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Like many others, we have been thinking about how we can take the learning, connections and inspiration from the New Story Summit forward. Having digested the elements of learning to do with conference process, Debbie Warrener (who ran our summit hub), myself and others at St Ethelburga’s will be offering a post-NSS experiment. Our aim is to bring people together to harvest what we have learned about designing emergent process.

Creating a new story means making space for the unknown. The Summit showed us very clearly that new processes and ways of holding space are a critical skill for our time, and that there is a need for us to share ideas and best practice and to learn from each other.  And we are hoping those of you towards the London end of our Global community will come and join us. 

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The Findhorn team did a brave job of bringing us all together and trying out new things. Watching what unfolded, what I took away with me was that to facilitate an emergent process, we need to: 

  • Welcome all participants equally from the very beginning. To not create any hierarchy between speakers/facilitators on the one hand and participant/listeners on the other. The stories and wisdom of all comers need to be welcomed and given space from the beginning. (We wondered if the absence of this space at the beginning of the summit inadvertently created a kind of shadow, which led to everyone wanting their voices to be heard in a way that held ego in it as well as a genuine desire to serve?)
  • Bring in new ideas and sharing in a participative and not a passive way, offering both invited speakers and also giving open space for others to share their gifts.
  • Consciously make space for the Divine or the Whole. There is a difference between acknowledging subtle realms and honouring the awe-inspiring power that belongs to the Whole, to the Cosmos and to something far beyond our human selves. We need access to that power to go beyond ourselves and help create the conditions for real transformation. 
  • Facilitate with a light touch, with flexibility and spontaneity. 
  • Find a means to set mental concepts aside and hold an empty space in which that which lies beyond and between ourselves can be included. 
  • Capitalise on the full potential of coming together by putting considerable time and group effort into how we sustain and take forward what is created. 

While Debbie and I were hanging out drinking cappuccino, watching the coloured fountains of Kings Cross sparkle in the dusk, and thinking through what this leaves us with, we found ourselves taking a new look at the U process as one simple framework that offers some of these tools.  The stages of sharing stories and connecting on a heart level; intense stimulating learning journeys; a period in the centre of the process of silence, retreat and letting go; followed by a creative harvesting of what has emerged; then putting ideas to the test in the field, with rapid prototyping; feeding back what works and what doesn’t; and arriving at some a consensus or a step forward that has been co-created out of the space – this rhythm and journey is one potentially useful map.  

These ideas are not so radically different from what the team actually did, but they give a helpful formula from which to allow equality, democracy and empty space – without which nothing new can happen.  Of course there are many ways to work emergently.  Whatever way we use, the flexibility to go beyond any structure or model is paramount (as the NSS team demonstrated).  

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Debbie and I will host a day at St Ethelburga’s on Friday 12th December for anyone who wants to join us exploring emergent design.  We will use some of the principles above in shaping the space, but the invitation is mostly to bring your own wisdom and experience and help us enquire together into ways of holding emergent space.  And it’s also a chance to reconnect with fellow Summiteers as well as make new contacts too.  

We welcome your feedback and ideas.

Justine Huxley & Debbie Warrener
Oct 2014

Justine leads on overall strategy, vision and management. She has a Ph.D in psychology, with a background in business communications and 5 years of experience on the trading floor of a City investment bank. She is passionate about bringing people together from different backgrounds and co-creating innovative projects that speak to the needs of the time. Justine sees peace as a dynamic state where people collaborate across divisions in service to the whole. Justine can offer workshops, lectures and keynote speeches on: Peace-making and conflict transformation; faith and resilience; interdependence as an emerging worldview; the refugee crisis; inter-faith relations; young people, faith and the future; new approaches to interfaith leadership; environmental peace-building; spiritual ecology; conflict coaching; dialogue facilitation; the role of narrative and story in community reconciliation.

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