Engagement and Silence

Often in Social Learning we are aiming to generate engagement within our communities, but it’s easy to get caught up in the ride and think we are successful when people start to speak. Engagement isn’t just about hearing from a vocal few: rather it’s about connecting to the silent majority. It’s about ensuring that everyone is in the conversation. You can’t have co-created learning unless everyone is engaged in the co-creation.

Engagement and Silence

There are many reasons for being disengaged; the technology may not be good, the timing may not be right, or the relevance simply isn’t apparent. Even if all those things are sorted out (which is rarely the case), we may still fail to engage, because we are busy elsewhere: so many things, so little time.

Key to engagement is making it worthwhile to engage: avoiding wasting people’s time or patronising them. It may seem obvious, but it’s the hardest thing to do, partly because we have teams of people who care deeply about their subject and have to justify the time and expense of designing the learning. We tend towards being too long and too complex in design. Organisations tend towards too great an amount of process template and control, when what’s needed is agility, collaboration and co-creation.

It’s not coincidence that, when a Holywood blockbuster is ready to go, when the final edit is complete, they do test screenings before going on general release. As a result of these, they re-edit, change the plot or even lengthen or shorten the whole film. The final release we see is only the result of a great deal of uncertainty along the way.

The first step for success with a Social Learning space is to start hearing voices (the good ones from the community, not the ones in your head). The second step to success is to realise that there is no silence round the edges of the room.

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Boston: Strong & Proud

It’s a certain understated pride that comes through. Not a brash New York pride, nor a chilled San Francisco one. Rather a constant theme that rides with you throughout your time in the city.

Boston Strong

Take the names: buildings, roads, parks and bridges, all named after prominent soldiers or civic figures. Take the bronze statues of notable Bostonian athletes and sportsmen through the ages. Take the taxi driver who told me with pride how Eisenhower had the foresight to build the Interstate here, to carve a modern infrastructure into the community.

I start my day meeting a friend. Except that, in the Social Age, friendship is complex: we’ve never met before, except through Twitter and forums, yet somehow we know what each other stands for and we know the conversation will be good. Which it is: over coffee by the canal we watch kayakers take to the water and discuss culture and communities, our histories and future. Wide ranging, curious, shared stories.

Boston Strong

The curiosity fits the space, because within a stones throw is the Microsoft building. And the Google one. And, i think, Yahoo, who seem to persist, though doing what i’m not quite sure. Curious technologists carving out a new Age.

I walk to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: it’s odd, but i hadn’t realised it was so close. A pilgrimage of sorts i guess, though to find what, i’m not sure. The reassuring bulk of greek colonnaded architecture giving things a suitable gravitas i guess.

Next to it, the sixties architecture of the enticingly named High Voltage Research Lab, which i skirt past rapidly, half hoping for sparks. It disappoints. Just a dusty and seemingly deserted building by the rail tracks.

Boston Strong

There’s a pride in the bearing of the students as they filter in and out: this is a prestigious space and it shows, as people have their photo taken by the sign. I head to the MIT Museum.

In what i can only assume is a self parody, the gallery starts it’s celebration of MIT pride by showcasing elements of the Polaroid collection, which they recently acquired. The irony of this redundant technology, swept away by it’s unwillingness to adapt, to recognise it’s crumbling foundations, symbol, totem of apathy and failure. Perhaps i’m unduly harsh, but this once mighty scientific-industrial behemoth lies tattered: relegated to an App on my smartphone. Technology, it turns out, has a sell by date.

My favourite gallery by far is the one of abstract mechanical sculptures, forged of iron and wire, each of which is delicately animated. Cogs and chains turn, causing impossibly spindly contraptions to lurch into life. On several, a leaf or piece of wood is precariously bought to life by the mechanism, walking and dancing. It’s entrancing. Art and engineering: that’s maybe what validates the Polaroid story, the way the technology facilitated and democratised the art.

Later i wait patiently behind two teenagers, wanting to have a go on a water tank that lets you visualise sound waves. I think. I never get to find out, because they’re too busy hogging the seat, whilst updating Facebook, talking about boys. And i’m too English to tell them to shove off.

Art

The pride in the Museum is understated: the robotics and holographic sections have a certain confidence about them, but overall it’s more quaintly charming than cutting edge. I’m surprised nobody has sponsored the hell out of it yet.

I walk back to the river, where, on the bridge, i find numbers painted, marking the ten metre marks (except where they joyfully sometimes mark the 81m or 69m gap with a wild abandon of structure). They are, i assume, for runners to track their progress, running being a popular pastime here. And running being a reminder of just why Boston is Strong. The bombing of the marathon here, which i’d seen on television, is more starkly real as i stand beside the lycra. Communication technology collapses distances, but there’s still something more inherently real about being ‘here’. In actual person.

I stumble across a confident shopping street, all boutiques and cafes amidst the brownstone tenements. Proof that global commerce endures: it’s charming but ultimately it’s the independent shops that give it character. I sit for lunch on a terrace, in a shady spot, surrounded by flowers, looking over the gently bustling space. I take my phone out to capture the moment, but realise the atmosphere is elusive, and a snapshot of a table and chairs won’t do it. So i go old school and rely instead on my memory.

Narrative fascinates me: the ways we chart our story, over time. The ways we build our collections of objects, photos and friendships that reflect and capture the shadow of encounters and adventures long gone. I found my friend Louise like this: both lost in Shanghai, a shared story that started by accident and persists over time. Cities capture their narrative in their architecture, in their street furniture, in their parks and tramways. Delineated by coastlines and hills, valleys and mountains, they fill the space with a constantly evolving story, each part contributing to the whole.

City Hall is monstrous: brutalist architecture of the first order. It reminds me of the signs you still see in New York alleyways, up high, faded and battered, pointing you to the nearest nuclear shelter. It’s all angles and towering struts: seeking to dominate through mass and texture. Concrete itself, once symbolic of hope and post war optimism now reeks of misplaced urban renewal schemes and mass production at the cost of heart.

Boston Strong

Strong does not meant to dominate: architecture does not gain it’s strength through density alone. Truly great buildings reference nature, they don’t deny or occlude it. They are grounded in their heritage, even if they gain notoriety through challenging or being contrary towards it. The strength of Boston Strong comes because of it’s story, not despite it.

I feel the impending sense of dislocation as the final hours before my flight close in: a mental uncoupling from this reality, in preparation for the return to my own. To have any value, travel must be circuitous: both in terms of how we explore by wandering, but also through the sense of returning home, to codify and capture the experience into our story, and to share that story once it is done.

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Boston: Bridges & Boundaries

One day in and i’ve found no graffiti. Some stickers on lampposts, sure, but nothing else. Which is unusual. This puts it on a level with Singapore or Dubai, both largely motif free zones. Maybe i’m walking in the wrong places, or maybe it’s something about the demographic. Whatever the cause, it’s surprising in a city this size. Especially a city evolving so fast.

Boston views

I wake early to heavy rain: the pounding on my window gives implicit permission to tap out the alarm and go back to sleep for an hour. By the time i emerge, it’s still only seven AM, but to my jet lagged brain it’s a lie in and the day starts with coffee, served by a women too ebulliently excited about the weather for this time of day. I like excitement, but, for preference, after nine.

I walk South, my sandals splashing through the puddles, but i don’t mind: to my English sensitivities, the warmth forgives a thousand sins. I’m used to rain being wet, cold and blown in my face. I pass the piers, familiar from yesterday’s exploration: Burroughs Wharf, Union Wharf, Lewis Wharf, bygone remnants of trade and war. History is never far away in Boston, both old and new.

I’m heading for the Boston Tea Party ships, a museum commemorating the time when the locals cast bales of tea into the river in protest at yet another English tax: it wasn’t the amount that they protested about, but rather the notions of control. The exertion of power.

On the way, i pass the aquarium: a utilitarian concrete box that i realise, with little excitement, is probably owned by the same people who own aquariums in London, Paris and Shanghai. The aquarium experience is ubiquitous these days. I guess the curiosity is universal: what lies beneath. Me, i find the boundary between river and piers troubling, especially when the water sucks and gurgles beneath me, weaving fingers through gaps in the granite and wooden stakes. It’s not a comfortable sound, reminiscent of the eternal erosion and darkness beneath. Today i don’t feel the desire to explore it and walk on by.

As i continue round the peninsula, i pass a bridge, abandoned. It’s a significant structure, marked on my map as ‘Northern Avenue’, a name that belies the steel structure before me: a latticework of girders and massive wooden beams, heavily rusted and splintered. Abandoned.

This is my first taste of derelict Boston: the old in limbo before it’s swept away by the new. I note that even on Google maps it’s in transition: Seaport Boulevard, the bridge i eventually cross is lit up and bright, whilst Northern Avenue bridge is greyed out, fading slowly from memory.

It’s open, a swing bridge of traditional design, so boats can pass through. It’s massive, yet ignored. There’s something desperately futile about a bridge without purpose: engineering without intent. It reminds me that yesterday i found myself walking down the Greenway: an elongated park created through the centre of the city when they demolished and buried a raised highway, leaving a series of disjointed parks in a broad sweep through the city, tranquil as the lorries roar through tunnels underneath. I like it. Later i’ll have cause to glimpse what used to be, when i venture to the North West of the spit and find myself trapped by highways, dereliction and building sites, seconded in true US fashion to a mere pedestrian in a city made for cars. But more of that later.

Boston views

I leave the decrepit bridge to it’s twilight slumbers and pass the Intercontinental Hotel. A panel nearby tells me about the building it replaced and how it’s glass towers mimic the tall ships that used to be… but it’s just blah blah blah. Another senseless tower, reflective and soulless. No sails here: no glory of bygone days, just commerce and business. Why pretend it’s anything else?

As the Boston Tea Party museum hoves into view, i become lukewarm: two sailing ships and a central museum building, housed halfway across yet another bridge. Floating in every way. But as i near, i hear the sounds of reenactment and mirth. I sense a show in progress and, as actors in fancy dress loom forth i retreat. To the cafe. I’m not in the mood to play revolutionary, preferring instead to watch from a distance with a scone and cup of tea. Boston tea. Historical tea. Apparently. The whole thing is Disney without the charm, although with free WiFi it holds my attention for an hour as i brush away real life and plan my adventure.

I cross to an area that may be called Fort Point, or then again, may not be: i’m relying on Google here. In any event, i’m off the main peninsula and into new geography and new architecture. Three historic warehouses provide space for trendy coffee shops, but everything else has been uprooted. It’s all new building here: apartments going up by the minute. There’s a real energy and it feels good: different, but buzzing.

Boston Institute of Contemporary Arts

I find my way over to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, an appealing building rising up from the waterside, welcoming and surprisingly airy. I have an uneasy relationship with modern art: determined to enjoy it, but occasionally scathing. The elastic of my tolerance is fragile at best, but today’s exhibitions hold me well: an extensive display of ceramics and some performance art. I’m only lost when i hit the highly experimental section, including an alter to contemporary consumerism, in the dark, on gravel? I think? Honestly, i’m just dreading that one of the many youthful ‘guards/docents‘ will ask me what i think, forcing me to either lie or engage. What i really think is ‘rubbish‘, but that would mark me unworthy.

Boston Institute of Contemporary Arts

In the next room i’m invited to don headphones and listen to music, whilst i’m also invited to leaf through some vinyl, but instructed not to pull the records out. I listen. I flick sleeves. I pause what i gauge to be a decent amount of time (longer than the old people, less time than the two dudes who stand there nodding along to the music) and make my escape. It was ok. Whatever it was.

For fear of being branded heathen, i enjoyed it. On the whole. Certainly there was a great gift shop, mainstay of any gallery experience. I bought a keyring, thus validating both my own worth and the museum itself. Immortalised on my garage key.

I realise that progress has been slow, so i pick up the pace before almost immediately being sidetracked by a salad bar: in true hipster style, it’s selling salad at a crippling markup but, again, with WiFi it sucks me in. I recognise the lurching nature of my day reflects the landscape: Boston is divided. You move unusually fast between sectors here: historic to business, building site to park. Old to new.

I pass through a succession of spaces: Chinatown, the Financial District. The Public Gardens and the Common. I enjoy the flickering view as it passes by, but nothing hold my attention for a good hour. As i walk through the park, a busker plays guitar. A young girl stops to throw a dollar and the old man calls out to her ‘what’s your name little girl?‘. ‘Tiffany‘, she says. ‘You’ve got a good heart Tiffany‘, he replies, before continuing. Validation for a dollar. She skips off, slightly bemused, but smiling. Transactions of dollars and heart.

As i cross the road to the Charles River, the footbridge catches my attention. It’s a strange curving affair, no steps, but rather a walkway that loops round twice, before achieving escape velocity and crossing the highway, landing through another couple of tight loops on the other side. It’s painted peach, but cracked and peeling concrete. In need of significant love. It feels very 1950. A strangely neglected remnant. It’s at this point i realise that Boston is about bridges: it seems to have many, anchoring it to it’s past, to the other peninsulas, to it’s aspiration.

Boston Park

Boston Strong‘ is a theme: resilience after, i assume, the bombing of the marathon. It suits it: a plucky city that wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve.

I pass under the Longfellow Bridge, for the second time today daunted by dark voids and riverside noises. I dislike the dank and enclosed space as i pass under it, speeding my walk until i hit the sunshine to the north.

From here, i become purposeful: in search of an Apple store as my cable died last night. So off i go, past the Science Museum and across yet another bridge until i arrive in that most American of inventions, the Mall. Unlike the UK knockoff malls, which tend towards sophisticated and computerised maps to let you find what you want, American malls seem to rely on Brownian motion to eventually ricochet you into any given store. Fortunately my circuit is mercifully short, allowing me to browse the aluminium glory, grab a cable and exit fast.

Back into the city proper and i become disjointed: not lost, i know where i am, but am unable to progress. In this part of town, cars take precedence and highways wend above my head and beneath my feed. At one point i hit a dead end, trapped between railway line, deserted hospital and the river, innocent enough in the sunshine, but i feel caged.

On my retreat, i find skateboarders at last, filming themselves by the river: one with video camera (old school, the size of a briefcase), effortlessly crouched at speed whilst his chum jumps steps and walls. There’s a whole crew of them, half a dozen cameras and i sense YouTube will be buzzing tonight. If only he didn’t keep falling off.

Suddenly i escape, past yet another hospital, huge building sites and around the edge of the Ice Hockey stadium, back to civilisation. Or what passes for it in the city. I celebrate with a coffee from the promisingly entitled equality coffeeshop, a fair trade venture with cake.

Boston Building

Dude! The Californian behind the counter loves my Austin City Limits T Shirt and won’t let me order until i’ve noted down a range of music recommendations, all of which veer dangerously towards Country. That noted, it’s another stint of WiFi and the real world before the final haul home.

I hit Yoga time: there are several points in a Boston day when lycra abounds: 7:30AM runners and 5PM yoga mats. That is this time. I’m surrounded. Maybe it’s obligatory here?

As i ponder, i round the headland and find myself back to Battery Wharf, suddenly home. The sense of location is startling, as i thought i had a way to go still. But that’s the thing with Boston, for all it’s noise and rattle, it’s small. Big hearted, but small.

Boston sunset

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Boston: Salt & Granite

A gift of circling the world against the direction of spin is the first morning when you awake at five AM, refreshed and itching to explore. For me it feels like nine, just in time for a late breakfast, yet here i am gifted the extra hours, hours to waste, hours to wander.

Boston sunrise

I’m staying on the edge of the Harbour, Battery Wharf, whose name belies it’s original purpose: site of an original English defensive fort, lapsed slowly first to trade and then to residential dog walking and coffee shops, where i find it today.

It’s with some trepidation that i realise my hotel is built on shifting sands: from the side i can see the massive wooden piles supporting the structure through to the granite blocks of the harbour wall. Architecture should be grounded on foundations as far as i’m concerned: it has no right to float, even if the piers themselves are thicker than i am and have clearly weathered many a winter storm.

I hadn’t realised last night that i’m overlooking the Coastguard base: as i look out of the window in the sunrise i see a Cutter moored opposite, even at this early hour, signs of life on the deck. Come six, i’m sat outside on a bench, watching the harbour come to life. Reveille sounds on the boat, not with trumpets or horns, but rather a more prosaic whistle and someone shouting over the tannoy ‘Reveille, get out of bed, get up!‘. Modernity at it’s best. It’s a far cry from the Royal Navy, who probably still do it with bugle and a tot of rum.

The Coastguard lead a varied life, or so the tourist signs tell me: fixing up buoys and navigational markers, saving dozens of lives every day, busting drug smugglers and intercepting illegal immigrants. All that probably before breakfast, but the base in front of me has the organisation and sense of stocktaking of harbour-sides everywhere. There are warehouses, fork lift trucks and a sense of spaces that are used for stacking, hauling and loading. These are the purposeful spaces.

Then there are the neglected spaces: crates, winches, bits of machinery with altogether too much rust to really fit in. Buildings with weeds. The edge-lands that every quayside has: old nets, parts set down one day and never again needed. Once you slip through the mesh of purpose it’s nobody’s job to deal with it.

The Cutter itself is magnificent: white painted and at ease, moored here on the tranquil shores of the estuary, but you still get a sense of purpose and energy, barely harnessed. No boat is truly alive when moored. They sit restlessly, waiting for the wind, waiting for the spray.

The bows: chains and ropes, boxes lined up. A place of transition from shore to sea. The bridge up high: tinted windows don’t permit me to identify individuals, but rather occasional movement and sense of calm energy. At the back, probably out of sight of everyone but me, a young sailor stands in the early light, texting. Or on Facebook. Or maybe checking the scores. Even in this regimented environment, social behaviours persist.

Boston piers

Moored alongside, a tug. I like tugs: the heavyweight hustlers of any working harbour. In the hour i sit by the water with my coffee, three large tankers come past, each one nudged, nestled and jostled by the little boats. I can almost hear them scolding and chiding their more reluctant charges as they make slow but deliberate progress.

The joggers are out: even in my first hours of Boston life i’ve realised that it’s a thing here. Running. Young and old, they start to come thick and fast. Predominantly neon. And dog walkers. As i head East, i leave Battery Wharf and make slow progress, walking up and down the crenellations of each successive pier. It’s a dog-toothed map to follow.

The piers are built of granite: giant blocks, arranged in broad lines, but somewhat tumbled. Few lines are straight. Reminiscent not of the pyramids, with their geometric perfection, but maybe some kind of central American architecture from prehistory: the sort with giant blocks that you can’t fit a sheet of paper between. Perfectly laid, but unruly by design. I like how they differentiate: this is water, this is land. And in between: granite.

But these structures no longer support warehouses and sheds: today, it’s semi detached houses and Starbucks. A little further along, a bar. Artillery to retail. Cannonballs to latte. Transition and adaptation, the bywords of any city finding it’s way into the Social Age.

The harbour itself is firmly mixed use: sailing ships cross paths with ferries, water taxi and even amphibious DUCKS, the mainstay of tourist trails the world over. Indeed, there is a sense of this everywhere: ‘what’s Boston known for’, i ask my host. ‘the Red Sox and eating’, came his reply. Not car making or military, not government or retail. Not pharma and tech. ‘Oh, and history’, he added.

The Boston Tea party. I knew there was something i had to check out. But maybe that’s for tomorrow. For now, perhaps i should explore the eating.

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The Rules of Beach Volleyball: agile teams and engagement

A whole weekend with friends: picnic lunches and BBQ evenings. On Saturday afternoon we head to the beach for some Volleyball. A little bit of running around, to find some sticks to mark the ‘net’ and to scrape a rectangular court into the soft sand and we were ready to go. Was it the regulated size? I doubt it, we just guessed as we dragged a foot through the sand, walking backwards, marking out a patch. Indeed, one side had a significant bulge, the cause of a few miscalled ‘outs!’.

Teams

When play commenced, teams were fluid: sometimes three a side, sometimes four, on one occasion, five, if you included the toddler crawling around in my half. Rules were equally fluid: play to twelve points, play to fifteen, no kicking the ball, kicks allowed, and so on.

Emergent. Co-created and co-owned.

And nobody was particularly good, but that didn’t matter because we stepped into some games and out of others. The team structure itself was very fluid.

And it’s that fluidity that i was reflecting upon this morning as i sat on the coach to the airport: we played all afternoon, on one court, with one ball, but no one person played every game. The teams were sub communities out of a wider population, united with desire to play, but flexible on quite how and when. It wasn’t planned, nor were rules rigidly interpreted. It was emergent, within some kind of structure.

Modern organisations need some of this fluidity: when i write about being
scaffolded and reconfigurable, i mean able to adapt at speed to circumstance. Which is exactly what we were able to do in our volleyball match. If they team started feeling a bit lightweight, i could call on Sal or Liz, both energetic defenders, or Jonny, with his six foot three frame and strong serve. But just when needed.

Whilst played at a particularly amateur level, even professional teams do this, maintaining a roster of players that they can draw upon depending on terrain and intent, or who’s injured or on good form. It’s that mindset within Social Leadership that requires us to understand how these communities, these teams form, fast, and how we can unite them, give them purpose and deploy them. Winning teams that function for a game or two then are disbanded, with just the memory of a great score.

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The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women: Proud Mentorship

The Cherie Blair Foundation for WomenThe Cherie Blair Foundation for Women supports women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets so they can invest in their families and communities. A few years ago i helped create the Foundations learning materials and, since then, have remained as a mentor. Tonight i gave a short speech in London, sharing my experiences, which i’m sharing here in the hope that it encourages others to take part.

I never really introduce myself as a mentor with the foundation. I introduce myself as a proud mentor. There’s a difference, because mentoring’s a process, whilst pride is something that sits in your heart.

I hear stories in the Forum about people achieving great things, big things, but my mentoring relationships haven’t been about that. They’ve often been smaller. The first tentative steps of a business. The first explorations of an entrepreneur. Our biggest successes have been the launch of a website, or winning one or two customers. One small step to change the world.

I have been a proud mentor with the foundation from the start, and i’ve seen a lot of changes over the last few years. Not changes in the technology we use, or changes in how the programme is run and the transformative results that it achieves, but rather changes in myself. Changes in my worldview. Most of my professional work is with organisations, but mentoring is very directly about people. About two people in fact: you and the person you are learning from. Because make no mistake, in a mentoring relationship, you’re both learning.

One of the first things i learnt was about preconceptions and stereotypes. I started my relationship with Shyamla in Mumbai by populating the scene with my exotic views of Indian life. I’ve never been to India, so my painting was somewhat inaccurate.

Our relationship started formally: we were polite to each other, we were process driven, we were efficient. We worked together on a business plan and had some success. But we weren’t necessarily engaged.

Until one day, when we started talking about the view from our windows. I painted my stereotyped picture of what i thought Shyamla’s world was like and she painted her assumptions about mine. And it turned out they were not very accurate. India is not all about vibrant markets, bright orange colours and elephants, and there are no castles or Beefeaters in my back garden.

In turns out that life for Shyamla is about family, about work, about money, about a fierce type of pride. A pride that she was investing in her business. Much as it is for me. That conversation broke us out of just the process and into a journey where we found pride. Together. Alongside each other.

When we finished our formal mentoring relationship, after a year, we spoke of that pride with tears in our eye.

Today, several years on, Shyamlas son is studying at Manchester university. It was a matter of pride that i could say to her, ‘if he needs anything, if you ever worry about your son far from home, he will always have someone to turn to, a friend far from home.’

Not all of my mentoring relationships with the Foundation have been successful in that way: two have ended early, without necessarily being transformative. In one case, the cultural barriers that separated us, the language barriers that stilted our conversations, and maybe the gender barrier that stood between us proved insurmountable. In the other case, my mentee moved to the US, to a new life, and her project turned into an aspect of her history, not a part of her new life.

Were they failures? I don’t think so. Life is complex: we find our way alongside our families, our friends and our communities like this. To be invited into that community, to hold a trusted position alongside that person, to learn and strive together, that in itself may be enough. Success is not necessarily about transformation: it may be about being there for the journey. About exploring and broadening our perceptions together.

And from these things, i learn something else: humility.

In the Social Age, we need equality, we need the learning and support of our communities, we need diversity of opinion, not just from those who speak with the loudest voice or who were born with the most opportunity, and we need ways of finding fairness in leadership. Not just the leadership we get from our governments and elected representatives, but the leadership we ourselves provide, that you provide, within our communities.

Perhaps we have to learn to be humble, to be good people.

The fight for equality is the fight of our time. Through this programme, we are connected to people: people who we may never meet in person, people whose lives we touch for a short period of time. People who we teach and who we learn from. People who we help to be proud, to achieve their goal, to transform, as we ourselves are transformed, and find our pride.

To be a mentor with the foundation is an opportunity: an opportunity touch one two lives, one of which we live ourselves and must try to live as best we can.

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Social Learning: Birth of a Community

I sat in on an hour long session today, the birth of a new Social Learning community. It’s part of a large Scaffolded Social learning project, of which the community forms the central ‘sense making‘ elements. So establishing it, building it’s shared purpose, finding it’s core values and establishing it’s character is a key moment. So we started by talking about dogs. And prayers. And food.

Birth of a Community

It’s Ramadan, for some members of the community, which gave the opportunity to share a little of their everyday reality. For example, i learnt that celebrating Ramadan in the UK at the moment makes your fasting even longer than in Dubai, because there’s more sunlight (something not usually a problem in the UK!). It was a very human story. We shared stories about pets. And about challenges at work. And about where we were based.

In some ways, purposeless conversation, but the point is that you can’t have the purposeful learning until you have trust, you have understanding, until you have a permission to do so. So you have to start with the intent and move through to productivity. Building a shared narrative along the way.

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