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Miki Kashtan
Miki Kashtan
Miki Kashtan is a co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication and the NVC North America Leadership Program.



Moving towards Collaboration: Lessons from the Field

Apr22

by: on April 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

How will change come about in the systems that govern our world and our daily lives? Will it take many individuals within the system undergoing massive personal change, as so many believe is necessary?

Systemic Personal change graphic

Does the flow go in only one direction? Or in both? Credit: Dave Belden.

 

I’d like to believe that isn’t so, because I just can’t see how waiting for so many individuals to change would create, fast enough, the systemic changes needed to end poverty, transcend violence, or attend, to any meaningful degree, the spiraling resource depletion and climate change we are creating for ourselves and our children. Perhaps this is why, going back to school in the early 90s, I chose sociology as my field, hoping to gain enough knowledge and insight about an earlier version of that very question.

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Bethlehem: A Subjective Travelogue

Apr17

by: on April 17th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

I’ve heard of love at first sight many times. Friendship at first sight was an unimagined occurrence, and yet it happened to me with Sami Awad, Palestinian nonviolence visionary and founder of the Holy Land Trust, when we met in December 2013. Sami was translating a four-day workshop on Convergent Facilitation I was conducting for Israelis and Palestinians in Beit Jala on the West Bank. Ever since then, we’ve kept in touch, dreaming of working together on some project or another, in awe at the alignment of our visions, despite all indoctrination to make us enemies. (If you want to read more about that encounter and that training, it’s called Israel, Palestine, Home, Me.)

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Collaboration, Willingness, and Leadership – Now and in the Future

Mar20

by: on March 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

640px-Metamorphosis_frog_MeyersFor years, I’ve been saying that I don’t know how the world of our dreams would come about. The gap between what I see in the world and what I want to see is so vast, that I don’t have any linear “theory of change” that makes sense to me. For some weeks now, I’ve been going to sleep, many nights, thinking about what could bring about a true shift to a collaborative future given how completely intertwined all the pieces of the existing social order are.

In my recently published book Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future, I humbly acknowledge my inability to show a path. Instead, I do two things in that book. One is looking at where we are and what we can do, now, in this world, to move in that direction, however small the steps are. The building blocks I see are a disciplined commitment to nonviolence, to learning how to work together with others to reclaim collaboration, and to a massive revision of our understanding of power and leadership. The other focus of the book is on painting as vivid an image as possible of what a fully collaborative future can look like, so as to inspire and nurture these commitments and to provide a direction to move in.

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Abundance, Inequality, Needs, and Privilege

Mar5

by: on March 5th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

consumption-520085_640I am deeply involved in experiments in gift economy, both my own and those I hear about and engage with from the sidelines. The entire thrust of my work with organizations is about supporting a massive shift from adversarial relationships and systems to a collaborative overhaul of all our human affairs. I have just published a book in which I describe my vision of a possible future that is fully collaborative and based on gifting and a revival of the commons.

Given the unmitigated joy I experience at the prospect of giving away my work and being supported by the flow of generosity of those who believe in what I do rather than by people paying for services, I am continually and immensely curious to understand the obstacles to having this experience be the norm rather than the exception. soilsoul3rdIn this post, I am writing about one piece of this huge puzzle that fell into place for me: why the idea of “deserving” might have come into existence, and how it’s related to the difficulties in establishing gifting and collaboration.

Recently, Alastair McIntosh sent me a gift copy of his book Soil and Soul, in response to a review of mine that was published in Tikkun about David Bollier’s book Think like a Commoner. Gifts and shared resources were in the air as I started reading the book and was instantly transported into the semi-pre-modern milieu that was Alastair’s upbringing in Scotland, on an island fifty miles off its coast. I have most of the book still ahead of me to enjoy, and already it supported me in pushing my thinking forward.

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Reflections on Collaborative Leadership

Feb12

by: on February 12th, 2015 | Comments Off

cooperation

Credit: Marina del Castell / Creative Commons.

As much anguish as I have about the state of the world – hunger, social inequality, violence, environmental degradation, and more – I also am continually and repeatedly in awe and excitement about living during a time when so many of us are actively engaging with transcending the legacy that created these devastations. As unlikely as such a transformation is, I completely see the possibility of consciously and collectively co-creating a future. In this future, we learn to integrate all the hard-won lessons from our experiments with powerful technologies into a revived awareness of our place within the larger order of things. What it would look like none of us can truly envision, even though I keep hearing that the technologies that can support sustainable living on this one precious planet are already in existence and all that’s needed is political will. How we can get there is also mysterious, because no linear or planned approach has yet emerged that can handle the impossible-to-change web that ties so many dysfunctions together.

And, still, within all this, I continue to have complete conviction that change is possible, and to keep coming back to the same conclusion: what can get us to a new level of functioning as a species, where we can channel our enormous power to create and participate instead of consume and destroy, must include learning to collaborate with each other and within systems.

This is why I am so immensely curious about the explosion of interest in collaboration in the workplace that keeps popping up, and why I myself am putting more and more of my own energies in participating in that wave of action. Organizations, especially the large ones, are the most powerful entities on the planet, and all of our lives are affected by them. As one illustration, I recently heard of someone who aimed to go for a whole year without using anything produced by Monsanto, and how impossible that was to achieve.

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The Circle of Care, the Circle of Trust, and Nonviolence

Jan15

by: on January 15th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

It is nonviolence only when we love those that hate us.Gandhi

Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday. I am happy to honor him today and every day by continuing to dedicate myself to a deep exploration of nonviolence.

I have written before about the idea of expanding what I called the Circle of Care, the collection of people in our lives that we care about. I suggested expanding it in two directions. One is to include ourselves as a way to overcome deeply ingrained habits that lead people to give up on their needs in relationships. Instead of caring only about the other person’s needs, expanding the circle of care leads to putting my own needs front and center while also caring for the other person. The other direction of expanding the circle of care is about including more and more people and groups within it.

Expanding circleMore recently, I was struck by the connection I saw between this notion and my continued investigations into the implications of nonviolence. It now appears to me that one way of understanding nonviolence is as having an infinite circle of care: there isn’t any person or group that is beyond the pale.

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Engaging with Privilege: A Personal Journey

Dec4

by: on December 4th, 2014 | Comments Off

unfaircampaignLast week, when I sat down to write in response to the situation in Ferguson, I ended up writing much about my own journey of learning about how to engage the topic of race; I wrote more about that than directly about Ferguson. The difference between that first draft and the piece that finally got posted was dramatic. It was made up of feedback from Dave, my editor and supporter, that initially knocked me out completely in its depth and intensity. This was the point at which I turned to Uma and Ya-Ping for support, as well as my colleague and friend Roxy Manning. After about ten rounds of back and forth with some combination or another of all four of them, the piece that is now on the website came into final form.

As much as I like the result, I was left with all that was cut out of the original piece. Although I wholeheartedly agree about taking it out from that piece, I still want to share it. This is what this piece is. If nothing else, for anyone who is like me, I have always had the experience that understanding a process in addition to seeing the results deepens my understanding and increases the chances of integration and personal application. Also, because I want to spell out what I learned as part of my own continuing learning, and in the hopes of supporting others’ learning about the very complex questions involved in these topics. Lastly, because I want it known that this learning process is neither easy nor comfortable. The two days of feedback were, at times, excruciating and nonetheless I am in awe, I am grateful, and I found immense beauty and depth along the way.

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Responding to Violence with Love for All

Nov28

by: on November 28th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

There are times, and this is one of them, where my ongoing choice to stay away from public events and electoral politics no longer stands up to my inner sense of moral integrity. This is a time where I am just too clear that it’s only my privilege that makes it even an option to choose. No, I don’t think that privilege is “bad,” nor do I aim to make it go away, nor believe it’s possible or even always desirable to do so. Rather, I want to consider my privilege as a resource, and to keep asking myself day in and day out how I mobilize my privilege and use it for the benefit of all.

Ugly history of racist policing

Credit: Vox Media

 

In my position of privilege, I can write whatever I want about Ferguson, and I don’t risk losing a job, alienating people who can make my life miserable, or possibly even more imminent physical risks to my body. I want to be taking the most risk that I can in speaking as much truth as I know, with as much love for all as I can muster, because this is my creed: truth with love, and with enough courage to face all consequences.

This is one small part of a larger aim I have regarding privilege. I want to find ways of getting those of us with privilege to recognize and own it without defensiveness or shame, and to become loving stewards of the resources given to us by the history of racism. Stewarding resources means to me that we know it’s not “ours” to own or use for our personal gain. This is my understanding of Gandhi’s idea of trusteeship, which I see as a major step towards a world that truly works for all. I plan to come back to the very complicated and exceedingly painful topic of privilege soon.

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Why Personal Liberation Alone Won’t Be Enough

Nov14

by: on November 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

There’s no question in my mind that the overwhelming majority of people everywhere would like nothing more than to live in a world where they can have the possibility of attending to what matters to them, caring and providing for their families, having meaningful relationships with others, and having a baseline of decency and dignity in human affairs.

good-guy-with-a-gun-cropWhether or not such a world is possible, and what could get us there are not as clear. Far too many of us have been led to believe that such a world can never be because of human nature which is purported to be selfish, greedy, or innately aggressive. Some of us have also, or instead, been led to believe that the only way to get to a beautiful future is to eliminate every last one of the “bad guys.” The sad irony of both of these worldviews is that they perpetuate the difficulties we are facing. If everyone is selfish and no one will care about us, then the only logical solution is for us to put all our efforts into promoting our own needs, or, at the very least, becoming resigned and apathetic. Similarly, if we must kill and punish the “bad guys,” then in the act we become like them.

What’s the alternative? Many of us like to believe that individual transformation, if enough people engage in it, is enough. Others believe that if those in positions of power are reached, either through their own transformation or through mass nonviolent resistance, then change will take place. Despite the elegant appeal of these approaches, I don’t quite see how any of them will bring about structural change. I wish I knew what would, and I don’t, like so many others. All I know is that collaboration is essential, both now and in any future, and hence my own joy in having found my own steps on the uncertain road to the future.

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The Exacting Discipline of Choosing Based on Needs

Oct22

by: on October 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

This past week, I’ve had three meaningful interactions with friends that complemented my own continued inner journey and, together, led me to want to speak, again and anew, about the tragedy of how we’ve been taught to relate to our needs. On the surface, our stories look so different from each other: being let down by friends at a time of crisis; exploding at a partner in response to a small stimulus; being unwilling to talk to a mother; and finding it exceedingly difficult to maintain a mindful engagement with life. It took some focus to see the theme that ties them all together: they all stem from a pervasive challenge about making our needs important enough.

Is this our view of what "needy" has to mean? Credit: Creative Commons/United Way of Greater St. Louis

In a moment, I unpack each of these (changing details to maintain anonymity) to illustrate the theme. For now, I want to start with marveling at how far we are, collectively, from taking our needs seriously and making them a priority. Instead, we have been trained to view our needs as a sign of weakness or dependence, and as something bottomless that cannot be controlled. We have also been told to view anyone who puts their needs first as inherently selfish. I am happy to say that I have freed myself from this myth. Instead I think of attending to our needs, especially within a culture that so devalues them, as a courageous act that requires commitment, attention, and the willingness to face potential reprimand from others. Because what pulls us away from our needs — habits, impulses, obligations, fear, internalized norms, desire for reward, or belief in scarcity — are so powerful, it takes vigilance to keep our focus and intention in the face of all that’s stacked up against it.

As part of my large vision for what life could be like, how the world could be structured, and what we humans could conceivably be like in such a world, I wholeheartedly want to have millions and millions of people who are as committed to uncovering and cherishing their needs, who keep each other company on the journey to full, authentic, and caring living. If this piece inspires anyone to take their needs more seriously, I will be happy for having written it.

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