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March 27, 2014

SCARF for social activists

I am not a huge fan of ‘ACRONYM’ models, but this framework – called SCARF – from neuroscientist David Rock is one of the more useful ones.

As many of us, within the Anglesea and surrounding communities, unite to SHUT DOWN the Anglesea power station, we discover that some people see the world differently to us. It’s easy to take the moral and intellectual high ground and say “We’re right and they’re wrong!” … but that sort of thinking will never unite a diverse community of divergent views. Applying the SCARF framework to our engagement strategy will help.

Here is a summary of this document by David Rock – http://www.davidrock.net/files/09_SCARF_in_2012_US.pdf – I have taken direct quotes and added a little of my own interpretations as well …

The SCARF model is a framework that can activate a reward or threat response in social situations. SCARF can be applied in any situation where people collaborate in groups such as at community lead rallies and information nights. The SCARF model involves 5 domains of human social experience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Here’s a brief description of each domain with a footnote … advice for any community leaders who are trying to SHUT DOWN a local coal mine and power station.

Status is about the relative importance to others. If people feel left out, or in a minority group at a social gathering, the associated drop in status generates a strong threat response. When threatened people often defend a position that doesn’t make sense to avoid the perceived pain of a drop in status. If leaders wish to influence other’s behaviour, more attention must given to reducing status threats in social situations.

Certainty concerns being able to predict the future. The human brain craves certainty so that it can predict the future. Without being able to predict, the brain uses far more resources and energy to process our experiences. So, as our community lobbies to SHUT DOWN the local coal mine, it opens up new and uncertain future scenarios. Large uncertainties like this one can be highly debilitating and cause people to stop listening and snap judgements. This is why we must communicate and discuss plausible and relevant future scenarios that don’t include a coal mine.

Autonomy provides a sense of control over events and a sensation of having choices. As soon as a participant at a community event feels a reduction in autonomy (with no sense of control), the experience can be threatening. When inviting people to take action, statement like “this is what you have to do now!” should be avoided at all costs. Providing people with a choice between different options can shift the perception. The set up of the room and types of processes used also plays a significant role in the experience people have.

Relatedness is a sense of safety with others, of friend rather than foe. In the absence of safe social interactions, the body generates a threat response. People naturally like to form ‘tribes’ where they experience a sense of belonging. So, as Anglesea attempts find a community voice, we should be tapping into this tribal sense of belonging. For those opposed to the SHUT-DOWN campaign … no matter what ‘we’ do or say they won’t change! Neurologically, we are wired to adopt messages from those who are ‘like’ us … from the same tribe.

Fairness is a perception of fair exchanges between people. The need for fairness may be the driver behind the formation and energy of the Surf Coast Air Action group and the SHUT IT DOWN campaign. Members of our tribe experience internal rewards for doing this volunteer work to improve our community – born out of a decreasing sense of fairness in the world. For our upcoming event in Anglesea, we need to be completely transparent about our purpose and our mission to rally support Shut the Mine down.

I’ll finish with a couple of quotes from philosopher Theodore Zeldin about the deeply social nature of the way our brains are wired together and connected in social networks …

“When will we make the same breakthroughs in the way we treat each other as we have made in technology?”

“The kind of conversation I’m interested in, is one in which we are willing to emerge a slightly different person.”

Geoff

 

GeoffBrown | Brain Science & Research, Community & Belonging, Facilitation, Leadership | Comments (0)

February 18, 2014

A moment in time

Every now and then, something special happens … and you say to yourself, “I wish I had a camera right now!”

Well, at last year’s Aireys Inlet Open Mic Music Festival, there was a moment when Mark Seymour (yes, the 1 & only) stopped singing for 30 seconds and ‘stared-down’ someone in the front row. That someone was our youngest boy. Young Hamish (now 6 yo) has an uncanny knack of engaging with people of all ages. In his own unique and genuine way, he brings attention on himself. He doesn’t show off and he’s not loud. He simply connects with people and he draws them in.

Mark went on to comment about his little staring game with Hamish and said something like … “You know when look into someone eyes that they are going to be trouble at school!” After Mark’s sensational performance (with his current band The Undertow), we had a photo taken of the 2 of them. It’s nice but it didn’t capture “that” priceless moment during the performance.

A few night’s ago I discovered a treasure trove of images from last year’s festival over at Peter Marshall’s photography website. And there on page 5 was “that” moment – a series of images the captured the essence of engagement.

 

GeoffBrown | Humor & Fun, Just observations, Music | Comments (0)

January 28, 2014

On being part of the problem …

Co-conspirator of mine, Chris Corrigan, has shared a post he titled – Dealing with your slaves and seeing the world. This piece is a timely reminder about how we perceive the world around us. For me, it’s a little challenge to my own perspective … and to the stories I make in my mind about any problem that I am tackling.

I’ll only focus in on 1 angle of Chris’ post here. This quote from Adam Kahane is at the core of his post …

“Bill Torbert of Boston College once said to me that the 1960s slogan “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” actually misses the most important point about effecting change. The slogan should be, “If you’re not part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution.” If we cannot see how what we are doing or not doing is contributing to things being the way that they are, then logically we have no basis at all, zero leverage, for change the way things are — except from the outside, by persuasion or force.”

When I hear people (and myself) talking about any problem – communication at the local school, device/screen addiction in their kids, the Alcoa Coal mine – the image in my mind looks like this …

on being part of the problem

 

Imagine if we could really see our own part in every complex problem we perceived – local or global. I think this self perception would fundamentally change a lot of conversations. A deeper understanding about our part (and the parts other’s play) in the problem helps to build up a better picture of the whole. You can apply this to different scales – individual, team and organisational, national.

Chris concludes his post with a few questions:

“So, what is your experience in affecting change from inside the problem?  How do you work towards justice while recognizing your complicity in the very problems you are addressing?”

The practice-challenge to myself is a question about how I reframe things in my own mind. Here is one personal example I’ll apply it to:

What is my part (and how am I complicit) in the device-addiction that has crept back into our family life since returning from our 5 month trip last year? And then … how can I affect change from within the problem?

Geoff Brown

 

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Facilitation, Just observations | Comments (2)

January 14, 2014

Viewpoint shift

The line that separates my work and play isn’t really a line at all. Experiences with family and friends teach me as much about myself as time in front of a group. Each serves the other and they are connected. So, the notion of a work-life balance doesn’t make sense to me anymore – I am seeing this term through new eyes … with a new perspective.

In 2014, I’ll be keeping this Pattern Card (from the Group Works set of cards) at the top of the deck. It serves as a personal reminder to step into the shoes of others and listen. I’ll use this card when designing group processes and support individuals, teams and organisations to notice more and see things through other perspectives. And at home this card (like many others in the deck) are a great teaching tool.

 

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Facilitation | Comments (0)

December 12, 2013

A story of Text2Cloud that (finally) works in Australia

2 years ago I worked with Chris Corrigan and Steven Wright at the first World Indigenous Housing forum in Vancouver, Canada. With over 600 delegates, a key technical design challenge was about “how to” harvest individual and small group ideas and from a group of that size?! In a long story short, we engaged the brilliant Luke Closs to build us a text2cloud system. Our brief was to enable delegates to text their insights to a central number. We needed to be able to access the data quickly and discover themes using online tools such as Wordle. We needed a ‘digital’ harvesting tool that would capture the essence of (analogue-style) conversation between people.

Luke’s system worked beautifully for our team in North America and I couldn’t wait to use it back home in Australia. I hit brick wall after brick wall and – due to the militant policies of Australian mobile carriers – I just could’t find a way to use Luke’s brilliant code.

Then just a couple of months ago, friend and colleague Fran Woodruff asked for my advice on text2cloud systems after hearing my Vancouver experience. That’s when Fran alerted me to Poll Everywhere – a online service that essentially replicates what Luke built from scratch over 2 years ago. Thank you Fran!

Last week, I had the pleasure of working alongside Viv McWaters and together we experimented with Poll Everywhere at the Game Changer Conference with over 350 delegates. It worked and here is what we learned about using a text2cloud system to harvest ideas from large groups …

1. Text2Cloud is a useful replacement to the traditional (and tedious) post speaker Q&A session

As questions came in from the delegates, our MC and Viv reviewed the questions as they scrolled up their computer screens. The texts arrive in real time and provide the reader with an instant snapshot of the emergent questions that usually remain invisible. For some people their questions never get seen or heard. We were able to synthesise the breadth of the questions and select the most compelling or common questions to ask the guest speaker. Speakers also agreed to provide brief answers to every question after the conference – this formed part of the proceedings. 

 

2. Text2Cloud is a great way of harvesting priorities from group dialogue and cafe-style conversations

At the end of small group conversations, we invited participants to text in the priority ideas and actions. We were able to harvest these easily and reflect them back using the large screens as they ideas came in. 

 

3. Reflecting back the themes/patterns (in real time) from large groups is powerful

 

4. Applications are not just limited to working with groups in the one room. Why not use this system to capture feedback/responses from anyone involved in a project or initiative even if they are geographically dispersed!

5. Everyone (well at least 99+% of people) knows how to text and most carry text-enabled devices with them to group events

6. Poll Everywhere is a text2cloud system that is easy to learn and it does what it claims it can do!

 

Let’s keep experimenting with these new harvesting technologies! When used well, they can be a great compliment to processes involving dialogue and group conversations.

Geoff

GeoffBrown | Facilitation, Vizual Thinking | Comments (0)

November 8, 2013

To the gal’ who constantly amazes me

Ingrid and I were married 15 years ago.

It seems impossible that a decade plus 5 years has passed. But, as we reflected (just now) on all we have done, experienced and created in that time … well, it’s like a lifetime of moments compressed into 15 years.

We bring out the very best in each other and this has been the secret to our relationship flourishing. I have the deepest admiration for Ingrid – as a great mum, a loving partner, a caring health professional and a committed member of our community. I count myself as one of the lucky ones.

We share a passion for living life and being present with our boys as they grow. We don’t want to miss a second of their journey toward becoming good men. As close friend of mine, with 2 boys (now young men) who have left home keeps reminding me, “Geoff, these are the golden years!”.

Our family celebrated Ingrid’s 40th on a boat, swimming with Whale Sharks. Ingrid didn’t want a party … she wanted our family to experience something memorable. And for me, this photo of Ingrid says everything … happiness, reflection, contentment and wonder.

GeoffBrown | Gone Supping, Just observations | Comments (0)

October 4, 2013

Seeing Differently

I’m in Melbourne enjoying an early breakfast at a familiar cafe on Spring Street. The streets are cold, but clear skies promise a warm spring day. It’s exactly 5 months since I’ve been here and I feel like a first time visitor … like I’ve lived another life since that time.

Everything looks and feels in slow motion – including my own thoughts, breath and walk. I am noticing things that I’ve either forgotten, or simply not noticed before. Sitting in this familiar place feels a little surreal.

I’ve just spoken to the cafe owner (who knows me by name only) and he asked, “How long has it been Geoff?” He couldn’t believe that 5 months had passed. For me it feels like a year … or more.

Our family witnessed new places, met new people and lived new experiences every day for 5 months. It was intoxicating and at times we needed a break … time to sit in one place and rest. In parts our journey around Australia seemed to fly by. Other stages seemed to live on and on. As a whole, the journey (for me) felt like a lifetime. Now that we’re back … I am seeing everything differently.

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Just observations | Comments (0)

September 8, 2013

From Coast to Coast

We have lived outdoors under sun, moon and stars for over 4 months and I’ve lost track of how many sunrises and sunsets we’ve witnessed. Now we are travelling south, down the east coast, where the sun rises from the ocean and sinks behind the Great Diving Range. The difference feels disorientating after spending so long in the west.

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I watched the sunrise at Kinka Beach this morning – just south of Yeppoon and touch north of Tropic of Capricorn (approx 23° South … the southern most latitude where the sun can be directly overhead). On the west coast we crossed the same line at (about) Waroora Station, just south of Coral Bay. This Capricorn campsite on the southern tip of Maggie’s Beach was our favourite. We have camped at many locations, but at Maggie’s we were alone and everything about it was wild and alive.

Our hearts, thoughts and vehicle are heading home – Aireys Inlet at 38° south. Awaiting our arrival home are friends, family, our 2 dogs and colder marine waters. But first we have a few east coast pleasures to indulge in. Tomorrow we sail out to Heron Island for a (well earned) 4 day break from the trailer and canvas tent walls. Then 4 days mooching around Seventeen Seventy before heading further south in Noosa for point breaks and outrageously great gelati! Until finally we camp for a week in Scott’s Head – the NSW seaside town where our year of travel began.

Unlike the constantly changing itinerary of the last 4 months, I’ll bet a Noosa Gelato that we stick precisely to the east coast plan above!

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Gone Supping, Just observations | Comments (0)

September 7, 2013

Principles for Traveling the Offroads

5th Aug. 2013

As I watched the sunset against the northern Bungle Range last night (this post began weeks ago!), I began to imagine myself (for the first time in months!) working with groups and doing what I do – facilitation. Before we left back in May, my friend and colleague Andrew Rixon said, “I'll be interested to read about your reflections and learnings from the road trip”. On a number of occasions I've tried (often too hard) to write a clever piece about the lessons from this trip and how they might relate to the world of facilitation. Early on I even tried to keep up with my favourite blogs. About 8 weeks ago I let go of these compulsions entirely. I've been surprised (and Ingrid delighted) as to how little attention I have given to anything work or home related. I also wonder how on earth we are going to adjust to the routine of life when we arrive home on September 29!?

2nd Sept. 2013

As we travel south toward home along the Queensland coast, Ingrid and I have been reflecting on the people we've met, places visited and family life on the road. Whenever we talk like this, recurring themes emerge … I suppose these are like principles for travelling the off-roads. Here are a few …

Prepare meticulously! Early in the trip we spent 12 days along the Gnaraloo/Red Bluff coast and we nearly ran out of food and drinking water! This was a wake up call. Had something gone wrong on the rough roads out of Gnaraloo, we may have been reliant on others for help. From this moment we prepared for extended, remote trips with military precision and we've learned that you can't wing-it!

Be prepared to abandon the plan! Anyone who has travelled knows this one. We have altered or abandoned many of our well thought out plans. Because the next day (or even the next hour) is impossible to predict, staying open to the unexpected is what makes this quote ring true …

“The zest is in the journey and not in the destination.” Lynn H. Hough


When it's time to move on … move! That feeling of needing to move on is like an itch that needs scratching. After 1, 3 or maybe 5 days at a camp, Ingrid might give me that look that clearly says, “I'm ready to pack up and go.” Or, the kids might sing out together, “We wanna go mum and dad!” When you feel it's time to move … move!


Its in the eye of the beholder! Everyone sees places through their own eyes. We have learned that Caravaners (with Air Cons) give glowing reviews of campsites exposed to intolerable levels of heat and sun. Fellow travellers in camper trailers and tents tend to give better advice … but not always. We've learned to go and find out for ourselves.

 

Finally … let go, connect with each other and find the flow!

With 17 weeks behind us and 4 weeks down the east coast to go, have turned for home. A trip of this length will, more than likely, happen just this once. I know my boys so much better. The boys themselves are thriving and their relationships have strengthened. Ingrid and I feel like we are in our 20's when we backpacked around the world back in the 90's! We have had a chance to be a family … together day in, day out … without school or work to separate us … it has been a gift and an adventure that none of us will forget.

 

GeoffBrown | Being Present, Facilitation, Gone Supping, Just observations | Comments (0)

July 13, 2013

Teachings and lessons from life on the road

We have just arrived at Whale Song, a small campground on Cape Leveque, after spending 5 days at Kooljaman – an eco-resort proudly owned by the aboriginal communities of Djarindjin and One Arm Point. More on Whale Song later as I want to share what I learned from Brian Lee. Brian is an aboriginal leader and traditional owner of the land in the area. His Tagalong tour took us into the pristine aboriginal native title land around Hunter’s Creek.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kooljaman is the Bardi aboriginal name for Cape Leveque, 220km north of Broome at the tip of the Dampier Peninsular.

I was privileged to have a conversation with Brian and listen to a small part of the history of Kooljaman. Hearing his perspective on why the resort and surrounding communities have been such a success was like a teaching about 2 local communities taking the lead and standing on their own 2 feet. Brian shares a gift with Lachie Brian was clearly proud of the leadership role that he and others have played over the past 15 years to ensure that all decisions about the running of Kooljaman are owned by the aboriginal communities. He pointed out that Kooljaman has not been reliant on handouts to survive and thrive as a business. Some years ago the decision was made by the Kooljaman board to recruit outside assistance to manage and run the business side of things. When talking about the future of Kooljaman, it sounded like the aim is for the local aboriginal communities to take on the management and running of the whole facility. Sadly, stories like Kooljaman are rarely told in mainstream Australia. I don’t want to dwell on politics and mindset that breeds policies of intervention, simply because there are stories within Australia and all over the world that show we are making progress. Last year I was honored to be part of the 2012 World Indigenous Housing Conference in Vancouver and immerse myself in many of these stories. Each story was like a unique teaching and I remember feeling inspired and hopeful when reading through them. I worked alongside Chris Corrigan and Steven Wright and, as facilitators, our task was to draw out success stories from the 700+ delegates – a mix of indigenous and non-indigenous leaders from community, government and the private sector from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These success stories were about indigenous communities pursuing and realising their own economic development. The stories showed that full participation in decision making promotes ownership and a sense of belonging to community and culture. Many stories pointed to successful models of governance, education and training programs that build capacity. Examples of partnerships between indigenous communities, government and the private sector were in many of the stories. Listening to Brian talk about Kooljaman reminded me of many of the stories shared in Vancouver.

An information/knowledge repository – The Indigenous Housing Gateway – was set up to store and share the stories and lessons learned from the 2012 World Indigenous Housing Conference. It’s full of the stories I have referred to.

In 2007 the United Nations Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted. This declaration sets a standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples. And it is a standard, that sadly, many member countries like Australia have failed to translate into policies that support more aborginal communities to thrive. As I listened to Brian talking about Kooljaman, and the story of ownership by the Djarindjin and One Arm Point communities, I was heartened to hear a success story coming from within my own country. I didn’t get a chance to discover all the success factors and why it’s worked, but clearly something has and we all need to learn from it. As we travel across the top end of Australia, I will be looking for more opportunities to learn from people like Brian and witness communities like Djarindjin and One Arm Point. Like most Australians, I know little about aboriginal history and the complexity of issues that they face in community life. This trip is my chance to continue my education. Geoff  

GeoffBrown | Community & Belonging, Facilitation, Leadership, Story | Comments (0)

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