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5th Participatory  Leadership  Practitioners’  Gathering    Overijse  –  22-­24  May  2013  

! Harvest compiled  by  Dominika  Nowak,  Frans  Nijs,  Andrea  Erdei,  Monika  Lanzenberger,  Kim  Billiau  &  Helen  Titchen  Beeth.     Report  written  by  Helen  Titchen  Beeth;  photos  by  Helen  Titchen  Beeth

Theme: Systemic  Transformation  

Day 1 - Seek: connecting to our passions, our quests, our resources, shedding light on our blind spots

This gathering of participatory leadership practitioners was the 5th in a series of gatherings supporting a long-term intent to contribute to transforming our system in response to the massive changes happening in Europe.

Day 2 – Locate: what do we dream of developing further and what will it take?

Each previous gathering has fostered some inquiries which have taken our field of practice to its next level. This time we witnessed a new level of maturity in our conversations and interactions. This showed up in different ways:

Day - Evaluate: how to measure impact? What impact can we already see, and what could happen next?

• it was no longer just about participatory leadership (the means), but much more about what we are serving (the end) • for the first time, we could talk about our individual and collective conditioning and how it affects our behaviour and choices • we took a critical look at the impact of our practices • a group volunteered to take on the harvesting after the gathering. The focus of the gathering was on exploring the ideas and practices of systemic transformation. What would it take to make our dreams for the future possible? What does it mean to truly transform our systems - ourselves included to thrive at all levels? Hosting team: Maria Scordialos, Sarah Whiteley, Vanessa Reid (Living Wholeness Institute); Matthieu Kleinschmager, Dominika Nowak, Mary Heneghan, Helen Titchen Beeth.

! Learning journey:  Seek  –  Locate  –  Evaluate   Each of the three days had its own focus within the larger inquiry into systemic transformation. 2

Part 1  –  SEEK  

What am I excited about these days? What am I seeking? What are my resources? What are my blind spots and edges? After conversations in triads and a collective sense-making circle, the following treasures emerge. These are things we already know, and yet it seems we continually forget them. Participatory practices help bring these treasures to the surface and keep them there. •

We are all unique – we each participate in different ways, at different levels. The art lies in aligning the collective needs with the individuals’ gifts.


Sometimes we look for resources in the wrong places. Often our most powerful gifts are hidden within us and we don’t recognise them until they are witnessed by others. We can affirm each other’s gifts at any time and in any place: witnessing is a practice to cultivate and can help shift our culture to a more appreciative one. One path to self-knowledge is through others.

Our hidden assumptions often hold us back: who says our gifts are not welcome? Who says we cannot experiment? Who says it’s not safe to fail? Who says what failure is anyway?! Let us acknowledge the (perceived) risks we take and empower each other to take more!

There is great strength in relationships: here we find shared purpose, trust and the courage to sit with what we don’t know until wisdom arises. Our relationships are a resource we can invest in and build. Sharing stories is an effective way of speeding up the process.


Graphic fusion by Matthieu Kleinschmager, Monika Lanzenberger & Andrea Erdei 4

Part 2  –  LOCATE  

Building a working culture in service of purpose Cultivating and bringing stillness and maturity into the Commission's culture. Anchoring these new ways of working in our daily contexts. Daring to offer participatory practice to help achieve common goals, enabling groups to truly experience and benefit from the ‘power of the multiple’. Creating conditions that will generate reassuring follow-up. Cultivating increasing alignment between the organisation’s needs and the service we can offer. Creating deeper and stronger alignment for conscious and intentional evolution in service of coherence and wholeness.

What do I dream of developing in my participatory leadership practice to be of greater service? What do I/we need to strengthen our practice?

Bringing participation into daily work - Starting small, helping colleagues to discover the power of participation through personal discovery coffees, sharing thoughts on small tasks. Setting up experimental places where we can practice and improve our delivery of the participatory approach. Working with visual arts and space becomes a natural part of daily work. Participatory leadership becomes the most popular way to work, everyone recognises the value of collective intelligence and that inquiry is essential for navigating complexity.

We used Appreciative Inquiry to surface our collective dream of the systemic transformation that participation can make possible.

Supporting others to live up to their full potential Awakening people to their potential through a conscious presence, offering participation in ways that help people explore and exploit the treasures of invisible. Finding and sharing ways of understanding others and our differences in perception. Allowing the leading practitioners to step back so that participatory practices are held more by the community of practitioners.

Working in teams – strengthening our capacity to hold the space for building core teams. Developing internal training offer, capacity and communities of practice in our different contexts. Developing networks to increase the chances of the right people being in the right place at the right time, in order to make better use of their gifts and skills for the benefit of others. 5

Link with policy-making and core business of the Commission - Creating participatory spaces for gathering information and ideas, in support of the Commission’s policymaking processes. Convening participation for policy-making allows partners inside and outside the Commission to feel engaged, included and motivated. Engagement stimulates enthusiasm and sustains long-lasting commitment to the work. As the qualities of presence and practice spread through the organisation, the practice of politics evolves.


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training, to see what the experience brings me. In the Commission context, I might have to make some decisions in order to make this happen. I might have to ask my manager if I can go. Or – even if (s)he says I can’t go - I might just take 3 days off so that I can be there anyway.

Different ways to engage with participation The Four Rooms1

There are many ways of working with participatory leadership: we can participate in hosted conversations and events, and enjoy and appreciate the experience; we can apply the methodologies ourselves, bringing it to our meetings at work; we can become true participatory leaders, exploring the attitudes and mindsets that underlie the methodologies and learning what it means to truly operate within and as a living system; we can adopt participation as our way of being and living life. These are four different levels of engaging with participatory leadership.

I enter the second room when I decide to apply what I have learned. This is very different to having an experience – however great it was. Here, I am inquiring more deeply into what might happen if I start to apply these methodologies in my own context. It might be very gentle: introducing checkins and check-outs at my team meetings, for example. Or I might be thinking of initiating a project in my department or DG, where I see the potential to work in a more participatory way. I’d like to bring in 2 or 3 people – maybe one of the DG HR internal consultants or another trained colleague – to help me bring what I experienced at the participatory gathering/training into something real for me. I enter the third room when I decide to become a practitioner of participatory leadership. Being a practitioner is more than trying out a methodology every so often: it becomes the way I approach my work, and it might even become how I live my life with my family. Becoming a practitioner can mean bringing the practice into new contexts, even creating a new culture or a new way of doing things for the people around you.

The ‘4 Rooms’ model reflects the typical trajectory whereby people’s practice of any discipline evolves. Here, we contextualise it in the practice of participatory leadership. (There is a close correlation with the ‘4-fold practice’ at the core of the Art of Hosting conversations that matter.)

I find myself in the fourth room when I wake up one day and realise that participation is how I live. The approach, the way of thinking, the way of being. It’s simply what I do every day with everyone I meet… it has become an integral part of who I am. That’s not to say it’s the only thing I do, because I might have other practices and cultural norms, and they too are blended into my life as an integral whole. Once I become the practice in this way, my main tool becomes my presence. It is not a technique or a methodology – it’s simply who I am and what I am aware of at any moment. Once I become the

The first room is how I first experience participatory methodologies. I’m curious about what I’ve heard from colleagues and friends. Perhaps I decide to attend a gathering hosted in a participatory format, or the 3-day entry-level

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This teaching comes from the Living Wholeness Institute’s body of work. For a more in-depth treatment, see


practice, I naturally place myself back in the front room, the experience, because I want to be of service and help others. Risk and engagement. Moving from one room to the next, stepping ever deeper into the practice, we encounter decision points along the way. As I start to work more with this approach, I find myself invited to take more risks – especially when working in a hierarchical environment, where proposals to bring in participation are not always accepted. Here I face a choice: Will I work in a clandestine way? Will I make a big fuss? Will I restrict myself to those places where I don’t need permission? The deeper I venture into this exploration of participation – not just the methodologies, but what participation and engagement actually mean in practice – the greater risk I might perceive, but perhaps all it means is that I am simply engaging more of myself in what I am doing. As practitioners of participatory leadership, the deeper we go into our own self-knowledge, into our own understanding of the collective invisible terrain, and the more we are able to work with higher levels of not knowing, uncertainty, complexity (what we often call chaos) the more we are able to hold outwardly. The deeper you go, the more capacity you – or your team – have, the more complexity and change you are able to hold with and for others. This map can help us locate ourselves in relation to our shared practice of participation. Do I still need to experience more before I feel confident to step in and apply a methodology? Do I need to invite my boss to experience a process before expecting her to let me loose on her stakeholders? We can also use the map to situate the place that participatory leadership and its methodologies are taking in the Commission’s own evolution, as it responds to real needs in Europe.

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Strengthening our  practice   We spent the rest of the day in Open Space, focusing on what we needed to strengthen our practice. People called sessions on practical projects, on what other practices are out there that can support our capacity to host systemic transformation, on how to disseminate participatory practices.

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Part 3  –  Evaluate2    

Often we, as individuals, and our projects and initiatives are evaluated based on already established categories, following traditional principles and using existing tools by external people. But how do you evaluate something that is novel, innovative and something that is not mature, just evolving? You need a different way of thinking to evaluate newly emerging ideas, projects and activities. The 'action research' mindset supports us in evaluating such novelty and innovation. We need to understand what is being done, how it is working, what is meaningful about it and how we can move it forward. Vanessa introduced an evaluation frame (see image) to help us become evaluative thinkers and learners. It offers a method for uncovering the value and impacts of our new projects. First, you look at the ACTION and describe the experience: 'What did we do?'. Then you go into REFLECTION and take time to notice what happened: 'What did we notice about what we did?' And then you move into SENSE-MAKING, interpreting the facts i.e. 'So what?', 'What does this show?', 'What is the meaning of what we noticed?' The last step is the NEW PROPOSAL: 'Now what?', based on what we've learnt, 'What are the new propositions e.g. new assumptions, behaviours, attitudes?', 'What should happen next?', etc. In action research, we are researching an action to create new propositions, i.e. a new plan based on new assumptions to support us in delivering on our mission.

• Ex ante impact assessments are done in a very ‘objective’ way, with traditional tools, following conventional principles, with the intention of validating the prevailing way of thinking (“we made the right choice”).

A critique of how evaluation is currently done in the Commission Vanessa’s introduction triggered an intensive hour of conversation between participants about evaluation practices in the Commission. The following insights emerged:

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Evaluation follows a standardised procedure whereby even the indicators for measuring results, outputs and impacts are fixed in the legislation before a programme starts. The procedure thus becomes a mandatory requirement and

This section on Evaluative Thinking and Learning is based on a perspective offered by Vanessa Reid, followed by an intense conversation in plenary. Evaluative thinking graphic by Andrea Erdei.


cannot be easily adjusted to take account of events as they unfold. •

the purpose of their service is and how they contribute to the mission of the DG. They no longer need to justify that what their unit is doing is right, that the unit is doing what it can do best with the resources available.

Impact assessment is not seen as an opportunity for a collective strategic thinking and learning process. A consequence of this (or perhaps it is a reason for it) is that we lack the capacity to look at ourselves as an organisation and as an organism.

How to evaluate the unquantifiable?

Our current evaluation framework is designed to demonstrate to Parliament and the Council that public money was well spent. It focuses on how effectively and efficiently a programme was managed and to what extent it reached its objectives. It does not allow for measuring impacts (let alone social impacts). The learning element - for which flexibility and continuous reflection is needed - is not built into the evaluation system. We administer evaluation exercises, but do not engage in evaluating our actions ourselves, for the sake of collectively learning from the experience. The ‘forced mobility’ applied in the Commission means that individuals are regularly moved around inside the organisation, with the result that staff are unable and disinclined to develop a deeper understanding, let alone passion, for whatever they are dealing with in their job.

The most obvious impacts of participatory leadership in the Commission (personal enrichment, deeper commitment, more and deeper relationships) cannot be quantified or substantiated by ‘objective evidence’.

In order to assess the real value created by participatory practices, we need to understand more about how complex social systems work and to value attitudes, behavioural changes, human values, motivation, networks, etc.

Instead of tying our hands at the very beginning by defining performance criteria and related metrics, applying a developmental evaluation logic to any novel, innovative initiative will allow us to capture the intangible, indirect and unintended effects and impacts which cannot be expressed in units and figures.

The need to define the exact outcome before embarking on a new initiative comes from the mechanistic worldview of the prevailing paradigm that is currently in decline. Participatory leadership is a feature of the ‘new paradigm’ that is on the rise, that sees the world as a complex living system, not as a machine.

Evaluative thinking and practices allow us to think beyond what we could see when we started a new project, and beyond what we thought the project was supposed to do. It allows us to make the important measurable, instead of making measurable important!

While traditional evaluation exclusively relies on the 3rd person perspective (neutral observer), action research

The Commission’s prevailing evaluation practices and its policy of forced mobility seriously stunt its the organisational capacity to learn, inform and transform.

Glimmerings of change A shift is starting inside DG CNECT, where each unit was asked to produce metrics – with the help of external consultants – by which their impact would be assessed. Following this exercise, officials are showing signs of starting to care about what they do. Management now knows what 11

combines this with the 1st person subjective experience (e.g. what I notice, what happens with me, etc.) and the 2nd person relational aspect, where together we explore what happened and what that means. Using all 3 perspectives is the only way to make sense in a living system.

b. Local communities of practice have sprung up as a result of people asking for and offering help to host meetings and events in their part of the organisation. There are also specific contexts where the practice is taking root. One example is DG CNECT, which has invited 2 entry-level training seminars and some hosted management seminars, and now applies participatory approaches to many of its projects, both inside the DG and with its stakeholders outside. Other poles of practice include the Fundamental Rights Agency, the ERCEA, DG COMM. and DG BUDG. In Luxembourg, the Publications Office, Eurostat, and DGT have formed a very active community together.

Putting it into practice We immediately applied this model to evaluating participatory leadership as applied in our context, working in 3 phases: 1. Mapping how the practice of participatory leadership has evolved in the Commission

c. There is a big community of practitioners, with a sense of a core team, with people stepping up to host the ‘hearth’. Individuals stepping up to invite networking opportunities for fellow practitioners to meet each other (breakfast meetings) or practice (lunchtime pro-action and peer coaching cafés)

2. Assessing the impact of participatory leadership on ourselves as individuals. 3. Assessing the impact on the collective (on the European Commission) through a world café.

d. Practitioners gatherings: The initial idea was to run a level 2 training, it transpired that what was needed was gatherings where practitioners could come together to share stories of application, to go deeper, to look at other practices, to start working together on projects.

Step 1: Mapping how the practice of participatory leadership has evolved in the Commission3

1. Forms of learning a. The entry-level training in participatory leadership started with a pilot in September 2008 with 45 people. Since then there have been 30 trainings, held with the ongoing intention to (a) build the capacity to apply the methodologies, and (b) develop a deeper shared understanding of what it means to work in a participatory way.

e. Harvesting training goes deeper into the basics of design and harvesting. One of the most important outcomes has been the strategic insight that harvesting is fully enmeshed in purpose, and so must inform the design of every process from the outset. f.

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External capacity building - developing AoPL in the Commission has had an impact beyond the Commission context. None of what has been

The map emerged from an Open Space session hosted by Matthieu, followed by some collective sense-making with the hosting team on day 2. For a mind map showing the state of play of participatory leadership in the Commission in greater detail, see:


achieved would have been possible without the support of people from outside the institutions, who have mastery in working with participation in many different contexts. In exchange for their help, these hosting professional have learned to contextualise their work within the Commission and the wider institutional environment. Through this interaction, the Commission has changed the practice of hosting, helping to take it to its next level. There is a difference between the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter and Participatory Leadership. The latter seems to be about applying the approach within a specific strategic context over a longer period of time.

Ecolabel, 25 years of Erasmus, Futurium and Digital Futures, holocaust and human rights education. 3. Participatory practices Participatory leadership has opened our gaze, and lifted our heads from a mechanistic and bureaucratic way of working, to see world that works with living systems, with complexity, with chaos theory, informed by quantum physics, etc. There are so many practices and mental models in this domain - some have already been introduced, others not (yet). It is important to start to see them as an ecology that can build on and strengthen what has happened so far. we started with methodologies like World Café, Open Space Technology, Appreciative Inquiry. But other practices continually show up and ask to be included in our repertoire. Examples are: the evaluative learning cycle, the Living Wholeness route map, graphic recording, the Cynefin framework (complexity) and ritual dissent, process consulting, personal coaching, systemic constellations.

2. Forms of application Participatory leadership has been applied in many different ways, from hosting stakeholder events with internal and external stakeholders, running team events and strategic internal meetings, hosting specific training seminars, management engagement exercises. Examples of application abound, in many DGs, in many units and directorates within DGs. An impressive number of harvest letters exist, documenting many of these events.

4. Strategic direction and alignment Strategic alignment is happening more and more. Participatory leadership is starting to be aligned with the strategy of the organisation and where it’s going. It hasn’t yet fully reached the political level, but we are beginning to work with people like Commissioner Viviane Reding (citizens dialogues). DG CNECT has decided to use participatory leadership in a more strategic way, to develop the culture that is believed to be necessary for it to achieve its goals.

a. Management engagement – including management seminars, directors seminars (2008-2010), senior leadership retreats (REGIO & MARKT) b. Applications inside the institution – including unit and team meetings, strategic large team events (>100 people), hosting communities of practice, network development, project meetings

The learning and development department is a good illustration of how things are changing. Since 2006 the organisation has been on a journey from a ‘training factory’ paradigm to learning and development to organisational development. There has been an evolutionary process, from staff going to training courses

c. Engagement with the outside world – including Europe for Citizens programme, European Year of Volunteering, working with Member States on the Bologna process (education), workshops on responsible research and innovation, the European 13

on appraisal, ethics, etc. to participatory leadership bringing in more of a learning culture, with more selfdirected learning, and now using a framework contract to strategically support more organisational learning. In this context, the external consultants are being used to help expand the organisation’s capacity, with collaboration tailored to the specific context and needs in each case.

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Step 2: Assessing the impact of participatory leadership on ourselves as individuals

Step 3: Assessing the impact on the collective (on the European Commission) through a world café

We took some solo time to ponder what the impact of participatory leadership had been on ourselves as individuals. We clustered our answers on a matrix combining the individual and the collective, the visible and the invisible.

Round 1: What do we see has been the IMPACT of participatory leadership in the Commission? From practices/methods to attitudes/culture Shifting behaviours, attitudes: • connect to real PURPOSE (i.e. awareness of ‘doing the right things’ v ‘doing it right’) • building TRUST and RESPECT (safe, non-judgemental environment where one is free to open up and exploit full potential, contribution is valued from all participants; “listening with attention and speaking with intention” has travelled beyond AoPL community = liberation of the individual = less boredom, depression, stuckness, bureaucracy) • the HUMAN experience: connecting heart, mind, hands – whole self awareness at work + enlivening SOUL and HEART of the organisation • acknowledging the power of COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE i.e. moving from “me” to “we” • more self-organisation and self-responsibility (RESPONSEABILITY) i.e. informal networking • people venture outside their comfort zone to work with divergence & emergence • working more consciously with complexity. = Potential (long term) impact on CULTURE CHANGE!

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Platform for conversations between individuals/ units/DGs e.g. communities of practice SPP, AST Network, RTD-CNECT, RUF, etc. New ways of working: • INTERNALLY: meetings, team buildings, away-days, everyday business done differently, etc. ~20 directors-general have worked with AoPL • EXTERNALLY: in contact with stakeholders = potential (long-term) impact on STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT! Staff engaged in organisational matters i.e. supporting EC to assist Europe to reconnect with citizens and to establish a new role in the world. Round 2: What needs to/could happen now for participatory leadership to become of greater service to the Commission & to Europe? • More and more AoPL alumni should become PRACTITIONERS – HR to assist this process: ‘Don’t sow more seeds, nurture the seedlings.’

New relationships (professional and private) i.e. sense of community, sense of belonging = renewed personal satisfaction with/at work at individual level

• Strengthening links btw practitioners – AoPL COMMUNITY e.g. more DG-based cells, communities of practice, Yammer, etc.

+LIVING SYSTEM at EC level: connecting imaginal cells! New capacities to work with COMPLEXITY (conversations, communication, reflection that do not happen otherwise)

• HARVEST to receive more attention (part of process design supporting follow-up) i.e. nurture harvesters • RECOGNITION to be achieved – AoPL at the service of common good: stories to tell on a dedicated platform

More strategic reflection i.e. preparation of long term process / follow-up vs one-off events and “do-do-do” attitude = potential (long term) impact on STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT!

• OUTREACH: a) events with stakeholders b) EC practitioners to go outside of EC to host, harvest.

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Round 3: What NOW? What’s NEXT?   DEEPENING (nurturing seedlings): • ‘TRAINING’ PATH (i.e. the journey) to be defined. + Exploit all learning modes (e.g. blended learning, mentoring, coaching, more advanced modules that weave learnings together, new training framework, call in other mastery to complement and blend i.e. multidisciplinarity, etc.) • Personal level: ACT when your heart tells you to! Express yourself / your potential / your humanity / use all heart, mind and hands. • EC level: make AoPL community and its resources VISIBLE and ACCESSIBLE! Facilitate connection btw practitioners so they can ask for help, exchange stories, converse, etc. = community! + towards top management in DGs Keep building the living system: connect, communicate, make sense of the work so far.

Semantics: vocabulary to be revisited to support the spread / contextualise to make AoPL relevant for all + think of a new name? (“art”, “leadership” problematic);

• Harvest: Use harvest strategically/for follow-up = build into process design. Reflect on collective learning.


Professionalise the harvest i.e. nurture harvesters.


Stakeholder/citizen engagement - use EC convening power / EC has long term political power vs short cycle national political power = CONTINUITY + stakeholder awareness/engagement trainings


cross-pollination with practices and experiences from outside EC practitioners – disseminate info on upcoming events outside EC (to raise awareness and for inspiration)

• Make the EC an EXEMPLARY public service (= serving the PUBLIC) Collect, share and publicise stories (by type: websites/unit meetings/team events/management seminars/stakeholder events/policy making/org. dev., etc.) on platform (OS) e.g. films, social media, websites, EU blogs, etc.

• Organisational development to become embedded capacity in DGs (+ L&D, knowledge management, etc.).

• Create ‘critical yeast’ in teams, units, DGs.


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Who was there:

Ria BAECK   Kim  BILLIAU   Giuseppe  BORSALINO   Pascal  DISSARD   Andrea  ERDEI   Maria  Kris>n  GYLFADOTTIR   Mary  HENEGHAN   Karin  HOEPP   MaDhieu  KLEINSCHMAGER   Sofia  KONSTANTATOU   Monika  LANZENBERGER   Nathalie  LEGROS   Frans  NIJS   Dominika  NOWAK   Anabela  PEREIRA   Monika  RATYNSKA   Nina  THOMPSON-­‐WILLIAMS   Vanessa  REID   Maria  SCORDIALOS   Helen  TITCHEN  BEETH     Sandrine  TURBIDE   Jean-­‐Jacques  VIALA   Helmut  WALERIUS   Sarah  WHITELEY   Jaroslaw  ZACZYKIEWICZ   18


5th practitioners' gathering report  

Report on the 5th gathering of practitioners of participatory leadership in the EU institutions

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