I’ve noticed lately that the work I do is invisible to most people.
Last weekend I played a lead role as MC and hosted generative conversations at the Council for Canadian Urbanists annual CanU Summit–I was not the topic of conversation. I provided little content and set people up to meet each other and explore how to move their work forward. While they got into conversation and the room buzzed and hummed, I tended to their well-being in invisible ways.
A highlight of the Summit was the conversation I hosted between Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and neighbouring Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin. In the conversation, the Mayor proposed a new national aboriginal museum that made the headlines. The picture that appeared in the newspaper is the Mayor and Chief sharing a laugh, as it should be. Only my microphone and paper are visible in the bottom right corner.
Earlier this month I co-costed two conversations with citizens, business, government and community leaders about how the city learns–and how we can embrace being a city of learners. I found myself, as part of the hosting team, setting them up to make learning habitats, enabling them to identify and embody the living city systems of which they are a part. They did the work, they provided the content and they made meaning of their work. My content was invisible. It was not even my job to make meaning of their work: it was their work to do.
Nine years ago I walked away from a high-profile job in city hall and shelved the ambition that fuelled my ability to sustain that work. At the CanU Summit I watched the movers and shakers move and shake. I was out of the frame as the Mayor and Chief had a moving conversation. I was looking after plates and spilled coffee as my city figured out how it learns. I have to admit that my ego has a hard time being content with invisibility.
I’ve been wondering, what does the invisibility have to say? Here’s the response:
CONtent vs. conTENT
What are the gifts of invisibility? What is the CONtent I have to offer about invisibility? I realize that the invisible is asking to be made visible, and I also realize that I’ve been making the invisible visible these last few weeks in a series of blog posts. Here’s what I’ve seen and shared over the last few weeks.
- If your work depletes you it is not your work to do. (Do the work that is yours to do)
- Does the work you do feed your soul or distract you from yourself? (Mindful consumption)
About my approach to life:
- A scarcity mindset lends itself to fixing. An abundance mindset invites our expansion as citizens and as a species. (Improve vs. fix)
About hosting others in conversation:
- When you want to listen to people do you put yourself at the front of the room? (The shapes of conversations)
- When you want to give a group a chance to figure something out, do you tell them the answer? (Conversations: direction or discernment)
- When you want to figure something out do you defer to the experts around you? (The expert/theatre trap)
A big lesson from a participant in a workshop who felt lost and couldn’t find her place in an unfamiliar way of collective listening (listening through World Cafe vs surveys or interviews): I am only one voice in many. (Making meaning as a system).
Where do you find meaning in your invisibility?
Note – This post was published in Nest City News on September 30, 2016.