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UK South East Gatherings Update

UK South East Gatherings Group Update,  9 Oct 2020

By Rhian Cadvan-Jones, Maureen Ghirelli, Sharon Green and Sarah Walsh


The word ‘carnival’ evokes a celebration; dance, music, colour, energy, fun, connections, parades and masks… A feast (before the fast)!  A time when everyone can engage on equal terms as a participant or spectator.

The ODNE Carnival was indeed an abundant mix of diverse sessions.  We felt there was room for some ‘So What?’ ‘Now What?’ conversations in our gathering.   We followed that with a second breakout session where we explored the experience of learning through virtual modes, drawing on our experiences from the Carnival and/or other sessions.


ODNE Carnival

Meg Wheatley’s provocative reflection set us off.  With everything under threat, we, as OD practitioners with humility, must face reality (tune in to the conditions); claim leadership (set the conditions so people can step forward and feel protected); give up on larger system change and restore sanity (create islands of sanity for others).  She got us all thinking…

It was rich and dynamic!  We were remotely connected, with people joining from all parts of the world.  In one session, we were inspired to imagine 2045 from the perspective of different permaculture principles.  ‘Produce no waste’ led us to accept that ‘I have all I need and need what I have!  The world is abundant!   Nature is regenerative and self-healing, utilising the whole system, not just its parts.  What can we learn from this?  In another, we were invited to consider culture not as a noun but a verb, a process, an unfolding drama.  The practice of culturing requires acknowledging needs, hosting conversations, paying attention to language… In a session on public services, one leader talked about building capacity.  Help people in their context with two questions: What matters to you?  And who can help you with that?  There are two rules: Don’t break the law and do no harm.  Bespoke by default; local by default; relational by default!

In a different session, we reframed our imposter syndrome and explored ‘I am enough’!  I don’t need to be expert in everything but to be present to partner those with whom I work.  In a session titled Frictionless Lubricant we were encouraged to ‘learn to love the Africa in me’.  How can I be happy unless everyone is happy?  I am because we are (Ubuntu).  Fight for community not unity.  Replace compassion for strife…

Gervase Bushe talked about holding a space of not knowing, and of self-differentiation, the ability to be both separate and connected at the same time (I have an experience but am not the experience).  We were put into breakout groups with no task or guidance; so much came out of being in a space of not knowing!


Using technology for our work

We know working on-line isn’t going to be temporary.  There are benefits and downsides but so was the case for face-to-face gatherings.  They are different and can expose our differences and privileges.  We need to be careful and establish protocols in advance, together.  On-line sessions can be formal (plenary) and informal (small group conversations.  (Has anyone tried for coffee mingling?)  Facilitators and individuals have control but of what is different (e.g. cameras on/off; the mix of breakout room participants etc.).  It is harder to pick up the nuances and it is certainly tiring for the facilitator.  Encouraging people to use the Chat Box, though, can help balance the air space and enable the facilitator to give attention to quieter voices. It can be levelling to see leaders with children and animals around them but hard for those in shared spaces, sitting in their bedrooms.  The need for a tailored suit is reduced if we at least look smart enough to our shoulders!

We can get carried away with what is possible and lose sight of what we want to do.  Start there.  Design well and trust the process!  We can create the ‘field’ together.  Get people relating/connecting early on.  We are conscious of being on-line so somatic practice on-line is possible.  Design short and active interventions and hold the container.  Be the container and deep conversations are possible.


We left on a high

The process of sharing meant we processed our reflections from the week and by talking about the technology, we increased our awareness.  It was ‘incredibly useful’ and ‘much appreciated’.  ‘I’m enjoying a space where I actually understand the language and cultures.’  We created a sense of ‘feeling at home’; ‘great to connect’.  With our shared values and shared practice, we help each other to develop.


And on the practical side…

Our next gathering is planned for the afternoon of 4 December.  If you would like to join us in planning the next gathering, would like to facilitate the gatherings or manage the technical logistics whilst we meet on-line, please do say!

Ideas proposed for future sessions are:


  • OD challenge around running Citizen’s Assemblies. How do we offer and use our OD skills in community settings?
  • Sharing practices/experiences so we can learn from real life practitioners
  • Recognising the pros and cons of virtual communication in dealing with resistance from a client (organisation)
  • Good to pick two or three very different topics or current issues to dissect and explore from different perspectives and experience
  • Working with people from across the world online, are the theories/models used in these sessions getting more diverse, or still quite Western dominated?
  • And, to continue with ‘the sharing, co-coaching element of these gatherings’


Timing preferences for future sessions: Friday afternoon, not evenings – but what suits those of who couldn’t join us today, we wondered…


Good bye for now

Stay safe!

Rhian, Maureen, Sharon (Green) and Sarah (Walsh)

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