Week 5: Scaling And Ripples
Posted by Liam Chai on Jul 12, 2016
Week 5 already! And another round of super rich sharing on the theme of Scaling and Ripples. Audrey offered us these seed questions to start out the first round of sharing.
Can you think of a experience where you witnessed someone do an act where they'll never be around to see the fruits of?
What is a question you are holding about scaling or ripples?
What practice did you try this week?
Our opening batsman John this week tried to be even more understanding, especially over his social media platforms. After sharing some thoughts about the negativity from the recent shootings in the US, one person felt angry at what he said and completely disagreed. He practiced making sure this person felt heard, and this person ended up opening up to John. He had been a retired police officer and was involved in a shooting in 1998 where a young African man was killed. "When you posted that message I felt like I wanted to attack you... because you didn't see things through my eyes, but because you took that time to actually listen to me, I felt like you really did understand me and a bit of the anger was gone."
Moving in alphabetically order we went to Joserra, who practiced surrendering to all the things that have come up this week. At the sixth Karma Kitchen Burgos, a 99 year old woman volunteered and during the circle of introductions "she started dancing. She went to the middle of the circle, and she introduced herself by dancing and sending kisses to everyone." Joserra was also at a prison holding an Awakin' Circle. "It was very powerful. It's such a harsh space that you have people there who have done all kinds of things... We were working in the main courtyard of the prison and just offering."
Laurie sharing where she is at, "My work is in race relations primarily. And to watch these [recent] events continue to unfold is.. It's deep, and it relates directly to this issue of scaling." On the one hand, her work is large, in the sense of being the largest university-based dialogue program in the US, but it's also small in the context of the world. "I do scale for depth. Because this work is deep. In order to truly work with the legacies of pain and conflict and war and violence... It has to go deep. And yet it has to go to broad. And it can't go broad without it going deep. The inner work is always key."
This week Rina had a moment where the global narrative of being a woman in an Indian-American context connected to a local conversation with her mum. "Initially it was so hard to listen through my pain.. but I sort of put my pain down and I started listening to her... And it was like my pain became our pain and it was something we were facing together, and it allowed me to hold space for her in a very new way that I had never experienced before."
Samar noted how "it's starting to be clear just really what's at stake doing some of the projects that I have in mind." She shared how she lost her balance and "put the brakes on this week and this is why i did the practice of authenticity." Asking questions like, "What am I doing? What do I really want from all of this? I was very happy to be doing that because I don't want to go down another rabbit hole."
Ani reflected on some challenging questions, "Am I being and using my full potential? I feel the years are ticking on, time is ticking on. I really want to be my ultimate self - the best self I can." As much as she's thinking about scale, connecting to other groups or networks and asking questions like, "How can I ripple that out to broaden my horizon and think on a larger scale?" She keeps coming back to the small acts that keep her real. "It's who I am and that's OK... I just feel it's enough what I'm doing, and I'm not sure if I am ready to scale yet but that's fine!"
In a conversation with his brother who works in law enforcement, Bill shared about how they spoke of the tragic events this week and how people are human - they make mistakes. But "why is it that the mistakes they make can scale so rapidly? But all the good that gets done seem to go nowhere?"
Transitioning to our popcorn style sharing on the theme of scaling and ripple, Nipun offered us a quote from Margaret Wheatley's article:
"When separate, local efforts connect with each other as networks, then strengthen as communities of practice, suddenly and surprisingly a new system emerges at a greater level of scale. This system of influence possesses qualities and capacities that were unknown in the individuals. It isn't that they were hidden; they simply don't exist until the system emerges."
Audrey shared how when she first saw aspen trees she thought they were all individual trees that seemed to populate an area of the forest. But studying them more she found out they were actually one tree all connected to the same root system. An individual tree can live up to 150 years, but the whole root system underneath can sometimes live for thousands of years. "What are ways that we in our human world can mirror that design where individually we look like all these aspen trees apart, but underneath we are all connected in a deeper way." How can we design to nurture those conditions?
She also shared Jevon's Paradox, where when you make something more efficient, it doesn't reduce its consumption, it actually increases it. Like before emails, we wrote letters - which was inefficient. Today email is very efficient, but we consume and use it way more today than ever. How can we learn from nature's approach to scaling?
I reflected on research done by Nicholas Christakis, who studied how your friend’s friend’s friend becoming obese can have an effect on the likelihood of you becoming obese. The same rippling can be seen for happiness, quitting smoking and other traits. How far do these inner ripples reach?
John, our opening batsman (again!) asked, "In order to be the fifth monk, do you have to experience what it is to be every other monk as well? To truly understand what it's like to be the fifth monk, it's almost like you have to be each monk at some point or another.”
Joserra adds “We all have different gifts, so probably we need a bit of all five… I think these problems that we are talking about, they are caused usually because of a lack of wisdom. How can we create the spaces where wisdom can flow?" He reflected about how we cannot force people to change, but holding collective space (like the Laddership) has the power to change culture.
Reflecting on the idea that nature designs for resilience, Laurie asked “What does that actually mean?” What are some examples of how you’ve translated nature’s designs into the work you do?”
Audrey offered two examples, one of a startup college that has no classrooms. They say the city is your classroom and the students learn everything through conference calls, and every semester they go to a different city. She also highlighted a school with no grades or timetables, where the principal says the best thing a student can learn is the ability to be self-motivated.
When you hire staff, you hire base on what the person is great at. And so Nipun continues, “You have a group of 10 people, and your ideal group would be something that is working at their high common denominator.” But when working with volunteers, you are working at the lowest common denominator. “But highest and lowest on what metric? On a metric of efficiency, it’s the lowest, sure. But on the metric of resiliency, it’s a very different thing.”
Mihir added, “Maybe what I see is just what I want to see, but if i just look without trying to find out anything.... Maybe something might become visible which I would have never been able to see if I am trying to find out.”
Sharing something she heard from a farmer, Meghna adds, “There are many wild plants in nature, if you get stung by one of the wild plants the immediate need that people would have is to rush to a city and get it cured… Of course that takes a lot of time. But very few people know is that the way nature is designed is that right next to the poisonous plant is it's cure.” She reflected about working with what you do have already and brought up the Aravind Model where Dr V. brought people from the local village to be nurses instead of hiring ones further away.
Rina offered us more wisdom from her friend Tommy after she interviewed him "i believe there is a lot of wisdom in nature and I believe it has the answer in fact when we observe nature we observe the laws of balance the laws of reciprocity. It's obvious when a seed goes into the ground and the seed is given the soil and sunlight, and if it is allowed to grow up that seed will produce fruit. That tells me that all things have the potential that is already inside of it.”
Then Nipun offered the example of basketball where individual players have individual talents, and sometimes you put a talented person on a team but they don’t realise their potential because they aren’t clicking with others on the team. But when you put them on a different team, all of a sudden they shine. Could that happen with human beings and values? Where certain values come together and thrive? A way of organising perhaps?
Ani reflected, "We are all growing at different paces and different levels, given the surroundings that we are... We bloom in different ways." She then shared a quote:
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid."
She continues, "I'm thinking about the outcome vs. process. If we are nurtured and nourished in the correct environments, the outcome will emerge automatically as it should be... But there are so many edges around this as well."
On a flight to Guernsey, John shared how he met a woman who shared with him how her dad and her partner had both been treating her horribly and John shared this analogy, "You kinda have to look at yourself like that of a flower. If you plant a flower and you surround in an environment where it's fed. It's watered. It's sheltered. That flower will blossom and grow to be a beautiful flower. But if you continuously let people walk on the flower, not feed or water it, and don't protect it, the flower is going to die." He then recalls how a few weeks after that conversation, he gets an email from her saying that all through border control she had been thinking about going home and ending her own life, but because of that moment with John it changed everything for her. And since then she's changed her environment - she waters and feeds the flower :-).
Following on from John's story, Laurie shared how "I also live in that world of trying to nurture or water plants that have been stepped on. And I do that a lot in my work," And after a situation with a staff member this week she "[has] to make a decision whether to keep him with us or let him go." Conflicted on the one hand with really believing in the restorative process but also "somehow supporting this one plant loses the trust of the other plants."
Joserra shared a story of a man who was a drug addict that came to serve at Karma Kitchen. He came in a really bad shape but through the 5 or 6 hours together a transformation had happened and by the end he was dancing with everybody. "When we try to fix these people who are being stepped on usually they are put in a label." And creating these safe spaces where you can feel more like a family made him wonder, "How much does the system or design matter?" Was just about his own inner transformation, from which everything follows, or must one think deeply about the system and design processes more?
In response to Laurie's question, Bill said, "Was there enough water to maybe revive [that plant]? And bring it back to thriving like the rest of the plants in the garden? Or is there risk that that plant might infect the rest of the garden? It's probably only that plant that knows whether it can recover or whether it might damage the rest of the garden."
And as it's our last call next week, we're planning on having fancy dress - with Nipun coming in as our bald monk ;-).