While there were many highlights from The Art of Hosting: Beyond The Basics one very meaningful reflection for me was centered around the idea of honoring our shared work as the organizing lodestone for our shared action. Shared work as an organizing principle allows for multiple purposes, relationships, and stakeholders to come together and be honored through shared action in a given endeavor and allows us to navigate toward common intentions through the work itself. The following image from Tuesday Ryan-Hart’s field experience working with these themes to address complex challenges with multi-stakeholders explores how shared work can bring people together for shared action and illuminates elements that when attended to can increase the probability of successful work.
The following image, courtesy of Tim Merry suggests when people gather for shared work with attention toward the power dynamics at play, incorporate training or building capacity into the process, and show the results of shared work, people can come together from a diversity of perspectives, purposes, and passions and take action together in progressive and transformative ways.
Through this lens our work then includes identifying the leanest strategy that allows us to get to work through action learning to create results as the foundation for directing further action. In a sense this is an application of the scientific method in the social innovation sphere. Inquiry and action partnered with experimentation and reflection to guide future innovation and shared action. This in itself is a way of fostering relational innovation through shared work.
Neither searching for Utopia or fighting against Dystopia will provide the fertile grounds for the work that is required of us. What is called for is Protopia, a term coined by Kevin Kelly, which is a future created by pro-action and progressive success; the kind of work that makes tomorrow a little bit better than today, and the next day after that a little bit better than the one before. This does not guarantee future outcomes nor does it necessarily decrease the complexity we are facing, however, it does provide a way to focus toward action now and the work of creating a shared future, rather than waiting for the future to happen to us while we are talking about doing something. Protopia is the taking action toward a desirable future, its the work of creating the future we want to see in the here and now.
That said, having a focus toward shared work does not mean that everyone has to work together all the time. Sometimes you do not have shared work with certain people, in fact, with 7+ billion people on the planet; there are a lot of people we do not have shared work with. Furthermore, the kind of work that brings people together to address worthy challenges, or innovate toward a new discovery, or improve what has been, or to create and dream together is very different than the work that often keeps us busy. There is a great difference between toil and vocation. However, when there is a need for shared work, which there is a great need for in our times, we have the opportunity to come together and learn how to become fluent in co-creation and celebrate the opportunity to get to work together. This work will require more of us, possibly more than ever before, and certainly at a more global and interconnected scale than ever before in our history to become more vulnerable and patient with each other and our selves as we learn how to act in the midst of uncertainty and ambiguity while we create the future together. This is a path with out a map, and requires courage, heart, and action, an intimacy with the unknown and a willingness to work authentically together toward common visions through our shared work.
Rather than being aspirational these explorations are deeply pragmatic and practical. The world needs us to get to work on the most complex and wild challenges that we face while at the same time Imagineering, dreaming, and working toward our highest potentials and deepest aspirations. The thing is, as inferred above, we, humanity as a whole is not yet fluent in relationships that span the levels of the personal, social, systemic and we need to skill up in the midst of ambiguity, paradoxes, and complexity. This in a sense brings us full circle to the heart of The Art of Hosting and the Four Fold Practice. We need to learn to Host ourselves, to be Hosted, to Host others, and to Host collective action together which unites us through our shared work. Relationships are the Dojo and our shared work is the practice field.
To end these musings I offer these words from Václav Havel that speak to the tenacity and action that can imbue our Protopian work toward a common future:
Hope… is not the same as joy when things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something to succeed.
Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. Its not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. It is this hope, above all that gives us strength to live and to continually try new things even in conditions that seem hopeless.
…Life is too precious to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love, and finally, without hope.