Building trust and modelling different ways of doing things
“I’m not sure I’m on a “Deep Adaptation journey” because DAF is just one of my networks and I was very much collapse-aware before I started to frequent DAF events. I have a feeling that, in terms of “usefulness”, I have influenced DAF more than it influenced me. However, experiencing that my influence is valued by others is rewarding experience, so there is reciprocity 🙂”Nenad Maljković
How I joined the Community Action group
I found out about Deep Adaptation through someone who mentioned the DA paper to me, shortly after it was published. When I read it, I was struck that someone from the field of conventional sustainability academia was “telling it as it is.” For me, the information was not new: in my circles, people tend to find the actual situation much worse than is normally talked about, and suffer emotionally and physically from it.
However, I found the language in the paper useful and interesting, particularly the 4 R’s of Deep Adaptation. I realised that permaculture, which is a field in which I’m actively involved, isn’t possible without considering these four questions. It also felt relevant to the work I do with others in the field of community-led climate action, so I reposted the article on my Medium blog, and started attending Jem Bendell’s Q&As.
In community-led climate action, people often just focus on behavior change on the societal scale, and neglect individual transformations. So I felt it would make sense to support a network focused on delivering this kind of learning experiences.
Therefore, when the Deep Adaptation Forum was launched, I joined the network on Ning, and observed what was going on there. I was involved in some interesting conversations in the Narratives & Messaging group, and reached out to people one-to-one, such as Kat Soares, who was a volunteer with the Community Action group. I decided to join her as a fellow Group Leader.
Cultivating new ways of being and doing
I joined the Community Action group to find ways of making our work, in my community-led climate action circles, more real and more effective. Kat, myself and others focused on finding out how we wanted to collaborate. We found a good fit, as experienced group process facilitators open to experimentation, and we avoid making things overly complicated; others who enjoyed those ways of collaborating joined us, including several people from Croatia.
As I started engaging in the Forum, I found a lot of conventional culture there – e.g. top-down and hierarchical practices, or predefined “volunteer roles” – in spite of good intentions. In particular, I found that there was no deliberate development of small groups or teams.
In our Collaborative Action Care Team, we too started working in a conventional way, with an agenda, proposals, notes, etc. But we dropped this, and decided to start working with what is emergent. That was a shift for me. I discovered that it doesn’t prevent the group to bring about effective outcomes – we do things, but in a relaxed and emergent way. This is an inner transformation, for me, which has been influenced by those I interact with in this group and in other spaces.
Our group also started to actively model the process of “teaming” – forming small teams to do certain kinds of work. Besides, we introduced Open Space Technology into our work, and set up a weekly virtual coworking time slot.
How the network has evolved
In many conversations I had during our weekly check-in meeting, online Open Space events and in 1-on-1 random coffees, I learned that our way of doing things is spreading within DAF. I notice, for example, how the Business and Finance group leaders now announce their events as “Zoom sessions in an ‘open space’ context.” I’ve also heard of teaming processes being used more deliberately, for instance in the DA Facilitators’ group.
Now, DAF feels more self-organised, more adaptive and focused on small collectives. Our team has been actively involved in facilitating and supporting this change, which doesn’t happen automatically, particularly in a remote context. This corresponds with my intention as a network-weaver, and feels rewarding.
To be fair, these changes in DAF’s culture of organising have also been facilitated by Kat Soares, in her role as Core Team Coordinator: she has been deeply involved in modelling these processes in our group from the start. And this was also enabled because Jem Bendell, as founder of DAF, was clear that he wanted to step aside, and do this in an orderly way – and he was open to input on how to do it.
What this all means to me
In summary, I notice two tendencies in me now: (1) minimizing structured work time and maximising social time, and (2) showing how to do things by modelling, without giving structured instructions or tutorials or training, maybe by sharing brief “knowledge assets”. This is related to (2) because this can only work if people are paying attention. If social time develops trust and relationships, then people might pay attention. With these tendencies in me, I influence teams I’m working with.
These ways of working are spreading beyond DAF, in other networks and online communities. I’ve taken these practices to other teams I’m in – championing being together remotely while doing things in ways that aren’t too over-structured; but this may be part of a more global cultural shift. People are not interested in visioning and backcasting anymore, but prefer to respond to what is emerging.
I find that working in this way makes for a better experience, less stress and less tensions. It’s about being fully present in the moment – and this is a spiritual practice.
Network weaver and permaculture practitioner with a particular interest in social and economic aspects of permaculture.
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