~~Portland Cross-Pollination Project!~~

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September 01, 2008

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

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