Are you "vulnerageous"?

art of hosting leadership making meaning makingadifference stories from the journey transformation Apr 26, 2024

I've just returned to Ohio from Guelph, a small city (sometimes called "The Royal City") just outside Toronto in Canada. If you've never heard of it, you're not alone, although that also means you don't know about "Guelphiness" or that it is both an agricultural and an innovation hub. 

Guelph sits at the confluence of two rivers, which came to stand metaphorically -- for me at least -- like the crashing together of the two streams of life all of us are juggling: DOING and BEING.

So many of us are both stressed and anxious as we stand at this confluence, feeling like society values doing, that so many issues of today demand doing, that you are only successful when you are doing. Yet some of the biggest challenges facing us now have arisen because we focused more on doing than being.

We have a crisis of loneliness amongst adults. We have a crisis of anxiety and depression amongst our youth.  And we have a crisis of disconnection in our societies which is fostering a cry for help that often looks like violence -- both to the self and others.

In my travels -- both online and with my suitcase -- I've noticed the growing hunger for spaces and places where people can show up authentically -- they are longing for places where they can come and ask the questions: "Who am I now? Who are we now?"

Changemakers are longing to help transformation happen and they are wondering about how to do more with less. From my perspective, that's the wrong question. We should be asking: How can we do more with more?

What if there were a way to show up with more of ourselves, more of our resources, more of our capacities, just MORE of everything?

Together with Quanita Roberson and Paul Messer, I co-led an Art of Hosting training from 18 - 20 April. One of the funnest new words to come out of our time together was "vulnerageous", that unique blend of vulnerable and courageous that is especially called for right now if you really want to show up authentically.

It is a vulnerageous stance to move away from the overemphasis in our societies on DOING and focus on BEING as the foundation that makes your DOING feel more like right action.

We can have all the dreams we want for a better world, but if we want to give them life, first we need to know how to be in conversation with each other. The Art of Hosting is a practice that sets a solid foundation upon which to design experiences where the participants take the lead.

Through action learning, participants step up to host and we practice co-learning together at the same time as building capacity. I call it being in in the beehive and I love the buzz of this way of working, learning and being. I also love seeing others shine as they open up and step up. I could talk about some of the threads of this work for days!

Quanita, Paul and I have never worked together before in this configuration. In fact, Quanita and Paul met for the first time in Guelph. But because we are all Art of Hosting practitioners and stewards, we could blend our work seamlessly. What a joy that is, this co-creation! 

Quanita could show up with her mastery around grief, personal leadership and difference. Paul could show up with his mastery around design thinking, visual facilitation and hacking the system. I could bring my story work , my love of questions and the beauty of the Fourfold Practice. We could take it to the next level together.

We three could weave and hold a container that held laughter, tears, breakdown and breakthrough because of the solid practice we stood on together.

We the participants could help each other (re)discover that the smallest intervention for transformation is a good question; that techniques are nothing if you don't do the inner work and have a personal practice; that listening is love in action; that anyone can host and harvest conversations that matter.

That this practice -- this Art of Hosting -- like so many others, is actually a consciousness practice and that consciousness is a shield, helping us create wiser action.

I love discovering the freshness in this simplicity every timer.

Some participants discovered something new about themselves. Some made new friends or met new colleagues. My favourite transformation arc of the training came from one of our youngest participants. In the closing round she said: "I went from rage to hakuna matata to hope. Now I have to go work with my cynical and despairing Boomer parents and my peers."

The question we were exploring was: 

"How can we grow our individual and collective capacity as changemakers to co-create spaces of transformation in these times of complexity and disruption?"

These past two months have been full of conversations that somehow fit under this theme, although they appear to be different on the surface. I think all of my work -- as I reflect on it -- fits under the three impulses in this question:

  • How I can support the growth of capacity in myself, in others, and in the collective?
  • How can I support others to know themselves as changemakers? 
  • Where can I be instrumental in co-creating and supporting spaces of transformation?

For me, storytelling, storymaking/shaping, Story Activism and participatory process methods and skills are all focused, ultimately, on supporting people to be the best of themselves and to work together for a brighter future. The intersection of story and hosting a powerful place for transformation.

My experiences this past month have invited me to deeply reflect both on what I bring to the table and what is needed now. And most importantly...

Staying in practice is a vulnerageous act.

As a changemaker what do you think you bring to the table and where are you practicing vulnerageous-ness right now? 

Isn't it time to have a brilliant ally on your side?

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