we had a wonderful resource weekend in bradford...
i have been having computer hassles as you may have seen on facebook or twitter. turns out the model of macbook pro i bought was in a time with a batch of dodgy graphics cards but when i took it in to be fixed last time mac replaced it with the same dodgy logic board - not impressed! anyway hopefully this time round it will fix the perpetual crashing problem. i have to say it's brought a lot of joy to pc users to have a mac crashing. fortunately jen has kindly leant me her laptop for the week. it's scary how dependent we are on computers now. if you have e-mailed me recently and i haven't replied the chances are i won't for anther week!
good to see andrew jones on his travels managed to drop in to the earthquake zone in turkey to dish out some much needed blankets.
in the book where good ideas come stephen johnson is interested in discovering what kind of environment enables innovation to thrive. so for example he writes about research that shows that a city of 5 million is 3 times as creative as a town of a hundred thousand because of the natural way it's possible to collide with other people and ideas. it made me glad i live in london! by way of a summary statement jonson says this
We are often better served by connecting ideas than we are by protecting them.
ideas flow best in unregulated channels in open environments. this is instinctive to people in the new networked culture but much harder for organisations to wrap their heads round perhaps especially at times of financial pressure when to give and share may seem counter intuitive. in a fascinating piece of research johnson plots inventions in blocks of two hundred years along the axis of market/non-market and individual/network. it completely shatters the image of the lone inventor. the last two hundred years have seen by far the most innovation in the fourth quadrant - non market networked.
he also talks about what he calls exaptation - borrowing an idea from one area and applying it to another. so for example the gutenburg printing press would possibly not have been invented if gutenberg wasn't interested in winemaking. his genius was bricolage from a number of different areas to create the printing press including ideas from the wine press. he also cites a survey of 766 entrpreneurs by ruef which highlights that the most creative individuals had broad social networks that were outside both their own organisations and their own fields of expertise. diverse horizontal networks were three tims more innovative than vertical networks. and groups that are familiar and long term tend to dampen innovation.
i have blogged at length before about clay shirky's book here comes everybody - 1 2 3 4 which looks at network theory and the importance of connectors who focus outside of their small world to increase energy in networks which demonstrates in a different way the same point. one of the creative tips in a whack on the side of the head is to look outside your own area. margaret wheatley's magnificent book leadership and the new science suggests that a very different mindset is required in leaders who operate in this new environment of connectedness.
some organisations have famously sought to encourage this in their staff. so google for example encouraged staff to spend 20% of time following up connections, exploring, nurturing hunches with great effect, enabling serendipitous moments.
it goes without saying that the the internet has opened up connectivity in extraordinary ways. those people who moan about it and see it as a waste of time are somewhat missing the point. that's not to say that all internet use will lead to innovation. it's equally possible to live in a bubble with familiar connections and relationships and web sites that can be very dull and stagnant. instead explore tangents, follow hunches, get curious, connect with new people outside your area of interest and so on.
so what? connect and nurture connections beyond your own area. meet people, drink coffee, exploring hunches, operate out of a posture that seeks to open source and share ideas rather than batton down the hatches.
in terms of newness in the church which is of particular interest to me, this is a hard reflex to develop. theological positions are often entrenched and defended. people go to their tribe's festival, read their tribe's books, do their tribe's leadership training, meet their tribe in coffee houses and so on. it's easy to end up in a loop that is quite small, self referential and ultimately uncreative because of fear. this is equally true of progressive as of conservative as of emerging as of orthodox as of liberal as of evangelical as of catholic etc. by contrast, the body of christ is an extraordinary network of connections that opens up all sorts of amazing possibilities with a different set of instincts out of which much newness could and i hope will come.
innovate or die! that statement sounds a bit drastic but could be applied to any organisation over time - culture changes and moves so fast that innovation is essential. it's one thing to say it, but how in practice can innovation be cultivated? there is usually a problem - the status quo! people like things the way they are and have vested interests in it. new ideas can be a threat, dangerous or heretical even.
gerald arbuckle is an anthropologist who has studied organisations, cultures and churches and the processes of change. i have become an avid reader of his work as i mentioned in the last post. in his brilliant book refounding the church he explores the importance of dissent in leadership if there is to be newness. dissent sounds a very strong word but actually this what he means by dissent:
There can be no constructive change at all, even in church, unless there is some form of dissent. By dissent I mean simply the proposing of alternatives, and a system that is not continuously examining alternatives is not likely to evolve creatively.
he suggests that for newness to take root, there are two kinds of dissenters - authority dissenters and pathfinding dissenters. i think there’s a parallel here in the language that has been used in the church in various places with permission givers/loyal radicals/sponsors perhaps being the equivalent of the authority dissenter and pioneers the equivalent of pathfinding dissenters.
pathfinding dissenters devise ways to bridge the gap between gospel and culture. not only do they dream up appropriate strategies, but they actually move to implement them. they are dreamers who do - (i love this expression and used it as the title of my talks at breakout). given the challenge of preaching the kingdom within an ever changing world he says we need creativity of quantum leap proportions. renewal of existing strategies is insufficient. rather we require radically different and as yet unimagined ways to relate the good news to the challenges of the world. pathfinding dissenters are needed within the church to critique or dissent from the conventional and ineffective wisdom of the present. without these courageous people the church simply cannot fulfill its mission.
the task and position of the authority dissenter is somewhat different. they are somehwere in the structures of an organisation or church able to make decisions with responsibility. their challenge is three fold. they need to spot and encourage and recruit pathfinding dissenters. this in itself isn't always easy. it's amazing how often safer options are chosen in leadership with whom business as usual is just fine. then secondly they are to use/deploy the gifts of the pathfinding dissenters for the benefit of the organisation/culture/church. and then finally they need to broker space for this dissent so that it can flourish without being forever under the glare and critique of those who like things the way they are. this relates to the tactic in the last post - the new belongs elsewhere - if it is to have a chance of genuine newness emerging.
i think this recognition of the importance of dissent is inspired. one way i think about dissenters is as those who have the gift of not fitting in. they see and imagine differently. they can't help it. it's who they are. it's the gift that they bring. in terms of ministry in the church this is prophetic ministry. i have elaborated on this in my breakout talks so won't say much more than that here. jesus and all the prophets before him were dissenters who made the world new through their dissent.
it is also the interplay between the two dissenting roles that is worth reflecting on and is often a hidden part of the complexity when newness genunely emerges. dave andrews identifies a very similar combination and in his writing the term he uses is sponsor - see for example his idiots guide to changing your church. he goes so far as to say that if you can't find a sponsor/authority dissenter don't get involved. let me give an example - st laurence church in reading. newness has come there in the form of creating a community that is innovating in the gap between gospel and the culture of marginalised young people. this has happened through the pathfinding dissent of chris russell and team and has flourished because of the authority dissenting of the arch deacon who brokered the space, the budget, and dealt with the challenge of the status quo of both the existing congregation and their interests and the politic of the diocesan strucures.
dissent and the new belonging elsewhere sounds like i am advocating a leaving or separation from the church. but i am not. more about that in the next post - refounding.
we have an exciting week coming up as part of the cms pioneer training in november on missional entrepreneurship. there are still a few places left. you don't have to be doing the whole course with cms - you can buy into an individual module. the location is amazing - where i took this photo or this one or this one. please let others know about it if you know people that would be interested - see http://flavors.me/missionalentrepreneurship for a web page that is a bit more standalone if you want to pass it on. here's the spiel...
Want to start your own missional enterprise or project?
This week will tackle issues faced in starting up mission projects and social enterprise:
How will you get started?
How will it be sustained?
Who is going to be involved?
How will you build a team?
How will you measure the impact?
In addition we will look at social enterprise and what it’s relevance is today, its history and what unique opportunities it provides.
During the week you will be hands on working on a missional enterprise to tackle a social issue, engage community and do it in a financially sustainable way.
The week will be led by Shannon Hopkins, founder of Sweet Notions and Matryoshka Haus social enterprises, and business entrepreneur Steve Baker (one of whose business endeavours is Pickwell Manor where we will be hosted).
i have been reading several books by gerald arbuckle. tim dakin, the cms community leader, is a big fan of his writing and particularly his notion of refounding that I'll come on to in a later post. it's tim's enthusiasm that got me reading arbuckle. he draws on anthropology to look at the processes of change in relation to organisations, cultures and the church and the sorts of leadership that might be either required, necessary or a gift in the process of change. one of the simple axioms he uses is the new belongs elsewhere. i don't think this needs too much explanation! but I will give a little…
every organisation has a culture, a status quo. inevitably lots of people like it the way it is either because of vested interests or fear of what change might bring. but unless an organisation or church cultivates innovation it has no future - innovate or die might be an extreme way of saying it. in every culture there are always those who are innovators, who see the world differently, who dream new possibilities and they need to be encouraged to dream their dreams. however if they are put in an environment with the guardians of the status quo, the chances are that they will put a lot of their energies into justifying themselves, and be under constant critique which can sap a lot of energy. that energy would be better served going into the new. so the smart tactic for newness is to create space for the new to grow elsewhere, alongside the old, away form the status quo. in refounding the church: dissent for leadership arbuckle says
The axiom means that a refounding project should not normally be placed in the midst of existing works/structures, where prophetic people would be under constant critical assessment by members of the community and required to waste invaluable energy apologising for what they are doing.
you see this in many areas of life and culture. reflecting on the newness that has emerged in the church in mission it has been a lot more fruitful where the new has been elsewhere - starting a new congregation alongside the old, or on the margins, or in someone's home. alternative worship communities flourished in precisely this way. beth keith has done some research into pioneers experience in the church and this bears this axiom out in startling fashion. and yet in many places the church is doing precisely the opposite especially when it comes to those who are ordained as pioneers. they are very often being put into structures and positions that require them to do lots of the old in those structures and the new out of that. this is a really hard ask. i won't say it's doomed to failure but I have huge questions about it. i assume it's for reasons that are to do with a mix of economic and imagination. last week i met lots of the guys involved in venture fx, a project in the methodist church to recruit and fund around 15 innovative projects in mission over 5 years. i loved the people and they seem to have got this right. their guys are being set free to do the new elsewhere. the c of e could learn something by watching. this axiom is also why together with cms i have sought to create a pathway for training pioneers that is in a different space, elsewhere and i believe that tactic is enabling us to create something genuinely innovative (i hope anyway - we're certainly not having to spend our energies fending off critique).
of course jesus had something to say about his in his story of old and new wineskins - the new belongs elsewhere...
this does of course raise a question. how elsewhere is elswhere? i'll say more about this in future posts. but I am not suggesting this means leaving organisations or cultures or denominations though that is a possible tactic. in my experience the track record of that trajectory is depressingly familiar with those who leave proclaiming themselves as the new prophets/radicals who twenty years later often look rather dogmatic and controlling, and is really ony a last resort. though I appreciate certain contexts may leave little choice. rather the elsewhere is about space to dream the new on the edges of what already exists.
congrats to shannon on being in the 100 unseen powerful women who change the world list over at one world action's blog - i guess that makes her seen now?!
praxislabs is a new program that supports social entrepreneurs engaging in transformation from a christian/mission perpsective. if you've got a good idea and want to be connected into a network of fellows with the chance to raise some funding towards your idea/dream go and have a read...
i follow the blog lateral action - mainy because i am a big fan of anything that involves creative thinking. i always need challenging and encouraging to come at things creatively. i was struck by a recent post are you looking for a turtle with a moustache? which by the way doesn't exist! here's a section of the piece that will give you the idea...
When you want to be a great novelist, but you can’t face sitting at the laptop day after day, struggling to get the novel written, you are looking for a turtle with a moustache.
When you want to be a great actress, but you avoid auditioning because you can’t face rejection, you are looking for a turtle with a moustache.
When you want to be a famous artist but you think your art should sell itself, without any effort on your part, you are looking for a turtle with a moustache.
Or when you want to have a thriving business, but don’t want to get your hands dirty with sales and marketing.
Or when you love someone but wish they would change a few of their irritating personality quirks.
Or when you want to be a successful blogger, but don’t hit ‘publish’ because you’re afraid of criticism.
Whenever you want the juicy reward without paying the price, or facing the unpalatable truth, or doing the hard work, you are looking for a turtle with a moustache.
Whenever you think your work exists in some kind of pure spiritual dimension that has nothing to do with the grubby realities of life, you are looking for a turtle with a moustache.
we probably all find ourselves caught in this from time to time but i guess i was reflecting on it in relation to mission and pioneering. maybe it's something like...
when you want to be a pioneer but don't want to engage in issues of sustainability, ongoing support and structures - turtle with moustache!
when you want to take on a role paid for by the church as a pioneer but don't want to engage in church politics - turtle with moustache!
anyway you get the idea - add your own in the comments whether to pioneering or whatever else it is you are doing...
andrew jones unveils the next project/chapter - fringe expressions
the two open days went well for the new cms pioneer training course i am leading. someone asked me what an open day was - hadn't figured that the term wouldn't cross cultures! it's simply a day for people to come and visit and hear about the course, see the facilities and meet students and ask questions. we'll be having another one in may - the 19th is the most likely date - if you missed out this time round.
there is now a blog on the pioneer web site. this is my first introduction to using word press which i am impressed with though it still like typepad too - the blend of pages and posts and drop downs makes it a very powerful tool for creating a web site. one of the easiest ways to follow along with news about the pioneer course is to subscribe - see subscribe on right hand column of the site - and then you simply get new posts arrive as an e-mail - all very neat. give it a week or two and we'll add in a facebook and twitter feed so you can follow along there too if that's your preferred world of info flow. i am not going to post everything i post here there and vice versa but it's so much my focus at the moment that i am barely having time to think about or do much else. so i will be picking some posts out to put here no doubt. we've created a couple of categories around inspiration - one is stuff we find that is inpsiring and the other is creative stuff produced by students on the way. anger passion talent is the first thing i have put in the inspiration section...
Kaospilot in Denmark is an innovation school that looks wonderful! They have been a source of inspiration for me ever since I bumped into some students at a youth ministry conference I was speaking at in Denmark many years ago. They seem to have an open source policy and will be putting up materials on to their web space. You've got to hunt around a bit to find things but I suspect it's a bit of a treasure trove. Anyway I unearthed a gem that I have begun to use in conversation in the pub, with my family over a meal and probably lots of other places.
I think I noticed it because of the reflecting we have been doing in the mission spirituality module on the course. I think it would be easy to dive straight in to this course with pioneers who are generally activists and think how can we make stuff happen and help them make stuff happen. But we've resisted that and our first two modules have been much more about who we are and how we reflect on that and who God is in relation to us and the world rather than what we do. In mission spirituality, Johnny Sertin who leads it has been getting us all to focus on who we are and what our unique contribution is to the world and out of that to write a mission statement. It's really hard to do but also been quite an important and powerful thing to focus on.
Anyway the gem I uncovered is a pdf booklet called life purpose by Neil Crofts who is a life coach. If you go to the kaospilot online library and scroll down it's the section titled what is my purpose. In it he suggests you draw three circles - anger, passion and talent. In each write 5 to 8 words of things in the world that make you angry, things you are passionate about and talents you have. Then distill those down to one word or phrase. Weave together those things into a purpose or mission statement. It sounds the simplest thing in the world but it has blown me away just how powerful a tool it is. We did this round the meal table with family at the start of the year and it was incredibly moving. I won't share all their statements here though you can see what I came up with through this process:I connect with and inspire creative leaders who don’t fit in, to help them be true to who they are and to do amazing things.
So I guess setting up and leading this course is a pretty neat place for me to be right now! At least I hope so :-)
the prospectus arrived from the printers on friday.
we have open days tomorrow and wednesday (not too late to come along btw but let me know).
there is lots i more could say about it but there is enough to digest in the prospectus and web site. do let me know what you think. and please do spread the word about this - it's early days and i think it will grow by word of mouth. i can't quite believe we have come this far so quickly...
steve collins sent me a link to this article - beyond groups: why curated membership communities are today's most important networks. it sounds as though it's something that might have come out of a conversation on new monasticism with the importance of ethos at the centre of a relational community life but not so - this is coming out of a conversation around social capital and networking and how they are transforming business and culture. that doesn't mean for a moment that its any more significant than if it's a conversation around community life in faith communities. but it did impact me all the more none the less. it's a reminder that the search for new ways of being the body of christ is a quest that chimes in with the quest in the wider culture for ways of being human and being community and making a difference.
The explosion of curated membership communities is an attempt to create the shared experiences which bring us into contact with those people, giving us access to the amazing world which we can see, if not fully yet grasp.
it's also interesting that curation as a way of thinking about leadership has not just spilled into thinking about worship leading but is an exciting new metaphor elsewhere.
becky garrison has another book out - starting from zero with $0: building mission shaped ministries on a shoestring. first up this is one of the crucial issues in the whole area of fresh expressions, emerging church etc - what you might call sustainability - how do you create sustainable projects/communities when you have nothing to start with?
the book has around a dozen stories of creative passionate people who have done precisely that - started from nothing in a host of different ways. i confess i expected a few more answers to the overarching question but maybe that was either naive or overly optimistic or too much a mindset of looking for models. but what the book does offer is a mix of stories of projects and churches who have started and kept going and struggled along the way - and if you read between the lines there are a number of ways that they became sustainable ranging from being run entirely by volunteers (as we do in grace - cheap to run!), through to getting individuals to support a leader, bi-vocational ministry (that is part time work, part time ministry) and raising monies through business and grant making bodies.
the book has some gems in it - i think my favourite story was common cathedral probably partly because i hadn't come across it before. this grew in response to debbie the founder's concern for the homeless and she simply went where they were and ended up taking worship services on boston common for people disconnected from church and a community and range of things just sort of emerged/evolved from there organically for which they fundraised along the way. both grace and proost are highlighted in the book.
i liked the reflections on the way forward at the end by karen ward, andrew jones and tom brackett. what becky does well is seek out good stories and let them speak for themselves - you can make of them what you will. those different voices in the book are good but they also make the book a challenge as a whole - it ends up feeling qute piecemeal. but it's a welcome addition to the conversation around an important question...
we'll certainly be addressing this question in the pioneer mission leaders training at cms - especially in the missional entrepreneurship module next autumn.
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