~~Portland Cross-Pollination Project!~~

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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.

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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!

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