We’ve got less than 20 years to get our sh%t together

Friends,

The science is in. In case you missed it, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report warning that we’ve got less than 20 years to get our sh%t together or we’re in serious trouble. It’s happening much more quickly than had been anticipated.

An Oxford scientist says we have to turn the world economy on a dime. “To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, the report said, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050. It also found that, by 2050, use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to between 1 and 7 percent. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which make up about 20 percent of the electricity mix today, would have to increase to as much as 67 percent.” {alumni of the Skid Row School – note the “direct the rider” play here – it’s not a mystery what we need to do}.

The past few years I have been doing my best to wrap my brain around climate change and grasp the implications. While no one knows for sure what will happen, here’s the most disturbing description that I’ve found so far. It’s not for the faint hearted so read at your own risk. But it’s also really important so please read it! Bottom line is it’s hard to imagine any aspect of our lives that wouldn’t be negatively impacted if any of these come true.

The same weekend this climate report was issued, our family was delighted to host Skid Row School alum and climate change leader John Hepburn of the Sunrise Project and his lovely family for a couple days last weekend. We were their final stop on their much deserved sabbatical. Over several home cooked meals with fresh vegetables picked right from our garden, we had many conversations about where the world is headed and what we can do about it. i came away from those conversations convinced that there is much to wring our hands about and yet there is so much more that we can be doing.

Both John and I had recently read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (a book I cannot recommend highly enough for those of you who are curious about what it means to be a human being). While I believe our species is on in the midst of creating the sixth great extinction, John reassured me from his read of Sapiens that the defining characteristic of our species is our capacity to create new a story and live into it. As we believe, so it becomes. And one glimmer of good news is that it doesn’t take that many people living into the new story to change the course of history (for better or worse). While John was in Peru he studied the history of the Inca Empire. It took them 40 years to do it, but a mere 180 conquistadors from Spain ended up conquering the whole empire – one with a massive standing army of at least 100,000 soldiers. The conquistadors had a new story (that was a lie) and unfortunately the Incas bought it. It changed the course of history forever.

I know this story took place 500 years ago and in this example the colonizers won. I know that things are different now. And yet I cannot help but wonder about what new (and truthful) stories we can start telling ourselves and start living into. I wonder how many of us it takes to reach a critical mass. I wonder how I/we might shift to a regenerative (vs extractive) way of being in the world. I wonder what my/our lives might be like beyond fossil fuels? What if they’re a whole lot better than we can even imagine? What if, as Buckminster Fuller says, over the next 20 years we can solve this problem then get on with our true purpose and destiny as human beings: to solve even bigger problems than this…that’d be kind of cool right?

One way or the other….the clock is ticking. The choices we make individually and collectively might matter more now than ever before. May we all tap into our best selves for the challenges ahead!

Onward into the unknown!

Becky

p.s. If somebody sent you this email, sign-up here to receive weekly inspiration and practical pointers on leading large-scale change.

p.p.s. If you’re ever in town, please come over for dinner and we promise not to be too depressing.

Announcements

Skid Row School Alumni Jennifer Blatz CEO of StriveTogether gets a much deserved shout-out from this David Brooks’ piece in the NY Times about something that’s actually working well in America. Kudos, Jennifer and thank you for some good news!!

Upcoming Events

The January 2019 Skid Row School is now full though we are accepting folks on our waitlist just in case spots open up. The next available Skid Row School is June 25th – 28th, 2019. We are also available to bring the Skid Row School to groups of grantees for foundations on a case by case basis.

Graduates of the Skid Row School are invited to apply for our large-scale change leaders fellowship. We meet three times a year for three days at a time and deeply explore the adaptive challenges almost everyone leading large-scale change faces.

The next meeting of the fellows is February 5th – 7th, 2019, and will take place outside Atlanta, Georgia.It will include a tour of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.

We offer scholarships to those who need financial assistance for both our Skid Row School and our fellowship. Give a shout if that’s you.

Do you want to be on the right side of history or do you want to make history?

Friends,

Our fellows met in Los Angeles last week to do some advanced explorations around integrity, justice, and self-care as leaders of large-scale change. Many of you know that we do an introductory investigation of the “hero” at the Skid Row School. The hero includes the parts of yourself that are uncomfortable with making anyone feel uncomfortable, so you take on too much and bite your tongue and nothing ever changes other than you’re on the fast track to burnout. That kind of hero that’s widespread in the social sector.

This week we looked more deeply into another way that I’ve seen large-scale change leaders burnout: the villain. The villain is really good at criticizing and assigning blame. Some of us have more access to this part of ourselves than others. Take me, for example: I have easy access to my inner-villain!  The villain has strong opinions about the way things “ought to be.” I assume many of you are asking, “what’s wrong with that?” Well, nothing if you want to be on the right side of history. It’s actually quite satisfying know you’re right and experience the surge of adrenaline that comes with a good dose of righteous indignation.

The problem is…our villains might be on the right side of history, but our challengers are the one’s who make history. Challengers create loving pressure for change by being deeply present with someone who sees or thinks differently than we do. Challengers are able to stay grounded in our own discomfort and through our full presence, ask questions like:

How are you keeping this going?
How is this costing others around you?
Are you willing to stop this now?
What truths have you not told?
What have you not been willing to face about this issue?
What boundaries have you not created or have you broken? 

Just to ground this in practical reality – imagine watching the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last week and taking on your best villain pose for how things ought to be and lecturing anyone who saw things different from how you did about just how wrong they are. You might end up being on the right side of history, but it’s unlikely that you created an authentic connection that opened up the possibility for creating something different going forward.

Another possibility in light of last week’s events would be to start wondering out loud some variations of the challenger questions above. Hmmmm….I wonder what truths have not yet been told. I wonder what we, collectively, have not been willing to face about sexual assault. I wonder what I have not faced personally about any of the trauma I’ve experienced in my lifetime. I wonder how I am contributing to keeping this whole culture going. These questions open the door for deeper personal explorations as well as increase the likelihood of a person to person dialogue that results in transformation versus being right or wrong. My invitation to you is to try some of these on for size and see how they work for you. For more on villain vs challenger, check out www.hendricks.com or sign up for our fellowship where we go deep into this kind of thing.

Big hug,

Becky

p.s. You can sign-up here to receive weekly inspiration and practical pointers on leading large-scale change.

 

Announcements

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to our new fellows: Mari Jones, Michelle Pledger, and Wendy Loloff-Cooper (clockwise from top left). 

Mari Jones is the Project Co-director of the Deeper Learning Hub, a national practitioner hub whose mission is to spread deeper learning practices and ensure that more students across the country are achieving deeper learning outcomes. With Michelle Pledger, she co-leads the Share Your Learning Campaign which aims to focus on spreading a small set of practices (exhibition, student-led conferences, and presentations of learning), to 5 million students by 2020.  She is also an Improvement Facilitator for the Center for Research on Equity and Innovation at High Tech High Graduate School of Education, and a course instructor for the Teaching Apprenticeship Program at High Tech High Graduate School of Education. Previously, Mari was an elementary teacher for fourteen years and has always felt that education is a form of activism, and she is passionate about promoting social change and equity by empowering youth.

 Michelle Sadrena Pledger is the Project Co-Director for the Center for Research on Equity and Innovation and teaches at High Tech High’s Graduate School of Education. With Mari Jones, she co-leads the Share Your Learning Campaign which aims to focus on spreading a small set of practices (exhibition, student-led conferences, and presentations of learning), to 5 million students by 2020. With a dual passion for education and dance, she embraces an energetic teaching and coaching style. Proficient in Spanish and conversational Japanese, Michelle enjoys international travel and leaves the country at least twice a year. As a former member of the renowned public speaking organization, Toastmaster’s International, Michelle has won numerous accolades for competitive public speaking.

 Wendy Loloff Cooper is the CEO of Generation Schools Network. She brings extensive experience in the non-profit and education sectors, especially in the areas of network and collaborative development, replication and innovative educational models. She has worked in higher education (Northwest College, Colorado Christian University & Harvard University) and co-founded the StreetSchool Network, which grew to include more than 50 schools in 27 cities under her leadership. Since taking the reins at Generation Schools, Wendy has grown the organization from serving a handful of schools each year to serving more than 60 schools in multiple states and founding a 56 district rural collaborative as a unit of change.

Welcome – we’re so glad you’re here!! 

Upcoming Events

We still have four spots open up at the October 23rd – 26th Skid Row School and we are currently accepting applications for all of our 2019 offerings.

Graduates of the Skid Row School are invited to apply for one of the seven spots available in 2019 for our fellowship. We meet three times a year for three days at a time and deeply explore the adaptive challenges almost everyone leading large-scale change faces.

The next meeting of the fellows is February 5th – 7th, 2019, and will take place outside Atlanta, Georgia.It will include a tour of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.

We offer scholarships to those who need financial assistance for both our Skid Row School and our fellowship. Give a shout if that’s you.

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

Friends,

I hope all of you are safe and sound in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

This month I have been deeply immersed in our work to support two clients who are advancing racial equity in the US education system: The Raikes Foundation’s Building Equitable Learning Environments Network and the Sonoma County Office of Education’s Empathy, Equity, and Engagement Project aka the “Rooster Fellowship.”

For the Raikes Foundation, I am interviewing 36 experts in the fields of equity and education to capture their best ideas about what the purpose and function of the US education system would ideally be, why it’s not currently like that, and what needs to be done to move things in the right direction. Later this year, I’ll have the privilege of facilitating key stakeholders in learning from these 36 interviews and crafting strategies for what’s next. I promise you this: I am glued to the zoom on my computer screen for every one of these interviews. I am committed to keeping an open mind and being deeply present with these luminaries as they share their wisdom and insights.

As a parent and someone who cares deeply about education and justice, I wish everyone could hear what is being shared with me. Please know there is zero debate among any of these experts I’m interviewing that our current education system is out of date and reproducing oppression, right now, at a school down the street from each of us. Their consensus on this is sobering and a real wake up call for me personally.

One of the people I will interview – haven’t quite gotten to him yet – is Jeff Duncan Andrade. In my research I discovered this keynote (also at the top of the email) he gave at the Deeper Learning conference earlier this year. I heard from friends who were in the audience that it was scheduled to last 45 minutes. It’s an hour and fifteen. I also heard – and you will see – that not a person budged from their seats the entire time. Since it was the last keynote of the conference many people missed their flights, and I don’t think a single person regretted it. Christine and I watched this together the other night the same way you would watch a TV show. Absolutely gripping and important. She sat across from me on the couch, scribbling down notes, and she doesn’t even work in the education field. It is that good. I had the thought that everyone I know needs to see this keynote. Even if you’re not in education. It’s that good.

Another big adventure I’m on: Last week I traveled to Sonoma County to kick off a second year of working with Chuck Wade, Jessica Progulske (the dynamic duo otherwise known as “Chuckica”) and Elizabeth Najmabadi, and Amanda Snook. We’re doing a “wedge and spread” initiative to improve equity and engagement. The “wedge” teams from seven of the forty districts in the county. Each team is comprised of a superintendent, a principal, a teacher, and a classified person like a school counselor or special ed teacher. Each of the seven teams will be working to measurably improve student responses – across all demographic sub-populations – to these three questions:

  1. What we worked on in class is important to me.
  2. Class today was so interesting that I didn’t want to leave.
  3. My teacher thinks I can succeed.

I don’t know about you, but as a parent I care way more about what my kids answer to those questions than I do about any test score. I want them to love their teachers, their classmates, their community, their school. I want them to love learning and love learning how to learn. Because someday they will be all grown up and inherit some really gnarly problems our generations are going to dump on them, and we will look to them to solve them. And we need all the talent of all the kids to do that. 

Here’s the kicker, though: As a result of these conversations I’m having and the work I’m doing, I’m clear that I want that for every kid, not just our own.

If I could share one big takeaway from all my work in education and equity it is this: we must show up for all the babies. Not just our own. I do believe that is the challenge in front of us and that it’s way easier said than done.

And I wonder for other large-scale change initiatives in other sectors – how much that mindset shift – from “mine/me” to “ours/we” – is essential for creating the change we seek.

Yours Truly,
Becky

P.s. If all of this interests you, you simply must subscribe to STARZ for a month and watch all 10 episodes of America to Me. Then we can talk some more. It highlights the vastly different experiences that kids have in the same school. Eye opening.

p.p.s. If somebody sent you this email, sign-up here to receive weekly inspiration and practical pointers on leading large-scale change.

Announcements & Geek Flowers

Gia Truong, CEO of Envision Education, wants to invite you to apply for the 3rd Cohort of the Deeper Learning Leadership Forum, a unique leadership development opportunity.  The DLLF is a unique and special leadership development experience, with engaging experiential learning and rich cohort relationships, as well as the powerful integration of Equity and Deeper Learning. Click this link to learn more! Applications are due Monday September 24th and are especially welcome from folks in the Ohio River Valley and anywhere east of Mississippi.

We talk a lot about “genius” at the Skid Row School and how essential aligning with it is for being able to sustainably lead large-scale change. Our inspiration in this area is Gay Hendricks, many of you are familiar with his book, The Big Leap. Next week the sequel will be published, The Joy of Genius. Gay is offering a live video seminar for those who pre-purchase the book. I’ve already pre-purchased my copy. I have a feeling this one’s gonna be really good!

Upcoming Events

We had six spots open up at the October 23rd – 26th Skid Row School and we are currently accepting applications for our January 8th – 11th, 2019 Skid Row School. Additional 2019 dates coming soon!

We also welcome leaders who want to deepen their mastery of leading large-scale change to apply for our two-year fellowship. More info and an application here.

Five Tactics for Disrupting Systems

Friends,

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this notion that there might be two primary ways to go about accomplishing spread/scale in the social sector: broad and deep.

When I think about broad I think about getting an intervention to everyone who might benefit as quickly as possible, and doing so as a matter of justice. I think about Rotary Clubs (among many others like the World Health Organization, the US CDC and UNICEF) pulling together to ensure that every single child on the planet receives the polio vaccine. They helped the world go from 350,000 cases of polio in 1988 to 22 in 2017. I even read that they stopped the Civil War in Sudan for four days so that every child in that country could be immunized. Now that’s getting an intervention to everyone who might benefit! If you want to read more, it’s a truly inspiring story.

Broad is often good and I think it’s often the default mindset of many foundations and non-profits seeking to scale when they come to the Skid Row School. My only caveat to going broad is be sure your intervention is truly “read for prime time” by being attentive to any unintended consequences that might actually cause harm. Otherwise – get to it!

Then there’s deep. Deep doesn’t always get the respect it deserves, especially in a culture where more + bigger + faster = better. I want to put deep out there as equally valid with broad as a scaling objective. By scaling “deep” I mean fully transforming an existing system. This is not something I have as much experience with, but my hunch is going deep and broad can be complementary strategies.

A friend at the National Equity Project recommended this article to me: “Seven Lessons for Leaders in Systems Change” written by the folks at the Center for Ecoliteracy and I’m happy to share it with you. Cliff’s notes version – the lessons are:

  1. To promote systems change, foster community and cultivate networks.
  2. Work at multiple levels of scale
  3. Make space for self-organization
  4. Seize breakthrough opportunities when they arise
  5. Facilitate – but give up the illusion that you can direct – change
  6. Assume that change is going to take time
  7. Be prepared to be surprised

Alumni of the Skid Row School will note some similarities with this and our Model for Unleashing 1.0 (yes, we have a MFU 2.0 now) in that #4 and #7 map to “play jazz” and #5 maps to “lose control.”

This week I’ve been focusing in on Lesson #5: “Facilitate – but give up the illusion that you can direct – change.”  I want to share their instructions on #5 directly:

“So what can you do? In the provocative maxim of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, “You can never direct a living system. You can only disturb it.” How do you disturb a system? By introducing information that contradicts old assumptions. By demonstrating that things people believe they can’t do are already being accomplished somewhere. By inviting new people into the conversation. By rearranging structures so that people relate in ways they’re not used to. By presenting issues from different perspectives.”

What a breath of fresh air. This is a direct challenge to all of our inner control freaks, right? It’s true – we can’t control a system, but we sure can disrupt it – and they offer five concrete tactics ready for us to try today. I can think of a lot of systems and structures that could benefit from disruption, and this is useful for everything from our current (in)justice system to our organizations, no matter how big or small.

Whether you’re wanting to create change broad or deep, or both, I’m happy to share these five tactics as inspiration and provocation. I’m curious if any of these resonate for you and how it’s working out for you as you apply them. 

Disturb on!
Becky

Upcoming Events

We are currently accepting applications for our January 8th – 11th, 2019 Skid Row School.  October 2018 is sold out but we’d be happy to put you on the waitlist just in case a spot opens up.

We also have one remaining spot for an alumni who wants to join our two-year fellowship for personal and planetary transformation this September 25th – 27th, and two spots for leaders who’d want to start Feb 5th – 7th, 2019. More info and an application here.

It’s OK To Take A Nap

Friends,

I just got up from a nap. And I had a bunch of other things to tell you about, but I realized what I most want to tell you today is the subject of today’s email: it’s OK to take a nap. 

It really is. I know the world is falling apart. I know you are a critical member of an essential team doing very important things in the world. And…it’s OK to take a nap. Or go for a mid-day walk in the park. Or leave early to take your kid to soccer practice. Or whatever, so long as it’s something that nurtures you

One of my all time favorite quotes is from EB White (yeah – Charlotte’s Web dude). He said, “I arise in the morning and am torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor it. This makes it hard to plan my day.”

I totally get it, EB. Me, too. And sometimes, I notice folks get so busy saving the world that they put savoring way on the back burner. 

Here’s the deal. Summer is almost over. Pretty soon we’ll all return to the hustle and bustle of fall and get busy squirreling away nuts for the winter. So now’s your chance!

Sometime over the next week, I encourage you to give yourself the gift of at least one hour that’s luxuriously nurturing for you. 

Because, you know…we need you out there. You are saving the world. And this is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Savor on, my friends,
Becky

Announcements from Friends & Alumni

In keeping with this week’s theme, Nicole Taylor – Skid Row School alum and faculty member for our fellowship, just released her first book A Joyful Pause: 52 Ways to Love Life. I am so looking forward to receiving my copy this weekend!

Many of you met one of our fellows, Michelle Molitor, when she was on the faculty at the Skid Row School. She is the founder of The Equity Lab and they are now accepting applications for the Nexus Fellowship. Organizations are asked to identify two representatives for a year-long experience to strengthen skills in race, equity, diversity, and inclusion, especially in the k-12.

LaShawn Chatmon and Kathleen Osta from the National Equity Project wrote this thought-provoking article for Ed Week: 5 Steps for Liberating Public Education from Its Deep Racial Bias for EdWeek. Please share with your favorite educators!

The Brookings Institute is hiring four positions related to scaling – a scaling lab researcher and a scaling lab facilitator each – for their work in Côte d’Ivoire and Jordan.

Upcoming Events

We are currently accepting applications for our January 8th – 11th, 2019 Skid Row School.  October 2018 is sold out but we’d be happy to put you on the waitlist just in case a spot opens up.

We also have one remaining spot for an alumni who wants to join our two-year fellowship for personal and planetary transformation this September 25th – 27th, and two spots for leaders who’d want to start Feb 5th – 7th, 2019. More info and an application here.