Tag Archive: Peter Senge

A journey witnessing the possible future…

Over the last few weeks I’ve been travelling in Denmark and Germany interviewing communities for my thesis on community renewable energy. The experience of learning from communities in practice through face to face interviews, digging deeper into the learned experience of committed local people and seeing a multitude of renewable energy solutions created on the ground was hugely inspiring. See more about our research on what makes communities successful in setting up renewable energy projects at http://renewablecommunities.wordpress.com

Plus the first of the spring picnics between interviews and seeing so much landscape flushed with the green of spring crops wasn’t half bad either ; ). I was also very lucky to be hosted in a beautiful ecovillage an hour out of Berlin for a week, which was deeply relaxing as well as inspiring to experience what organised community life can be like in daily practice. The priviledge of being able to show up to help yourself to three prepared meals in the community restaurant each day just by being part of the community still seems like an incredible priviledge, even for an avowed believer in the benefits of community like me.

In many ways, I feel like I’ve been out witnessing the possible future, and learning more about how more communities can realise this positive future now. I’m looking forward to sharing the guidebook we write for communities interested in shifting towards renewable energy in June.

Injections of inspiration from the future via the web: TED talks

Despite the great inspiration and stories I’m bringing with me back to Sweden for the analysis phase of our thesis, I’m feeling a little hemmed in by sitting myself back at a desk all day after such a kinesthetic learning experience. When my system cries out for an energy boost (and I should probably go out into the spring sunshine for a walk), I sometimes find myself turning to one of the greatest online inspiration sources I know of: TED talks.

The latest TED talk I just watched is a great wise voice from the future, in the form of a 12 year old girl. Adora Svitak is a sought after speaker to teachers across America for her radical message on the need for shared learning between adults and kids, rather than our dominant model of teaching down to kids.

It took me back to one of the main themes of Art of Hosting Karlskrona, where both Meg Wheatley and Peter Senge spoke eloquently of the need for intergenerational dialogue.

“I know of no quicker way to bring the future into the present than to bring in children and young people.” ~ Peter Senge

Peter also spoke of the power of young people leading the change that is needed in the world. “People are predisposed to listen to young people’s voices – they hit us in the heart and have an unexpected authority and influence.”

More importantly, Peter spoke to the idea that excluding young people’s voices enhances our long-term loss of connection with the future. As a student of sustainability, it seems that our choice to exclude young people from decision making and many forums in which the future is determined is reflective of our continual choice to live unsustainably. Being disconnected from young people, and believing that we as adults have the knowledge and answers, it’s easier to stick with our current ways and turn our minds away from the consequences of our actions on the future generations who are already here, in the form of today’s young people.

As Peter Senge attested, an emotional connection with the future is critical to the profound changes that are required in the world today. In the same way, I’m curious about the effect that having an emotional connection with young people – the living future – has on us as adults and how we chose to act. In my sustainability work, I often hear of the influence young women have on their CEO Dad’s in bringing a sustainability strategy into a company, or of how many adults start acting to reduce their environmental impact when they become parents, and then suddenly have a visceral connection to the future.

The challenge to listen and learn from kids

In her TED talk, Adora’s main challenge to adults is to listen and relate to kids, to basically get into equal relationship. “You need to listen and learn from kids, and trust us and expect more from us.” This grows the potential of kids and the role that they believe they can play in the world, now and into the future. “It is imperative to create opportunities for children so we can grow up to blow you away!,” she says to a laughing TED audience.

More strikingly, she speaks to the consequences that having limited freedom and low expectations can have on kids. “Adults often underestimate kid’s ability. We love challenges but when expectations are low, trust me, we will sink into them”.

What do kids offer the world?

As well as the effect getting into more equal relationships with kids has on them and the development of their potential, Adora speaks to the difference that kids can make to the world at large.

“The world needs opportunities for new leaders and new ideas. Kids need opportunities to lead and succeed.”

If the world, of adults and children, was more open to the “childish” strengths of imagining, believing, designing, and being truly outraged and disbelieving of injustice, I believe we’d be a better world, now and in the future. And what a great excuse to get more and more childish as I grow older!

“Our audacity to imagine helps push the boundaries of possibility.” For “In order to make anything a reality you have to dream about it first.” ~ Adora Svitak

Check out Adora’s inspiring 8 minute presentation and the interesting threads of discussion at http://www.ted.com/talks/adora_svitak.html


Peter Senge at AoH Karlskrona

On the 20th February we were lucky enough to have Peter Senge join us at Art of Hosting Karlskrona, a facilitation training I co-organised for 90 young leaders collaboration for change.

Peter Senge has always been a leading thinker and leadership guide for me, so it was hugely inspiring to talk with him by web conference and to have him sound so many valuable notes around  leadership, intergenerational dialogue, community and collective change.

Here are some of my highlights:

Youth leadership, the future and intergenerational dialogue

  • We have a long-term loss of connection with the future. This is enhanced by modern society excluding the voices of children and young people. An emotional connection with the future is so critical to the profound changes that are required in the world.
  • People are predisposed to listen to young people’s voices – they hit us in the heart and have an unexpected authority and influence from young people’s voices. Just think of the contrast between hearing about an issue and looking at a trendline, and looking into the face of a child.
  • Young people doing community building are agents for profound change
  • “I know of no quicker way to bring the future into the present than to bring in children and young people.”
  • We need networks of mentors that span generations.
  • Look for commonality – there is so much! But commonality is not revealed when you focus on one controversial issue – this puts people into opposition mode and simplistic polarisation.


  • ‘Change’ is a problematic idea
  • People don’t resist change, they resist being changed!
  • How do you evoke wanting to change? How do we create spaces where people can connect to their aspirations?
  • Don’t get caught up in opposing the status quo. Be a force for the future without reinforcing polarisation.
  • Span the issues. Suspend the rigidity of your views, which is an expression of our fears.
  • Speak to our potential and the possibility of the future
  • Start with the people who are most predisposed and invite others who are less disposed in to join you
  • So many of our views and assumptions are informed by a view of humanity at our worst. Let’s work from the basis of humans at our best, and use the natural energy of our desire to be who we really are and can be, and our genuine desire to help one another.
  • We don’t need to solve all the problems, or have a plan in place, we just need to make some progress and use this momentum to drive further changes. Do one of two things and the momentum will grow!
  • There is no ‘answer’. Let go of their being an answer, and don’t worry about solving all the big problems. Focus on the quality of relationships, small steps, and gain momentum.

Collective leadership

  • Leadership must be catalytic, rather than an end unto itself
  • Respect is a cornerstone of effective process – people need to feel respected
  • A powerful act is simply to get people (including children, young people and older people) together, host them well, and reveal collective wisdom.
  • Collaboration is the human face of systems thinking.


  • Everything we do is to build networks of relationships
  • Communities are a synonym for microcosms of the world
  • Community forces you to embrace diversity
  • Communities must be geographic or at least able to meet face to face. Web-based communities are a compliment for face-to-face communities.


  • Find your deepest source of aspiration
  • See with your heart – this is literally the meaning of ‘courage’
  • ‘Enlightenment’ = open heart
  • The oldest Chinese symbol for mind is heart
  • As humans we have a knowing of the heart
  • Let go of the attachment to the mind and intelligence. Pay much more attention to your deepest feelings.
  • Just keep doing the work!