What politicians have to say for themselves

MPs in the commons (Catherine Bebbington)For around 12 years now, I’ve been puzzling over the way party politics digs away at trust, undermining the very ground all politicians need to stand on. There are two pretty damaging side effects of being in perpetual attack mode. First – if the overall impression is that everyone thinks everyone else is untrustworthy or wrong, then why believe any of them? Second – people tend to follow the example set by others with more authority, so ‘attack mode’ becomes pervasive. Neither of these produces much public service of any good…

Those I speak to mostly seem to feel political dysfunction has the inescapable power of a black hole – what can they do, caught in this viscous cycle?

So, together with a philosophical friend, I’ve written to all British MP’s (at least those I can find addresses for) with an invitation to put their best foot forward and publicly set their shoulders to the virtuous circle of good work which certainly goes on. You can find the project on a website I’ve called ‘Dear All’ here.

If enough politicians take personal responsibility for setting trustworthy standards of constructive behaviour, the culture of the House will shift in that direction. Parliamentary politics should get better. That’s the theory. Let’s see what they say.

Report from ASP’s Great Wisdom Gathering

Here’s what happened at ASP’s Great Wisdom Gathering in Henley-on-Thames, facilitated by Mike Zeidler.

The gathering was attended by people from Sussex to Dorset. The rules of Open Space state very clearly that ‘whoever comes are the right people’, and so it was. Of the 17 due to attend, 12 made it, so there was more great wisdom than great numbers. Certainly the quality of the conversations was very good, and the topics covered wide-ranging.  There was a theme around joining things up, system models and collaboration, another about personal support, and a third about our relationships with nature.

The AGM turned out to be a great demonstration about the way ASP works as a learning organisation modelled as far as possible on ‘the way nature works‘. The form is self-evidently an association of people concerned about practical and applied sustainability. The clearly stated activities are all about supporting, challenging and connecting people on that journey in learning.  The directors went on to explain how they seek to keep everything ASP does as simple, as low cost, and as high impact as possible, and that as in nature, they remain constantly open, adaptive and emergent.

Someone proposed imposing a conceptual model on ASP as a way of showing it’s great power as a ‘the solution’ for change. What happened next was a joy to be part of.  There was a swiftly held, but deeply reflective debate in which everybody took part, surprising those who expected the directors to simply make a ruling. The group noted the shortfalls of a ‘yes/no’ voting system, explored more appropriate options, and ultimately rejected the proposal with supportive advice about other ways to achieve similar ends. As a test of ASP’s modus operandi, it was highly effective.   The proposer felt heard, valued, supported and understood – the organisation maintained its integrity in the face of a challenge to its principle of continuing openness.

​We reminded everyone there’s an open invitation from ASP for associates to become Directors. Two people expressed an interest which the current Directors will explore with them in the coming months.

All in, it was a good day with about 1/3 of those present experiencing an Open Space meeting for the first time.  If you were considering coming, but couldn’t make it, here’s what they had to say about it:  “I loved the discussions with interesting people going any direction”, and “It was a very easy flowing day with no agenda or objective – very refreshing for a lawyer!”;  “I loved the increasing openness, awareness, connection and change/options of the event”; “The human discursiveness and feeling [was good]”, and “I loved the openness and Oneness”
We hope to see you next time!

Art of Cosmic Thinking In Action

Spotlight spectrum smlrOn July 22nd 2016, we put on the UK’s second ‘Art of Cosmic Thinking’ event, building on feedback from the debut in Manchester back in May.   The word cosmic comes from the word cosmos, meaning ‘the universe as a complex and orderly system’ and the talk explored how to hold the tension between keeping things simple and keeping things real.

Having stimulated minds with this introduction, we created an Open Space for everyone there to explore their own ideas. Click here to see what went on.

Wanted: New Leadership – apply within

Burned Forest header







When things go wrong and people are angry, the natural tendency is to look for someone or something to blame.  We hold a public inquiry to make sure we know who’s fault it was, why it went wrong, and to make sure it never happens again.

The anger is stoked into a blaze of blame which gets so hot we step back from our own responsibilities.  Instead of looking at ourselves, we glare at the unfortunates tied to the stake while opportunities for useful learning get incinerated.

Right now, there’s a scorched clearing where political leadership used to be. We’re all desperately keen to see hope rise from the ashes and need to see something new. Our own public inquiry distilled into two questions – who now? and what could be different?  To see what we found, read the full article here.

In or Out – it’s a question of courage

In or out jar

The EU Referendum COULD have been a fascinating, engaging, participative and educational debate about the relationships of people across Europe. So far, the political debate has been a two dimensional, shallow and emotive competition between two different kinds of fear.

So how can we choose if we’re feeling under informed, overwhelmed by complexity or simply angry at the poverty of leadership? I think it’s a question of personal and collective courage.  Read the full account here.

The art of Cosmic Thinking

coloured smokeInspired by a great TED talk called ‘Inside the mind of a  master procrastinator‘ by Tim Urban, I’ve drafted a TED talk of my own.  With the working title ‘The Art of Cosmic Thinking’, my talk uses sort-of-art to explore super-connective networking and order in chaos.

The first dress rehearsal will be at Revolution in Fallowfield, Manchester on Sunday 15th May.  Please arrive at 5.45pm for a 6pm start.