A simple practice that caught our attention
  • We are in Cape Town for a few weeks and just got back from a meeting with Nathan Heller at The Hub, a co-working space for social innovators. Although The Hub Cape Town only recently opened its doors, the model has been around for a while and there are over two dozen Hubs worldwide in cities from London to Bombay to Sao Paolo.

    Nathan talked about a simple practice that caught our attention. At the grand opening event, rather than having a bunch of prepared speeches and presentations, he merely asked people to describe their social innovation idea in less than a minute. Some 40 people did this, and as they spoke, the spirit of The Hub became palpable in the room. That spirit wasn’t just being described. It was being experienced. People could immediately get in touch with the essential meaning of the organization. All of the possibilities for transformation, for collaboration, for social impact, were hanging in the air.

    In just a few weeks since then, The Hub Cape Town has generated a great deal of interest and participation – in no small part because of the energy that was created in the room that night.

    I wonder where else we might use this simple practice of bringing an organization’s purpose to light through all the voices in a room. Call it a 45-minute retreat. What if a social service organization asked everyone to talk about how they planned to impact the world this year? What if an advocacy organization asked people to share briefly the aspect of their work they were most passionate about? What if a hospital asked doctors, nurses, and support staff to describe what they found most powerful about being a health worker?

    The sorts of questions we might ask are varied, but the general practice of putting us back in visceral touch with the deep meaning of what we are doing – and in such a short, elegant, impromptu, multi-voiced way – seems like something all social purpose organizations could use.

    December 10th, 2010 | Warren Nilsson | 9 Comments

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9 Responses and Counting...

  • Fahri Karakas 12.10.2010

    Dear Warren;

    It is truly a joy to immerse ourselves in your and Tana’s reflections. As always, this is beautiful and spiritual. It is like finding a spring in the barren world of organizations. I really hope we can collaborate and write together one day..

    Sincere greetings from the UK;


  • Hey guy,

    Nice to hear from you. Seems like your having a grand ole time. Reading your question:

    “What if a social service organization asked everyone to talk about how they planned to impact the world this year?”…reminded me of a quote Cheryl sent me a few days ago from one of her students’ journals 🙂

    “I want to change the world but today my mother scold[ed] me for not cleaning my room.”

    Added a smile to my day.

  • Thanks again, opening this and reading it the night before the first “visioning of vending in Toronto”, relaxed me and helped me feel hopeful.

  • Remembering our meeting at Hub Cape Town last Monday. Seems really far way now – am back in wintery Berlin!

  • Salut Rennie!
    Wow! J’ai senti la profondeur et la beauté de ton message à propos de “The Hub”… vous continuez, toi et Tana, à être des “transmetteurs” inspirants pour moi et pour le monde entier!
    MERCI à vous deux!!
    m xo
    p.s.: avant hier se déroulait la “pendaison de crémaillère” du Santropol Roulant et j’ai vécu un moment spécial avec Matt B. à travers une conversation qui a durée une grosse demi-heure sur le changement à l’intérieur d’une organisation et l’impact qu’il a sur nous tous… mais aussi (et surtout) sur la partie immuable et essentielle que le changement nous révèle et qui se trouve au cœur de nos actions: l’amour.

  • this is really cool, renny. i feel like a challenge in oaxaca is getting all of those voices into the room in a way that works in terms of time. so i like the idea of having one minute to describe something that really moves you. i´m going to play with this practice soon in my work.

  • Why just social purpose organizations Warren? I think this would be a great practice/exercise in business. Certainly would bring people back to the essentials of what they are doing/planning and the impact it will have on employees, customers, communities, investors, the world.

  • Thank you Rennie, I am humbled. Indeed it was a blessing to see such motivated stories arising from the “audience”. Now the trick is to harness that potential and provide a platform for continued engagement, to share the connections and allow the meshwork of opportunities to reveal itself on a day to day basis, moment to moment, person to person.

    I look forward to our future collaborations 🙂

    @Deborah Yes! surely all “organizations” especially business can benefit from collaborative dialogue processes being built in to the systems of communication.

    “I believe that our very survival depends upon us becoming better systems thinkers.”
    – Margaret J. Wheatley

    @Aerin Happy to connect with you and share practice stories!

    All the best,

  • Thanks for the comments, everyone.
    Fahri – we will surely write together one of these years.
    Louis – we are still pondering the deep wisdom of your joke.
    Marianne – would love to hear more how the “visioning of vending” went.
    Aerin – yes, the simplicity and low-maintenance of the idea is what attracted us. Seems very doable in even the most challenging contexts.
    Deborah – good question! In my mind, all organizations (including businesses) are social purpose organizations. They just don’t all know it yet. And certainly a business that connects to its broader purpose in this way will deepen that purpose.
    Martin – Je suis heureux que la “pendaison de crémaillère” s’est bien passé. Et je suis d’accord – au centre de tout notre travail c’est l’amour.
    Nathan – yep, that’s the trick. Look forward to hearing more about how you go about it. Feel free to work on a blog post for the site ;-).

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