earth. What will be going on in another 14 billion years?

Historians tell us that there are around 5,000 years of recorded history. What do you dream will be going on in another 5,000 years?

The industrial age began 250 years ago. What could be happening in another 250 years?

Well, for me, we are living in the most critical decade and century in all of human history – a moment of crisis and opportunity. Why do I believe that?

Everything is changing, everything. This is a time of whole systems transformation and “raplexity” – rapidity plus complexity. Life on Earth is in mortal danger and therefore we have the possibility and necessity to reinvent the human enterprise.

Let’s listen to the words of the great Nepali poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota writing perhaps about our time:

Look at the strumpet-tongues advancing of shameless leadership!
At the breaking of the backbones of the people’s rights!
When the sparrow-headed bold prints of black lies on the papers,
Challenge the hero in me called Reason,
With conspiracy false,
Then redden hot my cheeks, my friend,
And their colour is up.
when the unsophisticated folk quaff off black poison with their ears
Taking it for ambrosia,
And that before my eyes, my friend,
Then every hair rises on end,
Like the serpent-tresses of the Gorgons,
Every one so irritated!
When I see the tiger pouncing upon the innocent deer,
Or the big fish after the smaller ones,
Then even into my corroded bones, my friend,
The terrible strength of the soul of Dadhichi--the sage,
Enters and seeks utterance.
Like a clouded day crashing down to earth in the thunderbolt,
When man regards a man as no man,
Then gnash my teeth and grind my jaws, set with the two and thirty teeth,
Like Bhimsen's teeth, the terror-striking hero's,
And then,
Rolling round my fury-reddened eyeballs,
With an inscrutable sweep,
I look at this inhuman human world
Like a tongue of fire.
(From “The Lunatic”)

Because of the last 200 years of burning fossil fuels, massive amounts of carbon have been released into the atmosphere, now over 350 parts per million, and planet Earth is heating up. Glaciers and ice caps are melting, including here in the Himalayas. Sea levels are rising. Coastal cities and islands will be submerged. (Nepal is lucky to be “land locked”!) Oceans are becoming acidic; and there is a massive die back of species both marine and terrestrial. Mega storms are increasing. Droughts and wild fires are spreading. Water and food shortages are accelerating. These phenomena are not theoretical but observable. They are happening now. Our planet has already changed and if we humans do not alter our individual and collective behavior, our planet will soon become inhospitable to life and suffering will increase.

But we are changing. We must stop the fossil fuel industries of oil, gas and coal (death-energy) and rapidly promote renewable energy from sun, water, wind, geo-thermal and algae (life-energy.) This is the green energy revolution. Nepal is fortunate to have an abundance of hydropower potential. There is a global environmental movement at work including 350, Green Peace and many others. It is time to embrace life or to face extinction.

Because of the last 5,000 years of male dominance (the patriarchy) women’s wisdom has not played its necessary role in the design and management of our societies. Women have been kept silent, subservient, abused, trapped at home and pregnant. They have not been allowed to exercise their human rights of speech, choice, career and leadership. This has resulted in overly masculinized societies that promote and celebrate violence, harmful competition, technology without heart and warfare.

Improvements for women have taken place, yet we have a long way to go. And in some parts of the world there is a backlash against women’s rights. That is why 14 year-old Malala Youstafzai was shot recently in Pakistan by the Taliban and why the Republicans in my country want to ban abortion. As the patriarchy dies out, some men are fighting back to control women’s bodies and minds. But this must not stand. Our societies need the participation and leadership of women at every level of society and in full partnership with men. Our societies need feminine perspectives, wisdom and actions of nurture, relationship and compassion. Without gender equality and the empowerment of women we will not make it as a species.

Our modern economies are based on capital, profit, debt and interest and the global gambling casino of investing. Money accumulation for a few has become more important than the wellbeing of all people and nature. Economic enterprises, based on fossil fuel energy, pollute the air, water and soil and abuse human labor. Our economies are killing us, other life forms and our planetary ecosystems. Fiscal policy is made by global elites that control the formation and movement of capital through central banks and investment firms. The 1% has become consumed by greed and power. Austerity for the masses and opulence for the few is not the human way.
But we are waking up! Sacred economics (Charles Eisenstein) shows us that capital should not be based on debt and interest. Bartering is increasing. Local currencies are being developed. There is a global movement, including Transition Towns (Rob Hopkins), which promotes growing home gardens, buying local, using less gasoline and traveling less and buying from companies which respect nature and workers. We can and must create local, national and global economies that are pro-people and pro-planet. We must shift from an economy based on greed to an economy of generosity. 

Every system of governance is in crisis. Autocracy is still with us and the democratic experiment of the past 200 years is faltering badly around the world. Oligarchy, plutocracy and corporatocracy are masquerading as democratic regimes. The elites are buying and manipulating democratic institutions (media, courts, legislatures, executives, voting) to maintain control of political, economic and military power. As Nepal knows, it is not easy to move from a monarchy to a constitutional democracy. It takes changes in mindset, behavior and culture as well as the formation of democratic institutions. And as Nepal knows, a lasting peace involves profound changes in the human psyche as well as in social organization.

But local people around the world are rising up as we see in the Arab
Spring, the Occupy (Wall Street) Movement and the anti-austerity
movement in Europe. People are voting with their bodies in the street.
Local people are demanding a say in their own governance.

Participatory self-governance can be our future if we do not give up.
We can create meta-modern democracies as Hordur Torfarson
describes from the experience of Iceland.

We humans are still plagued by illiteracy, illness, ignorance and prejudice. Our educational systems are not adequate for all the people. Likewise, our health systems are tragically unable to provide even basic care to all people everywhere and people suffer senseless illnesses. Cultural and religious bigotry, fear and hatred are causing great harm to many.

Yet in our hearts we know that everyone deserves a quality education and good healthcare. These are part of our universal human rights. We also need social safety nets to ensure care for the elderly and the poor. We can do this. We have the capacity. We have the resources. We must mobilize the political will to do so. We can live in mutual respect with people of different ethnic, religious and lifestyle choices realizing that in diversity is richness, beauty and mutual learning.

As we look into the future two paths present themselves, either continued crisis and collapse or an emerging empathic civilization. We humans are hardwired for empathy, compassion and altruism. We must continue to evolve and manifest these qualities.

We are here this week to share and search for strategies and initiatives that will take humanity toward sustainable human development. We know that we can build a world that works for everyone. We can create societies that enable each person to realize her/his full potential. We can create the possible human and the possible society. (Jean Houston)

We the people will prevail and we are the people. The seven billion of us have the collective intelligence and will, not only to survive but to flourish. I stand in awe and gratitude for being alive at this critical moment in history and am committed to act on behalf of all. We are part of Those Who Care, the sensitive and response ones, who are waking up and engaged in risk taking, innovation, reinvention, embodying, catalyzing and creating the environments for human emergence.  

The 350 movement is awakening people to climate chaos mitigation; Transition Towns is demonstrating a new life style and economy; the Occupy movement is showing that non-violent resistance is necessary; and the Arab Spring is demanding political voice for the masses. Local people are on the rise. Women, who hold up half the sky, are stepping forward. Youth are leading the way as the emerging generation. NGOs and CBOs are showing that civil society is one of the three governance actors alongside government and business. People realize that we need energized government at every level – local, national, global – to promote the wellbeing of people and nature. Enlightened businesses are demonstrating corporate responsibility. Academia is calling for open, free education. Social media is enabling billions of local people to share their hopes and dreams as a global village.

Repeat after me (thrice): The task before us now/if we would not perish/is to shake off our ancient prejudices/and to build the Earth! (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
I can’t think of six more important areas for our work this week than promoting innovative leadership, inventing open education, developing local communities, creating a viable planet, fostering peace and good governance and catalyzing the human, financial and technical resources needed for all of this.

This is actually one integrated dialogue and task this week, is it not? A viable planet is the global context, and we are all Earthlings. Water, air, soil, plants and animals are our brothers and sisters. Community development is the local context, and we are all local.  A new sense of leadership is at the heart of each theme and leads the way through integral frameworks (Ken Wilber), Social Artistry (Jean Houston) and the Technology of Participation (ICA), among others. Open education creates the cultural mindsets and skills needed. (Tatwa’s new Masters in training and development provides a model curriculum.) Peace and good governance are the political systems that will make everything work together to support all living beings. And access to abundant resources is part of a new economy of generosity, empathy and compassion.

Each of the six themes requires new leadership, must be promoted through open education, supported by good governance and peace and undergirded by adequate resources. Each theme must promote a viable planet and sustainable local communities.

Each theme group needs to identify integral strategies and initiatives that promote their theme in relation to the five other themes that: 1) transform individual mindsets and values (individual interior); 2) change individual behaviors (individual exterior); 3) transform collective cultural beliefs and values (collective interior); and 4) change collective policies, institutions and systems (collective exterior). [Ken Wilbur]

In the midst of an incredible array of crises, I believe that it is possible to save all sentient beings and all life on Earth, to build an Empathic Civilization (Jeremy Rifkin), to create a world that works for everyone and to reinvent societies that enable each human being to realize her/his full potential.

To do this we will need to care for ourselves. We need to engage daily in spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga and journaling. We need to be willing to change, change and change some more. We need to break a habit each day. We must be true to our deepest values and vows. We must be the change that is needed in the world (Gandhi.) Happiness is not our goal but our path. We can wake up every moment to peace, happiness, compassion and understanding.

This group is gathered for a very precious moment. We are the ones we have been waiting for. This is our chance for breakthrough thinking, doing and being, for innovation, creativity, boldness and risk taking.

To the theme groups, stand and be sent forward: viable planet, local community, new leadership, open education, peace and good governance and abundant resources.
To Nepal, believe in yourself, your genius, your destiny. To all other countries, be your greatness. To the women, know that the rise women and of the feminine in each of us will heal us all. To the youth, you are the future emergent. To the men: change, change, change. To the ICA, don’t rest on your laurels, keep learning. To all other organizations, be your unique gift to the world.

When we leave here we will be a virtual Community of Practice – sharing questions and knowledge, encouraging, modeling, risking, challenging, collaborating, supporting and communicating. We will be a global movement and a social media blizzard. We will be working through our organizations and networks. During the rest of this decade, this is it, pull out all the stops.
For the rest of this century, let’s shock the world with human development! Let’s delight the planet with human emergence! I call us to step beyond that which is no longer and to move toward the not yet, to be the people of the wedge.

In the words of the English poet D.H. Lawrence written in 1916 yet for this very moment:

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time [wind energy?].
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world
Like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted;
If only I am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge
Driven by invisible blows,
The rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the Hesperides [the Himalayas, Lumbini, our true home, our deepest heart].
Oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul,
I would be a good fountain, a good well-head,
Would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.
What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm.
No, no, it is the three strange angels [the 200 strange angels.]
Admit them, admit them.
(“Song of a Man Who Has Come Through”)

It’s wake up time on planet Earth! Now is the Time! We are the People!

(Nepali Music Playing: Nepali Dancing!)