Identify Networks of Hope – The Power of a Prompt

‘Identify Networks of Hope’ – The Power of a Prompt

[IFF Prompt – 14 Nov 2017]

Hope is a big part of my daily interactions with folk… mostly the hope that my (usually email) communication will find its recipients well, and in fine fettle Hope this finds you well But a recent communication from the International Futures Forum ‘prompted’ me to reflect more directly on the hope I regularly ‘hope’ for.

The IFF helpfully (and hopefully?) circulates a new prompt weekly, selected at random from a ‘deck’ of prompt-cards, developed as short pithy statements informed by the Forum’s work, ‘to prompt us to recall our own learning’: “These ‘IFF prompts’ (have) proved very effective in opening up new perspectives on familiar material and in promoting better thinking and action appropriate for the conditions of the modern world”.

The November 17, 2017 prompt was ‘identify networks of hope’, triggering my noticing that hope was very much ‘on my radar’ at the time… especially after the Nov 2017 Edinburgh IFF breakfast session, where Graham Leicester, the IFF Director, had reported on his ’Tools for Hope’ experience, at the Association of Professional Futurists conference. He had noticed some sentiment around the importance of a shared iconic vision of the future, to collectively draw us forward… a serviceable dream perhaps, such as that in a burgeoning bud about to bloom flourishingly forth. I noticed that hope seems to readily ‘team’ with dream – and possibly also with blind faith in a world worth growing into… through ‘networks of hope’.

All this triggered a deeper and wider recall of previous engagements with ‘hope’ that seem to have stayed with me, and are probably still at work within me, in my own work in the world… but it’s not really ‘stuff’ that I get to ‘out’ often – except when wonderfully ‘prompted’ like this.

What came up included an early inspiration to represent ‘hopes and dreams’ as the ‘stuff’ of planning (my professional field for four decades) from a 2000 presentation. I recall feeling that this was a somewhat risqué perspective to be advancing then – to fellow professionals at least, but not necessarily for informed lay-persons – my main audience at the time.

But, zeroing in more on hope (rather than hopes), and trying to get at its essence, I remain fundamentally impressed by some diagramming in a 1970s book by an early mentor of sorts, John Friedmann, and his ‘Retracking America’. In a chapter on ‘the uses of the future’ he closed with a fascinating conjunction of the (near) future, hope (historical future), and faith (a-historical future) (see image of diagram here). It seems to me that one doesn’t see those (future~hope~faith) on the same page very often; they are mostly different strokes/takes for different folks/professions? But ripe for some ‘networking’ perhaps, some meshing, some meshworking. For example, what might be the weight of hope and faith in H3 (Three Horizons) future consciousness? How might they be more consciously ‘admitted’? Is there an ‘intermediating’ role for hope, between future and faith?

And then there has been the inspiration in the work and words of Eric Trist who helped me to a formative sense of my planning back then, as ‘the organization of hope’, fuelling later encouragement to my students to cast themselves as ‘hope-organizers’. Trist was at work in me in my early forays into professional planning, most notably through offerings such as his New Directions of Hope (Recent innovations interconnecting organizational, industrial, community and personal development). These ideas were first presented in Glasgow in 1978.

“Hope, in the hypothesis I am making, comes from the outside, below, the        middle and across. The degree of hope is greatest when it comes from all        four directions, for these form an interdependent set” (p. 1979, 440)

An interdependent set… a network? … laying out ‘the directions of innovation’ (Table 1, 440)):

Outside – Periphery, not centre;

Below – Bottom up, not top down;

Middle – Community, not national level;

Across – Network leverage, not formal channels.

Trist was very much emphasising networks back then, as:

“…the channels mediated by individuals which cross organizational      boundaries… networks are unbounded systems, complementary to organizations. In organizations people act in roles; in networks they act as themselves. People who have the same concerns, who share the same values, have the knack of finding each other wherever they may be so that very rapidly the interactions resonate through the ‘extended social field’, which is a complementary aspect of society to organization life. As networks form in an extended social field, they are apt to induce changes in formal organizations, as regards policies or even structures, which would otherwise be impossible” (1979, p.441)

Networks as vehicles of hope, as organizers of hope? Trist, speaking in 1978, went on to note:

“Networks have special importance at the present time because individuals are changing faster than organizations. The values likely to shape the future are emerging in individuals. In groups and temporary systems arising from the networks formed by future-oriented individuals lies the greatest leverage for change. This is especially so when these networks, operating in the periphery, coming up from the grass roots and concerned with a particular domain, form a voluntary organization, which contains a number of imaginative people, among whom there are natural leaders – to address the unresolved issues and take action on new lines” (1979, p.441)

Networks like IFF, organizing hope, in service to a better future. Or networks like those now being forged in U Lab contexts (such as U Lab Scotland) , spinning off the application of U Theory by the Presencing Institute ; here I am also finding prominent themes around ‘extended social fields’, being led ‘from the emergent future’. And the ‘creative integrities’ emerging from the IFF work on Three Horizons and Transformative Innovation. Networks of hope – identified. Such is the power in a prompt…

U@Work: Your ‘You’ at Work – Explorations in the application of U Theory

In recent years the Scottish Government has supported a FireStarter Festival, in part as a follow-up to U Lab Scotland  involvement in a ‘mooc’ (a massive open online course) delivered through the MIT EdX platform and Otto Scharmer’s Presencing Institute . I have now participated in three iterations of this course, and in the latest one (Fall 2017) my focus was on ‘presencing awareness’, especially awareness by professionals of what they profess – their ‘prof-essence’.

The 2018 FireStarter Festival provided an opportunity to ‘trial’ an experiential workshop – a ‘prototype’, exploring an application of U Theory in support of professional praxis-making… ‘praxis’ being positioned beyond one’s normal ‘practice’, involving a much deeper presencing of what’s being professed – one’s professing essence. The workshop content and process is presented here U@Work Falkland Feb2018 UPD RED Final .

The February 1, 2018 workshop, staged at The Stables on Falkland Estate, was a half-day/afternoon affair, that attracted eight participants, mainly public service professionals – from different sectors. They engaged with the material presented, in a range of activities to connect with their own experience: some role-playing, guided journaling, small group-story telling (all involving an interest in ‘self-authoring’), and some fortune-telling origami – that was more ‘future-telling’, of the kind of professional they wanted to emerge, as elements of their intended professional ‘praxis’.

I was assisted in delivering the workshop by Alastair Wyllie  who facilitated the various activities, and Caren Gilbert – who provided a closing poetic reflection on the workshop: The Journey – FireStarter Falkland  [More on Caren here ]

Iain Shaw, Media Education  was a significant part-sponsor; valuable initial feedback was provided by Joyce Matthews ; and the Edinburgh College U Lab ‘learning hub’, hosted by Valerie Jackman, afforded a congenial environment for developing elements of the prototype.

It is too early to tell if a ‘fire’ has been ‘started’; the burning desire would be to ‘fire up’ a new approach to professional development – among Scottish public service professionals especially – embodying the presencing at the heart of U Theory. This would feature more concern for ‘professional-self design’ (rather than conventional ‘professional development’), and for engendering a ‘fiery spirit’ within, to bolster the courage required – on the outside – for the constructive disruption of all problematic aspects of the ‘status-quo’.

This is expected to require more than simply individuals with a new personal praxis (the focus of this particular workshop), but dedicated ‘collectivities of individuals’ (co-created integrities; professional communities of practice) with a shared praxis – an ethos – delivering compounded benefits, through an uncommon synergy of co-presencing. A future complementary experiential workshop is envisaged, focusing on such ethos-making: Us@Work: Co-Presencing our Professional-Self.


Contributed by Ian Wight PhD FCIP GTB, Senior Scholar, City Planning, University of Manitoba – in his capacity as the workshop developer. Now retired, but re-firing, in his native land – Scotland, inspired by the likes of U Lab Scotland and the FireStarter Festival. He also takes an interest in the work of The University of the Third Horizon, the International Futures Forum, and in a range of day conferences sponsored by the Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace.

Presencing Awareness 1. Into Our Wilds ; 2. Being Game

I am working on ‘presencing awareness’ as a prototyping focus in the current iteration of U Lab. Hosting a recent session of the Edinburgh College U Lab Hub I offered some framings around the notion of The Territory Beyond, discovered in the 2016 Rosamund Zander book, Pathways to Possibility.  It was in two parts.

In part 1 the focus was on the theme of The Territory Beyond calling us ‘Into Our Wilds’ Presencing Awareness 1. Into Our Wilds It is part of my effort to explore ‘open will’ territory, via ‘telling soul-stories to our future’ – as part of our crystallizing and prototyping.

In part 2 the envisaged focus, for engaging The Territory Beyond, is by ‘Being Game’, playing ‘the being game’, as ‘playfully’ as possible Presencing Awareness 2. Being Game Both parts draw also on John O’Donohue’s blessing, Axioms for Wildness. This has inspired some speculation around ‘Axioms for Crystallizing’, soul-fully (wonder, desire, service, authenticity, vitality, lightness and courage).

I’m wondering if these offerings might attract some partnering proposals, by others fascinated by the territory of ‘presencing awareness’.

Enlivened Writing – Who am I? What is my work?

The 2017 Edinburgh College U Lab Hub has been exploring different practices and approaches to engaging with the current U Lab course

This has included some reflections on presencing and absencing inspired by some John O’Donohue blessings  and experiments with ‘a pause practice’  to better presence our attentions and intentions, and their relationship.

This practice Enlivened Writing – Who am I? What is my work? around ‘enlivened writing’ is designed to facilitate a deeper inquiry into two particular, foundational, course questions: Who am I? and What is my work? It also includes options to ‘partner’ with John O’Donohue, in a complementary inner dialogue, around more of his blessings – For the Unknown Self, For Work, and For the Senses.

Presence and Absence – John O’Donohue

Some inspiration from John O’Donohue, to resource the U Lab Edinburgh College Learning Hub, October 24th, 2017, which also integrated ‘a pause practice’

Two of his ‘blessings’ from his book, To Bless the Space Between Us, Doubleday, 2008: For Presence and For Absence

[Awakening to the mystery of being here…] 

For Presence ~ John O’Donohue

Awaken to the mystery of being here

and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.


Attending to Our Intending: The Potential in Pause

Guided Reflection ~ The Pause that Refreshes

A Pause Practice – Reflect, Refresh, Reset


[Presencing the absencing….]

For Absence ~ John O’Donohue

May you know that absence is alive with hidden presence,

that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

May the absences in your life grow full of eternal echo.

May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere

Where the presences that have left you dwell.

May you be generous in your embrace of loss.

May the sore well of grief turn into a seamless flow of presence.

May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear from.

May you have the courage to speak for the excluded ones.

May you become the gracious and passionate subject of your own life.

May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle words or false belonging.

May you be embraced by That in which dawn and twilight are one.

May your longing inhabit its dreams within the Great Belonging.

A Pause Practice – Reflect, Refresh, Reset

A Pause Practice: Reflect, Refresh, Reset – A peek in your mirror.

[Give yourself a break – for a few minutes… when you notice the need…]

  1. Thinking back, over the last little while (the last hour or so, the last day or so, the last few days or so… take your pick – but make a clear pick and stick to it):

… what has had your attention?

[What have you given your attention to? What have you invested yourself in?]

  1. Reflecting on this a little deeper, 

… what has been your intention behind that attention?

[What has been underlying the attention? What has been underlying that ‘underlying’?]

  1. Looking forward from this pause (but from within ‘the now’…)

… what is now your intention, your underlying intention?

  1. How do you plan on attending to that intention?

[in particular… what will you do that’s new? What is your ‘will’? What do you openly will?]

  1. In the next little while – specifically,

… what do you now plan on giving your attention to?

[What do you intend to consciously invest yourself in?… in the next hour, the next day, the next week? …. whatever initial reference period selected]

  1. What possibility do you sense you have just created… in your pause? 

[What future will you emerge? … a new commissioning of your self/Self]

[Notes by Ian Wight, May 7, 2014; revised October 24, 2017]

Building Resilience: Life-Planning + Professional-Self Design

A presentation Building Resilience – Life-Planning+Professional-Self Design inspired by the CIP 2017 Calgary – College of Fellows Panel Session on ‘Building a Resilient Career – Lessons, Learning and Pointers’ June 18, 2017.

Taking off from the Building Resilience theme of the conference as a whole, the Fellows panel session afforded an opportunity to reflect on what resilience might mean – more personally – for planning professionals, in their professional practice. The orientation became ‘building a resilient career’, highlighting lessons, learning and pointers from the panelists’ considerable cumulative experience (in excess of 250 years of combined practice!) The panel also represented a diverse set of experiences, from different sectors and different geographical contexts.

I was selected in part as ‘the academic’ in the mix, largely on the basis of my (more recent) two decades or so in the planning academy, following two (earlier) decades or so in professional practice. I was helped to see the long arc of my own career in planning, beginning as a practitioner, then as an academic, and now – I sense – as a ‘pracademic’ of sorts striving to transcend, while including, my earlier manifestations – in a higher integration effort (attempting to ‘operationalise’ my applied integral theory interests).

Thinking back over my own ‘career’, my early ‘practitioner-self’ seemed to feature a distinct professional identity shift from an initial ‘agent of order’ disposition to a more pronounced ‘agent of change’ orientation – more active than passive, more ‘progressive’ in leaning, more questioning of the ‘status-quo’ (interestingly, I am now inquiring into an ‘agent of transformation’ – allied with an ‘agent of goodness’ – positioning).

My early ‘educator-self’ was very much as a planning educator – standard, conventional, conforming – but it too evolved. I became more of a planner educator, particularly concerned with the formation of professionals-in-the-making, rather than education in the more abstract, topical aspects of planning – as academic discipline (With my now more ‘transformative’ disposition, I am wondering about the ins and outs of ‘trans-formation-ing’ – which is taking me into consideration of new conceptual possibilities, around ‘transformency’ and ‘transformativity’ for example – with ‘whole-making’ in mind).

At present, my ‘pracademic-self’ is exercised by the related challenge of ‘evolving professionalism beyond the status quo’, in the context of contemplating the education of ‘the agents of the next enlightenment’ (which now includes an inquiry into ‘transformers, transforming, transformatively’). The panel session was an opportunity for myself to personally reflect on some relevant ‘emergings’ from this work, and this is what I mainly try to communicate, and document, here – from a ‘professional resilience’ [1] perspective.

My general sensing is that I am now mainly operating in what Rosamund Zander (Pathways to Possibility, 2016) conceptualizes as ‘the territory beyond’ [2] – beyond my earlier (small) ‘self’ manifestations; they are still with me, and within me – but they are no longer so dominant, and dominating, as they were in my past.

My ‘becoming’ now interests me more, especially in terms of my larger, more central Self. The resilience I am seeking to build within myself is not simply a ‘bounce-back’ capacity (in response to set-backs), but more of a ‘bounce-forward’ responsiveness (if not ongoing ‘bias’). This features exploring my leading-/learning-edge, sensing into the emerging future, and always emphasizing my ‘evolving’, in pursuit of the associated ‘ever-more-whole-making’.

I therefore found myself framing the panel theme – especially with planners and designers in mind – as an exercise in ‘life-planning’, calling for some dedicated ‘professional-self design’ (Friesen and Wight, 2009; Wight, 2012; 2014). With particular attention to what I may be ‘absencing’ – and better discerning the ‘presencing’ being called forth (Senge et al, 2004; Scharmer, 2009; Scharmer and Kaufer, 2013). This has crystallized in an interest in presencing – in our context – as ‘prof-essencing’ [3]; a ‘rub’ for resilience, ‘oiling’ the often necessary transformation, automatically making the best of any problematic situation.

From a ‘life-planning’ perspective, certain arenas of potentially unconscious ‘absencing’ merit contemplation in terms of a conscious, counter-pointing, ‘presencing’. These may be rendered as a series of aphorisms – telling tag-lines for some resilient life-planning:

an unexamined life is not worth living;

an undivided life is to be valued above all; and

an unlived life is to be avoided at all costs.

The appropriate ‘prof-essencing’ response seems to involve attention to a set of professional ‘makings’ that – together – ‘make’ a professional a professional (Wight, 2012; 2014; 2015):

a personal praxis, reflecting exquisite life-examination, ranging across one’s thinking (knowing), doing and being – transforming… ‘me’ to ‘I’;

an interpersonal ethos, uniting otherwise problematic divisions (between soul and role especially, but also between self and service, and spirit and purpose) – transforming from ‘I’ to ‘We’; and

a propensity for a transcending (trans-personal, trans-disciplinary, trans-professional) poiesis, manifested in the living of one’s life to the full, as a whole, to the end – transforming from ‘We’ to ‘the All of Us’.

The overall offering comprises four main parts:

  • A teasing out of the above ‘life-planning’ taglines
  • A discussion of attendant ‘professional-self design’ implications
  • An exploration of professional education programming possibilities.
  • A concluding coda/chorus – resilience personified and inter-personified

The presentation also includes a series of appendices elaborating/illustrating some key concepts raised in the discussions, and an extensive set of references to help frame the larger operative education context that seems to be emerging, such as: Education 4.0 (in applied U-Theory terms); beyond pedagogy and andragogy – into heutagogy; ‘inner teaching’ privileging; ‘beyond (Donald) Schon’ – into transformative triple-loop meta-learning; the heady/hearty/soulful realms of ‘curriculum as currere’; and presencing self-transformation, en route to self-transcendence.

[1] Neil Seligman, The Conscious Professional “You are always at choice as to how you respond to any situation, event or person. It is a skill that can be taught, practiced and learnt. That skill is Professional Resilience”

[2] “We’ve come to a new territory – the Territory Beyond – beyond what we know and expect of ourselves as human beings, beyond the norms of achievement or psychology, beyond our ordinary measures of happiness, and beyond what we picture as vitality. Let’s say that in this territory the distinction between what it is that we want and what life wants fades and ultimately disappears. We feel whole and in tune and easily imagine that we are resonating with the shimmering oscillations of the very energy fields of the earth itself. Grateful for Nature’s collaborative presence, we deem ourselves to be joyfully capable of all we can imagine… As you may have guessed, what we are calling the Territory Beyond is located inside you where all creation resides…” (Rosamund Zander, 2016, 189-190)

[3] The ‘absencing’ and ‘presencing’ builds on work by Peter Senge (et al) (2004) on ‘Presence’, and – in particular – by Otto Scharmer on ‘Theory U’ (2008) and (with Katrin Kaufer) (2013) ‘Leading From the Emerging Future’. I have been exploring the implications in a ‘professional-self design’ context – via the possibility of ‘prof-essence’: see blog-post

The Possibility in Conviviality

I have developed a program about The Possibility in Conviviality – Telling We-Stories to Our Future, first offered in Victoria BC in 2017, and offered recently in Edinburgh, Scotland (For a two-page program overview peruse: EICSP-Program-Edinburgh-AprilMay-2018-Two-Pager) I’d welcome opportunities to offer it again, in weekly modules, or in a compact part-weekend format.

Part of the impetus behind the program offering is the framing of conviviality provided by Marc Humbert in his 2015 essay (a draft of a book chapter), Towards a Convivial Civilization Humbert Towards Convivial Civilization

Much of the inspiration for the program outlook has derived from the Australian Centre for Convivial Backyard Civilization, which I was introduced to while on leave in Adelaide, South Australia in 2014. For more context on the ACCBC, and its ‘practice-stories’ focus, see the 2013 article Practice Story Exchanges – Peter Willis

And for a compilation of my own ‘practice-story’ and ‘ideas-sharing’ offerings to the ACCBC, see Ian Wight – ACCBC Practice Stories 2014+2015+2016  Dip into them, and sample, according to taste.

I am hoping that this might pique your own curiosity about ‘the possibility in conviviality’, and inspire you to notice your own convivial practices – and the stories you might want to tell, or the ideas you might wish to share – to help advance this collective-life-affirming cause.