One could ask, however, how could it be that the mundane comes as such a surprise? And the answer, I think is that for most people, most of the time, there is no surprise. It is only the relative few (largely in the West) who, having arrived at the exalted level of consciousness which I called Intellect, and inhabiting organizations I have called ProActive, who understand that order and systems can only be the product of our effort. If we didn’t do it – it simply couldn’t have happened. After all, somebody must be in charge. All of the rest of the world has a considerably more humble view of our role in the ordering of things. And so for them, what we perceive as impossible, they perceive to be obvious. It may be past time for us to be struck by a blinding flash of the obvious. Despite our disbelief, even abhorrence, I think it fair to say that there is massive good news in the workings of the mundane engine of Muddling Through – The Complex Adaptive System, especially as we approach the awesome task of Peacemaking. For Peace to occur (and continue) which simultaneously includes and transcends chaos, confusion and conflict, we now know, or at least should know, that it cannot come about in pieces. Step by step won’t make it. One bite at a time insures that when the meal is over, we will not be around to enjoy it. We may practice systemic analysis and multi-factorial development with abandon, but no matter the elegance of our analysis or the energy of our development/Peacemaking strategies, the butterfly will always show up, the mega-monster of complex diversity, which is our common humanity, will blow our plans away. In short – we do not have the horsepower. But the everyday, mundane, run of the mill, purely average, Complex Adaptive System, has chaos, complexity and diversity for lunch, and begs for more. If it is horsepower we need, it is just sitting there and waiting for us. At least that is a story worthy of pursuit, I believe.
Open Space works, and works well, in any situation characterized by the following: 1) A genuine issue of mutual concern which elicits a high degree of passion. 2) High levels of complexity in terms of the elements of the issue. 3) High levels of diversity in terms of the people involved. 4) The presence of actual or potential conflict. 4) A decision time of yesterday; in short the issue was a not a sometime thing, but demanded immediate attention.
... self-organization at work ...
First, we have come to understand the gifts of self organization relative to the effective (and I would add peaceful) function of human communities. Second, we have learned much about what can be done, and not done, in order to initiate and sustain the process of self organization. When it comes to utilizing the power of self organization for the purposes of Peacemaking, such understandings are vital.
First of all there is the very practical gift of time and energy returned.
A second gift, no less valuable, is an exponential jump in the efficiency and effectiveness of the group and its work.
It is simply the awesome energy released when an everyday, ordinary, complex adaptive system gets seriously to work.
... the following behaviours and characteristics were evident: (1) high learning, (2) high play, (3) appropriate structure and control, (4) genuine community.
All structures and controls are emergent, built by the self-organizing system itself, and in the case of an Open Space, by the people involved.
The community manifest in Open Space is not of an idealized sort. Chaos, confusion and conflict abound -- they are not avoided or suppressed, but transcended in the most remarkable way.
I would call it peaceful -- but it is a very dynamic sort of Peace.
In a word, the process of self-organization may be seen as the primal example of genuine Peacemaking. And it happens all by itself.
Chapter V: Putting the Power of Self-Organization to Work for Peace
... why are we in such a mess?
Control, the need to be in control, and the attempt to exercise control. In fact we strongly advise people never to use Open Space if they have that need or even worse, actually think they are in charge.
External, and usually arbitrary, control is the enemy of Open Space.
... the mess we experience in our all too non-peaceful world has a similar etiology. It is all those bosses, and “wannabe” bosses, struggling for control and seeking to impose their notion of how things ought to be done, that gets us in the pickle we find ourselves. Some may call their efforts leadership, but if so it is a very destructive force, upsetting the natural process and often preventing the very thing many of these world bosses say they are in favor of – Peace.
Gandhi: ... the function of the leader as determining the direction of the parade and racing to the front ... he listened attentively to the ebb and flow of the emergent, self-organizing system ... urged it along the path chosen, not by him, but by the people themselves.
The Practice of Peace begins with an understanding of our world, and all of its multiple communities, as naturally occurring self-organizing systems, which for their own purposes, and in their own way seek internal wholeness, health and harmony. Not without chaos, conflict and confusion, which are integral to a process which both includes and transcends them.
... our present knowledge and practice is minimal, both in terms of the need and the possibilities. So this is an invitation to go deeper.
... I had come because I cared for my friends in Palestine and Israel, and also for myself and my children.
Rumi, the Suffi poet: "There is a field, beyond right thinking and wrong thinking. I will meet you there." (B.S. - new thinking?)
Where are you going, and what are you going to do?
At the very least, we all have a choice.
... the participants did it all by themselves ...
Chapter VI: Strategy for Peace
Building a strategy for Peace starts with several caveats . Never work harder than you have to – Lord knows there is plenty too be done, so save your energy. Second, take time to understand what is naturally present before trying to fix it. In a word, don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. And last (and first) never delude yourself into thinking you are in control ...
Peace ... is a process, not a thing; a journey not a destination. It is flow and not a state.
Our function is to hold the space open so that the organization, or people with whome we work, can do what only it (or they) can do -- be fully themselves, as a living, self-organizing system.
... we are not in charge.
Open space wherever, however, and as often as you can.
... the organism is its own best healer, and the power behind that healing is self-organization.
The Practice of Peace, therefore, involves initiating, sustaining, and in some cases re-starting, that fundamental engine of our existence -- self organization.
... He who governs least governs best ...
... an experiment in progress.
The strategy, simply put, is -- when things fall apart, open space and allow the healing to begin.
Peacemaking is an ongoing, every day affair...
When Peace is at risk, or seemingly departed, the stakes become excruciatingly high. Time is short, need is great, resources few -- and action is essential.
... an invitation to the people who care about the issues at hand ... this is everybody who cares, what I call, The Coalition of Concern.
Invitation, on the other hand, is open to refusal, which is at once risky (nobody will come) and energizing. Those who do come really want to be there ... once present, invite everybody to sit in a circle ... all places are equal.
... hodgepodge of interested parties, drawn together by their concern for the common issue ... looking for solutions, resolution, improvement ... restore wholeness, health and harmony ...
Just get there and go! ... The first step of a strategy for Peace is to open space.
In highly conflicted situations the experience of Peace is such a rare commodity that people tend to forget what it was like.
... the absence of Peace is not unique to the world of nations and peoples. Precisely the same thing happens at all levels of our social environment, and the results are identical. ... All of which makes the point that the role of the Peacemaker is not simply an international one. ... "chicken and egg" problem
Reflection: The Second Step in The Strategy of Peace ... if Peace is to become something more than a brief episode, it will be helpful to notice (anchor the experience) as it passes by.
... the experience of Peace must be moved from the category of The Impossible to that of The Expected.
Step Three: In the Practice of Peace, as elsewhere, practice is important.
... practice what we learn, and learn what we practice. ... make Peace and Peacemaking a conscious act ... Peacemaking needs to become an everyday, ongoing occurrence ... the major engine of Peace and Peacemaking is not of our creation or doing. Self-organization will continue to happen all by itself. But there are any number of things that we can do, or more often not do which substantially raise the odds of the appearance of Peace.
“The Open Space Mentality.” (BS: Open Minds)
Using the insights and principles of Open Space every day enable us to have better and more peaceful days. This is a personal experience – we feel better and more peaceful. It is also a professional experience – our work in the world seemingly enables others to have better and more peaceful days. The critical elements, as I have experienced them, are: 1) Invitation. 2) The Circle. 3) Passion and Responsibility. 4) The Four Principles. 5) The Law of Two Feet.
When life’s many activities are begun with an invitation, the space is truly open for all sorts of possibilities.
For me the fundamental geometry for Peacemaking is a circle, with nothing in the way.
Passion and Responsibility ... and following up (if need be) on the implementation.
For better or worse, passion -- our human care and concern -- is what makes the world, at least our world, go around. ... And so we invite passion bounded by responsibility.
The solution is simple, just open more space.
I think the secret is that there is a tradition of giving each other the space they need.
I suggest that "gracious spaciousness" is equally important in the largest of all parties -- life together here on Planet Earth, and for the Peacemaker it may be the most important thing we bring to that marvelous party.
The Four Principles: Whoever comes is the right people. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. Whenever it starts is the right time. And, When it is over it is over.
... the working principles of any well functioning self-organizing system.
Start with the ones who care, and the rest will come, or not. But make a start.
Dreams of Peace and memories of Peace all have their place, but until or unless we have Peace now, it doesn't matter very much.
When Now becomes very big (or even just gets a little bigger) there is a calming sense of wholeness, integration and completeness -- Peace.
Open, living, self-organizing systems are never "on time" -- they are their own time. For the Peacemaker this understanding is core. Peace, like all other fundamental realities of life never happens on schedule -- it happens when it happens. Whenver it starts is the right time.
If at any time, during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet. Go somewhere else. Do something useful, and for sure don’t waste time feeling miserable. ... it is called authenticity.
When the disaffected do depart, they are then freed to make their own contributions in areas more to their liking. The conventional wisdom insists, rather blindly I think, that if folks just walked off when they got bored, society would be in a sorry state. ... different stokes for different folks,
Making that connection becomes infinitely easier when you have a number of people searching about for something useful to do which will fit both their interests and their talents.
In a word, the Law of Two Feet both acknowledges and facilitates one of the core process of our life and (if we are correct) the central mechanism of Peacemaking – self-organization. And when self-organization grinds to a halt, life stops, productivity and creativity cease. Most importantly, Peace as I have been describing it becomes questionable, if not impossible.
In our central role as witness, it is not our function or responsibility to create Peace – but rather to enable the conditions under which Peace may occur. In most cases, this means doing little and being much.
... although conflict may be intense and vigorous, never has the group been unable to handle that conflict, and more importantly, that they have always learned deeply from the incident.
At a very practical level, I take it to be true that no person (other than the pathologically deranged) actually likes to lose their cool and engage in violent conflict.
A Strategy for Peace – Summary: The strategy, as I suggested at the start, is extraordinarily simple. Open space whenever, however, and any time you can – in order to allow the natural powers of all self organizing systems do what they do best: create wholeness, health and harmony in themselves and with their environment. This may mean using Open Space Technology, and in certain situations the approach can be superbly effective. It may equally, and perhaps more often, mean assuming the open space mentality, that gracious spacious approach to life which starts with invitation, gathers in a circle, always remembers the Four Principles, and honors the Law of Two Feet. Such graciousness need not be reserved only for special occasions, like a party dress or tuxedo hung in a closet until the time is right. It is everyday attire, for every day is a good day to engage the Practice of Peace. [BS: Open Space for Open Minds for Peace]
Chapter VII: Many Roads to Peace
... we experienced that Peace as a constantly unfolding journey of exploration.
... the corporate domain ... the citadel of power and control ... who would suspect that such a human need (as Peace and Peacemaking) could surface in that paragon of efficiency?
... desperately in need of Peace in the fullest sense of my use of the word: The restoration of wholeness, health, and harmony.
... women definitely get it.
... The Change Initiative, which had no official standing and few resources -- but it was ready to go to work.
My answer was very short and simple: Open Space.
... 100 issues raised, some 10 or 11 topped the rest based on the groups' priorization. None of the remainder were lost, and most were converged with the top rankers.
... they knew Peace as organizational integrity (wholeness), reduction of stress and strain (health), and the multiple disparate pieces worked together (harmony).
Truth to tell, they never quite could go back, for they would always know that a different way was available. ... that bedrock of all firm knowledge: experience. ... If they had chosen to go back to the way things were, they would have been doubly damned.
When in doubt, conflict or confusion -- open space.
... all of the multiple activities that we as humans have invented to make our lives more peaceful can, and do, have positive effect, and none should be overlooked ... but none are sufficient individually ...
What we have been doing is marvelous, and we need to do more and better. However, we may wish to look at the How.
... that wonderful creature, The Complex Adaptive System, which seemingly lies at the core of each of us individually, and all of us collectively -- as well as the cosmos itself.
... never, ever, ever delude yourself into thinking you are in charge.
Chapter VIII: Of Rogues, Perceived Rogues, and The End of It All
... the power of self organization is everywhere (i.e. even to the rogues)
... getting to the core of the matter.
... a close integration of purpose and persons -- creating an organizational integrity or wholeness which is manifestly powerful.
... angry people ... all the disaffected, and dispossessed ...
... a real dilemma. Your Peace can well become my hell. And visa versa. Perhaps we should change the words? Or admit that we have been hoisted on the petard of our own logic? Then again, it may well be that there is something deeper here which bears exploration. Perhaps the logical contradiction is in fact a paradox that can lead to interesting new places. Putting it bluntly, how do we deal with the rogues of our world? Or is it only a matter of perception? Obviously my rogue can be your hero – selfsame person seen from two very different points of view. The heros of the American Revolution were definitely the rogues of the British Empire, a fact that some Americans tend to forget today. And for the would be Peacemaker, the dilemma posed is perhaps especially difficult and painful. Whose Peace would you make?
Either way the choice goes, we have a definite problem, until or unless we find it possible to discover resolution a different level.
... resolution is unlikely to come at the same level the problem manifests.
So where does this leave us and the role of the Peacemaker? ... The first step would be to acknowledge our cultural heritage and to be as conscious of it as we can. Cultural bias is a given we cannot change, but we can be aware of it.
Our function is not to create, offer, or suggest solutions, but rather to create the conditions under which solutions may be found without (and this is the truly hard part) any attachment to particular outcomes.
This act of searching is salutary to the whole process of living ...
... simple strategy of always looking for the broadest possible coalition of concern.
... coming together is the critical point, no matter the means.
... limits to this approach ... time, space, and money ... the limit imposed by our cultural biases ... others' perceptions of those biases.
Bottom line? Know your limitations, and don't be afraid to stretch them. However, when you reach the end, don't be offended, just pass the baton. In the search for Peace, everybody is the object of our concern, but only some bodies will respond to us as individuals. Pass it on.
We do not make the Peace, for Peace is something that all bodies (individuals and groups) do all by themselves.
... the lowest possible denominator of Darwinian evolution, kill or be killed, with the survival of the fittest.
Chapter IX: Endings and New Beginnings - The Epicenter of Peacemaking
The ending of things is almost inevitably traumatic ...
The role is a deeper one – to be the guide and support as one of the great, natural processes of human life unfolds. At stake is the continuance of life, not as it was – but as it may become. For the Peacemaker, this is the heart and soul of the task.
Griefwork (by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, 1970)
Other books by Owen - Spirit: Transformation and Development in Organizations (1985); The Spirit of Leadership (1999); The Power of Spirit: How Organizations Transform (2000) (publisher Berrett-Kowhler)
The stages are as follows: (1) Shock/Anger, (2) Denial, (3) Memories, (4) Open Space as Despair, (5) Open Space as Silence, (6) Vision and Renewal
In the face of shock and anger the Peacemaker will do nothing, for nothing can be done, except to create and maintain the space in which the shock and anger may roll and do its essential work. This is the role of Witness.
At one and the same time, they appear as intimate to us as our own breath, and yet somehow above it all, anchored in some transcendent place.
They are facing a reality that hurts too much.
Without saying a word, or doing a thing, the Witness provides that quiet grounding in reality that offers a starting point. This is not about suggesting a future, creating the plans, offering direct assistance – it is all about marking the spot of commencement. Here. Now.
Denial is necessary, it must run its course and give its gift. Only then will life move one.
It is now painfully clear to everybody involved that the end did in fact come. What was – is no longer. And so the memories. Some bitter, some sweet – all important.
It is continuing process of self-definition and selfunderstanding occasioned by the end of the old, and the appearance of something new and yet to be fully understood.
... it needs to be told in order that the essential work of letting go and moving on may take place.
Sooner or later the tale is told. There is nothing more to say and what remains is silence ... just silence, emptiness, Despair.
In Despair we come to fully appreciate how much we really loved that which we grieve – be that a way of life, place of work, a group of people, or a single person. It is an appreciation, unfortunately, that can never be fully realized until the object of our affection is torn from our grasp. However, it is only when we have deeply appreciated what we have lost that we can fully release our attachment. And with that release we become free for whatever might be coming next.
... self-inflicted. It is the pain of holding on to that which no longer exists. Once we let go, the pain departs. And the sooner we let go, the sooner the pain ends. The ultimate gift of Despair, therefore is to provide us with some very strong motivation to get on with life.
Rather than avoid it (which you can't) you have to go through it. It is the only way to the other side.
... once again the role of the Silent Witness comes to the fore. In truth there is nothing to be done, for the person, or group, must do it all for themselves. Only they can let go, but having a warm hand to hold in the process is good.
Open Space as Silence ... the moment before creation.
... a question - What was I going to do with the rest of my life?
The question is important, but its mode of asking equally so. When that question is asked out of caring, or as I would prefer to say, Love – its power is incredible. Love, like Peace is one of those words with so many possible meanings that it becomes essential to say what you mean. For me, Love always has two faces, a face of acceptance, and a face of challenge.
... challenge ... this is the rigorous, no nonsense, expectation that we live up to our potential.
For the Peacemaker, there is a special opportunity in the moment of silence, the open space between what was and may be. It is to pose the question in love and await the answer. .... It is not about making any statement at all. It is about asking a question, for questions have the wonderful capacity to open more space.
Vision ... there is good news. Life has renewed itself. ... celebrate ...
In the beginning it was all about a meeting methodology, and by the end, open space referred to a critical time/space in our human journey.
Chapter X: Preparation for Peacemaking
Peacemaking is less about acquiring new skills and methods than applying those we already possess in some new and more intentional ways. ... every human being on the face of the planet comes equipped with the essential tools. It remains only to use them.
... if ever there were a case where theory without practice is useless -- Peacemaking is that case.
... anybody with a good head and a good heart can "do it".
And the means of elevation is practice.
... a professional skill
... focus -- the ability to bring all natural gifts and learned skills to bear in the present moment to the exclusion of any possible distractions. My preferred word would be presence.
Presence, for me, is more than the capacity to focus on the details and broad scene, there is also an integrative quality which allows for the inclusion and blending of all natural gifts and learned skills. More than anything else, presence is not so much an action, but a quality of being which manifests itself both in action and stillness. We all have presence, but some of us have massive presence. And each of us can increase our presence with practice.
... Practice as a Spiritual Discipline.
... invite the group to meditate together.
... Peacemaking is an everyday task and opportunity. We will find that the need is omnipresent, and for sure we will get better with repetition. We also must build the skills and knowledge, for as our world changes and continues to change old approaches will be seen in new ways, and new ways to Peace will show themselves.
... the demands of the moment are more than sufficient to fry our Spirit, unless that Spirit is constantly restored.
There is an old cliche to the effect that Peace begins at home. Like many cliches that have the well worn feeling of pebble stones in a brook, the truth may be obvious, but it is also profound. Every moment of every day, and in every situation, the forces of chaos, confusion and conflict do their natural work – opening space for new opportunities to appear, muddling convinced minds so that they can be open to new thoughts, and sharpening half baked ideas and approaches into well formed tools. Absent chaos, confusion and conflict, life stops. But if the toxic byproducts of discord, fragmentation and disease are not constantly dealt with, they soon reach a lethal level,...
The Practice of Peace, like any other practice, requires a strong base of knowledge and skills.
I often felt that entering a school was not unlike entering a war zone. Students appeared to be at war with themselves and each other, aligned only against the faculty, which in turn conflicted with the administration. ... Question: What would happen if you opened space in a school? ... Open Space worked just fine... What was remarkable was that deeply conflicted parties (students, teachers, administration and parents) found it quite possible to talk usefully with each other. Perhaps most interesting was that students took to Open Space like ducks to water.
Peace is fundamentally a matter of the Spirit.
We know it when we meet.
The ultimate goal of The Practice of Peace, so far as I am concerned, is healing the Human Spirit. That done, and everything else seems to pretty well take care of itself. ... the special agent of healing (at least from the outside) is the Silent Witness of the Peacemaker standing as a solid rock in shifting sand or the strong tree in a high wind – offering a point of reference and support.
... to add the strength of a good companion.
Following that path in the company of those who travel it is perhaps the highest calling that any of us may hear, and it is surely one of the most demanding. Which brings into focus a second sense in which the Practice of Peace is a Spiritual Discipline, not practiced for others, but for ourselves.
... I have felt my personhood fulfilled as in no other way. I can also say with the same absoluteness, that no other experience in my life demanded so much.
... the rewards so far exceed the costs as to be a total gift. I wish that gift for you.