~~Portland Cross-Pollination Project!~~

..................................Check it out!!..................................

October 08, 2008

Back to Zimbabwe!

TLC Farm has been invited to explore joining the Berkana Exchange, a network of 12 Leadership Learning Centers around the world. In just three weeks, we will be sending TLC Farm volunteers and Cedar Moon residents Hope Medford and Jenny Leis to Zimbabwe to represent us in the annual Berkana Exchange gathering!

From the Berkana.org website:

A leadership learning center is a local initiative committed to strengthening a community's leadership capacity and self-reliance by working with the wisdom and wealth already present in its people, traditions and environment. We have found these learning centers in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Senegal, India, Brazil, Greece, Pakistan, US, Mexico and Canada. We know they are everywhere.

By connecting them to one another—and to people worldwide who want to support and learn from their experiments —enormous power for change emerges. All too often, organizations in the development sector complain that the learning is getting lost. Each initiative they support reinvents the wheel. They don't share what they know. The work of the Berkana Exchange is about discovering what happens when the learning does not get lost, when it moves openly and fluidly around the globe.

In the upcoming ten-day annual gathering, Oct. 12-21st at Kufunda Village, the learning center in Zimbabwe, we will be exploring such deep questions as:

* How does TLC Farm’s local work converge with global movements?
* How can we use this exchange to expand our knowledge and practices of cross-cultural permaculture design, natural building, youth and community education about sustainability, collective decision making and structures, etc.
* How can we learn from the other learning centers with how they engage with critical local issues, ripple their effects regionally and connect globally?

As part of the TLC Farm community, you could now be connected with the other 12 learning centers, located in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Greece, India, Mexico, Brasil, Pakistan, Canada and Senegal.

Are you interested in radical education? Check out Shikshantar in India. Exploring permaculture and appropriate technology in rural areas? Check out Kufunda Village in Zimbabwe. Interested in global development issues? Read about IDSP's work in Pakistan. How about creative bridges between generations and food systems? Check out Santropol Roulant in Montreal.


September 01, 2008

Reflections on the summer’s cross-pollination sessions

Here are some comments from “check outs” after a few of the summer’s experimental sessions.

  • It feels great to take my past experience and make sense of it.
  • This shed light on a lot of things I’ve been thinking about
  • This gave me new tools for dealing with the drama in my (cooperative) house—we’ve had a lot of language barriers.
  • This shed light on my worldview—opened new channels of thought.
  • It’s good to meet others that I can really talk to!
  • This is my ideal group because I’m so mixed in what I do. I connect with people who fight for things and not necessarily a singular thing. It’s like a non-group support group.
  • I learn so much from hearing other people’s experiences.
  • I see new possibilities for the future.
  • We just had two hours of cross-pollination with a dozen different people and it was great!
  • Thank you for this great learning experience!
  • I’ve enjoying inquiring about what’s effective and how hard it is!
  • If only we can support people who make links—it makes it more inviting.
  • I’m really happy I came.
  • I’m really happy I came, too, and need to think about all of these good ideas more. Next time I’m bringing friends.
  • I really appreciate breaking CP down step by step.
  • These are good building blocks, tools.
  • It’s really exciting to hear about new efforts.
  • This is important. We need to do it a lot more.
  • I’m amazed at all of the great ideas that got shared.
  • I heard a lot of deep questions that I hadn’t heard before.
  • It’s really neat to think about the world this way.
  • It’s really nice to connect and share.
  • I have a lot to think about now!

Report back fom the Summer Cross-Pollination sessions

This summer, brush and I facilitated monthly “Experimental Cross-Pollination Sessions”. What an interesting time we all had!

The idea was to experiment with a) the format/facilitation process for exploring the “art and science of cross-pollination”, b) discovering and cultivating the ideas/work of cross-pollination and c) building a community of cross-pollinators.

Two of the sessions were formally facilitated, with large group brainstorms and small-group break-outs focused on specific questions. The other two sessions were built on listening to each other’s cross-pollination stories or project proposals, using these as a jumping off point to analyze cross-pollination.

Looking back at these four events, a few things stand out:

  • First and foremost, the idea of cross-pollination is an unheard need, an unexplored idea, a critical component of today’s landscape of social change.
  • People who identify as cross-pollinators are searching for a peer group! People deeply appreciated these gathering, finding a peer group to discuss these “in between” ideas in our ecosystem of social change.
  • As with any lingo-ey term, cross-pollination evokes many things to many people. The commonality in people’s interpretations is: being an individual that links different groups. Yet there is a difference between “networking” and “cross-pollination”, as we see it. Cross-pollination’s key focus is in linking groups that don’t normally link, that might not see things the same way, and that in fact have critical differences in value or strategy.
  • There are some great, specific questions and patterns to explore!!

The sessions were a summertime experiment, giving us a sense of the potential value of a more concerted project. The conclusion: yup, this is an idea to develop! And, I think the more informal, drop-in experimental sessions will continue to be interesting in both exploring ideas and calling together this growing peer group.

I am really excited (and honored) to continue to weave cross-pollination into our ecosystem of social change. It just feels like a deep, needed and ripe area to explore.

More details on the sessions:

More than 40 people attended in all, with about 12 at each session. We started each session with check-ins: Why are you here? What is CP to you? As you can imagine, we heard from a range of people, from academic professionals to carpenters, formal non-profit organizers to radical social movement activists, business people to social economists, teachers to the young, newly awakened generation who are growing up in this all-mixed-up world.

For formal exploration, we searched into the nitty gritty of: a) What kinds of things do you want to know about another group, as a cross-pollinator?; b) What are methods of linking?; c) What are the challenges of CP/possible solutions; d) How does cross-pollination change when working as an individual versus as a representative of a group?

In the story telling sessions we heard stories that range from visiting conservative family members in the mid-west to facilitating and linking between intentional communities to building a public educational gathering place to a handful of specific events that people found themselves being a cross-pollinator.

Throughout all of the conversations, besides the questions at hand, we collected a lists of: a) future topics to explore in depth; b) “sticky wickets”; tough situations; c) ideas for future CP gatherings or projects; d) people who want to continue the conversations!

Specific notes on each session are here:

First gathering: linking with other communities
Second gathering: learning from stories
Third gathering: challenges of cross-pollination and CP as an individual vs. group
Fourth gathering: learning from and reviewing CP project proposals

August 18, 2008

Experimental Cross-Pollination Session #4

The fourth CP session’s focus was inspired by the third session, in which two women said that they had CP-related projects that they are working on and wanted to share their proposals with the group and receive feedback. We thought this sounded like a good way to explore a different perspective of CP: applying the concepts to a specific project.

More soon....

August 14, 2008

Feeding Ourselves Sustainably: an exchange with four learning centers

Soon: report back from the mini-Berkana Exchange that I participated in, in Boston with four North American learning centers that all work with food and youth.

August 12, 2008

Alternative Economies… networks upon networks!

Projects, meetings and wild ideas seem to be spawning everywhere – all in the name of alternative economies. In my two home cities (Portland and Boston) there are newly forming networks of people and groups aligning around reworking our social fabric via economics. It’s exciting!

The basic idea is that there are many, many avenues for creating our social, political and economic systems that are based on human and environmental rights (as opposed to growth and profit), and that it’s time to align these efforts as well as take them to the next level.


While in Boston, I attended the second meeting of the BEAN/BASEN group (Boston Economic Alternatives Network/Boston Area Solidarity Economy Network). The meeting was energizing… an interesting mix of folks weaving together various threads of the new economy. The group, at the moment, includes an economy professor, a political economy professor, a global network organizer, a labor union activist, a community economic development student, two immigrants, and a few other interesting organizers (note: a handful of these folks founded the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network at the US Social Forum last year).

As a newly forming group, their strategy is to focus on one specific activity at a time so that they can accomplish it together, reflect, and then choose the next task until they get into their flow. Sounds like a good strategy. Their first collective activity is to host a visiting scholar for an evening discussion.

They also spent some time visioning about what they all meant by the practices of the solidarity economy. While on the one hand the list they generated (see below) contains a broad spectrum of big, daunting and fun ideas (begging the questions of where and how to start), the conversation led to a few interesting insights, including:

* Many of these ideas sound far off or far-fetched, but we are in a time of rapid transformation. Maybe our work is to simple be ready for when a crisis allows the doors to open for what may now sound like radical or unachievable ideas. We must be ready to implement these ideas when the time comes! (That certainly gives me motivation to work on the more wild ideas!)*

And: *Solidarity is a resource*

Get involved! Email orionk@gmail.com.

U.S. Solidarity Economy Network

TheUSSEN formed during the US Social Forum last year (the two women pictured hereat the far end of the table are some of the founders). In their words, they looked “beyond the traditional critiques of neoliberal capitalist economics to focus on an economic way forward. We decided to showcase the alternative economic values and institutions that have been proliferating in the U.S., and this ended up leading us to include as well the solidarity economy movements abroad which have begun to create networks of these alternatives.”

“The solidarity economy emphasizes our relationships to other people, and to our environment, and inserts solidaritous values into these relationships. Solidaritous values are cooperative, egalitarian, democratic, locally based, and sustainable. It strives for an economy based on human needs rather than an insatiable drive for profit. The ultimate aim of the solidarity economy is the breakdown of oppressive economic hierarchies of all types, the development of human potential, and the preservation of our communities and environment.”

Good stuff: U.S. Solidarity Economy Network (U.S. SEN, www.USSEN.org),

European Social Forum

In Boston, I also met with Pasqualino, an Italian man who has been in Boston for 28+ years working with labor union organizing. He is now organizing alternative economies events for the European Social Forum, which is coming up in September. In hearing about the breadth and depth of the ESF solidarity economy events, I learned some interesting tidbits about Europe, like the fact that any company that works in more than one EU country must include workers in all decisions of the company. Cool!

Pasqualino also offered me the idea that a very essential moment in life is the condition of the worker when he/she gets paid. This transaction is the soul of the relationship between management, workers and the work. The question, then, is “how do you make this moment meaningful and just?”

Another interesting tidbit: 25% of liquidity in the United States are union pension funds.


It’s happening here too! A recent meeting brought together more than a dozen folks all working on different aspects of alternative economies. Together, they brainstormed, “what’s working well?” and “what’s missing?” in Portland. If you’d like the notes and/or invitations to future meetings, email me (jennyleis@riseup.net) or brush (brush@tryonfarm.org).


The point here is that the idea of forming networks that link many forms of the solidarity economy is HOT. And exciting. And moving.

Maybe it’s just the latest lingo, but the evolving language of ‘sustainability’ helps us frame, connect and understand what we are doing together. We humans tend to get either stuck or energized by the words we choose to describe large ideas and social movements. I think that using the language of economics is a really great way to link the current world with the world of our ideals. Yeah!

Click here to read the recent brainstorms of the Boston and Portland alternative economy meetings…

*****IN PORTLAND:*****

What's working well?

* LEED system. Cascadia Green Building Council. Making people conscious of green building.

* Community Way-- bringing unused capacity into the non-profit sector. Support charitable organization. Community Credits are sold to members at par to the dollar. Non-profits gain new innovative fundraising tool and consumers do not lose any buying power. Credits can be recirculated and sold between business. Bartering and fundraising tool.

* Community Prosper that will be up at the end of the month. Social networking for organization. Into beta testing phase.

* Worker cooperatives. People's Co-op. Red and Black. Frong Song Model in Cotati, California.

* Co-housing. Portland Collective Housing. Working on program to help people develop cohousing.

* PRA-- predominately activist groups, but some community groups. Mostly radical. Trying to start a free market. Food not bombs. Food not lawns. Getting people to plant gardens and do servings. Geared towards collectives. The biggest problem is maintaining communication. How can we make school and good programs feasible. Need other means to do the work. Creating associations that generate workable relationships.

* Free cycle and internet based exchange. Craig lists.

* City Repair.

* Pedalpolooza. Less Driver miles.

* Women in trades on NE Alberta.

* Connected to the unions. IWW. SEIU.

* Free boxes. Who gets to incorporate what into the economy? A lot of DIY. Cultural events.

* Farmers Markets.

* Community Gardens.

* Food stamps for rent.

* Mainstream business-- sustainable business network. Nike doing a lot of sustainability. Portland business community leader in sustainability.

* Alternative media and KBOO. PCAST. Independent Resource Center.

* Free Geek

* The rebuilding Center. Making waste streams useful.

* Questions? Intentional Communities? Co-housing? Basic idea is creating collective living situations.

* Directory.ic.org.

* Developing a census of these projects.

What's missing?

* Communication system. To maximize resources.

* Visualizing scale of activities.


* The financial system-- how we get money to buy houses. Separation from banking system. Have our own banks. A better way of getting the cash.

* Needing microfinance.

* Burden on cooperatives is too high. Bureaucracy involved is crushing. Extra set of hurdles because large legal system does not have an understanding.

* Need more people who understand the process-- having to relearn the process.

* Need a system of exchange that does not involved the banking system.

* Need for independent financial systems.

* Clarity on the issue-- what is this new model? Need some agreement.

* The whole idea of socialism-- it is imbedded in our system. If we can point how it already exists-- bringing back the commons. It has not reached popular culture. What are the main elements that we want to see in this new economy. Neighborhood Association has trouble with diversity-- ethnic families-- how to approach them. Sharing on how we plant our gardens. Start developing commonalities.

* Communication mediation-- Communication. People not working there when it is just a lack of communication.

* Links to healthcare, medical care, mental healthcare.

* Jobs that pay a living wage.

* Challenge that needs to be removed-- what are the "real" activities. Such a huge bar to get to another meeting outside of work-- past failed attempts disable new attempts.

* What about those who do not want a typical full-time job. Can they get paid with food. Balance-job complex-- participating in many multiple jobs.

* WE NEED MONEY!!!??? Direct interaction between individuals-- unused capacity of individuals.

* Debt Strikes-- risking foreclosure-- students?

* Engage the mainstream economy. There are mutual win situations.

* Cooperative Daycare.

* Radical Parenting Cooperative.

* Freeskhool-- NEED HELP!

* Local currency? PDX Currency is now Community Way.

* How to list services and trade services.

* A place to advertise-- I want my house painted and I'll do your computer work.

* Helping individuals connect with each other-- infrastructure that helps people find communities. Link with trainings, collective group of employers. A collective HR structure. Like WIkipedia but more for RSS Feeds. Radical legal collective-- supporting the interface between the capitalist legal system and alternative trade systems/economies. Need people with skills.

* Circle Group-- a lot of common patterns about how to work effectively around power structures, burnout-- building networks around what works and does not. Support infrastructure-- Air Force plane fueling other planes midair.

* Encouraging people to deal with the issues. Ignoring pending disasters.

* An alternative economy needs to include more than Portland-- Oregon-- Cascadia.

* Limiting corporate personhood-- supreme court decision analysis.

* Community supportive gardening.

Conversation topics

* What do people hold in common-- what do people share. Developing the Commons.

* Community Prosper-- build relationships for people to use the program. Social networking site work based on the number of people who participate. Open with a really big O.

* What's going to encourage people to network?

* Developing Worker Collectives-- networking cooperatives.

* Flex-jobs: flexible labor exchange (FLE).

* Study groups to conceptualize this new economy-- studying what people have in common. Developing the Commons.



-- csa participation way up

-- community savings account – community ida; people put money into it, use for community ;; Michigan

-- people have lots more time; more focus on wellbeing, time spent with family , friends, hobbies, hanging out – less focus on efficiency, profit-making cogs; signals shift in cultural priorities and values; policies valuing family and childcare (exist in some scandanavian countries)

-- lots of intersecting democratic institutional connections; worker owned and operating business cooperativing with each other, local politicians, credit unions, etc. – democracy isn’t just voting once every four years, is way of life, way people engage with one another; schools are transformed or no schools, are in community, or if schooling, focus on how to learn skills of community, conflict resolution, how to be in community through dialogue, open to transform yourself constantly (vs. fixed idea of identity). People have spiritual and psychol wherewithal to transform themselves; explosion of new cultural forms; new integrated and previously unimagined forms – not just multicultural, many cultures, but many new global cultures, we are rooted here in boston but with deep and profound connections across the globe –

-- consumers being able to differentiate among goods not just based on price – solidarity economy seal; wikis to evaluate product according to values –

-- multiple community currencies supporting different kinds of values; guy who wanted to increase recycling in poor community – get scrip for recycling

-- community wealth ownership and community credit – and control over that – not controlled by banks

-- not cool to consume a lot – not bad to live simply

-- new forms of cooperative, collective housing; retrofitting,

-- cap income

-- many fewer cars – many roads taken back, transformed into parks—personal rapid transit (public transit)

-- boston as leader in adapting alternative energy sources, prototypes – using universities

-- productin – things made to last –

-- boston, resource wealthy, lots of water – how be open to immigration, people from all over the world being welcomed here – and us connecting to other cities around the world

-- how can immigrants integrate into the community without feeling “new” -- -- are here bec forced to be here. Understand what brought them here. Push for us foreign policy – that supports democratic leaders and real development – so people aren’t forced to emigrate

-- greater level of consciousness on part of public of choices that we’re making – effects of our economic choices – (the whole world has been affected by the US, are trying to copy us) – and see how our choices are affecting others

-- breaking down of division between lives and work – manifest passions in our work

-- more worker coops, consumer coops, solidarity coops; participatory budgeting;

-- actual bike lanes

-- people have understanding of what we get or make locally/regionally vs. internationally – understand feedback loops – as much locally grown food as possible; deep understanding of fair trade to get the rest

-- new myths – of spiritual connection to natural environment; re-indigenizing, help us understand out natural cycles; being connected to dynamics of this part of the earth; learning to listen; listening peoples – live in connection to selves and world around them

-- economy that values in terms of peopls’ work – artists and musicians and people working for justice can earn a living, including caring work

-- be conscious consumers – why are prices high for teff – because farmers are producing flowers rather than food

-- unified theory that brings all of these things together

-- work and relationships at work – power relationships, decision making, micro and macro level – new model which is horizontal, participatory, based on real knowledge,education, skills—creates quality products – abolish all managerial functions, transform property to collective property

-- there is a crisis with imminent problems that require imminent solutions – defend country through economic transformation and participation –

-- corporations can’t just maximize profit – not acceptable; corporate charters different.

-- note about crisis and transformation: if we’re entering a period of rapid transformation – crises – things can really change quickly; people get it that things aren’t working; it’s fertile ground for change – our organizing now can make us ready for these crises with real solutions

cohousing design

I recently wandered through Cornerstone Cohousing… a sweet little community tucked into a dense North Cambridge (Mass.) neighborhood, next to the main bike path and across the street from a park. Nice spot!

I just muse at how most of the newly built cohousing communities that I’ve been to (maybe 5-8) look almost the same! I wonder why… maybe they’ve figured out the best possible design and just keep using it… maybe there’s a standard look and feel to what cohousers want... maybe there are just a few cohousing designers… or maybe that’s just what I’m seeing!

July 17, 2008

Cross-Pollination Project experimental session #3

In this session we discussed the challenges (and solutions!) of cross-pollination, and then explored what it means to cross-pollinate as an individual versus as a representative of a group.

Click here for more!!!

Who am I and why am I here? (check ins)

* activism through networks versus being in a solid position
* book: alexander galloway: the exploit
* my friend told me i'm a cross-pollinator... i hang out with a lot of different groups and talk about a lot of different things
* involved with arts collective, inner city garden, work in mexico, circus--in portland now and asking what's happening and what could go better?
* food not bombs has three or four groups here who don't communicate
* community based barter system--trade not capital
* i've been doing CP for decades--not on the street but from the inside in a corporation-- saw the need to work in teams, cooperate, understand each other's languages is fundamental... things not on the surface are very important--communication
* as an academic and psychologist i asked what is the nature of multidisciplinary and the difference between agreement and understanding
* grew up in a conservative family, became a hippy, and find myself wanting to connect and share with conservatives... as a construction worked i can connect
* i want to connect people with a need to people with a skill or resource. support the flow of energy
* i connect with people in a neutral way--not sell anything but help people open up to each other
* i am here representing CNRG and portland peak oil and a community art project--a cross pollination project about systems flow
* i find myself in the spaces between groups, connecting them
* i'm a facilitator, mediator, power dynamics between individuals and groups
* i want to help different groups find points of linkage
* i work with consensus based groups and look at the underlying power structure and policy--working towards a new kind of social organization--democracy!

Challenges in cross-pollination (group b’storm)

* treating group as amorphous blob instead of connecting to individuals
* internalized class values
* want to partner, similar values, but real differences in other ways, like in decision making structures and methods
* connecting grassroots with professional groups--very different mechanisms even if similar goals
* developing trust--not feeling understood or feeling alienated
* when an individual is not clear what their role is
* group believing that they have the same goal or same enemy but not
* this work not being supported or appreciated by groups oor people
* a group that's come together can be thrown off by a troublemaker-- and then how everyone deals with it
* do nothings who cause trouble to cover laziness
* fear of change--the challenge of holding onto the old way
* race, gender, class, sexual orientation, privilege of any sort, religion.... how large scale oppressions affect everyone differently
* when you have a bond with fighting a common enemy and then the enemy goes away
* when you accept other as self
* information overload leading to lockdown
* overcomplexification
* burn out! overwhelm with not getting there fast enough-- then the links you hold are lost
* not using technology and networks
* action oriented versus philosophical
* historical pain (organizational or personal) -- old stuff preventing current connections
* language
* different frames of reality--different perceptions of the same thing
* missionaries and narrow mindedness
* money--scarcity mentality
* lack of public space to meet--lack of common ground
* different cultures--food, music, gathering style, etc.

Wisdom from discussing challenging cross-pollination situations (debrief after small group discussions)

Challenge: two people sharing a dorm room with a common value but different tastes in food, music, fashion, religion

Solution: found agreement in disagreement

Challenge: two charismatic leaders who can’t work together

Solution: found support staff of both who could communicate. Leaders are invested in their posture and couldn’t change identity

Solution: live in each other’s shoes for 30 days

Challenge: group didn’t feel listened to so conflict happened. Group already defined its terms and the other person spoke before listening

Solution: recognize the power to assert oneself and use authority to say that the terms need to be redefined to include everyone--- or, before the meeting, be part of setting the agenda! BUILD TRUST FIRST

Challenge: five groups with different values needing to work on a challenging situation

Solution: They needed to be heard individually before they met as a group—needed to vent.

Solution: with research we learned that the conflict was artificial—it was a perceived difference but not a real one

Challenge: want to bring a different, potentially threatening information to a group

Solution: build from what is known and safe and then bring in a new idea. Bring it back to what is known and accepted


Cross pollination as: Individual ßà Group (full group brainstorm/discussion)

  • People make a solid link to a group through an individual
  • When that person is respected and trusted, you can use that contact to get introduced to the whole group
  • Should there be a structural role of a cross-pollinator as a connector to another group? Two people? Redundancy? If an organization has that role defined that it can be integrated into the structure… in other words, with a defined role as a connection to another group, the organization has a formalized, honored channel to link/learn/connect – and if the person switches you still have the connection
  • Perception of group being a closed circle—some are some aren’t
  • Redundancy allows continuity
  • Personal connections between conflicting groups break down when the person leaves—the connection was based on the person not the structural link
  • But if it’s just structural then when a situation changes the groups cannot be agile—not a dynamic human connection, based on good communication, trust so that it can be agile
  • PPO meetings are based on : whoever shows up is the council for that week and can make decisions
  • How do you have BOTH/AND ; link as individual and between groups
  • Two groups experience each other through common ground
  • Bringing the conversation to a personal level can allow crossing of organizational conflict
  • When trying to bridge gaps of opposition if you have a strong personal relationship—an ally—you take a big risk when you relate, show connection to another group – you could be shunned
  • How to connect people with different hats
  • Speaking a language is potentially an individual skill—what about when a whole group depends on the translation?
  • Reinforce versus undermine the boundaries of a group?
  • Stages: find someone you agree with or have something in common with, then move to a new group … that could change the thing that you have in common and you might then be alienated or alienate
  • Stuck between amorphous blobs!
  • It’s hard to spend time with many groups
  • As cross-pollinator you may always be on the outside of the groups you are connecting—you have a leg or body in another place, which allows you to see a bigger picture but people may feel unsafe or may ostracize you.
  • If you find a place you’re likely to live and stay put you will naturally become a connector among many people
  • Repeating yourself all the time can get tiring: redundancy


  • It feels great to take my past experiences and make sense of it.
  • This shed light on a lot of things I’ve been thinking about
  • This gave me new tools for dealing with the drama in my (cooperative) house—we’ve had a lot of language barriers.
  • This shed light on my worldview—opened new channels of thought.
  • It’s good to meet others that I can really talk to!
  • This is my ideal group because I’m so mixed in what I do. I connect with people who fight for things and not necessarily a singular thing. It’s like a non-group support group.
  • I learn so much from hearing other people’s experiences.
  • I see new possibilities for the future.
  • We just had two hours of cross-pollination with a dozen different people and it was great!

June 30, 2008

Second cross-pollination session

Wisdom from Cross-Pollination Stories

CP experimental session #2:

In this session we shared stories of cross-pollination and then reflected on those stories, asking ourselves questions like: what did the story reveal about CP? What about the context made it work well/not work well? Etc. It was a lively and deep discussion, enjoyed deeply by all.

Click here for more!!!

"S" shared a story about talking with an extended family member while visiting his farm in Iowa(?)… someone with very different politics and life view, but through the conversation was able to open and learn about a different point of view with farming, religion, etc. Deep stuff!

"K" shared about working with various intentional communities, and learning how to share stories and experiences from one to the other.

"B" shared about working with a volunteer community in the Cleveland Zoo.

I shared about going to a salon at someone’s house and bridging the world of green consumers to deep historical context of institutional oppressions around race, class, environment, countries, etc.

Some of our notes:

· finding a point of linkage to establish trust and rapport: start there (even if it seems tangential)

· having a base of some common knowledge allowed him to see that I shared a common interest—an opening, connection

· active listening: asking lots of questions

· used sci-fi (alternate reality) as safe common ground to explore new ideas—hypothetical and non-threatening

· personal confidence: I had done enough personal work so that I didn’t need to be heard or affirmed. I found ego satisfaction in my role as a listener (you don’t have to be enlightened or selfless)

· lack of judgment in listening

· valuing all the steps it takes in personal growth

· having fun with it

· go to their experience, see the work from their view before processing… I want to know their space

· everyone love to talk about themselves!!

· Reveal parts of yourself that link with them

· I use all of my skills at different times: agile applications

· Do work together (wash dishes, work on the farm, etc) so you don’t have just an intellectual, verbal, linear experience.

· What’s appropriate in each setting and space is different—adopt to the norms and show that you can follow the rules… when you recognize when the norms change you become a co-creator and show honor and respect

· At end exchanged seeds and salmon… when I saw that he’s a reader and had established trust I planted a new idea by sending the book, Omnivore’s Dilemma. He was ready to receive it then (and had hinted that he believed that his ag technique wasn’t great).

· Link created even without a gift—he could see that he could associate with a “lefty”

· Linking old/familiar ideas or experience to new ones—building from known

· Being a mirror

· Danger of evangelism when sharing new ideas—so let folks have their own reaction to your stories

· Using one’s own self stories as vehicle for connection

· Leave them asking for more

· Evangelists want to convert but CPs want people to stay in their own groups but feel connected to others

June 15, 2008

Slideshows in classes

I was honored to be invited to Peter Schoonmaker's "Myth of Sustainability” class at PSU. Before the class, Peter explained to me that all semester he had been depressing his students with the realities of our dire situation. His other guests, which included Portland powerhouses Dennis Wilde, Regina Hauser and Rex Burkholder, had all shared their work but had also said that they knew it wasn’t enough. As the guest for the last class of the year, I was invited to share other models: doing things ourselves, right here, right now.

I shared my stories of grassroots efforts from around the world and also right here in Portland (you guessed it: TLC Farm and City Repair!). I also wove in the connections between these grassroots efforts and the global influences that the students had also been learning about, like the world capital/economic system. As usual, it was quite fun as well as heavy to introduce ideas like the fact that non-profits aren’t necessarily going to “save us”—that we must embrace shifted outta-the-box lifestyle and perspectives if we are going to really have a changed story.

A few weeks before this class, I also had the honor of presenting this story to a "Global Civilization" class at the University of Oregon. This class was graduate level in the planning school, so I focused more on the built environment.

June 06, 2008

Possibilities and Pitfalls of coalitions

I attended the Coalition for a Livable Future’s annual Equity Summit. It was quite an interesting day with 300 of Portland’s incredibly engaged and thoughtful changemakers who came together to focus on regional equity.

Before I go onto the details, I want to share my (difficult) conclusion about the event. Note: I deeply, deeply respect and appreciate CLF’s work and role in this region, and I share the following as a larger picture reflection on coalitions in general. My basic conclusion is that a lot of amazing people came together for the day, but that their insights and skills were not effectively accessed. That, I think, is the often-unmet challenge of coalitions… it sounds great to all get together, but how do you build meaningful links of knowledge and action?

The goal of the Summit was to create the agenda for CLF’s work, and as such we broke up into issues areas in order to convene the leading thinkers/do-ers on each subject. I went to the Affordable Housing group, since I don’t know much about the housing scene and thought this would be a good way to hear what’s up!

While it was exciting to sit in a circle with 40 people engaged in many aspects of housing (and key institutions/ organizations), the format did not allow for deep conversation. In the first hour-long session we brainstormed ideas, and in the second session we voted on them. What was missing was the space to delve into the ideas, find out the current context, flesh out what has already been tried, what has worked or not worked, and build from woven-together knowledge. In other words, collective knowledge did not get accessed, and instead, we all simply voted without necessarily understanding the ideas. Then, we presented to the whole summit our three highest-ranked ideas as our proposal for CLF's agenda on housing.

I admire the intent of the day, and do think it is absolutely necessary to connect all of these key people in creating our regional priorities. I also recognize that it is a feat to bring together all of those busy people for a whole day, and that asking for more time wouldn’t be feasible… but, I wonder what other formats might be used. Or, maybe more people should get involved in the ongoing committees of CLF and engage more deeply…. hmmm, more questions.

One moment I very much appreciated: when the whole room was invited to stretch out into each cardinal direction, honoring the reaches of the places and concepts that we were weaving together (see photo on left, people reaching East).

June 05, 2008

Truly a Convergence

The 8th annual Village Building Convergence just ended, and it truly was an inspiring convergence of people, ideas and action!

more reflections and photos soon!

May 28, 2008

Two of my favorite VBC presenters: Paul Cienfuegos and Starhawk

Thank you to our elders for bringing us perspective!

Wow, Paul blew my socks off. He stood up, read a speech, and took the room on an enlightening journey of the history of social movements, and on the deep realities of corporate personhood.

He started by telling us about the organic food movement, how it started with activists in the 1970s who were “too small to matter” and is now the only growth sector in the food industry. He explained how the movement sewed the seeds for their own destruction by not keeping control of who is in charge. Now, corporations get to define the story.

Paul’s points are that: 1) we don’t take ourselves (in social movements) seriously enough, and understand the intersections with corporate capitalism, and 2) we don’t know our history.

On the first note, Paul pointed out that many of us think that we are on the fringe, hopeless in reaching the “apathetic Americans”. Many activists feel like our candidates don’t get on ballots, our letters don’t get heard, our input is not heard. He explains that these feelings are rational because the system is broken.

But, people care deeply about what they have basic authority over.

That’s where the “Rights of Corporations” comes in: corporate personhood. Paul asserts that if we understood the significance of corporate personhood, than our strategies and tactics for change would be different. He pointed out that in doing things like:

--writing a letter to a corporate leader

--going to a public hearing

--demonstrating at stores



--buying stock and going to stockholders meetings

are all assuming that corporations have legitimate power and are NOT the subordinate legal entity that they were first intended to be! If we take for granted that corporations have personhood power, than we will not understand what we can reverse.

Paul went into the fascinating history of the slow and steady gain of corporate power through building their “rights” over people and the government. That is why logging companies write forest management acts and weapons corporations write foreign policy.

Paul points out that we must dismantle their rights. In his home county, they have removed the personhood rights of corporations and do not allow chains or donations by corporations. And it’s catching on: two hundred townships in Pennsylvania have passed similar laws, and Nebraska and South Dakota have similar state constitutional amendments.

So, what’s stopping us? Paul says: we’re acting like we’re radicals, on the fringe, while most Americans want healthy environments, social systems, peace, etc. He thinks that we’re so used to being activists and rebels that we don’t see ourselves as the majority. What if we acted like we are the majority?!?!

Paul’s speech gave me, and the other 250 people in the room, chills. He got a spirited standing O. ;-)

Ten minutes later Starhawk took the stage and wove us into other layers of the deeper realities of our existence. “We do not have the luxury of being realistic,” she said.

What rang most for me about Star’s talk was her illumination about the sheer difficulty of getting along with each other in our non-hierarchical, non-patriarchal groups. We don’t have many models of collectives, and she offered us some insight about this using the four cardinal directions.

She spoke about POWER: power over, power within and power with. She noted that unearned power is privilege. The “power with” part is tricky: people gain power in many forms, and in a group of equals this power determines how much you get listened to and therefore directs the path of the group. Vision can guide a group but must be invested in with love and trust.

Trust in each other and accountability mechanisms are essential. We need sound and safe ways for giving each other feedback and constructive critique. It’s a sign of respect, she pointed out, that your work gets critiqued because it reveals its value and the intention to improve it. She explained that critique must be specific, thoughtful and timely.

Star ended by reminding us that we must invite in the help of our allies; asking for help keeps us humble. And, when we open up to the wisdom of “invisible allies” like algae or fungus (and faeries—she’s a witch, you know!), we become witness to transformation of something ordinary into something miraculous! Now, that’s inspiration!!

Again, thank you to our elders for sharing insights with us!

May 25, 2008

Alchemy: music, images, words, intention

Last night, I met the incredible women of the Goddess Alchemy Project, who performed at the Village Building Convergence. I'm writing this here because they are beautifully weaving together some foundational elements of motivating people for social change today. First of all, they are four women who are strongly grounded in the power of the feminine, and the space that they create in their show is an inviting engagement of the crowd as a community. I loved that they announced their last song as the closing ceremony--a reflection of the sacred space that they had just created with us.

These women speak truth about today's social justice and ecological issues--things that need to be said loud and clear to all of us. They speak it powerfully, with hip hop and spoken word woven into lyrical flows. And, they add to the synesthesic experience by showing images of really intense aspects of today's reality -- brutal fighting, oppression, etc.

These tell-it-like-it-is statements in the context of their supportive, grateful and motivating-to-action embrace of the crowd was such a sweet combination of forces! I really appreciate their work in this world--a model for cross-pollination!

Linking Learning Centers

Wow, there are a lot of ambitious and inspired groups of people creating demonstration and education centers in this world!

Yesterday, we at TLC Farm connected with a similar eco-village education center in Vancouver, B.C., (photo on left) called O.U.R. Ecovillage. Brandee, one of the co-creators, was in Portland for the Village Building Convergence, and her first stop was TLC Farm.

During her keynote presentation that night, Brandee explained how they worked with their local government to create a whole new zone--an eco-village zone-- so that they could build sustainably. Of course, it's absurd to have to fight so hard to "be allowed" to do what we all know is the best thing for the earth and local community, but their story is inspiring. And for TLC Farm, where we are currently working on our ReCode Portland project, it was very valuable to hear about their process and success.

Meeting Brandee helped answer a hanging question of mine: how can all of these learning centers form meaningful and useful relationships with each other? We have so much to learn, and have such an opportunity to build momentum together... but how would that really look? One answer is to simply visit each other and see what happens from there... building personal connections so that we can call upon each other and feel a sense of being part of a larger movement or system.

In a similar manner, TLC Farm is currently exploring being part of the Berkana Exchange, a global network of learning centers. Meg Wheatley, one of the founders of Berkana, has some great drawings to show how "trans-local learning" can happen in this exchange. While, each learning center is focused on their own region, radiating out new ways of living, there are common experiences that connect us all. These common strategies are grouped into "Communities of Practice", such as Local Economies and Permaculture Gardening, and give focus to the exchange.

I told Brandee about our Oregon regional network of learning centers (TLC Farm, Aprovecho, Lost Valley and a few others), and how we are also starting to find ways to connect to a whole host of California learning centers (like OAEC). Maybe we'll have a Cascadia Learning Communities Convergence sometime... or weave together with exchange programs... or something!

What exciting opportunities!

May 22, 2008

First Portland Cross-Pollination Gathering!

As a warm up to the Portland Cross-Pollination Project, brush and I facilitated an experimental evening of cross-pollination. Together with a dozen other interesting changemakers, we brainstormed, shared and linked ideas.

Clearly, there is an emerging group of people who are aware of their roles as links between communities, and it feels great to find a "peer group" with whom to explore some of the challenges and opportunities with still-unrecognized role in social change organizing.

After introductions, we began by brainstorming what kinds of things we would want to know about another community or group, in the context of looking for meaningful ways to link. The group quickly formed an initial list (see left), bringing out some sometimes subtle aspects of a group, like a group's flexibility and interest in reaching out to other groups, who a group already connects with or explicitly doesn't , their stage in the typical organizational life cycle flow, their intra or inter organizational challenges, and how much they value supporting people's personal maturity and growth process as a part of the larger fabric of social change.

Then, in groups of three, we each shared about a community that we are connected to in terms of these brainstormed areas. People then reported back to the full group about their experiences, and brought out some interesting questions, like the balance of what to hear about first, or mostly: a person's individual role and interest in the organization versus the organization's mission, structure, strategies, etc.

Then, we brainstormed "ways to link communities" (right), and then went back to the groups of three to play with the possible links between each other's groups. This session also brought out some intriguing challenges (opportunities!) of linking, such as the desire to simply exchange emails and start sending each other information versus a feeling of information overload and desire to find other meaningful connections.

It was an energetic evening, and as we reflected on the process and discussed next steps, it was clear that there are a lot of very juicy areas to be explored with this idea of cross-pollination. It seems like a lot of people have common experiences and desire for deepening the art and science of this role, and I am excited to see the Portland Cross-Pollination Project develop!!

Click here for the notes!!!

Agenda: first cross-pollination gathering!
intros: why are you here? why are yousmal interested in CP? What does CP mean to you?
intro to CP
brainstorm: what would you want to know about another community?
small groups: share about a community you are part of in the context of the brainstorm.
full group: report back
brainstorm: ways of linking communities
small groups: link 2 communities
full group: report back
wrap up: check outs, next steps, homework!

Why are you here? what is CP to you?

* independant activist for justice/peace--different areas
* responsible citizen w/small groups
* grps interchange ideas from different angles
* public awareness of communities, where are, what can do
* GMO, OG farming, vegan/veg, env. convservation--but many are fragmented. how can we not be fragmented?
* part of many groups--see those connections
* social/economic justice at center of many mvmts.
* living in intentional community showed how to get past fragmentation
* build community person-to-person
* tried to get involved (gardening, sus. community, FNB, city repair, artists) but nothing has gelled
* social reclamation/reconstructon--human ecology
* so many ideas for learning about each other!
* cp is not networking...its different somehow
* my friend things of me as a CP! wow!
* curiosity is my motto
* maybe i don't need to do it all but can connect them all
* i see how one group knows what another needs
* i'm an activist in alot of ways...i see the fragmentation. no-one knows how to work together
* been part of large convergences where many communities had many styles/strategies--saw ways to move through blocks. ecosystem of change--not centralized
* involved in many community projects--see how many follow the same patterns. value is in linking

In terms of looking to link or cross-pollinate, what do you want to know about another community?

* decision-making structure
* values
* vision
* personal involvement
* reputation
* personal maturing (done their own work)
* anything new, novel, interesting, different?
* what are they doing well with and what struggling with
* do they hold trainings/teachings/ways to share what they do/know
* how people plugi n
* what grps they work with--cooperate/compete with different groups, connections and who NOT work with (enemies)
* their resources and needs
* funding sources
* skeletons...?
* how important is integrity...financial based decisions or ethics/values
* flexability to reach out/openness to connections/attitude
* demographics
* how connected to larger movement or not
* see in historical context (institutional oppressions, power analysis over time)
* how measure and monitor success and adherence to mission
* history of group...where in organizational cycle
* learning strategy
* relationship to leadership/power/privelage
* ideology

Sharing about our communities (reflections after small group discussions)

* re: values and vision...we had common threads
* commonality of how to maintain "radical" politics when being pulled in different directions--radical vs. pragmatists
* w/short time to share, we tried to go through each of our brainstorm list--can we have a prioritized list??
* ...or, list is complete and each is important!
* hard to not start w/my own story/role--what is more valuable?
* development phases/growth of orgs...
* the factual nitty gritty frame could hold the other nuances, gives a context
* organize list into categories/template--niches for group
* didn't hear personal skills..relationship of person to group
* --not list of your groups but what you bring to them
* are we linking with a person or a community/group?
* orgs morph over time...people move on

Brainstorm: ways of linking communities, as individuals

* representatives/official liasons
* cnrg--online info clearinghouse
* live vicariously through other people
* google calendar--schedule what's happening and see who went to what
* community event--many groups share
* events that appeal to specific aspects of groups
* events--multi-mode/stack functions
* one community train/mentor/skillshare another, help other community grow
* be members of many communities--unofficial liasons
* orientations/workshops
* go help each other--clean office, paint house
* retreats--address core challenges--deeper work
* parties-social-friends w/consciousness of CP relationship
* asset mapping...online google doc
* link groups through health or other activity-food, childcare
* direct resources--barter, alternative economy or purchasing
* specific short term projects
* get groups together for rally and recruitment event
* common website--vision exchange?

Reflections about linking (after small group discussions)

* idea: using sunday walk to bring recy. groups and kids and bike shops together
* exchanging emails...uh oh...one more email of a group i don't really know vs. concrete link--visit each other
* meeting needs with capabilities/resources
* discovered how much legwork to organized/hold events. cost benefit analysis
* geographic distance but spreading word through sympathetic people. resources within IC's to help groups w/consciousness
* what will be a challenge w/potential culture clash
* time!!! will cp save us time? help refine info and connections...
* what is cp and what can it do for me?
* why do i want to put the energy into this?
* shifting to a bigger picture
* people who have ideas w/o attachment=cp
* "i know someone in my org who would want to be on mailing list of your org, but i don't."

Ideas for Next Steps

* potluck-informal
* reading list
* info table at events--farmers markets
* survey of orgs: would this be useful?
* vision exchange domain
* blog the process
* cross-city cross-pollination
* website/discussion forum
* identifying culture as cp within community

email overload
information management

Pond of future conversations

* why CP?
* more aspects of linking
* linking w/communities you are not directly part of vs. not
* personal experience of cp
* challenges with linking
* "permanent" structures for CP
* more on gifts/limitations of our own work/group
* other forms of cp
* how orgs morph over time
* personal link-grp
* what i can get out of cp