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The Simple Work — Version ?.?

I don’t know what version of the simple work this is. It is just one of them that I’m seeing now. It comes out of experience, three in particular this month — Tampa Bay Art of Hosting, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Activist Training, and Streetwork Open Space Workshop — and also the New York area Art of Hosting Community of Practice, whose gathered in circle two nights ago. It comes among some other simples that I’m relishing, those beautiful moments of emergence and clarity that are difficult to not notice.

Build Community
Do the Work
Build Community

Yup, that’s pretty simple. This one came from a Harlem, NY corner coffee shop conversation with Chris Corrigan. We were designing the day in front of us, a second day with people from Streetwork, an incredible bunch committed to consciously choosing the future for their newly located Harlem drop-in center. It was not coincidence, I feel that this was coming after working with Chris for this gathering and two weeks prior in Florida. Chris and I laughed at this simplicity. It’s hard not to when this moment come. And that opened us into a bit of what that means.

We noticed the thirds quickly. No, not as formula. Yes, to the weightedness. And to the order. Build community first. What’s that. At Streetwork, it was amplifying something that was already in practice. Helping people to see each other, see each other as a group. Creating a safe enough space — need another word for safe but can’t find it now — to begin reimagining with each other about what could be possible. Shifting the conversation to one of possibility. Providing, inviting, challenging just enough shape to make sense of some of the chaos that is there. Meg Wheatley’s words come to mind — “there is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” One level of that caring is about each other. I love the moment when the group shifts its attention to each other in a way that smacks of family. It is the openness, the “whatever we choose to do will be fine — and I know that I can help choose that if I want too” moment.

Do the work. At Streetwork it was about everything from reinventing the monthly non-supervisors meeting to imagining a new identity for the Harlem location. It was about about finding the right questions to further anti-racism work to redefining the spaces in which the groups can meet. At Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, it was everything from how to we help this group to stay a group to shifting the global image of protecting Utah’s red rock.

When there is relationship, when there is community — this work shows up with more excitement, more invitation, more energy. It shifts from todo list, often held in despair or anger, to “we’ve really got something started here.” Not perfect, and yet oh so much more real and sweet.

Build community. When in work together, born of community, the community gets better and the work gets better. What a lovely cycle.

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