What happens when you bring together a small group of committed citizens? I have been inspired for years by Margaret Meade’s memorable her quote: “never doubt that a small group of citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”   And sure enough, I am happy to report that this belief is alive and well within our community as we gathered together in Bellingham, WA for 2 days of co-creating the best future for our self-renewing learning community of care.

This year we designed an open sharing space to listen and hear the voices of our SDGI faculty members, alumni, learners, advisory council as well as SDF board members and SDGI leadership.

Our first intention was to commit to a yearly program that could always be held on the front-end of our annual RESIDENCY that meets on the campus of Western Washington University. The second intention was to generate the agenda for this first of many annual events. It made good sense to invite a collaborative group from the various stakeholder domains to participate and share ideas, processes and desired outcomes. Alas, we called ourselves the Joyful Co-creators for the First Annual Joyful Co-creators Weekend.

The guiding objectives for the 1.5 days of listening event included the following:

  1. People to be seen and heard
  2. Safe space for people to show up powerfully
  3. Listening for the emerging future
  4. Embodying SelfDesign actively within a self-renewing learning community of care
  5. Empowering next steps for engagement for this weekend and beyond
  6. Inspire action/higher engagement levels (Personal/group action plans)

elan Bailey and myself were the main facilitators for this event. We began with a talking circle where each person shared their reason for being a YES to what is emerging for themselves to be a part of SDF/SDGI as well as why it matters in terms of their life purpose. This in itself was a perfect way to accomplish our top intention.

We designed the flow of the time together to be interactive in ways that people co-mingled to discover the collective talent that might not have been revealed in the typical on line zoom environment. Imagining how people could be inspired by the questions even more so than the answers turned out to be a very successful tactic as we unfolded more positive possibilities than might otherwise have occurred.

We plastered the open space with flip charts and posted notes and called it the gallery walk. Amazing artistic expression showed up in poetry, colorful drawings and poignant memorable quotes. We co- created lists of “opportunities for positive growth,” and “requests to modify or improve processes.” There was a focus group organized to deepen our understanding of our brand promise and to best determine what needs to be re-freshed. Again, asking questions of what have we learned along the way of who we are becoming.

In the evening, after our dinner, we held a celebration for our retiring President David Marshak. Each of the alumni had written a special letter of acknowledgment for David, and many surprised him with other special gifts. Michael Maser was a big hit with his guitar and a unique song he wrote telling the story of David to the music of Joni Mitchell.

We also celebrated our new President Paul Freedman where he received a warm welcome. David Marshak surprised Paul with a framed picture of the founders of SDGI. This had significant meaning because it was actually Paul who had originally introduced Brent Cameron to David back before SDGI had been birthed as an idea. Lots of laughter erupted when David gave Paul his SelfDesign Graduate Institute well-worn t-shirt

On the second day, there were breakout groups where people could meet in smaller groups-there was time for people to choose at least 2 areas of interest, and deepen the ideas related to the core area: areas of SDGI concentration, diversity, marketing, networking, professional value added partnerships. After lunch, each group reported out to the entire group what they had discovered. Many of these ideas were posted on flip charts that continued to wall paper the room. From this process, more questions emerged and these would be the guideposts for the World Café that was held later in the afternoon and facilitated by Anne Adams, SDF Board Member.

There was a request for two mini presentations. The first one presented by faculty Fleurette Sweeney, Pille Bunnel and Milt Markewitz- on Learning as a Living System and then advisory council member-Robert Gilman provided an overview for his program Bright Future Now. Several ideas dovetailed into more questions that would merge with the inquiries of who we are becoming, how do we best serve and why does it matter.

Sunday evening we welcomed the SDGI learners for the 2018 cohort. Mitra Martin, SDF Board member engaged us all in some powerful peer to peer learning exercises and then Darrell Letourneau and myself facilitated more interactive exchanges on the Life Spiral in the courtyard. By the end of the evening people were more than acquainted, and for me it had the feeling of a learning community of care that is truly self-renewing as we, new participants and older ones- each added our sharing in unique ways.

Based on the feedback we have received so far from using the Thought Exchange technology -we learned that we had designed a good event and that people definitely want more connection throughout the year. We did use zoom to include people from afar who wanted to participate in the discussions. Together we will learn and practice how to deepen our relationships in our virtual environment in ways where we can continue to build on the synergy we created at our Joyful Co-creation Weekend. Next year it is our hope that more faculty will join in and be with us “in person” to participate.

Submitted by:

Renee Beth Poindexter

Renee Beth is Chair of the SelfDesign Foundation in the United States. She serves as an Advisory Board member with Univera, Inc. and also with Village Home Education Resource Center. She is a mentor with WOVI, Women of Visionary Influence.