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Self- Healing in Communities

责任编辑:ccpg  来源:  作者:  人气:768  发布时间:2014-03-11 17:10:00

harrison owen, maryland, usa:  

Julie Smith and I (with able assistance from others) have been engaged in a conversation about Mediation and Open Space in which it may have seemed that I was trying to champion Open Space at the expense of Mediation. Assuming this to be the case, Julie replied appropriately -‑  

A glimmer of understanding on my horizon now….. it isn’t authentic, Harrison, for you to interact with groups in ways that require more words or technique or reliance on you as a facilitator/leader. What is authentic for you is to express trust in their ability to findt heir own answers, and to help by holding space with them. What that “holding space ”is, is a manifestation of Spirit at work in you, co-creating with them an energy of creativity, good will, and unbounded possibility. Having experienced this so many times, it is inconceivable to you to respond to requests for a lesser experience. Your inner wisdom resists being and doing less than you are capable of. As for the rest of us, we also have to find what is authentic for us. Authenticity isn ’t something that can be transferred. We each have to look inside and find what is authentic for us. My understanding of OS is that it encourages each of us to authentically express our true selves, unbounded by artificial boundaries or expectations.  

My error, Julie. Truth be told, I can be very direct, and directive -- if I think it is appropriate, or as is sometimes the case, I simply loose patience. In either case, I guess I am being "authentic" if that means allowing my walk and my talk to match my inner state of being. All of which is a rather long winded way of saying that the issue of concern for me is not about "authenticity" or "one right way" -- but hopefully something deeper. I think you caught my intent amongst the verbiage when you said -‑  

I’m interested in your thought about enhancing self-healing in our communities….. and wonder what the diference is between self-healing and healing….. but my brain is tired and my stomach oh so empty…… don ’t you serve food at these OS events?????  

Snacks will be served shortly -- but in the meantime... Self-Healing in our Communities (You like that red?)  

My premise in all this is that (surprise) all organizations (communities) are essentially self-organizing AND -- a (maybe THE) central purpose of self-organization is the achievement of wholeness, health, harmony, and I suppose authenticity and integrity, in such situations where the organization is at risk due to changing internal or external environmental circumstances. The process is enormously complex in detailed execution, but very simple at the point of initiation. Given a good whack to the head, chaos clears some space in which high levels of complexity, diversity and conflict manifest and conspire enabling the appearance of renewed organization (or not). Sometimes things just die, but if they don't, life goes on in some new and useful ways  


displaying wholeness, health and harmony, all congruent with the changed environment. In broad terms, I think that is what organizations do, and typically they do it all by themselves. To be sure, we sometimes (erroneously, I think) give all the credit to some individual -- the "Turn around specialist as it were" -- but in truth, We all did it. Experimentally, and also experientially, I think we see this each time we Open Space, but I think it is imperative to note that the essential power does not belong to that wonderful thing called Open Space Technology, but rather to the process of self-organization itself. What we do with open Space is to intentionally initiate (or re-start) that fundamental process.  

Switching metaphors from organizations to organisms, one of the interesting things that I learned several years ago when I held a position at the National Institutes of Health was that something like 95% of all disease lies beyond the power of medicine to do anything useful. People either get better or they don't. This was rather a shock to those of us at the citadel of science, but that seemed to be the case although we tried our best at times to forget it. What this suggests is that the best treatment in the vast majority of situations was no treatment. Next best was as little treatment as you could decently get away with, if only because it seems that any treatment has added liabilities of its own. Even though an intervention may deal with the symptoms, it may also impede that natural healing process -- the process of self-organization in our bodies.  

Of course, we do have that other 5% -- which includes such things as organ failure and major trauma. There are definitely times and places, to say nothing of circumstances where only a good surgeon will do. However, I think we would all agree that surgery is a matter of last resort and best done as sparingly as possible. Of course, I know some surgeons who would disagree -- but when the only tool you have is a hammer, all the world looks surprisingly like a nail. No -- I never said a thing like that!  

And what about Self-Healing Organizations? I suggest that all organizations are self-healing just as they are self-organizing. Which means in the first instance that for the vast majority of nasty little surprises in life, the organization will do just fine all by itself, and the professional problem fixers of this world (which includes most of us) should just sit on their hands for a bit. As they say up in the Great State of Maine, "Don't fix it if it ain't broke." Of course, things will go better with a little preventive care. I am sure we could add to the list here, but the first part of prevention, I think, is a clear understanding of the nature of the beast. Organizations are essentially and inherently self-organizing systems (organic, open, living self-organizing systems), and need to be treated as such. They are not auto engines needing a tune-up, they are not computer systems needing de-bugging, they are not rockets needing guidance systems. They are alive, and work best when everybody is conscious of their nature. Like all living things, they need a proper diet, light on the heavy hand of control, lots of fresh air and space to grow in. When things get a little musty and old, just open a window and create some space. You don't have to sit in a circle, nice as that might be.  

Sometimes, however, you do get down to terminal mustiness and the arteries of discourse get pretty plugged, backed up and conflicted. But before going for an organizational triple bypass (although the surgical types would love it) -- Try a little Open Space (as in OST). It isn't new, it isn't magic -- it simply provides a gentle nudge to allow the organization to do what it does quite  


naturally -- breath. But always remember, less is best. Don't reach for a respirator when just a little smelling salts will do, as in getting a strong whiff of passion well mixed with responsibility.  

So is this a sneak attack on Mediators, dressed up in surgical attire? Well, I guess there may be a few such folks who might qualify, but much higher on my list would be those awesome practitioners of Process Re-Engineering. Tear out the pipes, relay the cable, all according to The Plan. And when it doesn't work, just make sure you get out of town before the funeral. Now that is nasty! But the Mediators I know, and I know (and deeply respect) more than a few, know all about space, creating space, holding the moment, minimalist to an extreme. Truthfully, at a deep level, I have a very hard job distinguishing what they do from what I (wearing my OST hat) do --except that I seem to work with more people at one time.  

So -- Julie. It is probably time for dinner, and the conversation can continue over brandy and cigars. Oh -- we don't do cigars any more. : -(  

chris corrigan, british columbia, canada:  

I have written before of OST as triggering healing from the colonial experience for the First Nations and Aboriginal groups I work with. This is due to a number of reasons (I think, but who can do primary research whilst opening space?):  

? OST somehow triggers the use of the "indigenous mind" whatever that is. Something to do with the circle, something to do with honoring the inherent and innate wisdom of everyone in the room.  

? OST restores faith in people, and says "you are all experts, and no one can tell you what is true and what is not. Your authority (both power and the ability to create a story) resides within you, not within the Great White Father" This is a serious blow against the colonial experience of many Aboriginal people who have been conditioned over generations to believe that the Aboriginal story is not true, that the experts are the settlers, and that what is right is European.  

? OST provides space for people to grieve, find support and reframe their experience. If it acknowledges that wisdom is in the room, it also acknowledges that, as Birgitt says grief is always in the room. I have seen people in OST meetings revisit traumas in their lives, find support and move on, with the predictable results of euphoria and joy. OST is not therapy but it also does not recreate the conditions of colonialism, where the teacher stands at the front of the room and mediates (in the sense of standing in the way and filtering) experiences.  

? Elders tell me that OST is "how we used to meet" meaning not that it is an Aboriginal way of meeting, but that it is a deeply traditional, pre-colonial quality of experience. Elders love Open Space in my experience.  

What I have learned about healing the wounds of colonialism for our communities through using OST, is that a process can unlock skills and talents that are latent and even suppressed. Of course  


this comes as no surprise after a while, but is is a powerful occurrence to see people on the margins of mainstream society rediscover their own centres, and recognize that the path forward starts with them.  

In Canada, all the talk in the First Nations world is about self-government, but only now are people beginning to realize the profound implications of the word "self." OST opens them to the Self that can Govern and they discover that Spirit is the lubricant for the healing engine.  

Harrison wrote: Of course, we do have that other 5% -- which includes such things as organ failure and major trauma. There are definitely times and places, to say nothing of circumstances where only a good surgeon will do. However, I think we would all agree that surgery is a matter of last resort and best done as sparingly as possible. Of course, I know some surgeons who would disagree -- but when the only tool you have is a hammer, all the world looks surprisingly like a nail. No -- I never said a thing like that!  

When a patient is on life support, or in need of immediate assistance to stem trauma, that person needs outside help, in the form of some kind of technology, to stay alive. To heal however, the patient needs only itself. If the trauma facing the patient is less serious than the patient's capacity to deal with it, then the patient will heal. Scars will remain, but the healing will happen. If the patient lacks the capacity to heal, the healing won't happen. Surgeons can help stem the depletion of capacity, but they can't heal.  

I think people confronted with serious illnesses often find that they have far more capacity to heal than they thought they did. I think the same is true for organizations and communities too.  

And what about Self-Healing Organizations? I suggest that all organizations are self-healing just as they are self-organizing. Which means in the first instance that for the vast majority of nasty little surprises in life, the organization will do just fine all by itself, and the professional problem fixers of this world (which includes most of us) should just sit on their hands for a bit. As they say up in the Great State of Maine, "Don't fix it if it ain't broke."  

It could be added to this that sometimes if a thing is broken it's not worth "fixing" either. Sometimes healing means taking a whole new approach on something. I think education reform is a case in point. Education in North America is broken, and the subject of a myriad of fixes, all of which seem to compound the problem. THe point is, is it worth fixing this thing? Or can we get to the place we want to go another way. When people end up saying "YES WE CAN!" they end up beginning the healing. Read Ivan Illich "Deschooling Society" to see what I mean.  

My experience of OST is that, by allowing Spirit into the situation, sometimes broken things stay that way, and instead new configurations arise. This is a much better expenditure of energy.  

There is probably more to say in what Harrison and Julie have been expounding upon in terms of processes and interventions, but I'll stick to healing in the interests of running one thread at a time.  


julie smith, alaska, usa:  

Just one last thing as we’re walking to the dining room…..Maybe mediation isn’t quite so much like surgery after all. After all, mediators don’t fix things. We don’t view ourselves as Experts with Answers. We don’t give advice.  

Being a mediator might be more like being a friend. A friend who can tolerate the tension and ambiguity of being friend to you AND other, even when you and other are in conflict. A friend who believes in the possibility of unity in spite of the separation manifested in the conflict. A friend who holds safe and open space. A friend who listens. A friend who speaks. :) …..Okay, I’m ready for that glass of wine now.  

harrison owen, maryland, usa:  

Julie wrote: Just one last thing as we re walking to the dining room.... Maybe mediation isn't quite so much like surgery after all. After all, mediators don t fix things. We don t view ourselves as Experts with Answers. We don t give advice.  

Total Agreement -- quoth me -- "But the Mediators I know, and I know (and deeply respect) more than a few, know all about space, creating space, holding the moment, minimalist to an extreme. Truthfully, at a deep level, I have a very hard job distinguishing what they do from what I (wearing my OST hat) do -- except that I seem to work with more people at one time."  


Being a mediator might be more like being a friend. A friend who can tolerate the tension and ambiguity of being friend to you AND other, even when you and other are in conflict. A friend who believes in the possibility of unity in spite of the separation manifested in the conflict. A friend who holds safe and open space. A friend who listens. A friend who speaks. :)  


judi richardson, nova scotia, canada:  

Very interesting conversation on mediation and open space. As a practitioner of both, my exploration of Open Space facilitation has enhanced mediation, and vice versa. I appreciate Harrison's comments on upper management who refuse to get involved.  

Often during a mediation session it becomes clear that authority outside the room needs to be involved as the dispute is not about the people in the room. A session can be stopped while management is made aware, or can proceed with notes reflecting the issue in the mediated agreement. I know I've done my best work as a mediator when I hear people ask what I was there for -- similar to Open Space facilitation.  

Philosophically it is a challenging question on whether to work with individuals when management prides itself on inactivity. I have often watched participants in a mediation become aware of themselves as individuals and as part of a collective. Seeing a change in themselves, and even a small amount of support for this change allows (as Kenoli states) "an expansion of perceptions and then possibilities can arise to meet them."  

I have also worked with children from the 4th grade on up in peer mediation and watch their growth with interest. Yes, they face those educators who refuse to acknowledge their talent at solving their own conflict, critical analysis, and advocacy. At times I've wondered if I am only supporting them in setting themselves up to fail. There is, however, an unmistakable spark

Mediation, for me, has been a tool to provide a container where those in conflict can regain their dignity and work together. When I began to learn the process ¯ I initially paid more attention to the process than the people. As I quickly integrated those tools and made them mine, I find a very thin line between them. Open Space has definitely improved my mediation practice. I also study and integrate into my practice (read life) indigenous forms of restorative justice, which also seem like a bridge between mediation and Open Space. All members of a "community of harm" are invited into the circle and have input. Like mediation and Open Space there is a process to follow, and self-healing happens.  

The word that jumps out for me is "invitation". Mediation is most successful when participation is voluntary. In many mediation sessions, a senior manager or team leader has recommended mediation ¯ can this be considered voluntary? In my experience, there are those in mediation and facilitation who seem to apply a parental model ¯ the mediator as all-knowing parent.  

And, Harrison, as a parent of children approaching adulthood your comment "Think of one more thing NOT to do" is a great one --thanks. I keep reminding myself that the less I try to fix them, the more magnificent they are! 

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