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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Becoming the Change 1

March 6, 2015
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Presencing, being present, and video journalism.

A friend of mine who is developing a digital business asked what I thought of the overview of personal and collective transformation mapped out by the Presencing Institute, which is connected with Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is someone who finds my thinking that learning how to build small transformative cultures for self-empowerment and deeper cooperation makes some sense.

I wrote back saying that I think that the Presencing people are on the mark in what they are focusing on, and that the ‘theory dude’ in me loves their layout. However, they keep relating to this deep work within an academic mentality. That is: we have to put all of this stuff we are finding out in some kind of coherent abstract framework that captures it all so others can learn it.

In my opinion, once we move in that direction we are headed away from experience, and "presencing," which is where personal change happens, is pure experience. I am more impressed by the work and focus of the Be Present group. Their process is rooted in immediate face-to-face experience. For my money that is where transformation can happen, not in mastering the intricacies of a broad scale map. For example, consider this statement from Journey to Be Present:

The Be Present Empowerment Model guides people through three distinct stages of development, which result in their being able to interact with others beyond and outside of the barriers imposed by race, class, gender, age, etc., and from a position of wholeness. It is a process that teaches people how to be conscious and present in each moment so that they can deal positively with difficult issues and work beyond them to form lasting and active partnerships across barriers. It models how to build strong alliances that promote change in our lives and in our communities.

The stages of development are:

1. Know yourself outside the distress of oppression.
2. Listen to others in a conscious and present state.
3. Build effective relationships and sustain true alliances.

(Emphasis added.)

I am not opposed to rationalist analysis by any means. My point is that when we are doing that we need to have one foot firmly in the bed of experience. That's where transformative learning takes place slowly, incrementally, over time; not in classrooms. Stories flow from experience. They need to be told and listened to. Concepts need to emerge from our reflections and conversations that our story-telling generates. When we are talking concepts and patterns, we need to be going back frequently to our stories to illustrate the meaning we are trying to make of it all. And the meaning we keep creating is much more about asking incisive questions than coming up with answers.

Right now I am in the Bay Area doing an experiment in what I am talking about here. You might call it “being present journalism.” GEO has funded my doing three video conversations with three different people doing three different kinds of work. Jai Jai Noire, one of our bloggers, is doing the video work. They will be posted on GEO and You Tube.

I am not “interviewing” them. We are talking with each other about our work, and what it means to us. My approach is that we shop talk with each other like we would in real life over coffee, beer, whatever. Emotional and rational. Letting the ideas flow and jump out of the conversation as coherently and as confusingly as they would from in any rich conversation. This is how stuff gets into the whole of our nervous system, not just in some areas in our neocortex. This is a genre of journalism I want to explore. Something that really connects with viewers.

The first one went really well. It was with Monica Day who is an ex-activist and now a Life Coach. She was active in Be Present for 20 years. Our conversation focused on power, sex, love, and money. Some really cool stuff, huh? Or should I say “hot.”

Yesterday I had a wonderful lunch with Neal Gorenflo of Shareable.Net, who will be doing one of the videos with me in a few days. We connected so well with each other from the very moment we met. At a certain point toward the end of sharing, I said, “Neal, this is what I want to do when we are doing our "show” next week. He knew immediately what I meant.

The third video will be with Ricardo Nunez and maybe Hilary Abell from the Sustainable Economies Law Center. It will focus on several aspects of their work, especially in cooperative education.



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