Laddership Retreat: Building Local Spaces

Posted by Bela Shah on Jun 22, 2012
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At the recent Laddership retreat, we received updates from different ServiceSpace portals.  From positive DailyGood news stories to heartwarming acts of kindness on HelpOthers and KarmaTube to inspiring journeys shared through works & conversations, the ServiceSpace love is surely felt across ethernet cables and wifi waves around the world. Yet for many of us who don’t live in close proximity to an established ServiceSpace hub, there can be a bit of a disconnect: the beauty of all the stories and insights, wisdom and conversations captured online is met with a stark “real world reality” offline. But does it have to be that way?

A couple of questions sprang up in response:
  1. How can we bring the love of service into our local, physical environment
  2. How can we support people who we have never met, but have been inspired by our online content and want to start chapters in their own communities? 

Yuka created a diagram as the questions arose:

Here’s what we heart-stormed...

The Challenges
When you bring ServiceSpace into your local community, what challenges crop up?

Anchors Move: Yoo-mi reflected that one key issue is not having enough anchors to sustain a chapter, especially when core anchors move away.

Differing ValuesHow do you keep clarity and alignment of values when you bring new people together who have never experienced ServiceSpace? Many of us who have and are currently trying to bring this space into a local community are met with the challenge of keeping the space pure in its values and intentions. But how do we do that when we ourselves are still learning and growing along the path?

Existing Tools:
RSVP Template for Local Events: We already have a template for members to create an RSVP invitation form for local events. We can also think about adding a link that will invite members to join Wednesdays in Santa Clara via Skype or live stream. By having an opportunity to experience a Wednesday online, members might feel a stronger connection to the ServiceSpace community and have a deeper understanding of its values.

Volunteer MapSimilar to these maps of smiles cards around the world, George suggested that perhaps we could create a mapping tool for those of us looking to connect with other ServiceSpace members near us.

Principles of Laddership
With no agenda, no 5-year plan or visions of the future, we all agreed that creating these spaces is ultimately about manifesting ServiceSpace values, not projects.

What we do is not nearly as valuable as how we do it. So once we have clarity on the values behind our actions, the local service space can naturally emerge.

What are these values? Simply put, they are Love and Trust, the seeds for our inner transformation. Love and Trust are like two pillars of a service-oriented space, and these values seem to blossom naturally when we practice three Principles of Laddership.

Be Relationship and Process Oriented (Think Small):
Lahar reminded us of a recurring theme: first, build a relationship, and then create a project. We’re not about cloning and remember this helps us from getting caught up in the results. Rather, we exist to tap into core values of service and to support the emergence of these values in any form they may manifest, whether it’s Karma Kitchen, Wednesdays, a Lemonade Stand, or having lunch with the homeless. 
Reflecting on her experiences at Seva Café India, she shared a story of how a space of trust and love naturally blossoms.
 
Earlier in the day, Siddharth reflected on his lessons from serving at Seva Café. Coming from a mathematical and business-minded background, at the beginning, he would automatically associate a certain price with the person who came in the door. And he found himself catering more towards people who would likely pay-it-forward and less towards those who seemed to have just come for a “free” meal.  But after a while, he realized that this was not in line with the values of Seva Café. And he began to let go of the worry of not meeting costs, and just trust that if he is truly in line with the values, the rest will follow. Soon after, he served by showering anyone who came through Seva Café doors with love, even those who seemed clearly there to take advantage of it.  In focusing on serving from the inside-out and building relationships with every individual that walked through the doors, he began to live 100% in the present process, and trust in the values of Seva Café naturally developed. And that has made all the difference.
 
Everyone is a Contributor, the Genius lies in the Collective (Decentralization)
Similar to Siddharth’s experience, Yuka shared how the team of volunteers at Karma Kitchen Tokyo has to constantly reflect on whether or not their service was rooted in love and trust. Especially in getting the restaurant off the ground, a lot of fear can crop up about covering costs, and it can become easy to forget that the purpose of this service is inner-transformation. One way of moving towards inner-transformation is by letting go of individuals egos and truly becoming one with collective creativity through decentralization. Everyone has something beautiful to contribute.  

The Karma Kitchen team in Japan had several meetings and heart-storming sessions in order to give everyone space and time to discuss the core values and contribute their ideas for creating a sustainable gift economy space.  When they decided to launch Karma Kitchen, it was very intentional and occurred only after everyone’s hearts were aligned.  The collective contribution of creative ideas infused the Karma Kitchen space with both tangible and intangible forms of love and trust, from origami thank you cards on each table to the infectious enthusiasm that inspired newcomers to want to start their own gift economy space. Environment is key in gift economy spaces and the team co-created this.  The key point is that before launching Karma Kitchen, Yuka and the team devoted their time to listening to each other.  This listening, sharing, and learning cultivated the soil that nourishes the core roots of love and trust. They always ask themselves, “Am I coming from an intention of love?”

When we focus on the small "i" instead of the big "I", “me” transforms into “We”:
Sheetal and Khushmita described their unique home/community space in Pune, India, a place called the Urban Ashram.  Anyone is invited to be a part of this physical space.  But in the beginning, Khushmita shared how they separated their home (private space) from the ashram (public space), and the result often was that people didn’t feel a heart connection to the ashram.  Khushmita had many ideas for activities and projects but this was not enough to create the welcoming, community environment that they desired.  When they realized that their private space in the ashram belonged to the community just as much as it belonged to them, the entire space naturally opened up and there were no walls or barriers.  The entire ashram became a place for the collective to creatively contribute.  Even when they are away for weeks at a time, every activity continues without them and their ashram/home is tenderly cared for because it belongs to the community.
   
By staying firm in these three root principles, we create a space of trust and love in which service can blossom wherever we are.     

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Comments (4)

  • Chandrakant wrote ...

    Really good article,Thanks for sharing.In order build a community it is very difficult to Convince people to join the community.

  • Sarah Mozelle wrote ...

    this was a really interesting piece to read. thank you for sharing, for articulating the challenges of founding other circles and the importance of love and trust in everything we do.

  • Bluxess wrote ...

    Loved the III idea ... and Sheetal/Khushmita's experience ... When we become all embracing, it gets easier to break those barriers within us ... Way to go, Siddharth, Yuko and Sheetal/Khushmita and your team ... rather a community waiting to embrace the bigger WE ... I am drawn by your space and I gonna make it a point to read at least one article everyday ...

  • sheetal wrote ...

    very well summarised bela.. in gratitude for your work!